Pastor Joel Osteen was in tears on Sunday as he announced that his Houston-based megachurch, Lakewood, is "out of debt" after finally clearing a massive loan from the Bank of America.
The church took out the $100m loan 20 years ago to turn what was then the Compaq Center basketball arena into a fully-funcitioning church with all the necessary facilities.
Osteen welled up on stage as he looked back over the last two decades and remembered how different things were in the early days: "You know, it was a basketball arena, like you saw. But, you know, underneath these bleachers [there were] service areas and locker rooms and where they serve food. It wasn't public areas.
"We needed nurseries, and we needed children's facilities. We needed a lot more things."
Back then, the church paid $11.5 million to lease the arena for 60 years. When Osteen invited bids from contractors to carry out the renovations, he remembered being taken aback by the estimates.
"I got the bill back for the bids, and it was $100 million to renovate. And I thought, kind of, God, I didn't sign up for this. I was 36 years old. And I thought, but you know what, God gives you grace for every season of your life," Osteen said.
At one point, it looked like the loan might not happen because the bank that the church had been banking with for years since the days of his late father, John Osteen, refused to lend Lakewood the $100m. But something completely unexpected happened.
"Let me tell you, y'all, they were so negative. They were just like, 'Man, it's not gonna happen. We don't think you can raise the money' and all this stuff. And man, we walked out of there and I was discouraged at first until I let it go in one ear and out the other," Osteen said.
"I thought, God, our bank is not our source. You are our source. And so we went to another bank, Bank of America. They showed up at the office, the first day we were there without even knowing us, they'd never seen our financials, they had a check for $25 million dollars.
"I saw that 25 million, I said, 'You'll let us borrow 25, would you let us borrow $100 million? They said we'll do it. Bank of America loaned us $100 million."
Lakewood has already owned the building outright for over a decade after purchasing it for $7m in 2010. Osteen said that the $100m loan for the renovations was paid off on 31 December 2023.
"What God's done for Lakewood He's gonna do in your life," he told the congregation.
"I believe in 2024 you'll see God release you from some things that have held you back. Release you from debt, release you from addiction, relationship, from wrong mindsets. I just believe [this will be] a year of release."