Interview: Joel Osteen - Called to Give Hope

|PIC1|Joel and Victoria Osteen, pastors of the largest and fastest growing church in the US, wrapped up their UK tour in Birmingham last Saturday night.

Since taking over the Lakewood Church in Texas eight years ago, Joel has enjoyed enormous success as the author of #1 New York Times bestseller, Your Best Life Now, and was named one of the most fascinating people of 2006. During his stop in London, Joel talked with Christian Today before taking the stage at Wembley Arena.

In this interview, Joel talks about his 'role model' Billy Graham, his feedback on criticism, his upcoming book, and plans for his next international tour.

You're currently on a UK tour. How do the UK and US audiences compare?

In the US, maybe there is a bit more reaction from the crowd. There's more clapping and lots of energy, things like that. We may not see as much here so far, but I still see that people are very hungry and warm. I'm excited about being here.

The UK has recently been hit by fresh attacks on London and Glasgow. Has that had an influence on the message you are bringing to the people here?

I think so, because there's so much negativity in the world. I think any time that we bring a message of hope - that God's in control, and that He's got a great plan for our lives - it gives people peace and I think they respond to that.

Your wife Victoria regularly joins you on stage. That must be quite encouraging.

Yes, I don't think I can do it without her. She brings so much. I wouldn't be who I am without her encouraging me. And just letting the role of the female being in leadership inspires a lot of people. We've been doing this together for about eight years.

I met her 21 years ago at her mother's jewellery store, and we just hit it off, became best friends, and we got married. Our two kids are here right now in London. My little girl sings at the end of the show. My mother is here, my brother is here - my whole family is here.

Have you seen much of London?

Yes. We had some friends at the Parliament who invited us, so we had a great time.

Your new book, Become a Better You, is due for release in October. What's the core message?

The main message of it is to not get stagnant and that God wants us to continue to grow and become a better person. I talk a lot about developing better habits, better relationships, a better walk with the Lord... it's really my core message on being all that God's created you to be.

How do you deal with criticism?

When it's valid, it can be helpful and I listen to it and take advice and try to become better. A lot of it is based on doctrinal issues that we just don't see eye to eye on. Most of the criticism I get is that I am too positive and too hopeful... in my words, I don't beat people down enough.

I just think this is a message that God has called me to, and I don't really listen to the critics. I just stay focused on what God has called me to do. The Scripture says you'll know them by your fruit, so when I come to places like this, and you meet people and help them change their lives through Christ, and you help them restore their faith... or you meet people all the time that have never been in church. That's what I feel like I'm called to do - to plant a seed of hope in people's hearts.

So I just focus on what I've been called to do. There will always be critics.

You only preached one message before succeeding your father in 1999, and you rose to fame rather quickly after that. Has that caused you to feel pressured in any way?

I don't really feel pressured. When my father passed away, I've only [preached] once before, but I was just thinking 'I'm just going to be the way God made me to be'. And that's easy - to just be yourself. I don't really feel pressured. Even tonight, I don't know any of these people, but I'm just going to be who I am, just relax, and try to give them hope. I don't feel pressured - I feel responsible to do my best.

If you weren't a pastor, what would you be?

Well, I was involved in television production, and I was running a television station at that time, so that's what I thought I'd do with my life. I never had the desire to necessarily be a pastor. Even though my dad was - I loved that, and respected that - but I can't say that's what I had the desire to do. When he died, I knew that that's what I was supposed to do; now I know this is what I'm supposed to be doing.

Many are inspired by you. Who inspires you?

Wow, I never thought about that. There are many people who inspire me. Billy Graham and the life that he lived inspires me.

Would you consider him as one of your role models?

Yes, one of my mentors and role models.

Do you have a personal relationship with him?

I do. We've just become friends... he's been very kind to me, just encouraging me. His family too - Franklin and Anne. Even just visiting them has been very inspiring itself. He's invited me to his home and we spent time there with him.

When's the last time you saw him?

We saw him in his library about two months ago. I really met him for the first time a year or two ago, and since then we got some time to visit.

I read that you listen to a lot of other pastors' tapes. Can you name some you listen to?

I hate to name them because there are so many! But I like to listen to Joyce Meyer and John Maxwell... There are probably 50 of them that I love listening to.

Where do you see yourself 10 years later?

I hope that we just continue to grow and reach more people and be more effective in helping the culture that we live in, and drawing people closer to Christ.

Are you planning on any more international tours?

We are. We're going to go every year somewhere. Next year we're going to Korea. We're going to the Olympic Stadium next May. Once a year we try to go overseas.

What will you mainly be talking about today?

My core message is that God has got a good plan for your lives, and we must trust Him, and let go of the past. That's my main message... to believe in God's favour and to believe in good things. Trying to get people to see God and lead a good life, knowing that He has a good plan for them. I believe when we do that, it allows God to work in our lives.

How has the UK experience been?

It's been fantastic. People are very warm and receptive... I couldn't be happier being here.