Televangelist and author Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Texas, has reacted to critics who claim he downplays sin and waters down the Gospel, saying he has been following God's calling on his life, a calling that involves teaching about prosperity.
In an interview with ABC News, Osteen said, "I believe God, Jesus, died that we not just go to heaven but that we excel in this life. I never think you make money your goal. … God wants you to excel. Just keep him in first place and God will open up doors you never dreamed of."
As for critics who claim he spends too much time preaching about well-being and personal fulfillment and not enough time addressing sin or Scripture, Osteen says he is simply doing what Jesus did.
He explained, "I think it goes back to tradition, how we were raised. Jesus talked about everyday life, not just doctrine but how do we live? How do we forgive? How do we keep a good attitude when the economy is down?"
Osteen added that people need to hear that about the goodness of God and not that God is mad at them.
When they hear the good news he preaches, Osteen says, "People come alive when they realize 'God is for me. He's got a plan for my life, and I can do something great. I can be who he wants me to be.'"
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The Lakewood pastor also explained why he has been reluctant to wade into political or cultural debates.
"I think it starts to narrow you. I mean, for a while … to be an evangelical meant you were a white Republican, and you were against this and against that. I don't want to be put into that mold, because then people judge you before they even listen. … I don't want to divide the very people I am trying to reach," Osteen said.
The Houston preacher also commented on his new book, Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week.
"I read some studies that said that people are happier on Friday," Osteen explained. "I thought, You know what? We should be happy every day. That's a choice that we can make."
The whole aim of his new book, Osteen said, is to remind people that there is always something to be grateful for and that readers can choose to be happy by focusing on those things.
The ABC News article noted that Lakewood church has a financial ministry, which Osteen agreed is unusual.
"We take in about $80 million [per year]. It's not all from the church. Some of it's from the TV audience as well. It goes all over the world. If we take in 80, we spend 80. Victoria and I don't take a salary from the ministry. We've been blessed with our books and things," Osteen explained.
The ABC network will air an interview with Osteen Wednesday night at 11:35 p.m.
Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston remains America's largest church with an attendance of 43,500 people in a weekend, according to a report by Outreach magazine.