In an upcoming issue of Esquire magazine, Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen is getting honest about his preaching style and the biggest mistake he ever made as a pastor. The Esquire article, by Rachel Richardson, was intended to be an essay on public speaking. Osteen told Richardson that he had to first overcome serious stage-fright by imagining that the congregation audience, which now totals more than 40,000 people per weekend, was full of his old friends.
Osteen also shared that the biggest mistake he made as he started pastoring was trying to be just like his father, from whom he took over the pulpit at Lakewood. John Osteen founded the church in 1959; the younger Osteen took over as senior pastor in 1999 after his father’s death. “In the first few months after I took over for my father as pastor, I tried to be like him,” said Osteen, but he realized that he needed to forgo the “old school” ways and “stay within [his] own gifts.” Now his sermon prep involves memorizing his message and listening to his recorded sermons. He also avoids eye-contact with his congregation during the sermon because it distracts him: “If I focus on individuals, I start to lose my train of thought, and I start thinking ‘Are they listening? Are they paying attention? Why is that?'”
“It’s not all about showing unshakable confidence,” said Osteen. “It’s about being yourself and finding your own voice. I have some of the greatest ministers in the world come to the church, and, man, they sound like James Earl Jones. They give me goosebumps. And I think, ‘My goodness, I am so stinkin’ boring.’ But you have to be confident that ‘Okay, this is who I am. I’m going to do the best that I can.’ It’s not that we can’t all change and grow, but you’re never going to be someone you’re not.”
In an exclusive interview with The Christian Post, Osteen talked about how he dislikes getting stuck with the “prosperity gospel” label: “I think prosperity, and I’ve said it 1,000 times, it’s being healthy, it’s having great children, it’s having peace of mind. Money is part of it; and yes, I believe God wants us to excel. … God wants us to excel and be blessed so we can be a bigger blessing to others. … When I hear the term ‘prosperity gospel,’ I think people are sometimes saying, ‘Well, he’s just asking for money.'”