- (Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen, who along with wife, Victoria Osteen, will be leading "A Night of Hope" in Las Vegas, Friday night, has said that he avoids speaking on controversial issues because he doesn't want anyone to feel excluded from his messages.
The popular megachurch pastor, whose Houston church is America's largest and attracts 43,000 weekend worshippers, has been criticized by some Christians for appearing indecisive on some social issues, like same-sex marriage.
Although Pastor Osteen has expressed his belief that homosexuality is a sin and that he's in disagreement with gay marriage, he avoids making such topics the focus of his sermons, which reach millions of people around the world.
"When I start delving too much into the issues, then all of a sudden I'm more polarizing. ... I want to throw that wide net of hope and not have people turn me off because of some issue in the news," Pastor Osteen told Jon Castagnino of Las Vegas news station KVVU-TV.
"Whether a person is straight or gay, Republican, Democrat, good person, not a good person, they're all welcome, because to me church is a place you're supposed to get healed and whole and loved," the evangelical Christian minister added.
His messages of hope and encouragement, as well as his trademark smile, also draw criticism among Christians who feel he fails to address sin and suffering, but Osteen shakes off such criticism. "I believe there needs to be more joy in the world and so I don't need to apologize," he said. "Anybody that does anything that makes a difference is going to be somewhat controversial."
Fellow Christian pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle recently commented on the criticism surrounding the messages of Osteen, whom he has previously called his Christian brother.
"I am aware of the theological differences that exist between our tribe and Pastor Joel," Driscoll told The Gospel Coalition last week. "I also know my Reformed brothers like to treat Pastor Joel like a pinata, but there are worse things than being happy and encouraging at a time when the most common prescription medications are antidepressants."
As for Pastor Osteen's visit to Las Vegas Friday night, both he and Mrs. Osteen will be sharing inspirational messages about hope, family and friendship with a sold out audience. Osteen said that his desire is to lift the people's spirits and "let them know that God is on their side, that they can come through" whatever difficulties they may be facing.