Joel Osteen Ministries
Megachurch is insufficient to describe the world wide, multimedia phenomenon that is Joel Osteen Ministries. Who would have thought the vision of John Osteen, which started in a feed store in a poor neighborhood in Houston, Texas, that is Lakewood Church would explode into the vast Christian empire that it is today. John Osteen, a highly educated, ordained minister with several theological degrees and father of Joel Osteen, lovingly labored for forty years, until his death in 1999, to build his little church into a 5-6,000 member strong congregation. In the 10 years since his son, Joel, was elevated to Senior Pastor, membership has swelled to an unimaginable 30,000. More
Joel Osteen seemed destined to follow in his father’s footsteps when he began attending Oral Roberts University in 1979, the place his father had received his Doctor of Divinity. But, Joel dropped out of school, because he was fired up with helping his father’s ministry through the medium of television. John didn’t want to go the way of other televangelists of the day, who used television mainly to increase church coffers. So his agreement contained an anti-TV-tithing solicitation policy. Joel produced and directed the John Osteen show, which ran weekly for about 16 years. Though his father urged him to, Joel refused to stand behind the pulpit.
It was only in 1999, when his father’s health was declining that Joel finally agreed to his father’s request to speak to the congregation. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography, he wore his father’s shoes. When his father died 11 days later, he would later be asked to fill them. And, though he had no ministerial credentials, years of watching his father from the pews and behind the camera, and traveling with him throughout the U.S. and the world seems to have been more than adequate to equip him for the job.
Joel Osteen is charismatic in both his character and in a spiritual sense. He is also a savvy businessman, and one who knows how to use 21st century technology to create a virtual congregation that spans the globe and enriches the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Nicknamed “The Smiling Preacher” according to the website: imdb.com, he, with his beautiful wife, Victoria, at his side, is the King Midas of the Evangelical Christian community. His spacious home in a prosperous part of Houston, reportedly worth $1 million dollars, were he lives with his wife of 22 years, Victoria, and their two children, Jonathan (14), and Alexandra (10), along with his six figure ministerial salary, which he gave up in 2005, have led some critics to speculate on when he, like some televangelists of the past, will fall from grace. What they fail to consider is that while he was producing and directing his father’s show, he managed rental properties on the side. Not to mention his books, all best sellers, which can be found under “self-help”, including the newly released, It’s Your Time have made him independently wealthy. With his charming personality and affable, easy-going nature he delivers messages of hope and prosperity that, frankly, the world is hungry for. Perhaps his lack of formal ministerial education, save watching his father at work, has better equipped him to deal with the issues and concerns of the 21st century because, Joel’s ministry is about coping with the everyday struggles of life, and not how, if we are not very careful, our sinful natures will set us on the path to everlasting anguish. Lakewood Church itself is a good reflection of his “live for today” philosophy.
One of the reasons for the appeal of Lakewood Church to the masses is that from its inception it has been non-denominational and open to anyone regardless of race, socio-economic status, or disability, (including addiction). Its immense congregation is comprised, in virtually equal numbers, of Caucasian, African-American, and Hispanic people. Another is that, though it is enormous by anyone’s measure, the various sub-ministries, of which 23 are listed on the church website, allow for close personal relationships to develop among the congregants plus emotional and spiritual support though all of life’s many phases. Outreach ministries both local and abroad have provided food, clothing, and medicinal supplies everywhere there is a need, and have donated millions to families stricken with natural disasters. Finally, the technologies of today including the World Wide Web with all its many features, (i.e. email, video streaming, podcasts, blogs, and social networking sites), TV, radio, telephones that are more like pocket-sized computers have broadened the scope of the church’s community immeasurably while making the world seem a much smaller place.
Though it is, by all accounts, the largest Protestant church in America, Lakewood Church and Joel Osteen Ministries has held true to the vision of its founders, John and Dodie Osteen, that it be a family ministry, and Joel, his wife, his children, mother, brothers and sisters having active roles in the church hierarchy that dream will be fulfilled well into the 21st century and even beyond.
Sources on the web:
The Lakewood Church
Joel Osteen Ministries
Encyclopedia of World Biography
Written by Laura Kinzie November 5, 2009
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