Megachurch self-help author and motivational speaker Joel Osteen says that he doesn’t believe that he’s “cheating people” by neglecting to preach on repentance or eternal punishment as he opines that people “feel guilty enough.”
Osteen was featured on CBS Sunday Morning on March 27, as correspondent Tracy Smith visited Lakewood to interview the megachurch leader.
“You’ve been criticized for church-lite, or a cotton candy message. Do you feel like you’re cheating people by not telling them about the Hell part? Or repentance part?” she asked.
“No, I really don’t, because it’s a different approach,” Osteen replied.
“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 do raising their kids—we can all find reasons,” he said. “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.”
He later explained that because his late father rose from poverty to becoming the pastor of a growing congregation, he focuses on advising others that they too can overcome their difficult life circumstances.
“You know, my dad was very, very poor,” Osteen said. “No milk, no food, no heating in the winter. And you know what? He stepped up. And he had a big dream for his life. And look what he’s done for us. And so that’s my whole thing is, you don’t have to stay there. You gotta believe that you can rise higher.”
Osteen, who reportedly lives in a $10.5 million dollar home, explained to CBS that most of his wealth comes from his book sales and his work with Sirius Satellite Radio. He does not take a salary from Lakewood, which he estimates makes $90 million a year.
“I do think that there is a certain thought, especially in the church world, that you’re supposed to be poor and broke and defeated to show that you’re humble, and I don’t buy into that,” he said.
However, much concern has been raised over the past decade that the messages at Lakewood are noticeably man-centered and humanistic, instead of Christ-centered and gospel centric. Osteen’s self-help books have included “Your Best Life Now,” “Become a Better You,” “You Can, You Will” and “It’s Your Time.”
Osteen’s latest book, “The Power of I Am,” teaches readers to manifest blessings in their life by making positive confessions about themselves, so that they might “lead a more productive and happier life.”
In 2014, Osteen’s wife Victoria raised concerns when she preached, “Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself…”
“His core message is God is nice, you’re nice, be nice. It’s sort of a, if it were a form of music, I think it would be easy listening,” Michael Horton, professor of theology at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, told reporters. “He uses the Bible like a fortune cookie. ‘This is what’s gonna happen for you. There’s gonna be a windfall in your life tomorrow.’ The Bible’s not meant to be read that way.”
Osteen recently made headlines after his longtime senior worship leader, Israel Houghton, publicly announced last month that he had obtained a divorce due to damage caused when he “sinned in his marriage” five years ago. Some became concerned that Houghton was allowed to lead worship during this time, and outlets quickly pointed out that Houghton was seen with a new girlfriend earlier this month. Lakewood has stated that Houghton is on “indefinite leave” but is still employed as a staff member.