Joel Osteen is an evangelical charismatic pastor at Lakewood Church, the largest church in America. He inherited the church from his father in 1999 with a congregation of 6000 members, and had no previous ministry experience at the time. Osteen’s Lakewood church attendance now averages about 43,500 each week.
Osteen made headline news this week, when comments he made to Oprah about homosexuality being a sin, were criticized by a number of secular news agencies. However, Osteen did also receive strong support from conservative Christians across the nation, who praised him for speaking clearly on the issue.
However, critics have not stopped there; the pastor has continued to receive criticism for not being strict enough on his evangelical principles. Due to his lack of formal training, Osteen has been rebuked in some quarters for his failure to apply formal doctrine in his sermons.
Some charge that Osteen represents a “shallow, superficial Christianity.” Internet televangelist Bill Keller has called Osteen no more than a "motivational speaker”. Albert Mohler also argued that some of Osteen’s comments lacked “biblical standard”.
But Osteen has said that he isn’t too concerned about others' judgments. “I always want to listen to people and receive good criticism,” Osteen said. “But I just don’t have to answer to them I have to answer to God. I try to get up every morning and search my own heart. I say ‘God, am I doing what you want me to do?’”
Not all are critical of the message that Osteen sends, and some believe his methods will bring even more people to the Christian faith, which is certainly a claim supported by the growth of Osteen's congregation.
“I believe Joel Olsten is taking baby steps in his ministry in order to lead more people to the Lord,” Sharon said in a blog about Osteen.
“He is a positive, God loving, Christ believing man. By his positive sermons perhaps he is opening doors to many that have lost faith and need someone to lead them back to the bible and the Lord.”
Osteen continues to focus on his message of hope and salvation for all. During the Oprah interview, Osteen described the future of his ministry. “Our vision is to throw a wide net of hope over the world to get people to realize that God is good, that he’s for them, and that he’s got a great plan for their life.”
“I want to get across to not just the church world. I want to get outside those walls to every day people,” the pastor remarked. So despite criticism from the gay community for considering homosexuality a sin, Osteen’s homosexual comments were less of an attack on the homosexual community, and more of an open invitation to be a part of God’s plan. Osteen suggested change and growth for all.
“I believe you have to have forgiveness for your sins and sometimes we (the Christian community) look at gay as being a bigger sin than being proud or not telling the truth," Osteen said. "I don't think God categorizes sins."
“Know that if God is for you, no one can be against you. Keep yourself in step with Him, knowing that His blessing overrides the curse!” Osteen said on Twitter.