(Photo: Joel Osteen Ministries/Brad Person)
Lakewood Church Pastor and best-selling author Joel Osteen has tried to explain his popularity in a recent interview by suggesting that it is due to his ability to reach those who have no experience with church, among other factors.
The Texas megachurch pastor, who has the largest congregation of any church in America at 40,000 weekly worshippers, shared his views in a recent interview with Cleveland.com in preparation of his next "Night of Hope" event scheduled for July 13 in Cleveland.
"It may seem like a strange answer, but I honestly don't know what the answer is," Osteen said when asked about his rising popularity which reportedly has made him more famous than preachers like David Jeremiah, John Hagee and Charles Stanley. "Those other preachers are my friends, and they are talented. Maybe God's hand is on my life. Maybe it's because I'm a little younger than those other preachers."
"I do know this . . . I seem to reach a lot of previously unchurched people. So many people have told me they never went to church until they heard our message of hope that God is a good God who desires to bless those who are faithful and obedient to Him through Jesus Christ," he added.
Osteen was also asked to address come criticism his sermons often receive – that his feel-good messages on the blessings of God may be misinterpreted by some to mean that he is saying people will become rich by following Jesus.
"When I hear the words 'prosperity gospel,' it makes me think of money ... and my message is not that people will get rich following Christ," the Your Best Life Now author explained. "People are skeptical of many televangelists, and I'm sensitive to that."
"Those critics misunderstand my message. There's no question Paul and other apostles and disciples suffered for their faith, but they showed us you can have joy in the midst of trials. My message centers on the fact with God we can overcome difficult times . . . and we all go through those."
Osteen has also had to face accusations that his sermons are lacking in deep theological study and do not talk about more controversial subjects, such as the doctrine of eternal damnation that some other pastors focus on.
"Our message is God is good. He's on your side and he wants you to live a blessed life. Part of [our] message too is that even if you've made mistakes you can get to where God wants you to be," Osteen explained in a previous interview before another "Night of Hope" event.
"I think I do talk about the negative things and adversities but the Bible says it's the goodness of God that leads people to repent. I believe there's enough pushing people down. I like telling people you may have made mistakes, but God can forgive you," he added.
Osteen told The Christian Post earlier that one of the biggest challenges of being a pastor, a popular one particularly, is keeping people's attention and giving a fresh word each week.
He also said the Night of Hope events serve to "give people the opportunity to take a stand for their faith."