Born: 5 March 1963
Birthplace: Houston, Texas
Best known as: The megachurch pastor who wrote Your Best Life Now
Joel Osteen inherited Houston's Lakewood Church and its television ministry in 1999 from his late father John Osteen. Joel expanded both the church and the TV ministry, wrote a hugely popular book in 2004, and then took his smiling good looks and "live at your full potential" message on the road to sold-out sports arenas. Osteen says God wants to show "incredible favor" to those who "start expecting God's blessings, start anticipating promotion and supernatural increase" in all areas of life. Osteen has no college or seminary degree. He studied briefly at Oral Roberts University, then worked behind the scenes in Lakewood's TV ministry until his father's death in 1999. He gave up his $200,000 church salary in 2005, after Your Best Life Now (Warner Faith) had become a New York Times best-seller. In 2006, with 3 million hardcover copies of that book sold, he reportedly signed a multi-million-dollar deal with Free Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, for future work. Since 2003, Lakewood Church has met in leased space in a remodeled sports arena previously known as The Summit and the Compaq Center. In 2010 the church bought the building from the city of Houston. Osteen's critics range from fundamentalists who say he is soft on sin to evangelicals and liberals who say "prosperity preaching" is at odds with Jesus' life and teachings.
Extra credit: According to the Houston Chronicle, Osteen was ordained a minister "by Lakewood's six-member board" in a private 1992 ceremony... His ministry, not affiliated with any particular Christian denomination, remains a family affair. As co-pastor, Joel's wife, Victoria, appears with him at Sunday services in Houston and on the road. Lakewood's staff includes Osteen's mother, brother, sister and brother-in-law.
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