Joel Osteen, the pastor of a megachurch in Houston, drew about 37,000 people to a Chicago ballpark for “America’s Night of Hope” Saturday, where he announced that Washington, D.C., would be the next city for the annual event taking place in April 2012.
Infusing hope amid global economic fears that followed the downgrading of America’s credit rating the preceding night, the 48-year-old pastor proclaimed that “a resurrection God” was capable of “breathing new life,” as quoted by Chicago Sun -Times on Sunday.
Joel Osteen’s Facebook page messages poured in from hundreds of participants from around the world who seemed charged with fresh enthusiasm after the event at the U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox.
“Keep bringing Hope to the people, cities & nations,” wrote one Maderia Porter.
“I’m a better person each and every day because of you,” said Kathleen Hennessey-Buchanan.
“I couldn’t help but feel uplifted as we walked out of there,” wrote another participant, Mike Donnelly.
Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, the largest church in America, told the audience, “You wouldn’t be alive unless God had another victory in store for you. You need to get ready, because jubilee is on the way,” amid rounds of applause and cheers.
Osteen, who has written several books, is also a televangelist who reaches millions of viewers around the world through his television ministry.
“He’s got such a warm, positive message. It’s infectious,” the Chicago Sun-Times quoted a 29-year-old participant, Mike Jasinski of Ingleside, as saying. “You can’t help smiling when he starts talking.”
Jasinski, who rediscovered his faith during Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, said he had been watching Osteen’s television program for years, and seeing him Saturday was a reminder of how faith changed his life.
Osteen’s wife, Victoria, also spoke at the gathering. She warned them against what “this world, this economy” would like them to believe: “‘I can’t,’ that we’re hopeless, we’re helpless and our hands are tied.”
“But we’re going to celebrate the ‘I can,’” she said.
Next year, Joel and Victoria Osteen will take the “America’s Night of Hope” annual event, also known as “A Night of Hope,” to Washington, D.C. “Tens of thousands from across the nation” are expected to gather at the state-of-the-art Washington Nationals Park on April 28, 2012, Joel Osteen Ministries said in a statement Sunday.
“We are pleased to welcome Pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen and America’s Night of Hope to the District of Columbia next April,” the statement quoted D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray as saying. “I’m thankful that they chose Washington over other options to host this major event, and I pray not only that many will find hope and unity in the message they hear there, but that visitors will also experience the many joys of springtime in our nation’s beautiful capital city.”
Washington, D.C. was selected from among four finalist cities: Atlanta, New York, and Baltimore.
“Victoria and I love Washingtonians,” said Pastor Joel Osteen. “We’re excited to bring our signature event here, a night that I believe will uplift people and fill them with an expectation that their best days are still out in front of them.”
“Spring in Washington, D.C. is a spirited time and perfect backdrop for ‘A Night of Hope.’ Next year, visitors can experience the Cherry Blossom Festival, as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the donation of the trees and the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall,” Elliott Ferguson, President and CEO of Destination DC, the city’s official tourism and marketing arm, was quoted as saying. “We look forward to welcoming the tens of thousands of people who will be inspired by Joel Osteen and hope they will enjoy visiting the nation’s capital.”
Some critics say Osteen’s preaching focuses too much on personal profit through prayer with little emphasis on sin. “But members of Saturday’s crowd believed in Osteen wholeheartedly,” the Chicago Sun-Times noted.
Osteen has held over 100 “Night of Hope” events across the United States since 2004. In 2009, he held the first non-baseball event at the new Yankee Stadium in New York with nearly 45,000 attendees.
Recently, The New York Times cited Osteen as one of Twitter’s most influential personalities.