Economic woes. Troubled relationships. Guilt from past behavior.
In the midst of such adversity, televangelist and best-selling author Joel Osteen has drawn thousands to his Houston, Texas, ministry and millions around the country and the world tune to watch him share a message of hope through weekly television broadcasts.
Now, Osteen is bringing that inspiration to Oklahoma City.
Osteen will present “A Night of Hope” on Sept. 28 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in downtown Oklahoma City. Andrea Davis, senior director of media relations for Osteen's Lakewood Church and Joel Osteen Ministries, said it's a bit early to predict the size of the “Night of Hope” Oklahoma City audience, but she said the presentations typically draw at least 10,000 people to arenas and convention halls.
Osteen is familiar with large crowd: The good-humored preacher's church congregation is made up of 40,000 members.
He said this will be the first time he will present the “Night of Hope” in Oklahoma City.
“I'm excited about coming,” he said during a recent telephone interview. “We're trying to do some new cities and it came up on our list and I said it would be a great place to go. Plus, I'm a basketball fan of the (Oklahoma City) Thunder, too.”
Osteen answered several questions about the upcoming gathering:
Q: What is the purpose or goal of “A Night of Hope?”
A: It's to inspire people in their faith, to let them know that there are good days up ahead. Part of it too, some people that watch us on television, won't go to a church. They aren't comfortable there yet, but they will come to a basketball arena or a baseball stadium, so we go to these events to give people an opportunity to experience something that maybe they weren't raised in like I was. It's to introduce people to faith and to worship.
Q: I noticed that both you and your wife, Victoria, be presenting “A Night of Hope.” Do you always do them together?
A: We do. We've always done them together. We've done them for eight years together and Victoria is a big part of it and she'll be sharing stories as well about and how we met, just talking about relationships. We're just a big believer in doing it together and even as a family. Our son, Jonathan, is 17. Our daughter, Alexandria, is 13 and they're both involved. Jonathan plays in the band. Alexandria sings during the “Night of Hope” so we all come together as a family.
Q: How do you find time in your schedule to travel for these “Night of Hope” events?
A: We do the event on Friday night and then I come back for a Saturday night service we do here at the church. We do about 12 to 14 a year and we just schedule it in there. It keeps us busy but I feel like it's important to go out to the cities where people are watching us. You know, we draw strength from knowing that there's people out there getting help from the ministry and I hope that people see us in a new way after we get to see each other in person.
Q: What can you tell me about “A Night of Hope”?
A: It is 2½ hours. We call it a celebration. We bring our worship team. There's a lot of music, contemporary music that is very uplifting. Then there's segments where I tell people and inspire people to let go of the past, to see themselves in the right way. It's a night filled with inspiration. My mom (Dolores “Dodie” Osteen) will be there and she shares how she overcame cancer in 1981. So it's not like being in a church service, it's more of a celebration. I have local pastors involved as well.
Q: You have a new book out now called “I Declare.” Why did you decide to write this particular book at this particular time?
A: I hear so many people speaking negative things over their life and over their family. I don't think they necessarily realize that words have power. I just felt like at the time, with so much in the economy and the nation trying to push us down, it's easy to be negative and pessimistic. I thought now, more than ever, we need to speak faith-filled words over our life and family and future. It just felt like the right time. It's easy to get negative or discouraged. It doesn't mean we're bad people. I think that sets the tone for your life. I think you get up and say “You know, I believe something good is going to happen.” These are simple declarations based off Scripture, but it's a new frame of mind, I believe.
Q: In your book, you share a specific declaration for each day of the month. How did you come up with that approach?
A: You know, I just tried to get a big broad scope of what I would want to speak and what I do speak over my life. I tried to come up with 31 that I felt like would help people the most. Speaking favor and speaking health, speaking God's faithfulness, these are just the things that I speak over my own life and my own family and my own future and so I felt like I would share it with other people.
Q: What do you say to people who are really hurting? How do you uplift them?
A: It's hard sometimes. Here in Houston, we have a cancer hospital here, a famous hospital that serves a lot of people, so every service there are people here with cancer, many of them kids. I really tell them that this is not a surprise to God, that He has you in the palm of His hand. I think a big point, something I always try to say is don't get bitter, don't let discouragement set in, don't fall into depression. Find something to be grateful for. You might not have your health but you have a spouse. Be grateful for your spouse or your job or whatever it is. The important thing is not to get bitter and to stay grateful, stay hopeful. I tell a lot of people about all the saints that died in faith. We're all going to die sometime, so let's die in faith.
Q: I know that you are a preacher's kid, probably one of the most famous preacher's kids that we have. How do you bring that part of your life to your role as a pastor of this huge, huge church because I know that you didn't grow up necessarily thinking that that was what you were going to do.
A: I feel blessed being raised in this. Church was always all I've known, in that sense — growing up, going to church and seeing how my dad (the late John Osteen) dealt with different things. So it's obviously given me an advantage from somebody that didn't have that. When my dad died, like you said, I never dreamed I'd be doing this but I knew I was supposed to step up into this role. It was all in God's timing and it was all meant to be this way.
Q: You have critics who say you dwell too often on the positive, that you dwell too much on the positive nature of God and not putting enough of “fire and brimstone” to your messages. How do you answer those critics?
A: I just try to stay focused on what I feel like God has called me to do. I go back to the Scripture that says that it's the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. When I tell people that you can overcome the past, you can be a better husband, a better wife, you know that draws people in to want to do better and to want to know the Lord and to want to surrender their life to Him. So I know that it's not the only approach, but I just don't have it in me — I feel like there are enough things pushing people down in life that when I come before them, I want to somehow lift them up and still speak the truth. I think you can speak it in a positive way instead of “Hey man, you know you're going down,” I'd rather say “God has mercy for every mistake. Why don't you trust Him today? We're never going to change their (critics') minds. It's just a different approach. They think that it's all about telling people how bad they are and that they need to repent. It's just a different approach and I don't fault them in any way. I don't want to be critical in any way of people who are being critical of me.