Sunday, December 20, 2009

Houston, Texas (CNN) -- Joel Osteen strides into the former Compaq Center. Some 20,000 people are standing and singing. Purple lights softly pulse across the ceiling, and mist floats around two giant screens flashing words to the songs.

It's not a pulpit but a podium. It's not an altar but a stage. There is no cross. Instead a huge globe spins, and two massive bubbling creeks flank the stage. A lighting system softens distant corners of the massive arena and spreads colored light and smoke in strategic spots. Somehow, the space that will hold 40,000-plus on Sunday morning doesn't feel like a sports arena...

Osteen's supporters and associates suggest mainstream Christian mistrust of his success may be as much jealousy as theology.

"Have you been to church in America recently?" one aide said. "They put on a funeral. If you put on a funeral every week, eventually people stop coming..."

And what of the Bible verse that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? Or that Jesus preached his followers to give up all their belongings and follow him?

"Years back at least, you know you had to be poor and to show you were holy," Osteen said. "You're supposed to sacrifice everything, and I'm all for sacrifice and I believe in that, but I also believe that God wants us to be leaders. He's put gifts and talents in every person, that they're supposed to come out to the full..."

No comments: