Evangelical Christian pastor Joel Osteen shared in an interview this week that "a whole group of probably about 50 Muslims" recently visited his nondenominational megachurch in Houston, Texas, and indicated that his inspirational messages on "how to live a great life" resonate with people "in Muslim countries."
"I have Muslims that attend our church and my books sell a lot in Muslim countries as well," Osteen said during an interview with Jeremy Hobson for the "Here and Now" radio program published online Monday.
Hobson had mentioned that he heard Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel express the opinion that Christianity and Judaism had not done "a good enough job keeping an open conversation with Muslims" in the U.S. He then asked Osteen if he has conversations with Muslims, which prompted the preacher to share that he "certainly" does.
"You know, I don't know, I don't get too deep in those kinds of things," Osteen added, "but our ministry is about reaching out to everybody, and so you know, I do have those conversations."
"I had a whole group of probably about 50 Muslims here at the service about two weeks ago, sitting right on the front row. They came, and we have good, good relationships. And I think part of our ministry is, our main theme is Jesus says love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as you love yourself. And I don't try to put people in a box — OK, they're Jewish or they're Catholic, they're this or they're that. I just say, 'you know what, they're somebody that God's put in our path for us to love,' and that's our philosophy," he added.
Osteen also touched on immigration, the End Times and the intersection of politics and religion in his interview with 'Here and Now," which you can listen to in the audio player below:
Osteen previously has shared that his messages are not only attractive to Muslims, but to atheists as well.
In a 2014 "Larry King Now" interview, King asked the megachurch pastor, also known for his megawatt smile: "Why would an atheist be a fan?"
"I think what they like, Larry, the principles that we teach is from the Scripture but they can help anybody you know, to reach dreams or to forgive or to have a good self-image," Osteen said. "I know that I'm not a traditional pastor in terms of I'm just going down teaching scripture by scripture, because a lot of what I would teach is just how to live a great life."
Another view on why Osteen might be so popular with those outside of his conservative Christian faith was recently presented in an opinion essay published in the Jewish Journal.
"He does not proselytize in a loud, Bible-thumping sort of manner. Instead, with a calming, reassuring voice, he delivers words of faith, hope and optimism based on a biblical foundation," wrote the author, who identified as "Jewish, and intend to remain Jewish."
The writer added: "... I have to admit that there were times when I felt that pastor Osteen had put his finger on the pulse of my current challenges, and offered comments that gave me some degree of immediate solace."
Osteen's messages and sermons are not a hit with everyone, particularly other conservative Christians. Critics have for years claimed that Osteen's messages are too focused on positive thinking and personal prosperity, and light on sin and repentance. The Texas pastor, whose popular inspirational and self-help books include Your Best Life Now, You Can, You Will, Every Day a Friday, and Become a Better You, has responded on more than one occasion to such criticism.
"There's enough pushing people down in life already. When they come to my church, or our meetings, I want them to be lifted up. I want them to know that God's good, that they can move forward, that they can break an addiction, that they can become who God's created them to be," Osteen said in one television interview.
Osteen welcomes about 52,000 worshippers weekly to Lakewood Church, according to a press release from his ministry. The church also says that it is "one of the nation's most racially and socioeconomically diverse" and that its pastor reaches millions of people through his television program that airs in more than 100 different countries.