Houston Megachurch Pastor to Gather 36,000 in New York City

Two nights ago, Houston megachurch pastor Joel Osteen rallied together 15,000 worshipers selling out all the seats in Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, N.Y. Two larger crowds of 18,000 are expected to gather in New York City’s Madison Square Garden today and tomorrow for "An Evening With Joel Osteen." The worship services will revolve around the message of purity.

The pastor of the nation's largest church with 30,000 members has sold out all but two evenings since February – invariably the two attracted the largest crowds in the last year. Osteen inspired 38,000 in San Antonio, Texas, and 26,000 in Atlanta, while the average size is 18,000, according to Joel Osteen Ministries spokesperson Donald Iloff.

At the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island, Osteen told the people to really examine the inside, making sure to be pure before God. It was Lakewood's most previously delivered Sunday sermon, and Osteen will repeat it at the garden.

"Have pure motives. Do things with a pure heart, and that's when God blesses us," Osteen said to Newsday after the Long Island event. "What's going on on the inside is more important than what's going on in the outside. Get the inside fixed, then the outside will change."

"An Evening With Joel Osteen" begins with 45 minutes of praise followed by prayer. The woman who founded his church, Osteen's mother, will share a testimony of overcoming cancer through prayers. Osteen's brother, Paul, will also speak about giving up his successful medical practice to oversee the growing ministry. Osteen, himself, will then preach for half an hour and issue an altar call.

"It's a very worshipful service, very much like a service at Lakewood," however, unlike the television broadcasts, the live events will give the audience a chance to immerse themselves in the praise, said Iloff.

Osteen has printed over 3.2 million copies of Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, which has remained on bestseller lists since October 2004.

On the success of the 42-year-old evangelical preacher's messages, Iloff said, "I think Joel presents a facet of God that oftentimes doesn't get presented to people and that is that God is truly with us. He's on our side. He is your best friend."

Osteen has been criticized for being a proponent of the prosperity theology, a "feel-good" way to worship that excludes deeper messages on sin.

Publishers Weekly review of the book stated, "Many Christian readers will undoubtedly be put off by the book’s shallow name-it-and-claim-it theology. It’s a treatise on how to get God to serve the demands of self-centered individuals. Theologically, its materialism and superficial portrayal of God as the granter of earthly wishes will alienate many Christian readers who can imagine a much bigger God."

Osteen, however, contends that his messages are based on Scripture and that God wouldn't have it any other way. Case in point, his successes were a blessing.

"People have been through terrorism and natural disasters," said Osteen. "It's the fight of faith. My mission is to help people. I never dreamed it would be this good. I never dreamed the book would do so well. God has blessed us where we can give and help others."

Tickets for "An Evening With Joel Osteen" can be found online at www.joelosteen.org for $10 each. Guests are encouraged to arrive an hour before the service begins at 7:30 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday night.