Pastor Joel Osteen to Throw First Pitch at U.S. Cellular, Brings - KMSP-TV

Pastor Joel Osteen to Throw First Pitch at U.S. Cellular, Brings 'Night of Hope' to Chicago

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He has one the most watched Christian broadcasts in the world, the largest church in America and shares the top spot on NY Times' Most Influential Religious Leader on Twitter.

This Friday, Pastor Joel Osteen will throw out the first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field.

Pastor Osteen and his wife Victoria gave FOX Chicago an exclusive look at their Night of Hope tour they're bringing to Chicago.

“You guys already look like victors and not victims. You are more than conquerors - you are strong in the Lord,” Osteen said.

People come by the tens of thousands just to hear Osteen's message of hope and inspiration.

He has sold out Madison Square Garden, the Alamo Dome, and Dodger and Yankee stadiums.

He supports ministries in Africa, orphanages in Kenya, has an outreach program in India and knows how to get a crowd on its feet in Australia.

"The thing I love about God is he's the same in Houston as he is in Sydney, as he is in Africa as he is in Europe, we serve the same God,” Osteen said.

But behind the scenes, Pastor Joel Osteen is simple and humble.

"I never dreamed I was going to do this,” Osteen said. “I was working behind the scenes 11 years ago, but it just lets me know that God's dream is bigger than our own.”

Osteen grew up in his dad's church. For 17 years, he even helped produce his dad's television ministry, never once having a desire to get on stage himself.

“My father tried to get me up there many times, but it just wasn't in me,” Osteen explained. “When he died in 1999, I knew I was supposed to step up and pastor the church. We never dreamed it would grow.”

Church attendance grew so much in fact, that they bought the 16,000 seat Compaq Center in Houston and spent nearly $100 million dollars in renovations.

Lakewood Church is currently the largest and fastest growing church in America.

The sermons Joel once edited for his dad, he now edits for himself. His broadcasts run in 100 different countries. Every week 7 million people in America alone tune in.

“I didn't think I could speak in front of people,” Osteen said. “I was scared to death to get up but after God pushed me into it so to speak amazing doors have opened up since.”

Pastor Osteen said he does have a secret weapon - his wife of 24 years, Victoria. He also credits her for pushing him to the pulpit.

"You've got to be willing to do it along side someone. You can't just tell them they can do it and then not lead the same way. More is caught than taught,” Victoria said. “You've got to lead. You've got to be a part of it."

Together they've built a Christian empire with their television program, tours and best-selling books.

"[For] my first book, the publisher called and said they were going to print 250,000 copies. I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Who are you going to sell them to?’” Osteen said. “I didn't even think we'd even sell one copy."

His first book..."Your Best Life Now" has sold more than 7 million copies to date. But it's the stories from his fans that keep him inspired.

"Actually, here in Chicago I came to a book signing and there were hundreds of people in line and this lady and her daughter were both weeping when they came to the table and I thought they were just emotional.”

“I found out later they had been strained for like 10 years and never talked, mother and daughter. But they'd both been watching me on television and word got out about the book signing and they both came not knowing that each other had been watching,” Osteen said. “They saw each other in the line and they said that was God saying to us it's time to reconcile. When I heard it I started crying too.”

Pastor Osteen isn't afraid to show his emotion on stage or in real life. But it’s rare to see him without his signature smile.

When asked about his upbeat demeanor, Osteen said:

“You know, it's funny. I'm not a real angry person. I may get serious and say okay we have to fix this. But I'm not one to get real angry and blow up and all that stuff. It's more like hey we have to get this done, and I'm good about getting it done and moving on and not letting it ruin the day."

He's certainly had his share of critics - even some pastors who don't agree with what they call his "prosperity teaching.”

"If money is the focus of your life, it's going to be a shallow life but we never teach that,” Osteen said. “We teach that the reason Jesus came is to give us an abundant life so we can rise higher, affect culture. It takes money to build buildings, fulfill dreams, and send kids to college.”

As he sets his sights on his next big stage, U.S. Cellular Field, Osteen thanks God for all his blessings and credits his dad for much of his success.

"I think my dad would be very proud. He sowed all those seeds and I always honor my parents,” Osteen said. “I pray every day that every message would get better - that I'd get wiser and more mature, and that I'd be able to affect people in a greater way."

Osteen throws out the first pitch on Thursday at the Cell.

He will return to the ballpark to preach on his "Night of Hope" tour, on August 6.

 

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