Tens of thousands gathered Friday night to listen to televangelist and preacher Joel Osteen at his “Night of Hope” event in Seattle, Wash., the first in 2012 and part of his 15-city tour across the United States.
Fans of Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, flooded Twitter and Facebook with posts concerning the event at KeyArena at Seattle Center.
“It’s a packed house at Key Arena,” tweeted Ryan Brien, media director at The Rock Church in Monroe, Wash. For concerts and staged events, KeyArena accommodates about 17,000 people.
“Wow can’t sleep after an amazing Night of Hope in Seattle! Thank you @JoelOsteen!!!” tweeted a participant, Raylin Lucey.
Osteen, who has written several best-selling books, inspired the crowd with a message that focused on God’s goodness and encouraged them to expect 2012 to be an amazing year.
The event also featured music from Dove Award winning Cindy Cruse Ratcliff, Steve Crawford, Da’dra Greathouse, and the Lakewood Band and Ensemble.
“We’re really just here to lift people’s spirit, and to let them know that there are good days ahead,” Osteen told Fox News.
“I think part of it is, the message is positive, and it’s hopeful, and these days there’s a lot of things trying to pull people down. And we try to make the Scripture relevant to people. And I don’t know, I think there’s something that resonates inside when somebody tells you that there are going to be good days ahead,” he said.
The Facebook and Twitter postings also included criticism that the preacher who runs America’s largest megachurch with more than 40,000 people does not include sin and suffering in his message. However, Osteen responded to critics, saying that in these difficult times, “I think the worst thing that can happen is for people to get bitter and negative and discouraged – ‘It’s never going to change’ – that just draws in more negativity.”
He told Fox News, “I think a lot of people have grown up” and no longer believe that “God’s out to get them. I don’t think that’s the kind of God we serve.”
Osteen, a televangelist who reaches millions of viewers around the world through his television ministry, also spoke to a local news channel, King 5 News, which asked him to share his views on gay marriage. He said “the way I read the Bible,” marriage is between a male and a female. He refused to comment on how the law or a government should deal with the issue.
Asked about a reality show he is creating with British television producer Mark Burnett, Osteen said it was “a new way to get the message of hope and faith out.” The show would follow Osteen and his wife, Victoria, and Lakewood Church members on mission trips across the country.
The next “Night of Hope” is scheduled to take place in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Feb. 3, followed by Albany, N.Y., on March 16. Osteen will be in Washington, D.C., for the event on April 28, followed by Birmingham, Ala.; Denver, Colo.; Cleveland, Ohio; Puerto Rico; Kansas City, Mo.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Los Angeles, Calif.; and Jacksonville, Fla.
Osteen has held more than 100 “Night of Hope” events across the country since 2004 as part of an outreach of Joel Osteen Ministries. In 2009, he held the first non-baseball event at the new Yankee Stadium in New York with nearly 45,000 attendees.