ORLANDO, Fla. - Each Sunday morning, millions tune in to hear a message of hope and healing from Pastor Joel Osteen.
Osteen's optimistic outlook is what his faithful followers have come to depend on each week.
But Osteen said he didn't know he had such a light inside until one of his darkest days.
"I wouldn't have believed it, never dreamed I would have been a minister. Just 17 years ago, I was running cameras and doing the production," said Osteen. "When my dad died, I don't even know how to explain it, I just knew I was supposed to pastor the church and I didn't know if it was going to work. I didn't know if I was going to be good at it or not, but I knew I was supposed to try and take that step of faith."
His step of faith has taken Lakewood Church, founded in Houston by his father, John Osteen, from 8,000 members in 1999 to 40,000 today -- enough parishioners to fill the Amway Center twice.
Osteen's positive messages resonate with people. He said everyone has the ability to set their own happiness agendas, but they often let life get in the way.
"When you get up in the morning, it's important to make the decision that, 'No matter what comes my way today, I am going to stay in peace. I am not going to get upset.' It doesn't mean we do it every time," said Osteen. "I think a lot of times, we end up giving away our power and we don't have to. We need our emotional energy, and you know, (if) you let somebody who did you wrong cause you to be upset or discouraged, well, you're taking the energy you need for your own dreams."
Some say Osteen is no more than a motivational speaker. But he said he pays little attention to critics because he's always been a positive person and what you see is what you get.
"I don't feel like I've changed much, obviously physically, but I grew up, I was smiling in my baby pictures," said Osteen. "I've always been positive and hopeful and people ask me, 'Why did you decide to be a minister?' That's positive. This is just who I am. I didn't try to be this. I think when you stay true to who you are, that's when you really have God's blessing. I don't feel much different, even though I feel more notoriety today, I still feel amazed when I come to these big arenas and places are full. I think, 'How did all this happen?' I don't know."
But Osteen's success isn't just in the pulpit. He is the author of eight books, all bestsellers.
His net worth has been estimated somewhere north of $40 million. His book sales have generated a reported $55 million.
His wealth has been a hot topic for critics. But Osteen makes no apologies. He believes that God wants everyone to have money and success, including him.
"How do you address that, when you can ask for other people and not for yourself?" Gadsden asked.
"I do get that mindset, that we are supposed to be poor to show that we are humble and all," said Osteen. "My dad came out of all that,; he came out of poverty. He came out of not having anything growing up. It's not about the money and wealth or anything, it's about being a blessing to others, fulfilling your dreams. So I just kind of tune out some of that and try to just remind people to believe big."
He offers a new message each week. He draws inspiration from his church members and people whom he meets when he tours the country with his "Night of Hope."
"That helps me to know here's what people are dealing with," said Osteen. "Every week, I hear their challenges, their struggles. Some of it's victory reports, you know, something great has happened. Then you meet people and they are here and got diagnosed with cancer or other things in life. When I sit down to write those messages, I think, 'OK, here's who I am talking to,. how can I help them in some way?'"
Careful to stay out of this year's contentious political fray, Osteen said what's right for Americans now is unity. He said seeing the country so divided is bad for everyone, and he believes Americans can do better.
"What is your prayer for this country?" Gadsden asked.
"My prayer for this country is for peace and respect," said Osteen. "That we would come together in love and unity to see what a great country we are, to see the best in people and to have respect even when we don't agree. You don't have to agree with somebody to respect them or even to like them. It's gotten to a point where you can't show any give at all, and I don't think that's the best way to live."
You can watch Osteen on News 6. His program airs at 8:30 a.m. Sunday right after the morning show.
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