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Joel Osteen on Why He Doesn't Believe He Preaches 'Prosperity Gospel'

( [email protected] ) Jul 21, 2017 07:59 AM EDT
July 21, 2017: Joel Osteen, senior pastor of the 40000-member Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, has hit back at those who accuse him of promoting the "prosperity gospel"
Joel Osteen, with wife and co-pastor Victoria, leads Houston's Lakewood Church, now the largest congregation in the United States, with over 40,000 members. He has also authored numerous books and his broadcasts from the Lakewood Church in Houston each Sunday reaching more than 100 million homes in the United States and millions more in 100 countries around the world. Photo Credit: AP Photo

Joel Osteen, senior pastor of the 40000-member Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, has hit back at those who accuse him of promoting the "prosperity gospel" and claimed he simply focuses on "helping" people and "being a blessing" to those around him.

"First off, I don't take a salary from my church or ministry. I've been blessed outside of that," Osteen told the Denver Post when asked how he responds to those who think he's "all about money, or running a ploy".

"But no doubt what you're saying is true," he added. "But I think you have to overcome it by being who you are, by living a life of integrity and helping other people. Our message is that we're blessed to be a blessing to others. All of us here in America are blessed compared to parts of the world. I try to just focus on helping other people."

Prosperity gospel, as defined by the Lausanne Theology Working Group, is the teaching that "believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the 'sowing of seeds' through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings."

The televangelist, who has 10 million weekly viewers in the United States and 20 million more across nearly 100 countries, was also asked what he makes of Jesus's famous declaration that, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God".

"I think you have to take it all in perspective," Osteen said. "In the Scripture, Christianity was started with Abraham. Abraham was one of the wealthiest men of his day. It's not about wealth. I think he was talking about how if your focus is on riches - just, how can I be wealthy and focus on myself all the time - that's not what Micah and others in the Bible were talking about."

He added, "If your dream is to rise higher, to do great things, to have money to help mankind, to be a blessing to others, I don't think God has any problem with that."

In 2005, Lakewood Church - which brings in around $90 million each year - moved to Compaq Center, the former arena of the Houston Rockets, for an estimated bill of $75 million.

Osteen told the Post the church wouldn't have the Compaq Center "if God hadn't blessed people the way they could give."

"It cost $100 million to renovate that facility," he explained "(Those are) people that believe that God can do something with a life - that I can rise higher and accomplish things and excel. Not to focus on me, but to be a blessing to others."

During a 2013 interview with the Christian Post, Osteen further explained why he doesn't like to be grouped in with televangelists who promote the prosperity gospel: "I get grouped into the prosperity gospel and I never think it's fair, but it's just what it is. I think prosperity, and I've said it 1,000 times, it's being healthy, it's having children, it's having peace of mind. Money is part of it; and yes, I believe God wants us to excel."

He added, "I believe God wants us to excel and be blessed so we can be a bigger blessing to others...But when I hear the term prosperity gospel, I think people are sometimes saying, "well, he's just asking for money."

Last year, Osteen explained that he is called to spread a message of positivity and hope to millions around the world when asked if he ever feels like he is "cheating people" by never discussing hell and repentance.

"No, I really don't, because it's a different approach," he told CBS News. "You know, it's not hellfire and brimstone. But I say most people are beaten down enough by life. They already feel guilty enough. They're not doing what they should, raising their kids -- you know, we can all find reasons. So I want them to come to Lakewood or our meetings and be lifted up, to say, 'You know what? I may not be perfect, but I'm moving forward. I'm doing better.' And I think that motivates you to do better."

Tags : Joel Osteen, televangelist, Lakewood Church, prosperity gospel