Televangelist Joel Osteen is coming to Kansas City on Friday with a New Year’s message that he promises won’t be political.
“Let go of the old, the disappointments, whatever didn’t work,” he told The Star in a Thursday phone interview after drafting his sermon. “Make room for God to bring the new.
“It feels that this message is needed now more than ever.”
Ticket sales for a “Night of Hope” with Osteen and his wife, Victoria Osteen, at the Sprint Center have been strong, not staggering.
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“Approaching 10,000,” said arena spokeswoman Shani Tate. “Tickets are still available.”
Five weeks before seats were offered up Oct. 5, Joel Osteen was the subject of intense criticism for his family’s Lakewood Church in Houston not immediately opening as an emergency shelter for residents displaced by Hurricane Harvey. The pastor is still answering questions about it, including with The Star.
“It was a safety issue,” he said, noting that floodwaters had penetrated the back of the 606,000-square-foot former basketball arena — America’s largest church, drawing 50,000 worshippers weekly.
The controversy, he said, “all started in social media. Someone went to a door of the church that hadn’t been an entry for 40 years and wasn’t allowed in.” The church opened as a shelter and donation center the day after the story went viral
“Bottom line, that was spread by people wanting to discredit us.”
Those people are numerous, though the success of Osteen, 54, is undeniable. Despite never obtaining a divinity degree (he studied broadcasting at Oral Roberts University), his televised sermons from Houston are seen by more than 7 million viewers weekly around the globe.
Osteen’s always positive lessons on leading an obedient life and striving for success launched seven books on The New York Times best-seller list. His first in 2004, “Your Best Life Now,” stayed on the list for more than 200 weeks.
“People are looking for good news,” he said. “I don’t think I’m sharing anything new” when he and his family speak at the Sprint Center.
Especially since the election of President Donald Trump, some commentators have pointed to what they call Osteen’s “prosperity gospel” as an indicator of society valuing personal achievement over sacrifice and service to others. Osteen said that’s not his message.
“I think in terms of only one gospel — that Jesus died and rose again,” said Osteen, who is widely regarded one of the wealthiest pastors in the country. “I don’t talk about people needing to get rich. I talk about them getting blessed …
“I believe God is good. … He wants you to reach your dreams.”
That’s coming from the small-town son of a Southern Baptist preacher who founded Lakewood Church in a feed store. It isn’t a boast or a political point, he said.
“I’m the least political person.”
Pastor Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria, present “A Night of Hope” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 5, at the Sprint Center. Tickets are $18 through sprintcenter.com.