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Pastor Joel Osteen Discusses Whether He Promotes the 'Prosperity Gospel' During Stephen Colbert Interview

( [email protected] ) Feb 05, 2016 11:45 AM EST
Lakewood Church leader and best-selling author Joel Osteen recently appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where the pastor weighed in on whether he promotes the prosperity gospel, or the idea that faith, positive speech, and donations will increase one's material wealth.
Pastor Joel Osteen discussed his latest book, 'The Power Of I Am' during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. YouTube/ScreenGrab

Lakewood Church leader and best-selling author Joel Osteen recently appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where the pastor weighed in on whether he promotes the prosperity gospel, or the idea that faith, positive speech, and donations will increase one's material wealth.

"As a TV preacher, how do you feel about the image people have of TV preachers of, 'Give me your cash, and you too will get cash? Is there any of that in your preaching?" Colbert, himself an outspoken Christian, asked the megachurch pastor.

"I don't believe any of that," said Osteen.

"Do you ask people to send you cash?" pressed Colbert.

"No we don't, never have," the pastor replied.

"Really? That's refreshing," Colbert said, shaking Osteen's hand. "Let me ask you this: regardless of whether you ask, do you they send you cash anyway?"

"They send cash anyway," admitted Osteen with a laugh.

Colbert then gestured as if washing his hands of responsibility.

"But here's the thing," Osteen continued, "I should clarify -- they don't send me cash, I don't take a salary, but I think people can see sincerity..."

"You don't take a salary? That's a nice suit man," Colbert broke in.

Osteen, whose non-denominational church averages over 45,000 weekly attendees, making it one of the largest church congregations in the U.S., appeared on the show to promote his latest book, entitled, The Power Of I Am.

When asked by Colbert whether the title of the book is a reference to God's self-revelation to Moses as "I Am that I Am," Osteen responded: "Mine is a different take on it. Mine is, what follows the word I am, you're inviting into your life... We're supposed to say 'I'm blessed, I'm strong, I'm healthy.'"

After Colbert asked, "Do you have to believe in Jesus to read this book?" Osteen responded, "No. Anybody can read the book... When he was on the earth Jesus went to all kinds of people."

The talk show host jokingly contrasted Osteen's positive message with that of his own Catholic faith, saying, "Have you tried the power of crippling guilt? It's works for me, man, 'I'd better do it, I'd better be better!'"

"Our message is a little bit different," responded Osteen. "God is for you, you can recover from a fall, you can reach your dreams."

Colbert asked Osteen if his followers were called "Osteenians," as nearly 10 million people around the world watch the pastor preach every week.

"I hope not," the pastor responded, "I hope they get inspired by our message, but I turn everything back to the Lord...I have no desire to become a denomination or have followers of me, but followers of Christ."

During a 2013 interview with the Christian Post, Osteen further explained why he doesn't like to be grouped in with televangelists who promote the prosperity gospel: "I get grouped into the prosperity gospel and I never think it's fair, but it's just what it is. I think prosperity, and I've said it 1,000 times, it's being healthy, it's having children, it's having peace of mind. Money is part of it; and yes, I believe God wants us to excel."

He added, "I believe God wants us to excel and be blessed so we can be a bigger blessing to others...But when I hear the term prosperity gospel, I think people are sometimes saying, "well, he's just asking for money." 

Joel and his wife, Victoria, are currently on tour for A Night of Hope, a multi-city event intended to uplift audiences through testimony, song, and sermon.

The pastor was also recently consulted by National Geographic for its upcoming six-part documentary series on God titled "The Story of God." The host of the docu-series, Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman, travels to seven countries and 20 cities to investigate the religious beliefs and practices of several cultures.