In a heartfelt moment during a service at Houston’s Lakewood Church, Pastor Joel Osteen shared with the congregation that their donations had successfully eliminated the church’s $100 million debt. The emotional revelation took place over the weekend, with Osteen expressing gratitude for the faithfulness of the churchgoers.
“It’s because of your faithfulness,” Osteen tearfully told the packed house. “You paid it off by the goodness of God.”
For over two decades, Joel Osteen has led the non-denominational Lakewood Church, which stands as one of America’s largest and wealthiest congregations. Taking over after the passing of his father and the church’s founder, John Osteen, in 1999, Joel has significantly expanded the church’s reach. Lakewood’s weekly attendance has grown from around 5,000 to over 50,000, with an additional 200 million weekly viewers through TV broadcasts and digital platforms worldwide.
The journey to financial freedom for Lakewood Church began in 2001 when Osteen signed a 60-year lease with the city to move from its 7,800-seat sanctuary in northeast Houston to the Compaq Center, the Houston Rockets’ arena boasting 16,000 seats. The initial $11.5 million rent was funded by money left to the church by Joel Osteen’s late father.
Upon Lakewood’s official relocation in 2005, Osteen sought additional funds for extensive renovations, including redesigning the outdoor façade, constructing an indoor stage, replacing locker rooms and food stands with meeting rooms and childcare spaces, and erecting a five-story building for television production offices. Despite initial setbacks with a financial institution, Bank of America eventually granted a $100 million loan, which Osteen proudly announced had been paid off as of December 31 of the previous year.
During the announcement, Osteen was visibly moved, stopping to wipe away tears as he praised God and acknowledged the ongoing commitment of Lakewood Church to ministry and media production. The congregation responded with a standing ovation.
Despite criticism for preaching the so-called prosperity gospel, Joel and Victoria Osteen, his wife, remain beloved by a vast number of followers. The tax-exempt church, which reportedly paid back $4.4 million in COVID-19 disaster funds received through the Paycheck Protection Program in 2021, is now mostly debt-free, with only a smaller loan remaining for “capital equipment.”
In a message of hope and faith, Osteen assured the congregation that what God had done for Lakewood, He would also do in their lives. Looking ahead to 2024, Osteen prophesied release from various challenges, including debt, addiction, and wrong mindsets.
Reflecting on the journey, Osteen emphasized the significance of the Compaq Center, now owned outright by Lakewood Church, as a testament to God’s dream being much larger than individual aspirations. The Osteens celebrated the accomplishment by tearing apart an apparent loan document and declaring, “All done!” to the applause of the congregation.