You read it here first -- Joel Osteen interview - Frank Lockwood
It seems that after being told by a fellow Texas reporter not to expect some interview time with Pastor Joel, Frank found a way. It doesn't look as if Frank did anything more than attend a Sunday service and wait in line to meet Joel with the rest of the visitors, but some coverage is better than no coverage, I guess.
Here's the Q&A:
Q. Why is this church growing so quickly?
A. You know, I think it grows because of 1.) God's favor. Many of the seeds that my parents have planted all these years and 2.) I think that people are hungry for hope. We have a celebration of victory out here. People are looking for that. There are so many negative things in the world, trying to pull people down and they can come once or twice a week and get lifted up. I think that's what they're looking for.
Q. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the church in America today?
A. I think the biggest challenge...I'll have to think about that. (He pauses) I don't know if it's the biggest challenge, but one challenge is to stay relevant and to change with the times. You know, we can get trapped in (believing that)just because something was good 30-40 years ago, that it's going to be good today. Society is changing, people's attention spans is, you know, shorter. We just have to make sure we change with the times and stay relevant.
Q. They had a little revival on Azusa Street in Los Angeles 100 years ago and today it has spread around the world. Why is the Pentecostal movement having such an impact?
A. Well, I think it's just because the power of God brings about change and that's what we believe in. When God really gets a hold of you and you live for Him and you experience that, (then) you're light in the world and it affects communities.
Q. Eleven o'clock on Sunday mornings has been called the most segregated hour in America, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. And that's no coincidence.
A. It's really not. But I don't know (why). I think it's the love of God. The church is so integrated. We've never really tried to do it, but I think it's just the fact of the love of the people and the love of God. It just has made it pretty unbelievable here.
Q. You have a lot of people who love you and at least a few critics who say, 'Well, his theology's kind of shallow or superficial.' I get the feeling you probably don't lose any sleep over that.
A. No, I don't because you know what? We're helping where the rubber meets the road in their every day lives. I prayed for a family with a little boy that's two years old in the hospital with leukemia here. You know, we're giving them hope. We're telling them that God loves them, that they can make it. So you know what? I think when Jesus was here he was out among the people and so I don't (lose sleep over it.) I respect people and the critics. That's fine. But I don't let it change me.
But just in case any reporter stumbles across the idea to do some writing on Lakewood that doesn't merely regurgitate the same basic information that a slew of others have already written, there's some plenty of worthwhile ideas to cover:
- The smaller group environments at Lakewood. Koinonia, on a great day, has upwards of 400 people meeting. I've not bothered to count heads at any of the L7 Youth groups, but it's hard not to notice there's a relatively equal-sized crowd over there. The one time I stumbled into another Compass Class on a Sunday, I couldn't help but observe that Leo Tyler was preaching and teaching to a congregation larger than most churches here in Houston.
- Marcos Witt ... sheesh, the best kept secret in all of Lakewood and we're trying like heck to make him more known to the rest of the world. Anyone paying attention here? For that matter, Lisa Comes and Paul Osteen ain't nothing to sneeze at, either.
- The orchestra and ensemble ... or for that matter, why not check out how tough it can be to break into one of the best church choirs around. Cindy Ratcliff is worth some coverage alone, for that matter. And how about the host of other singers to grace the stage that are good enough to deserve record deal (Aimee Beard, Carrie Hodge, Jemine Leigh, or Dakri Brown) as well as those who deserve a bit more attention to some already-budding singing careers like Heath Rosborough?
- And how about some mention of things like the Recovery Classes ... this is, after all, something that megachurches are known for - offering classes, counselling, and services that aid people better than anywhere else. Or is that concept now considered "so 1999?"
So yeah, there's a whole lot going on there for some enterprising writer looking to write a good story. And I'm sure there's some great stories similar to these in other churhes - big and small. It just strikes me that major media coverage of churches and other religious topics has been short-changed by the type of coverage that has actually made it out there. And while I realize that there are several logical explanations for that, I'm just not convinced that it would take a great deal to make improvements.
The whole purpose that I give for offering this is that, in regard to Lakewood specifically, it might seem believable that the church operates solely on the popularity and personality of Joel Osteen. While that's certainly part of the reason for Lakewood's popularity, I just happen to think it says something more about Joel's pastoral leadership rather than his personality alone that goes into creating a church that does everything that Lakewood does.
While Joel is certainly "my pastor" and there's great benefit in his message, there are countless other church leaders who we have much closer contact with, that touch and shape our lives just as much, if not more, than Joel does. That's also where the rubber meets the road. And for many of us, that's what we see at Lakewood. Sure, there's plenty of people who come in late (or just before the sermon). And there's those who leave early to beat the traffic and miss the altar call. But there's far more who have an involvement in the church that goes far beyond Joel's sermon.
FOLLOW-UP: Lockwood does add in a later post that he's got a story lined up for Saturday on Lakewood's diversity as the main theme. No complaints there, that's certainly another worthwhile issue to look at with Lakewood. Anyways, now we've all got that to look forward to.