Texas megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen has a prayer for America.
That prayer is for unity and that “we would respect each other even when we don’t agree,” he said. “Because we’re never going to all agree on everything, but I think we can still treat each other with respect.”
During an interview Osteen was asked about the the current climate in the United States.
He leads the very diverse Lakewood Church in Houston, one of the nation’s largest megachurches with more than 52,000 members. Membership includes includes whites, African-Americans and Hispanics. He also has a large global following.
Since the presidential election, there has been a reported rise in the number of violent acts and intimidation against African-Americans, Latinos and Muslims, according to groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“My prayer — my encouragement — is let’s each be a peacemaker,” Osteen said during a recent interview in Atlanta. “I think it starts on the individual basis, one on one. Can I befriend somebody? Can I be a part of a solution and not the problem?”
In a 2015 interview on Fox News Radio’s Kilmeade & Friends , Osteen was asked about Trump. He called him “an incredible communicator and brander,” echoing similar comments by former President Bill Clinton on the “Late Show.”
“He’s been a friend of our ministry,” Osteen also said on the radio program.
Osteen was in Atlanta recently for advance promotions of his annual “America’s Night of Hope”, which will be held Sept. 30 at Sun Trust Park. He described the event as as two-and-half hours of praise, worship and inspiration that is expected to bring in more than 40,000 people.
“We try to encourage people that there are good days up ahead and inspire them in their faith, ” said Osteen.“It’s an uplifting evening. It’s fun for the people that are ‘churched’ but it’s really aimed at people that weren’t raised in the church like me. I’m a preacher’s kid — grown up in all this — but try to gear to maybe people that, this is a little bit new to them. Part of it is coming to a baseball arena too, maybe their defenses are down a little bit.”
Victoria Osteen, who pastors with her husband Joel and Dodie Osteen, Joel Osteen’s mother, who has survived cancer, will be among the speakers.
He prefers to call it it an inspirational event, rather than a religious event. He recognizes not everyone has had a positive experience with religion. Perhaps they’ve been felt to feel guilty or “pushed down.”
“It’s not about converting people to my religion. I’m taking about having a relationship with God,” “ he said.
“I want to inspire them to be closer in their walk with the Lord and, I think, I want to inspire them to let go of negative baggage. Sometimes people are just carrying around the mistakes that they’ve made. I let them know that today is a new day. You can’t do anything about the past except maybe learn from it.”
Perhaps someone will decide to be a better father or break an addiction or be inspired to be a blessing in the community, he said.
Osteen, who has a large evangelical base, uses social media extensively. He has more than five million followers on Twitter alone.
He met Monday with Georgia pastors and faith leaders including Bishop Dale C. Bronner of Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral. “I look at this an opportunity to expand the kingdom of God and build the local church,” said Bronner. “We believe it brings God’s favor in a greater dimension to the city of Atlanta.”
The event also includes a community service component called the “Generation Hope Project.” The project, which starts a few days before the big event, will bring hundreds of volunteers into Atlanta communities to help local organizations.
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