Osteen is concerned congregation won’t empty their pockets for God.
When Lakewood Church closed its doors to the public in mid-March amid growing concerns over COVID-19, it was anyone’s guess as to when the congregation could return to a physical service. Online streaming options replaced the in-person sermons, so Pastor Joel Osteen can still get his message to his enormous following, but not everything will stay so much the same. Whereas the difference between watching the pastor from a pew and seeing him on television may prove negligible (possibly better, if seeing the action of an Osteen sermon is akin to seeing sporting events in-person or on TV), one changed aspect from being physically present in church will certainly suffer: tithe.
Osteen, estimated at roughly $50 million in net worth, has already begun expressing concern for how the church will afford its expenses if revenue from tithe dips, which is almost certain from current estimates. Most worries for him center around just two problems. First, Osteen wonders if members of his congregation will feel unable to give during a time in which many of them live in quarantine and are out of work.
“Right now, a lot of my followers are not at their usual jobs,” said Osteen, referring to Lakewood attendees in a recent interview he performed remotely from his $10 million home. “This could lead them into being tricked by the devil into thinking they can no longer give, which is false; the Lord’s money is always there.” He continued further to say that the idea of tithe might have to be altered from the typical notion of one tenth of all income during times of stress, saying “there may be times when there is no official income, but there can never be a time when the church has no income.”
Second in concern for the pastor of the Texas megachurch is that people who would normally give large amounts may be inclined to be more frugal now. From the same interview, Osteen said “there is a reason that we do not always stick to online donations. That small pressure involved with seeing the offering plate moving around and knowing that everyone will see just how much — or how little — you give is incredibly potent.” Whereas his first concern seemed directed more at his working class patrons, this remark appeared directed at the upper and upper-middle class members of the congregation.
Before the interview concluded, Osteen did attempt to clarify that his concerns were not for his own financial gain. “Many mainstream media and fake news outlets out there will try to make you think that this is all for my own financial gain, which is wholly untrue,” said Osteen in a mildly politically-charged statement, “as you all know, I stopped taking a salary from my pastorhood years ago to live solely on the income from my books, which are available for purchase on joelosteen.com.”
He went on to describe the separation between his own finances and that of the church, clarifying that he found it important that the church be self-funded, saying “were I to put my own money into the church, it would be like an investment; from that, there would be this feeling that there should be profit, or I would otherwise be just burning money.” He concluded the interview shortly after, remarking “I do not want anyone, anywhere to ever think even for a second that I would try to profit from organized religion.”