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CHICAGO (CBS) – Pastor Joel Osteen is in Chicago this week getting ready for a big service at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday night. He spoke with CBS 2′s Jim Williams about this message and about what some of his critics say.
Osteen is arguably America’s best-known minister today – a top-selling author with a high-rated TV program and the pastor of a mega-church in Houston.
He’s surely popular enough to fill a baseball stadium. He says he really likes the big venues,
“When you come to these stadiums, outdoors – I don’t know, there’s just a special spirit here.”
Osteen has attracted thousands to Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium.
He said baseball parks are less intimating than churches for many of the people he’s trying to reach.
“I’ve heard story after story of ‘my neighbor, my cousin, my husband wouldn’t go to church but he’ll go to that ballfield with me. He took a stand and his life was changed,” Osteen said.
Jim Williams asked, “how many of the folks who are going to be here Saturday night are believers and how many don’t believe or are searching?”
“You know, about half the people who watch us on television were not raised in church like me. They don’t have any kind of spiritual or religious background. So, we see it trending in the events as well, everywhere we go”, Osteen said.
Critics say Osteen is popular because he preaches that a belief in Jesus will bring financial reward.
“You know, I get characterized as what they say a prosperity preacher, but to me, I don’t talk money,” he said. “To me, prosperity is health and good relationships, peace in your mind.”
His wife and co-pastor said they’ve learned to tune out the critics.
“When you see people who are so thrilled to have a new beginning just because they’ve had something instilled in them and god’s not against them, it just washes away all the critics,” Victoria Osteen said.
The Osteens concede that, in these difficult economic times, their message is striking a chord.
“People are hungry for hope. They turn to their faith in times of need and I think they should,” Joel Osteen said.
Osteen says hope will be the core of his message on Saturday night.