HOUSTON, Texas - Joel Osteen is seen by more than 10 million viewers weekly on his TV program in the U.S., which includes folks right here in Hampton Roads on News 3 Sunday mornings.
The services at Osteen's 16,000 seat church (the former home of the NBA's Houston Rockets) draw people from all races, all walks of life, from all over the world. We spoke with one woman, getting her picture taken in front of the stage before the service started, who told us she was visiting from Norway.
Since Osteen will be in Hampton Roads Friday, appearing at the Norfolk Scope Arena, News 3 decided to find out what the appeal of the incredibly popular pastor is, so we flew out to his Houston 52,000 member church to go behind the scenes of his 880-thousand square foot Lakewood Church.
But if you can't make it to his mega-church in Houston, Joel and his family, will come to you, when they in a sense... take their church on the road, like when they filled up Yankee Stadium---in what the church calls A Night of Hope.
They'll be holding one of those events Friday at Norfolk Scope....then it's back to Houston for three weekend services.
And after Joel finishes with his sermon he's not really finished. He comes out and meets with first time visitors, shakes hands, signs his books and prays with them---always eager to offer encouragement.
Over the years, Osteen's popularity has exploded. What's his secret? "I do think part of it is maybe, I'm not that traditional as certain pastors, maybe not as traditional as my father, meaning rather than just teach books of the bible I talk about life: how do we overcome, how do we make the principles of the bible real."
Despite his millions of followers, Osteen has his critics, saying he's not a deep theologian and avoids certain hot button issues, such as abortion and homosexuality.
Osteen believes that's not he's called to do, "Some of those issues become political issues. My father never wanted to go political and I don't feel I want to as well. What I feel called to do is lift people up, to inspire them to help them to move forward."
A message he actually had to apply to himself early on. Joel writes about his very first time preaching--- in his latest book,
"Every voice told me Joel you better not get up there in front of people; you're going to make a fool of yourself. You're not going to know what to say; nobody is going to listen to you."
Joel didn't think he couldn't preach, but the opportunity came when his father John Osteen, the church's founder was in the hospital. Joel filled in and took to the pulpit of Lakewood for the first time nearly 20 years ago.
His dad----who had tried for years to get Joel to preach, was in a hospital room listening to the sermon over a phone. After the service Joel headed to the hospital to see what his father thought. "And I'll never forget, the nurses stopped me in the hall, 'Joel we've never seen your dad so proud. He was just beaming with joy', cause he finally got to hear me minister. And so I don't know how I good I did on that first one----I just did my best. But you know you never know where God is going to take you."
Five days later, Joel's father passed away. He says despite his fears, his anxieties, he knew he was supposed to take over for his father.