Pastor Joel Osteen served as the guest chaplain in the House of Representatives on April 24, 2012 at the invitation of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas in Washington DC. (FameFlynet Pictures)
Joel Osteen tells Newsmax that Pope Francis' message of inclusiveness and efforts to reach out to people from all walks of life through Christianity aligns with the Texas pastor's ministry.
Osteen, on the road promoting his newly published book "Break Out," had high praise for the Pontiff.
"What I like about the Pope is he talked about wanting to include all people and not try to push people away from our churches," Osteen told Newsmax TV reporter John Bachman.
"For awhile, that's what it seemed like. We're trying to make our churches smaller and smaller and telling people, 'You can't come.' Our message is inclusive, that everybody's welcome. Our message is, 'We're blessed to be a blessing.' God wants you to increase so you can help others, help lift the fallen and be good to mankind."
The leader of Lakewood Church in Houston said he agrees with Pope Francis' observation that Christians increasingly seem to be turning their focus toward material things.
"I'm probably biased because I come from a church and from a ministry where I see people reaching out, giving, thousands of volunteers just touching the community," Osteen said. "So, there's always people that are not focused on others, but I see a lot of people that are just willing to give the coat off of their back to help others."
The Pope's recent, politically charged writings about capitalism and growing economic inequality in the United States may have struck a chord with some parts of society, but Osteen said he stays away from such themes in his church.
"To me, everybody's got to run their own race, so he's doing what he feels good about," Osteen said. "My thought is to - I stay away from politics because my church is probably half Republican and half Democrat. I don't know that, but it's very diverse, and so the message I'm trying to bring forth is much bigger and broader, and to me - and my dad was the same way, and others - that when we go down the political road, we start excluding the people we're trying to reach."
Bachman asked Osteen about the issue of inequality and whether he agrees or disagrees with the Pope.
"I don't think that I know the answer to that, but I see - of course, I'm an optimist - I see things getting better," Osteen said. "The world in one sense is going down the wrong path, but I see people coming up higher, and so I believe things are going to be better."
Joel Osteen Ministries is also getting better, he told Newsmax. The congregation at Lakewood Church has grown.
"One thing that we do - it's not just our church - but we try to make Christianity, faith, relevant and practical," he said. "Another part of it is that it is positive. I mean, there's a lot of things beating people down already. I found most people already feel guilty enough.
"They already know what they're doing wrong. Not everybody, but most. Our message is try to make it practical, relevant, how do I forgive? How do I have a good attitude? How do I reach my destiny?
"If there's some times when we don't change, and it's just all doctrine, and it's just, 'I'm going to be beat down, I'm going to feel guilty,' that's maybe what pulls some people away."
Bachman told Osteen about a new Pew poll that said one-third of adults age 30 and younger are religiously unaffiliated - the highest percentage ever.
"Another thing, quoting that poll, though, too: Today, people don't really consider themselves religious," Osteen explained. "Maybe everybody that comes to my church may not say I'm religious, so I may not fit into that poll."
Many things are occurring outside Joel Osteen Ministries that are causing more congregants to join Lakewood Church, he said.
"Everything is tied around the ministry, but, you know, we're always looking for new avenues that are outside the church world," he said, referring to media, movies, different kinds of television programs and an appearance at Yankee Stadium in June 2014.
"People like me grew up in church, but I want to reach the people on the streets of New York here that tell me, 'Hey, Joel, I'm not a religious person but I do watch you.' And so, that's who we're going after."
One of his ministry's goals going forward is to reach even more people, he said.
"It takes a lot of money to run the ministry, so it's just continually trying to stretch our faith and believe for big things," he said.
"One thing I've learned is, you know, a lot of times we pray over our food, and we pray for protection, and that's all good, but just think, if you're going to become all God's created you to be, you've got to pray for your dreams, your goals.
"Sometimes we think that's being selfish. I can't be greedy. God's got bigger things to deal with. But when you pray for what God's put in your heart, it shows that you have faith in him. So, that's part of breaking out. Believe bigger, pray bigger."
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