Those who have found encouragement in the books and sermons of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen and want to pass along his messages to friends and families can do so easily now - just in time for Easter.
American Greetings Corp has introduced a new collection of greeting cards from the New York Times best-selling author that feature the same inspirational messages that have made him the most watched minister in the United States.
"People around the world embrace Joel Osteen's guidance as they experience the joys and challenges of everyday life," said Charlotte Bean, manager, business development at American Greetings. "His optimistic spirit, deep faith and inspirational messages resonate particularly well today, as consumers look for ways to encourage one another, and share appreciation for the relationships that help sustain them through good times and bad."
According to Nielsen Media Research, Osteen is the most watched minister in the United States and reaches 95 percent of all U.S. television households. His weekly broadcast is also reportedly seen in almost 100 nations around the world.
Though Osteen has been praised by many for his uplifting messages and popular bestsellers, the charismatic minister has also received much criticism for his lack of formal theological training and for preaching what critics call the "prosperity gospel," a belief that prosperity and success - particularly financial - is a sign of God's favor.
Osteen, however, insists that his theology is not "dangerous," as some say it is, and that God has used him to turn people's lives around and to give them hope.
"It is our hope that they (the new faith-based line of greeting cards) will bring loved ones closer together, that they will provide a hopeful word to those that need it, and that they will inspire everyone to consider and appreciate the important people in their lives," said Osteen, speaking for he and his wife, Victoria.
"Victoria and I are pleased to work with the fine people at American Greetings on this," he added.
Aside from the Osteen-inspired Easter greeting cards, which have come out in time for one of the most celebrated times for Christians, additional cards featuring the popular preacher will be available for everyday sending occasions and holidays throughout the year.
Furthermore, Osteen has committed to giving 100 percent of his proceeds from the greeting card series to Mercy Ministries of America, a Christian-based residential counseling program that has been serving young women in crisis for more than 26 years.
The new line of greeting cards comes one month after Osteen and his wife released their very own Bible, which features insights, notes, and encouragements from the ministers of the 38,000-large Lakewood Church in Houston - the largest church in the nation.
Also included in the Hope for Today Bible are specific verses to guide people in prayers for their relationships, their children, their finances, and their health, as well as "HopePoints" - key words and supporting scriptures related to topics such as favor, forgiveness, anger, depression, loneliness, and self-control, among others.
Next month, Osteen's church will be celebrating 50 years since it was founded by Osteen's father, John Osteen, a former Southern Baptist pastor who later became charismatic. Osteen succeeded his father in 1999, more than eight months after the elder Osteen died of a heart attack. Before he took the helm, the younger Osteen had only preached once in his life - the week before his father's death.