Televangelist Joel Osteen’s ‘Night of Hope’ coming to Chicago
By Ariel Cheung Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org August 3, 2011 7:18PM
Joel and Victoria Osteen talk about their upcoming "Night of Hope" event at U.S. Celular Field, Tuesday, August 2, 2011. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times
Updated: November 14, 2011 12:18AM
With a blinding white smile and perfectly coiffed hair, Joel Osteen has taken the evangelical Christian world by storm with a multimillion-dollar ministry overflowing with positivity, charm and a focus on atonement-free faith.
On Saturday night, Osteen and his equally polished wife, Victoria, will bring their digital, commercial approach to religion to Chicago when they descend on U.S. Cellular Field.
“There’s a lot pushing people down these days, from the economy to health issues, financial issues,” Osteen said days before the couple’s 106th “Night of Hope.”
“Our message is about hope and lifting people’s spirits and letting them know that there are brighter days up ahead.”
A crowd of 50,000 is expected to soak up that message this weekend.
The two-and-a-half-hour “Night of Hope” will feature messages from the Osteens, performances by both Osteen children and “talk about moving forward and becoming all God has created you to be,” Joel Osteen, 48, said.
“A Night of Hope” comes with a $1 million price tag and is an extension of Osteen’s hugely popular ministry, which rakes in $80 million every year.
Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston — the remodeled arena that formerly housed the Houston Rockets — is the largest congregation in the United States and regularly draws in crowds of 40,000 or more, while his televised services reach more than 10 million people each week.
Osteen is the senior pastor and his wife co-ministers, but neither takes a salary from Lakewood Church, he said. Instead, the Osteens say they support themselves with their four best-selling books that have sold millions of copies.
Despite their popularity, the Osteens never expected to be in the public eye. Joel Osteen worked behind the scenes while his father ran Lakewood and the televised sermons, while Victoria Osteen was in the jewelry business with her mother.
When his father died in 1999, Joel Osteen took his place, eventually creating an impact of biblical proportions.
“I never dreamed I’d be here, but God’s dream for our life is bigger than our own,” Osteen said. “I didn’t know this was in me, and that’s why it’s easy for me to encourage people that you have things in you that you don’t know.”
Osteen attributes his success to the positive message he focuses on.
“Some people have been raised thinking God is out to get them,” Osteen said. “We try to make God good. He’s for you, he knows we’re going to make mistakes, but we can get up and go again. I think it’s that message of restoration and acceptance that has touched people.”
And Osteen is happy to deliver his message to anyone who will listen, whether they’re Catholic, Baptist, Jewish or a skeptic.
“Jesus didn’t say to reach people as long as they look like you and believe like you; he said, ‘You know what? Reach out to everybody,’ ” Osteen said.
It would seem like his plan is working; Osteen has supporters of all ages and faiths, from a 106-year-old man who comes to Houston once a year to 13-year-old Chicagoan Daniel Wang, who was diagnosed with cancer last year and plans on attending Saturday’s event.
“This message transcends all ages,” Victoria Osteen, 50, said. “It’s really a message that just touches the core of somebody — the fact that they were made to overcome.”
Joel Osteen’s message has been criticized by some who claim his lack of “fire and brimstone” preaching doesn’t follow traditional Christian beliefs, but is just a way to keep his multimillion-dollar ministry afloat. Without discussion of sin and God’s wrath, Osteen’s preaching, they argue, is little more than a glorified pep talk.
The Osteens, however, believe their decision to focus solely on the positive is just God’s will.
“I believe there’s enough things already pushing people down; I want to lift them up and not tell them what they are, but tell them what they can become,” Osteen said. “That’s what Jesus did. He didn’t point at everybody and say, ‘You’re terrible.’ He said, ‘You know what? You can overcome this.’ ”
That’s the essence of Osteen’s ministry, as well.
“I’ve realized that people have different gifts. Our gift is encouragement,” Osteen said. “I wouldn’t say we’re the only right way, but this is just the gift God has given us, and we’re going to try to use it the best that we can.”
Tickets are still available at $15.