Joel Scott Osteen (born March 5, 1963) is a televangelist in Houston, Texas. Osteen’s televised sermons are seen by over 7 million viewers weekly and over 20 million monthly in over 100 countries. His sermons also broadcast 24 hours a day on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Channel 128. Osteen has written seven New York Times Best Sellers.
In 2004, his first book, Your Best Life Now, was released by Time Warner and debuted at the top of The New York Times Best Seller list. The book remained on The New York Times Best Seller list for more than 200 weeks.
Early life and family
Osteen was born in Houston, Texas, and is one of six children of John Osteen and Dolores (“Dodie”) Pilgrim. His father, a former Southern Baptist pastor, founded Lakewood Church, of which Osteen is the current senior pastor, in the back of an old feed store. He was educated at Humble High School, a public high school in the city of Humble, Texas, from which he graduated in 1981,followed by Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he studied radio and television communications, but did not graduate and did not receive a degree from a divinity school. In 1982, he returned to Houston and founded Lakewood’s television program, where he produced his father’s televised sermons for 17 years until January 1999, when his father died unexpectedly from a heart attack.
Osteen’s father encouraged him to preach for many years, but he declined, preferring to work behind the scenes until January 17, 1999, when he accepted his father’s suggestion and he preached his first sermon. John Osteen died six days later of a heart attack. Two weeks after his father’s death, Osteen began preaching regularly and later that year was installed as the new senior pastor of Lakewood Church on October 3, 1999. Since then, Lakewood’s attendance has grown from 5,000 to 43,000.
In 2003, Lakewood Church acquired the Compaq Center, former home of the NBA Houston Rockets. Renovations cost $105 million.The renovations took over 15 months to complete, and included the addition of five stories to add more capacity.Lakewood’s 2005 grand opening was attended by an estimated 56,000 people, including Texas Governor Rick Perry and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Lakewood Church services are seen in over 100 countries. Osteen was selected by Barbara Walters as one of her 10 Most Fascinating People of 2006. Former presidential candidate John McCain has described Osteen as his favorite inspirational author. The Osteen family attended Easter breakfast hosted by President Barack Obama at the White House in 2010.
Osteen’s sermon preparation involves memorizing his remarks and listening to himself on tape.
Osteen says that he chooses to focus more on the goodness of God and on living an obedient life rather than on sin. He says that he tries to teach Biblical principles in a simple way, emphasizing the power of love and a positive attitude. When asked why he does not focus more on sin, the devil and hell in detail, Osteen stated in an interview with CBN News:
When I grew up, the devil was a reason why I had a headache or the devil was the reason I got mad today. We always blamed the devil. I think today when I say the enemy, I like to make it broader. Sometimes the enemy can be our own thoughts. We’ve trained ourselves the wrong way. Or the enemy can be our own lack of discipline. Some people preach about hell like you’re already going there, and to me the Gospel means ‘Good News.’ I’d rather say God is a God of mercy. So I think the people already know what they’re doing wrong, and I certainly believe in hell. But to me, when I see thousands of people before me, it just doesn’t come out of me to say, ‘You guys are terrible, and you’re going to hell.’ I’d rather say that God is a God of mercy. You’ve got to live an obedient life, but for every mistake you’ve made, there’s mercy there, and I believe we can do better.
Osteen at a Nashville book signing, 18 May 2007
Osteen’s first book, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, was released in October 2004, and reached the number 1 position on The New York Times Best Seller list.
He released his second book, titled Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day, in October 2007. It also topped The New York Times Best Seller list and had a first printing of four million copies. Osteen has said that the book focuses more on relationships and not getting stuck where we are in life.
As senior pastor, Osteen says he draws no salary from the church, which has an annual budget of $70 million. Instead, he relies on income from book sales. Much of the content for his best sellers come from sermons he has preached at Lakewood.
Osteen married Lakewood Church co-pastor Victoria Osteen (nee Iloff) on April 4, 1987. They have a son and daughter. His older siblings, Paul, Lisa, and Tamara, and his younger sister, April, are also involved in full-time ministry. His half-brother Justin does missionary work and is based in New York.
Osteen’s net worth has been reported between 40-60 million dollars. He lives with his family in a 17,000 square-foot mansion, worth an estimated $10.5 million in River Oaks.