Joel Osteen's Night of Hope was in Oklahoma City last night. I did the advance for the Oklahoma Gazette. As is always the case, I have way more material than could go in the story. This is the full text of the phone interview with Osteen.
What is the purpose of the Night of Hope tour? Can I call it a tour?
We wanted to see some people who watch the television show, to connect with them. Many people who watch the television program don’t attend church. This night gives them an opportunity to take a stand for their faith.
I guess tour is right. We've been doing this for six or seven years, one city each month. We've did New York City, Anaheim, and Atlanta to start. I never dreamed people would come out, but we sold out every venue. The Oklahoma City Night of Hope will be our 120th show.
Are you combining this with a book tour? I saw that Every Day a Friday is now in paperback.
Actually, I will be doing a book signing, but by the time I get there, I'll have a new book out. I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life.
What will the event consist of? Is it like a worship service? And why hope?
It is a night of praise and worship, yes. I'll share my story in the sermon. Victoria will speak about relationships, and my mom will talk about overcoming cancer. The evening is meant to lift people’s spirits.
I think hope is important. We can't live without it. It allows us to move forward from wherever we are.
Your father was sort of a traditional Pentecostal. Is there any of that theology in what you do? What part of his theology did he pass on to you?
My father was really more of a mix of Baptist and Pentecostal, what would later be called Charismatic. Being raised with him for 36 years and traveling and working together every day for many years, I'm sure his theology comes through in what I do. My father was for people; he believed in lifting them up. That's really what I took from him.
You were an unlikely successor. How was that first time at the pulpit?
I was very nervous the first time I preached. I had to hold onto the podium because I didn’t want anyone to see how badly my hands were shaking. I saw a picture of it a while back. I was very young; it was 13 years ago.
Ever watch the video of it?
(laughs) No. I don't think I want to see that. Still, I felt like I was supposed to do it. I did get comfortable over time.
Your critics accuse you of preaching a 'prosperity gospel.' How do you respond to that?
I never liked the term ‘prosperity gospel.' There is only one gospel. Prosperity to me is part of that one gospel, and it means good relation ships, peace of mind, and many other things. When some people say it, they are talking only about money. It comes from this group who believes Christians should suffer and be poor. I don't read the Bible that way, though. The way I read the Bible, I believe we’re to be leaders, be examples, and be a blessing to other people.
You have two children. How old and what are their plans?
You've had remarkable success with Lakewood. What do you think your father would be most proud of you for?
I'm sure he'd be proud of me for carrying on the legacy he started. He began with only 90 people, and now we have more than 40,000. Overall, I think he'd just be proud in general, though. I believe he'd say he couldn't be more proud than to see a son take over an do well.
What do you want people to take away from the Oklahoma City event?
You know, we're still amazed at how many people come out. We want to lift them up, give them hope. Whatever they're facing, we want them to have hope. Really, though, I leave more inspired than the people who come. They give me hope and inspire me. I just want them to know that God’s dream for them is bigger than their dreams for themselves.