Evan Smith: The last time we saw each other, in early 2005, it was before your first book, Your Best Life Now, had sold four million copies and before you had moved your congregation, Lakewood Church, from its spot north of 610 into the Compaq Center, southwest of downtown, the old home of the Houston Rockets. It’s been a remarkable two years.
Joel Osteen: It really has. It’s been amazing. I never dreamed what the book would do. It opened so many doors that it put us at a different level of exposure. And, of course, when we got this facility, it mushroomed from there.
ES: To what do you attribute your success? People in your line of work have written books and moved into bigger churches, but this seems different.
JO: Our message is very positive. There are a lot of negative things happening in the world and in people’s lives. What we share is hopeful, and I think that resonates. I don’t know why we’ve taken off, but maybe it’s because I’m younger, because I’m from a new generation.
ES: Was the decision to be positive and upbeat a calculated one on your part?
JO: It’s who I am. When I took over for my father, in 1999, I didn’t change. Playing sports growing up, I was always the encouraging one, the one telling the team, “Hey, we can beat these guys.” I’ve never condemned people or beaten them down. I’ve always tried to bring out the best in them. People knock me for not talking about sin or not preaching against sin, but I don’t think that’s true—I just do it in a positive light. I talk about integrity and morality and faithfulness, but I end by saying, “You know what? All of us can do better in this area.”
ES: How did your father’s philosophy differ from yours?