Joel Osteen's Night of Hope Draws Tens of Thousands in Ohio

More than 14,000 people heard pastor and preacher Joel Osteen's inspiration-filled message at the Quicken Loans Arena facilities in downtown Cleveland, Ohio – the venue for the "Night of Hope" event.

Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas – the largest in America – told the crowd in this Ohio city on Friday night that each day comes as a gift from God, who should be thanked for what's right in their lives.

"God has you on this planet for good reasons, and not just to occupy space," quoted the 49-year-old pastor as saying. "Somebody is in need of your talents, your skills, your gifts. Stop criticizing yourself, because when you do that, you criticize God's creation."

"This is not a show. It's a celebration of the risen Saviour," Don Iloff, spokesperson for Joel Osteen Ministries, told the crowd.

In an interview prior to the event, Osteen said people of Cleveland had many options to spend their Friday night. "These people came here to honor Him, and God sees they gave Him their time. God will honor them for that," said Osteen, who has written several books.

"I started watching Joel on television years ago, and what I like about him is he speaks to the people, not at them," local resident Esther English was quoted as saying. "He genuinely makes people feel good about themselves."

Marilyn Macon, another participant, said Osteen had the gift of encouragement that he perhaps inherited from his father, Lakewood Church founder John Osteen.

"I never planned on doing this," Osteen told NewsChannel5 in an interview Friday. "I worked behind the scenes for my parents at the ministry for many years and when my dad died, I knew I was supposed to step up and pastor the church. And I took that step of faith never ministering before and never dreamed that it would grow."

Osteen, a televangelist who also reaches millions of viewers around the world through his television ministry, has held more than 100 "Night of Hope" events across the United States since 2004. In 2009, he held the first non-baseball event at the new Yankee Stadium in New York with nearly 45,000 attendees.

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