WHAT'S WORKING: Joel Osteen's message of hope

Joel and Victoria Osteen (Source: Joel Osteen website)
Joel and Victoria Osteen (Source: Joel Osteen website)

The pastor from the largest church in America is in the Queen City to spread his message of hope. FOX19's Kimberly Holmes Wiggins sat down with Joel Osteen to talk about his faith and his critics.

One day before his big event, hundreds of people packed Joseph Beth Bookstore in Rookwood on Thursday night to meet him. Osteen was there signing copies of his new book.

"I watch him every Sunday," said Diane Mueller. "He's fabulous. I think he's one of God's biggest, brightest, shiniest diamonds."

Joel and his wife Victoria are pastors at the largest and most diverse churches in the U.S.; the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Believers, Christians and his fans here in the Tri-State said he's changed their lives.

"I've been watching it for a couple of years," said Michelle Butler. "I was one of those people who had a certain disdain for organized religion, and watching him consistently has changed that."

Mueller said she's watched Osteen's sermons on television for years with her significant other. She said that the love of her life died last year, but she keeps their tradition alive.

"On Sundays, I write Joel's message and I write {my significant other's} message underneath it, and I still talk to him about the message," said Mueller. "He was supposed to come to the "Night of Hope" with me tomorrow, but he'll still be there some way."

Osteen's message is clearly what's working for millions of Osteen's fans.

We wanted to know more about the man also known as the "smiling preacher". FOX19 was invited to sit down and speak with Osteen while he's in town for one of his events called "a Night of Hope" on Friday evening at U.S. Bank Arena. The event is part church service, part inspirational speech and has many people flocking to them.

"It's just a time that we try to inspire people," said Osteen. "To let them know that God is good. That he's on their side, and we're just really excited about being here in Cincinnati."

Osteen said he has a special message for people in Cincinnati.

"It's going to be part of our core message, and that's that God is good, and even where times get tough -- the economy and a lot of things coming against us-- if we keep our faith, these seasons will change," said Osteen.

Thousands are expected to attend the Night of Hope in Cincinnati, and if Friday's event is anything like all of the other ones Osteen has organized, thousands will show up. Osteen said they won't all be Christians, either.

"About 50-percent of the people that usually come or watch us on television don't go to church," said Osteen.

Osteen took over for his father, running what seems to be the family business. His father, John, passed away in 1999. Osteen's foundation is built on spreading encouragement. It's been dubbed the "prosperity gospel." His sermons don't focus on sin or controversial topics such as homosexuality. Millions must like it. Millions are watching his program every week in hundreds of nations. His congregation in Houston is so large that the church moved into a former pro-basketball arena. The church has collected a reported $75-million a year.

More money means more critics-- both of Osteen's means and his messages.

"Our message is about lifting people up," said Osteen. "I don't apologize for wanting people to feel better about themselves. We do get criticized here and there, but I really don't pay much attention to it, because most of the people I encounter are people that stopped and said Joel, you helped me through a tough time."

Osteen has also been criticized because of his lack of formal training. He's never attended seminary. It's a point of contention for many of his critics. Osteen told us he understands their point, but believes he is doing God's work.

"You know, some of the great people of the bible didn't go to school either, didn't go to seminary," said Osteen. "I'm all for seminary. It's just that I don't think that has to stop you."

And it hasn't stopped Osteen. He's a New York Times bestselling author. His ministry first released Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential in 2004. Three years later, released a self-help book, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day.

In September, he released Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week.

During our interview, Osteen read one of his favorite passages from his new book: "We prepare for victory or defeat at the start of each day. When you get up in the morning, you have to set your mind in the right direction."

I asked him if it was really that simple.

"I think it's something you have to train yourself to do," said Osteen. "I don't know that it happens overnight."

But he promises that little by little those who seek happiness shall find it.

A message that locals like Butler said is the reason why she had to meet Osteen this week.

"The book says it all," said Butler. "Every day should be a Friday. Rejoicing in every single day. Giving God his praise. Even when times are not good. It's just a very positive message in a really very crazy world, you know?"


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