Famous Lost Words: Joel Osteen


Famous lost words don’t always come from atheists; they can also be uttered by nice people, well meaning—but seriously wrong people.

This is an excerpt from a June 20, 2005, interview between talk show host Larry King, and the pastor of the largest church in America, Joel Osteen, from transcripts available at (The italics are mine.)

KING: Is it hard to lead a Christian life?OSTEEN: I don’t think it’s that hard. To me it’s fun. We have joy and happiness. Our family — I don’t feel like that at all. I’m not trying to follow a set of rules and stuff. I’m just living my life.

KING: But you have rules, don’t you?

OSTEEN: We do have rules. But the main rule to me is to honor God with your life. To live a life of integrity. Not be selfish. You know, help others. But that’s really the essence of the Christian faith.

KING: That we live in deeds?

OSTEEN: I don’t know. What do you mean by that?

KING: Because we’ve had ministers on who said, your record doesn’t count. You either believe in Christ or you don’t. If you believe in Christ, you are, you are going to heaven. And if you don’t no matter what you’ve done in your life, you ain’t.

OSTEEN: Yeah, I don’t know. There’s probably a balance between. I believe you have to know Christ. But I think that if you know Christ, if you’re a believer in God, you’re going to have some good works. I think it’s a cop-out to say I’m a Christian but I don’t ever do anything …

KING: What if you’re Jewish or Muslim, you don’t accept Christ at all?

OSTEEN: You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know

KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They’re wrong, aren’t they?

OSTEEN: Well, I don’t know if I believe they’re wrong. I believe here’s what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God will judge a person’s heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don’t know. I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.

He continues this wishy-washy line of thinking in another part of the interview.

KING: Is — have you always believed?OSTEEN: I have always believed. I grew up, you know, my parents were a good Christian people. They showed us love in the home. My parents were the same in the pulpit as they were at home. I think that’s where a lot of preachers’ kids get off base sometimes. Because they don’t see the same things at both places. But I’ve always believed. I saw it through my parents. And I just grew up believing.

KING: But you’re not fire and brimstone, right? You’re not pound the decks and hell and damnation?

OSTEEN: No. That’s not me. It’s never been me. I’ve always been an encourager at heart. And when I took over from my father he came from the Southern Baptist background and back 40, 50 years ago there was a lot more of that. But, you know, I just — I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe — maybe it was for a time. But I don’t have it in my heart to condemn people. I’m there to encourage them. I see myself more as a coach, as a motivator to help them experience the life God has for us.

KING: But don’t you think if people don’t believe as you believe, they’re somehow condemned?

OSTEEN: You know, I think that happens in our society. But I try not to do that. I tell people all the time, preached a couple Sundays about it. I’m for everybody. You may not agree with me, but to me it’s not my job to try to straighten everybody out. The Gospel is called the good news. My message is a message of hope, that’s God’s for you. You can live a good life no matter what’s happened to you. And so I don’t know. I know there is condemnation but I don’t feel that’s my place.

KING: You’ve been criticized for that, haven’t you?

OSTEEN: I have. I have. Because I don’t know.

KING: Good news guy, right?

OSTEEN: Yeah. But you know what? It’s just in me. I search my heart and I think, God, is this what I’m supposed to do? I made a decision when my father died, you know what? I’m going to be who I feel like I’m supposed to be. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Not the end of the world if I’m not the pastor…

See Joel’s preaching loveseat here!

Read a satiric evaluation of this interview by Iconbusters here.


  1. just check yourself before you judge a man of God!!! It may do you well to pray before you cast stones. thanks, jan

  2. I’m not so much judging him; I’m posting exactly what he said.

    I do this so other Christians can determine if he is indeed a man of God…

  3. I remember that being on. I remember every other phrase being I don’t know and something about happiness or squishy love.

    To me it would be scary to follow a Christian leader who gets on the TV and seems so unsure of what he believes. Or that he shows a level of two sided belief. Doesn’t Joel Olsteen stand up in front of his 30k crowd and pronounce that he believes what the Bible says? It does say Jesus is the only way. Yet there he changes his story.

    Hhhmmmm…doesn’t take a whizz kid to figure that out.

    Plus it less us judging and letting scripture make that call.

  4. Absolutely Skubalon! It is the Word that will judge him (Joel), according to Jesus!

    This ‘man of God’ is doing more harm than good. With 83% (including Christians) believing in relative truth, we don’t need a wishy-washy gospel or a watered down version of Christianity.

    I sincerely pray for him to repent, cause I don’t want to be him standing before God after this life, if he keeps on doing what he’s doing…

    “Let not many of you become teachers, knowing you will incure a stricter judgement.”

  5. Absolutely regrettable interview with a popular T.V. preacher…no wonder American Churchianity is the way it is…it’s all about happiness, isn’t it? Lord, send us a revival and restore the integrity of the Word of God and men of God who will proclaim your counsel without fear and not that of man!

  6. I just read an article in a church mag that the self-esteemed Joel Osteen held one of his “meetings” in Toronto, Canada in July. A quote from the paper reads: ” Osteen’s main message, for both non-Christians and believers is,’God is a good God and that He’s got a wonderful plan for our lives and if we follow Him, good things will happen.’ ”

    If what Osteen preaches is true, I guess all those countless people over the ages since Pentacost (and to this very day) who have suffered immense persecution and horrific deaths in the name of their faith in Jesus Christ were not true Christians. They did not have the privilege of living the Gospel According to Joel.

    To make matters worse, as I write this, Benny Hinn is conducting one of his “meetings” in Toronto, misleading and robbing vulnerable people by the thousands.

    Pray for Toronto. I would sooner sit through a sermon by Bozo the Clown than either of these two hucksters! At least people would know he was not trying to be serious.

    Jan: good fruit does not grow on bad trees. Just because one claims to be, or seems to be, a “man of God” does not necessarily make him one. To paraphrase what Jesus said: there will be those on Judgement Day who will protest that they were ‘men of God’, even doing miracles in His name, as they are being tossed into the eternal lake of fire. Do not be deceived.

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