Pastor Joel Osteen is frequently seen in the news for the ways he spends his money, both personally and at his churches.
Recently, Lakewood Church, Osteen’s megachurch in Houston, Texas, released last years financial statement, which outlined where and how they spend their $90 million budget.
The megachurch noted in their report that they spent $31.7 million on their weekly services and programs, another $6.7 million on the events that surround the church’s Night of Hope, and another $25.1 million on their television ministry.
The report also noted that the church spent $11.5 million on administrative and general expenses, and $11.9 million went towards fundraising. Lastly, they spent a chunk of $1.2 million on various mission and outreach expenses.
Even though the church breaks down their financial expenses, they don’t detail any sort of specifics.
Osteen’s megachurch, Lakewood, is the largest church in America. The church is attended by approximately 50,000 people a week, where they meet at the Compaq Center in Houston. The NBA Rockets once played in the Compaq Center, if that helps you grasp the size better.
Not only do 50,000 people meet to worship in person, but another 10 million people in the U.S. alone view the services online.
As noted, the church spends $6.7 million on their Night of Hope which is an event that takes place around the country each month. They fill stadiums, selling out each time.
Osteen has also made a personal brand out of his own name. He has 28 million followers on Facebook and Twitter and another 1.8 million on Instagram. He has written 10 books which have sold over 8.5 million copies in the United States.
Carl Trueman, a pastor and professor of church history at the Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, has spoken on the wealth of pastors many times and the problems it can bring.
“There’s always the question of how much money is too much for a pastor to earn … When you’re looking at his lavish private lifestyle, I’d say that’s too much,” Trueman stated.
Although Osteen himself has not recently commented on his wealth, or the growing budget of the church, an ex-associate pastor of Lakewood, John Gray has.
Gray, who is now the pastor of the 21,000-member multi-campus Redemption Church in Greenville, South Carolina, stated that if pastors are given wealth, they should enjoy it. He used the analogy of King Solomon, and his wisdom and riches.
“If you work hard and pay your taxes, then you should be able to live where you are able to afford. I think that pastors do have a responsibility to be wise with the things that they have,” Gray told The Greenville News in December 2017. “We also understand that the reward in heaven is a mansion, streets paved with gold, gates that are made out of precious stones… We also understand God was the one who gifted Solomon with this wisdom, riches and a long life. He did the same thing with David, and there are times when those who serve God will be blessed to have resources. The key is, are they wise with those resources?”
Osteen makes an sizeable amount of money from his book deals, and famously does not take a salary at Lakewood Church.
In 2013, Osteen stated that it was always his dream to be able to lead a church where he doesn’t take a salary.
“Victoria and I never dreamed that God would bless us in the way that He has blessed us,” he said. “When I wrote my first book, I didn’t know if it would sell 1,000 copies or 20,000 copies. But it sold millions and millions of copies. Well, we never did any of this for money, but God has blessed us in such a great way. My dream was always to be able to work here, and serve in the ministry and to not have to take a salary.”
Osteen added, “Not everybody can do that, it’s not practical. But for us, it was important to me because I don’t need to. And I think it’s important to because being in the public eye, there’s a lot of scrutiny, and people think, well, he’s just doing it for money. This way I can say I don’t do any of this for money. God has blessed us in other ways. It’s really part of my message in that, you honor God and you stay faithful, you don’t know where God’s going to take you. I don’t tell people that God’s going to make them rich. But you don’t know how God’s going to bless you.”