Osteen, Joel 1963–
Osteen, Joel 1963–
PERSONAL: Born 1963; son of John (a Pentecostal minister) and Dolores Osteen; married; wife's name Victoria, 1987; children: Jonathan, Alexandra, one other child. Education: Attended Oral Roberts University. Religion: Christian.
ADDRESSES: Office—Joel Osteen Ministries, P.O. Box 4600, Houston, TX 77210.
CAREER: Lakewood Church, Houston, TX, head of marketing and television concerns, 1981–98, senior pastor, 1999–. Public speaker and broadcaster.
AWARDS, HONORS: Named among Top Twenty Influencers of the Pentecostal/charismatic community, Ministries Today, 2003.
Your Best Life Now: Seven Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Your Best Life Now Devotional: Daily Inspirations for Living at Your Full Potential, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Your Best Life Now Journal: Personal Reflections on Living at Your Full Potential, Warner Faith (New York, NY), 2005.
Your Best Life Now Study Guide: Seven Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Televangelist Joel Osteen has been associated with the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, since the 1980s. Osteen preaches to over thirty thousand members who attend services, as well as to millions more who read his books or hear him speak on his nationally televised program. The popularity of Osteen's church is attributable in part to his upbeat message of empowerment and prosperity through positive thinking.
Osteen's father, John Osteen, the founder of Lakewood Church, was a Pentecostal preacher who appeared on a weekly television program and wrote many books. Following his father's footsteps, Joel studied at Oral Roberts University, but before completing his degree he returned to Lakewood to oversee the supervision of the television ministry. John died in 1998, leaving a congregation of some eight thousand people. Initially reluctant to take over the pastorship, Joel Osteen nevertheless did so, and he quickly grew into the role. His congregation soon became so large that the church purchased and moved into a former basketball arena in Houston.
Although Osteen identifies himself as a Christian, his church downplays traditional aspects of Christianity in an effort to draw in all kind of members, particularly those people who have avoided affiliation with organized religion. Crosses are not displayed and the traditional subjects of sin, punishment, and sacrifice not are emphasized. Instead, Osteen concentrates on the ideas of becoming empowered and leading a better life by means of positive thinking, believing that this is a direct reflection of Bible principles. God, says Osteen, wants people to be happy, healthy, and prosperous.
According to Business Week writer William C. Symonds, "Pastor Joel is one of a new generation of evangelical entrepreneurs transforming their branch of Protestantism into one of the fastest-growing and most influential religious groups in America. Their runaway success is modeled unabashedly on business." Osteen's critics charge that in order to make his church popular, he has abandoned traditional Christian teaching to deliver a more palatable message; the focus on highly entertaining services is another way Osteen makes people feel good so they will keep coming back to Lakewood.
Osteen's Your Best Life Now: Seven Steps to Living at Your Full Potential gives advice on living life to the fullest. The author states that God wants us to be happy and fulfilled, and if we envision positive things happening they will manifest themselves. Reviewing the book in Christianity Today, Douglas LeBlanc stated that some of the contents is "standard fare," but "what keeps the text from feeling like an upbeat lecture is Osteen's consistent tone of love and pastoral concern." He adds that the book "may well help heavily driven North Americans to remember there's more to life than what kind of car they drive."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America's Intelligence Wire, December 21, 2004, Bill O'Reilly, interview with Joel Osteen; July 18, 2005, Paula Zahn, interview with Joel Osteen.
Business Week, May 23, 2005, William C. Symonds, "Earthly Empires," p. 78.
Christianity Today, April, 2005, Douglas LeBlanc, review of Your Best Life Now: Seven Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, p. 103.
Christian Sentinel, June, 2003, Jackie Alnor, "Joel Osteen: The Prosperity Gospel's Coverboy."
Financial Times, July 19, 2005, Sheila McNulty, "Message of Hope Draws Thousands to Mega Church," p. 3.
People, June 6, 2005, Susan Schindehett, "The Smiling Preacher," p. 123.
Publishers Weekly, November 15, 2004, Daisy Maryles, "The Newest Pastor Star," p. 17; January 10, 2005, Daisy Maryles and Dick Donahue, "Osteen Upstream," p. 16.
BeliefNet, http://www.beliefnet.com/ (September 1, 2005), Laura Sheahen, interview with Joel Osteen.
Discernment, http://www.discernment.org/ (September 1, 2005), Robert S. Liichow, "The Leaven of Lakewood."
Fox News Web site, http://www.foxnews.com/ (September 1, 2005), "Religion Gets Supersized at Megachurches."
Joel Osteen Home Page, http://www.joelosteen.com (September 1, 2005), biographical information about Joel Osteen.