Joel Osteen Shares His Biggest Pastoring Mistake, Gives Preaching Tips

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Osteen opened up in a recent magazine article about his preaching prep, his personal development , and his feelings about guest preachers.

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.'”

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  • Ryan

    I listened to Osteen once and just to see what the appeal was with him. Just in a half a sermon, I can see what many like and what gives him the ‘prosperity gospel’ tag. He preaches only in the positive. He doesn’t focus on sin. Doesn’t name sin. He focuses on good, good works, how to do good to others, the blessings that come from it. This makes him uplifting, encouraging. The idea: if you tell people to do right enough, they’ll just do it and good will come from it. Instead of telling people what they are doing wrong, rather, just tell them the right thing to do. Don’t focus on the past or the wrong. Just encourage people to do good and do right. If people just do the right thing, good will come. In the bible, God would present both a blessing if you follow and a curse if you don’t. Joel Osteen only presents the blessing side of things. No one feels judged and no one feels condemned, hence he has a giant church and prosperity gospel tag. This isn’t that hard. Any pastor can do this.

    • Scott

      I’m no fan of Joel Osteen but I think you just discounted most of Romans with what you said. We look to Christ (that which points to righteousness) vs looking to the law (that which points to sin) so that we might abstain from sin BECAUSE we are not focused on it. Sin is a powerful force and our flesh is drawn to it even when are “trying” to not do it. I do believe that people must understand what sin is (simply missing the mark. In fact, being outside of the will of God at any point would be sin)…but you don’t think that people already know they are sinners? So why do we need to keep pointing out what sin is? That only keeps people focused on sin. Instead, point them to Christ and through the Holy Spirit we will be given fruit of self-control. Less sin focus, more Christ focus. I’m in youth ministry and to be honest, my students need to hear the Good News that they can be made whole again through Christ…not the bad news…the news they’ve already heard.

      • Lyn

        When you ask most people “do you know God or Jesus Loves you” most will say I know that, but still continue in sin. We need to preach the whole council of God. The Good News is God gave his whole word to guide us through to eternity, not pick and choose because you are afraid you will offend someone. Jesus spoke alot about repentance from sin, we need to do the same.

        • Scott

          I might say I know that Jesus loves me but that doesn’t mean I know Jesus. Knowing Jesus is what removes us from sin. Read Romans and then come back to me and tell me how telling people about their sin will lead them to Jesus? In fact, the Bible even says that God’s KINDNESS leads us to repentance. Seems pretty clear to me. I’m not afraid to offend. If you heard my sermons, it would be crazy offensive to someone that doesn’t know Jesus. In fact, the Bible says that the gospel will be offensive. It’s offensive to tell people that no matter how good they are, they need Jesus. That’s offensive. It’s offensive to tell people that they will eventually fail, so they need Jesus. It’s offensive to tell people that they are depraved even if they are the best do-gooders on the planet and they need Jesus. Especially to the working class where they need to put in the time and energy to please their bosses. Jesus loves them so if they are good enough and work hard and don’t sin much (at least the big ones), they will be saved. No…believe in Jesus. Confess that He is Lord. Then you are saved. Period. Nothing but the blood of Jesus. That’s what is offensive about the Gospel. Not our finger pointing. That’s offensive because it’s being a Pharisee.

          • Dalia

            Then why did Jesus talk more of hell than heaven? And if he talked more on hell, he must have talked about all the wickedness of man that will get them there. People have to realize their decaying state so they can be thankful of a loving and SAVING God.

          • Scott

            wow…what Bible do you read? Jesus talked about hades or gehenna about 10 times…which the King James Bible translates to hell. He uses the word “love” more than 50 times. He talked about almost EVERYTHING else more than he talked about hell. People know they are wicked. I deal with people on a very regular basis (daily) that are well aware of their shortcomings and are not believers. It is why they blame, accuse, walk on, point fingers, and degrade each other. They are trying to get ahead by stepping on the people around them…because those people might be better than them. The answer is not necessarily telling people they are depraved, it’s articulating how to become NOT depraved. That’s the Gospel. Jesus does that. Now, YOU might want to preach that we are all sinners and that people are going to hell and they need Jesus to keep them from hell. I will take a different approach. We are all one body. Stop being the finger that poked out the eye.

          • InChristAlone

            I agree, people are tired of the finger pointing and the judgemental stance of the holier than thou brethren. I believe that as people are exposed to the gospel aka the good news, they will with the help of the Holy Spirit be convicted of sin and enabled to mature in The Lord. As the body of Christ we’re called to encourage and chastise in love not bible bash others. We’re all called from different walks of life and experiences and it takes the saving grace of God to help mould us to become what we are called to be in Christ!

          • Scott

            amen…way to speak the Word…instead of speaking “churchianity”or “christianese”

          • Scott

            also, the term “Kingdom of Heaven” appears 32 times in Matthew, beating out the word Hell…

          • Dalia

            I am so sick of hearing the term “Pharisee.” it is so popular now that it’s even overused. A lot of people doesn’t even know what it means. They just parrot what other people say. When someone mentions it, I ask them what do you mean when you say Pharisee? Their eyes go blank and they start sputtering.

          • Scott

            the Pharisees were people that were more concerned about law than people. Jesus challenged them because they were more concerned about the letter of the law then that spirit of the law. That is a Pharisee, a person that judges by the law rather than allowing Jesus to restore. People know they are sinners, regardless of whether or not they know it. You know who has a harder time understanding their sin? The people in the churches. I know. I’ve been a part of the church for 35 years. It breaks my heart when people are far more concerned about the content of a persons actions than the good news that Jesus can save any sinner.

          • Ihuoma

            In Jesus preaching He told us what to do and what not to do “Matt 5:21″ alway give some on a mirro to look at himself then tell him whom he ought to be.

      • shurdell

        God told me He would broaden my steps so that I may walk in His righteousness, He says that it isn’t what goes in to the body that kills as it goes out in the draught but it is what comes out of the mouth for it comes from our heart. I have been learning a lot about God’s abundant ‘Grace’ and when Jesus went to the cross for mankind His ministry was love. He said that love fulfills the Old Testament and the prophecies.
        I have listened to many ministers locally , on the radio and tv and I would say that there are not many I have not heard make an error in their teaching which is the reason that God says we should seek Him for He is the author and the finisher. We are repeatedly told of mankind being fallible while God is infallible so it is important for all to learn to ask God for His guidance to see His divine plan.

        Sometimes I feel in awe or wonder if what I have learned can be true but then He reassures me because by His Word, we know it is He and not being led astray by Satan who only seeks to lie and beguile mankind.

      • julie

        Everybody hasn’t been raised in church all there lives so you would be surprised at the amount of people that thinks a good person can make it to heaven. Only by the blood of Jesus and through conversion. A father would train his children the word of God as children. At the same time if you see your child straying from God’s truth wouldn’t you at some point remind them that they need an alignment through the word o God?

        • Scott

          absolutely…however, I work with youth. I work with a lot of church youth. The ones that walk away are the ones held in by lots of boundaries (self, church and parental). The ones that stay are the ones not raised in church and live in freedom. It’s like clockwork.

  • Concerned

    Joel Osteen stated once on love TV that he wasnt for sure that “his way” wasn’t the only way into heaven. He is an apostate and we must pray for him to yield to Gods will!

  • Harry Ebbeson III

    There is a fine line between judgement and accountability. We need to help our brothers and sisters along in love, even those ‘chosen’ for leadership. Sometimes this is done by being real and direct. We need to be much more bold than we are. Life is not easy and not always good, as some preachers say. Life can stink and the only real way to joy and peace is through Christ. Watering down a message takes the focus away from Christ and makes it appear as though WE have the answers. With regard to Mr. Ostend saying that he needed to not be like his dad and being more like himself, this, to me is a no-brainer. God calls us to ministry (I am in the ministry too), and by doing so, molds us into what He wants us to be. When we get in His way, things do not work. Christ is the answer; submit to His will.

  • Barnes Fam

    Osteen’s biggest mistake is NOT preaching the gospel of Jesus.

    • Mike

      Did you not hear his recent sermon on living a resurrected life? Joel talked about being the temple, about Christ living in you, about the same power that raised Christ from the dead dwelling in you. Get a clue as to what you are talking about.

  • william

    Many of the folks here enjoy bashing Osteen because they are either jealous of his success or ashamed of their own failure to reach the lost. To them it is easier to sit back and criticize someone who is doing so much good while they sit on the couch watching Jimmy Swaggart on VHS tapes preach against smoking. Most who bash Osteen are only repeating what the pastor of their little church is saying. Osteen has his unique place in the kingdom and is doing a great job. So shut-up and get out there and do something constructive.

    • liza

      Are you active in reaching souls yourself? You really don’t have the best attitude. There’s some maturity that needs to take residence in you

      • Cam

        I love how one can gather the attitude and maturity of a man from a typed 97 word response to an article! Great insight indeed! Oops, there goes my attitude and maturity too!

        In other news, this article was about Osteen and his speaking style. Yet he managed to open up about his leadership style! Pretty honest approach I reckon!

    • carlos

      Check the clientele dude … He ain’t reaching the lost … He is preaching to those Jesus rebuked … That multimillion dollar house is gonna be an issue in that goat line

  • shurdell

    I’ve heard the prosperity label and totally disagree with it in the negative sense. God is prosperity in all facets of life, one must die to grow in love we must let go of anger/resentment/hatred etc., we must let go of thinking negative, we must let go of being judgmental, we must let go of thinking we are not able, worthy or poor. You get the gist by now.
    It is a positvism that so many need. God told me that I need to choose between the Old Testament and the New Testament because if I chose but one teaching of the Old I would be judged entirely of the Old and there are so many who are of the Old so I would think some are afraid to step into the light of Jesus as when you are called to go deeper in His teaching as I did when I told Him I would go, He makes those who see blind and makes the blind to see.

    I pondered where Jesus said that He must claim the sheep of His fold but He must also claim the sheep who are not of His fold and just recently realized that He was speaking of the Old Testament believers who of course were not of His fold. They were do or die believers whist Jesus is of love and life.

  • Wayne

    I thought Joel Osteen WAS preachings biggest mistake.

  • Dalia

    He’s a great motivational speaker. “Motivational”. I like him. I won’t go to him for spiritual growth, but to listen to him otherwise is wonderful. He does love.

  • Ihuoma

    Does it mean God did not give his father directions for the ministry or his father did not follow God’s directives. Paul planted and apollos watered but no new foundation. I will follow my fathers step if am sure of him.

  • Harry Ebbeson III

    Some of these comments I see are exactly opposite of what we ought to be doing. Remember accountability in the family? It applies here in a big way. It is not jealousy or the like. I would like to think that it is being bold but it seems like we may be doing it the wrong way. Fighting amongst ourselves is what Satan wants. If there is no unity how can we unite in Him? If Joel Osteen is doing the Lords work, then praise God. Only he and The Lord knows. It is our job to hold him up and keep minding the scriptures and baking sure that he is coming from there. THAT. Is our accountability. If he is not, it is our call to help our brother out and if his heart is truly one of a servant like Christ, we can all pray for Him to intercede and help us back to the right path…..

  • Harry Ebbeson III

    Pardon my spelling. I have big fingers and an iphone with auto-correct…. :)

  • Booker Israel

    Joel’s ministry is about giving us a future and a hope,,,,,!!

  • Blessed58

    Christians can be the harshest of judges or critics, they want their leaders to be all things to them. Only Jesus can be all things to us. Pastor Joel is a wonderful man of God who doesn’t claim to be some religious behemoth who can expound theological theories nor does he claim to come from the “respected Christian ivory towers”. He is operating in the gifting God has given him as an encourager to the body of Christ. This may be too narrow or simple for some Christians but it is very effective. I do not attend his church I live across the oceans thousands of miles away but I cannot tell you enough how his ministry daily email devotion has lifted me from so many depressive situations I find at work and at home. I pray that God continues to prosper him his family and raise people who would continue his good works.

    • Christine Smith

      Blessed58, everything you said about Joel Osteen is correct. He hasn’t accepted a salary from the church in many years, however, he is a very faithful giver. Joel has never feigned to be a prophet. Instead, he sees himself as a mere humble servant, lifting up the hearts of everyone. He reflects on passages from the Bible and expounds on God’s promises to all of us. Joel is a kind, loving, child of God. His goal is to share the word of God, which is the reason he pastors the largest church in the country. He’s the most humble man I’ve ever met. There’s nothing pretentious nor dishonest about him.

  • Phil the Reader

    Osteen preaches? I only hear him talking “happy, positive thoughts.”

  • Deana Callins

    Believers are the Church. Jesus Christ Being A Better Covenant; Is Now calling the “Church” to Fellowship and Relationship with himself!. Jesus Christ spent most
    of his time speaking in peoples “Houses(the place they Dwell, Relaxed, and a place they Rest) building relationships. Jesus thought it better to Give to the poor. Rather than spend money on a “Building made with mens hands” that only decay’s, it can’t grow in Grace, nor does it have the possiblity to “Enter Heaven”. In Acts, the Followers of Jesus Christ sold their goods and travelled preaching Jesus Christ to the poor & Humble. With Joy in their Heart! God desires to Bless those who seek after knowing him with their whole Heart. And Also growing in his Grace and maturing in his ways. Mature Christians do not practice sinning. We practice Living Right and grow into Grace by “Daily” renewing our mind “By” fellowship of the Word and Holy Spirit.

  • Nick

    Joel Osteen’s “pastoring” is Joel Osteen’s biggest pastoring mistake.

  • Kathy

    Joel I’m trying to download your free magazine & have tried several ways on my smart/android phone & cannot accomplish it. I enjoy everything I do on your apps & really need this. Cannot someone PLEASE help me. Thank you & God please you & all your wonderful work.