As the pastor of the nation's largest megachurch and a televangelist who reaches millions through broadcasts, Joel Osteen spoke words of faith and compassion to an audience of 18,000 at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Thursday night. His message encouraged people to believe that God loves and wants the best for them.
"You've got to see yourself the way God has made you to be," said the pastor of the 30,000-membered Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. "A lot of people today just got a poor defeated image. They don't see their health ever improving. God says you are more than a conqueror."
The message paralleled Osteen's bestseller, Your Best Life Now, which has 3.2 million copies in print. However, the megachurch pastor spent 20 minutes on the main sermon message, Having a Pure Heart.
Osteen spoke with The Christian Post briefly after the three-hour worship and outreach event. The following are excerpts taken from the interview:
Joel, what is your primary message to people?
The primary message is that God is a good God, that He is on our side, that when we obey Him, trust him and love Him, we're going to live a rewarding life. I guess when you boil it down, it's a message of hope and encouragement like tonight. God is on our side, and we can overcome.
What makes you so desire to share this message that you wrote a book that now has 3.2 million copies in print?
You know what? It's just a desire to let people know that there are good things in store. I feel like I'm just trying to plant a seed of hope in their lives. I'm not necessarily discipling them. I'm just trying to get them interested in the things of God like tonight. You saw so many of them stand up for salvation because they're not churched. They're not used to going to church and things. Let's reach someone outside the church. That's what we're after.
What made you decide to write this one book that has one very condensed message when you have a reservoir of many messages?
I just think that this was the core belief that I started off with two-three years ago. This is the book about seeing yourself the way God sees you, knowing that God has more in store. As I do future books, they'll touch more subjects like tonight things, but this was just my core message.
So many people are beaten down today or just negative. Life hadn't gone their way. So I just think that we deal with the moments like that in the Church. We deal with people who are sick, people who are dealing with cancer, just people who are down in life. We had a young 16-year-old in our congregation who was killed today stuff that we have to deal with. But you know what? God's still in control. He's going to bring you through it.
Joel, there are critics of your success and your messages. Why is that so and what would you say to them?
I think everybody has their own point of view, and some people just don't agree with the way that I do it that I choose to be positive. I listen to the critics certain things I don't read that, I don't go online, but certain things I'm open. I've just been doing this for seven years, and I'm open to change. If I'm missing it, I'm missing it. But when I search my heart, I feel like I'm doing the best that I can and I see the response tonight and I see the lives being changed. Sometimes you can't let all the people pull you into changing you when you're doing what God's called you to do. I respect those people. They have a right to say what they say. I think sometimes they don't do it in love. They just want to knock you out, but you know what? That's between them and God.
Your message revolves around encouraging people to have faith. How do you believe people can become full of faith?
I think the thing is that faith grows, the Bible says, by believing, by trusting God's Word. And it starts with a relationship with Christ, but I think a lot of it has to do with our thoughts; just really thinking. The Bible talks about thinking of things that are pure, wholesome, and of good report. I think a lot of times we let our mind go negative all day, and it just pulls us down.