Pastor and bestselling author Joel Osteen recently defended his vaguely defined views on homosexuality, saying he prefers to avoid divisive issues from the pulpit.
The pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston recently stated that while he believes gay marriage is "against the rules," he doesn't want his ministry defined by how he views the issue.
"I think the challenge for me that you have to overcome is they want to go to the hot button issues and for some people, that's not what my ministry's about or what I'm about," Osteen told The Blaze. "It's just not my focus, so for me it's easy for me to walk away from an interview and for people to think, 'That's just the guy who's against gays or against some other hot button issue.'
"I try to express myself in a way-'Here's what I believe the Scripture says, but it also says love God, love every person, love your neighbor," he added. "So I just try to find that balance."
The mega church pastor, who preaches to over 40, 000 people a week, stated that while he understands people on both sides of the issue are unsatisfied with his response, he believes his avoidance of the matter is the "right thing" to do.
"I'd rather get criticized for who I am ... this is just who I am," he explained. "This is the path I'm supposed to take."
"There's different approaches," the pastor continued. "I just know that my gift is encouragement, hopefully to uplift people."
Pope Francis met with Osteen at the Vatican on June 5, where the two discussed the need for unity within the church.
"I went there to expressly feeling for unity and to let [the pope] know that the American pastors support what he's doing," Osteen revealed. "I felt honored to be invited."
Osteen says he agrees with the pope's message for unity, explaining that he does not have a problem with theological differences among Christians, but they need to be handled carefully and respectfully.
"There's nothing wrong with denominations, but just don't let it separate us," he said, encouraging people to respect each other regardless of their differences.
However, many evangelical pastors and church leaders find Osteen's unwillingness to discuss "hot button issues" from the pulpit disconcerting.
"Those placed in authority positions within the church have an obligation to preach truth, to preach the whole Word of God, unpleasant or not" said Rev. Stacy Swimp of Revive Alive Missional Ministries in Detroit, Michigan.
"Those who fail to do so are cowards, and the Bible is clear that cowards will be thrown into a lake of fire," he continued, quoting Revelation 21:8.
Osteen is one of the most influential speakers of today, with weekly messages broadcasted nationally via television and radio. His "A Night of Hope" event on Saturday drew 50,000 people to Yankee Stadium in New York City.