Joel Osteen Says He's Not Cheating People by Not Preaching About Hell

Joel Osteen.
Joel Osteen. | (Photo: Reuters)

Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen says he isn't cheating anyone by not talking about Hell and repentance, insisting that people feel guilty enough already, and he wants to lift up believers instead of bringing them down.

When asked in an Easter Sunday interview by CBS News' "Sunday Morning" program "Do you feel like you're cheating people by not telling them about the Hell part? Or repentance part?" Osteen answered: "No, I really don't, because it's a different approach."

He continued: "You know, it's not hellfire and brimstone. But I say most people are beaten down enough by life. They already feel guilty enough. They're not doing what they should, raising their kids — we can all find reasons. So I want them to come to Lakewood or our meetings and be lifted up, to say, 'You know what? I may not be perfect, but I'm moving forward. I'm doing better.' And I think that motivates you to do better."

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Osteen, who leads one of the largest megachurches in the U.S., also rejected suggestions that one has to be "poor and broke and defeated to show that you're humble," and noted that his father, John Osteen, came from humble beginnings, before he founded Lakewood.

"You know, my dad was very, very poor," the pastor said. "No milk, no food, no heating in the winter. And you know what? He stepped up. And he had a big dream for his life. And look what he's done for us. And so my whole thing is, you don't have to stay there. You gotta believe that you can rise higher."

Osteen also revealed that his ministry spends as much money supporting missionaries, TV evangelizing efforts, and paying staff as it earns.

"In just big broad terms, $30 million goes to the TV effort. What's left, it's paying staff, it's supporting missionaries and missions' work, it's just the organization of making it go. So if we bring in, you know, $90 million this year, we will spend $90 million," he explained.

Osteen has on numerous occasions denied that he peaches a "watered-down" version of the Gospel, stating in a February 2012 message that for many years religion has pushed down people, and people have been told that they can't measure up to God.

"My goal is to make God good and let them know, hey, I tell them all the time, God's smiling down on you right now. You're his child. He's got a great plan for your life. You can overcome mistakes, and to me, that draws people to God," the Texas megachurch pastor said at the time.

Osteen continues his "Night of Hope" events across America, and hosted his latest sermon in Newark, New Jersey, last week.

Some attendees praised Osteen's messages for focusing on the basics, which they said is sometimes what people need.

"And I think that some people have the ability to deliver the basic principles that's needed for Christianity, and Pastor Osteen definitely can deliver that," one attendee told CBS.

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