Joel Osteen and the Littlest Big Church in the World
One of the Biggest Congregations in the Country
I’m curious about Houston’s vast Lakewood Church, housed in a 16,700-seat arena that not so long ago was home to the Houston Rockets, I’m curious about the church, but also the pastor, the effervescent Joel Osteen. He’s built one of the biggest congregations in the entire country. How did it get so big? What’s his secret sauce for the church’s meteoric growth? Are his pearly whites as mesmerizing in person as on television?
I’m immediately taken aback by what I see. From vast parking lots surrounding the building, a steady stream of people heads inside. This is not what I expected. It’s Saturday.
Folks seem curiously happy for 8 o’clock on their day off.
I hear Christmas music blaring upstairs and follow the crowd to a room packed with volunteers. They’re stuffing Christmas boxes for children all over the world. Every volunteer is wearing reindeer antlers and seems to be glowing with joy. My experience with church volunteers has always been little, old white ladies whipping up cookies. This crowd is the polar opposite – 200+ people of all ages, races, creeds and colors filling what they call the “Servolution.” No more than 25 percent are Caucasian and nearly half are Hispanic. A video presentation comes on and the crowd gives it their total attention. It’s the story of a woman who received one of these Operation Christmas Child boxes as a youngster. As she explains the effect it had on her life, I see workers blinking back tears.