Published December 23, 2007
WASHINGTON – The following is a partial transcript of the Dec. 23, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Now, we continue our series of interviews with American leaders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR JOEL OSTEEN: ... I get out of my comfort zone and believe I could do it and believe I'm equipped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Joel Osteen has been called the most watched inspirational figure in the country. Almost 50,000 people attend his Lakewood Church in Houston every weekend, and his sermons are broadcast to millions across the nation.
He offers a message about personal growth and positive thinking, which may explain why he's now pastor of America's largest congregation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSTEEN: Today I will be taught the world of God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Joel Osteen, welcome to "FOX News Sunday."
OSTEEN: Thanks, Chris. My pleasure to be with you.
WALLACE: You preach in a former basketball arena that seats 16,000 people. You're the most popular preacher on T.V. Your books are best-sellers. What do you think it is about your message that people want to hear?
OSTEEN: I don't know if I know exactly, but I think the fact that it's positive, it's hopeful, and I talk about everyday life.
On Sundays when I speak, I hopefully give somebody something that they can use the next day at work or at home. So I think that's part of it.
And, too, I think, Chris, there's a lot of negative things trying to pull people down, and I think people respond when you tell them that hey, there are good things up ahead.
WALLACE: Now, you've written a new book, "Become a Better You," in which you say the central message is don't get stuck where you are, keep growing. How do you do that?
OSTEEN: Well, I think it's a decision you have to make because it is easy to get stuck. It's easy to get complacent and think, "Well, I've done pretty good in my career," or, "This is as good as my marriage is going to go."
But I think you do it by making a decision to develop better habits, to have better relationships and just, you know, to keep the enthusiasm for life.
WALLACE: And can you just will that?
OSTEEN: I don't think you can will it, but I think you can — with your will, you can make changes in your life and you can say, "I'm not going to — I'm going to be a better parent next year than I am right now," or, "I'm going to take an extra step in my career and not just be satisfied where I am."
So I think it has a lot to do with our will, but also, you know, it takes a — it takes our own — you know, we have to work as well.
WALLACE: Your show comes on right after us in Washington. I have to say as soon as — after I'm finished doing politics, I turn you on.
And I was watching you recently talk about the voice inside yourself and making sure that your inner conversation is positive. I was really struck by that. Explain what that means.
OSTEEN: Yeah, I think it's a problem that a lot of people have, and it keeps them back. It holds them back in life. And it's, I believe, in our subconscious, or in our thinking, that we have a conversation going with ourselves — or I call it a recording playing.
And a lot of people — their recording is negative. You know, I have friends, they'll preach a great sermon and they'll drive home thinking, "Boy, I didn't do good today, and if I'd just done it a little bit better."
But I try to teach people that I believe God wants us to be positive toward ourselves, meaning that, you know what, I like the way I look, I like the way I sound, I'm happy with what I'm doing in my career — and not always be beating ourselves down.
I think that's just — you know, I see people — they won't be negative toward other people, but inside they're negative toward themselves, and I think that holds us back.
WALLACE: But you know — and I have to say I'm guilty of that as much as anybody else, where you have those seeds of doubt — you know, I could have done better, or what did they really think, or whatever.
And how do you turn that conversation so instead of hearing seeds of doubt, you're hearing blossoms of encouragement?
OSTEEN: I think you have a train yourselves. I found that in my own life — because I would do the same thing. When I'd get through with a sermon, I'd think, "Man, I'm not as good as my dad, and I don't know how to minister like other people."
But just little by little, I started — you know what? I think it starts from knowing that God loves you and God accepts you, but I think you just train yourselves to say, "You know what? I'm not going to beat myself up. I did the best I can do, and so I'm going to believe that — I'm going to believe good things about myself."
WALLACE: Now, as with most successful people, you have critics who say that what you offer is gospel "lite," the prosperity gospel. They say you're more a motivational speaker than you are a pastor. How do you answer that?
OSTEEN: Well, a couple things. When I became a pastor eight years ago when my father died, I didn't change — this is who I've always been. I've always been — you know, my personality is motivating and encouraging. And so I'm just being who God made me to be.
About it being "lite", I mean, every week we deal with people that are going through divorces and that are facing life-threatening illnesses, and I'm giving them hope. And to me, I don't think there's anything "lite" about that.
I think sometimes the critics want me to beat people down, and that's not in me. I want to lift people up.
WALLACE: But your critics, again, say you don't talk much about sin. And a lot of great preachers — Billy Graham used to talk about sin.
WALLACE: You don't go deeply in your sermons into scripture. Again, why not?
OSTEEN: Yeah. Well, I think — I do talk about sin at the end of every one of our services back at home and at the end of the broadcast, but just, you know, as a pastor, I'm not trying to get everybody to — and that's not my main calling, like Billy Graham's.
He was an evangelist. He went out and tried to win everybody to Christ. And I am ultimately trying to do that, but I'm trying to teach people how to live their everyday lives, and so I do focus on it, probably not as much as some people would like.
WALLACE: One of the other things you say — and it has been noted that your book, "Become a Better You," — that there's no mention of God. It doesn't mention that you're a pastor, although the book — the text itself is filled with references to God and scripture.
And one time, I heard you say you want to get out beyond the church walls.
OSTEEN: Yes, exactly. That's part of our — our whole message is it's easy to just keep preaching to the church and people that already come.
But that's why we air on broadcast stations that are not necessarily Christian stations. It's because I want to try to reach people that — maybe they went to church 20 years ago, or maybe they just think, "You know what? I'm not a religion person. This doesn't have anything to do with me."
I'm trying to make God more relevant in our society. And I think talking in everyday terms and making sure people can understand it — I think that's important.
WALLACE: Someone said, "You know, Joel Osteen has not had much formal training as a pastor." And your response was you said, "Neither did the 12 disciples of Jesus."
Are you comfortable with that comparison?
OSTEEN: Well, I think I am. It's just I'm all for education, and I have, you know, friends that have been through seminary and gotten their doctorate and all. But it just so happened with me. I know this is right for me.
And I think so. I mean, I know, you know, back in Bible days, there were these famous schools of the prophets, but some of the ones Jesus chose didn't come through that route — and not to say that they weren't good, but I'm comfortable.
WALLACE: So are you saying that anyone can be a preacher?
OSTEEN: Well, really, I think you have to be — I think every person can, maybe not in front of a lot of people, but I believe we're supposed to — I like to call it a minister, but I believe — I teach our congregation every week, you know, you need to minister to the people around you, where you work at.
You see somebody down, that's lonely, take them to lunch. Encourage them. To me, that's part of it. That's not, you know, public speaking like I am, but I think you have to be called, number one. You have to feel it in your heart, this is what you're supposed to do.
And you know, ideally, I think it's good to be trained.
WALLACE: Religion is playing a big role in this presidential campaign. Should voters consider a candidate's faith, what he believes? Is that a legitimate issue in a political campaign?
OSTEEN: Well, I think it plays a role in it. I mean, I like to know what somebody believes. I think that knowing that somebody shares a belief like me, I think that — you know, that helps me to know what they stand for.
But I believe, also, you need to look at a person's character and what they've stood up for. And so I don't think it should be the only thing, that, "Hey, I'm going to vote this person because, you know, they share my exact beliefs," but yet they're not very good in the political world. So I think it plays a role.
WALLACE: So in that sense, what do you make of Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist pastor who's doing so well and, in effect, using his faith as part of his platform?
OSTEEN: Well, you know what? I like Mike Huckabee. I've never met him. My brother's from Little Rock and he knows him and says he's a fine man. And so I like what he stands for.
From what I've seen, I don't think he's overdone it. I think he's just — you know, he's a Baptist pastor. That's in him. And I think he's just standing up for what he believes in.
WALLACE: And what about Mitt Romney? And I've got to ask you the question, because it is a question whether it should be or not in this campaign, is a Mormon a true Christian?
OSTEEN: Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his savior, and that's what I believe, so, you know, I'm not the one to judge the little details of it. So I believe they are.
And so, you know, Mitt Romney seems like a man of character and integrity to me, and I don't think he would — anything would stop me from voting for him if that's what I felt like.
WALLACE: So, for instance, when people start talking about Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, and the golden tablets in upstate New York, and God assumes the shape of a man, do you not get hung up in those theological issues?
OSTEEN: I probably don't get hung up in them because I haven't really studied them or thought about them. And you know, I just try to let God be the judge of that. I mean, I don't know.
I certainly can't say that I agree with everything that I've heard about it, but from what I've heard from Mitt, when he says that Christ is his savior, to me that's a common bond.
WALLACE: Unlike a lot of preachers, you don't — and I can sense a little discomfort on your part — you don't get involved in politics. You don't talk a lot about abortion and gays and the so- called social issues. Why not?
OSTEEN: Well, it started back with my father. He never did. And I just don't feel comfortable as well. I don't feel like that's my main gifting. And I feel like when I stay focused on encouraging people, and giving them hope, and helping them live their everyday life, I think that's where I can have the most impact.
And I even heard Billy Graham say this, and I think it's true. Sometimes when you take strong stands, if you're not called to do it, you're dividing the audience you're trying to reach.
I'm trying to throw a big net out there to say to anyone that God loves them and he's in control. And I think the moment — even our church is so diverse. We have Republicans, Democrats, independents.
And I think the moment I start saying, "Well, go this route," well, this group's going to just say, "I'm not going to listen to him because of the political stance."
WALLACE: Occasionally, some well-known televangelist — you know, and it's true of every profession, but obviously it's bigger news when it becomes a televangelist — gets caught up in scandal, and there's all this talk about hypocrisy, being corrupted by fame and fortune. Why do you think that happens?
OSTEEN: Well, I think it can happen in any profession. I think sometimes, you know, you just lose your focus, and I think that's easy to do when you start getting, you know, more fame, more money, more power.
But I don't think — you know, I don't think it has to happen and, you know, like you said, there are millions of great ministers. And I think in every field some people kind of get a little off balance.
WALLACE: And you know, obviously, you are making an enormous amount of money with the television show, with these best-selling books.
How do you personally — how does Joel Osteen keep himself safe, guard against being corrupted by all the temptations that must surround you?
OSTEEN: Yeah. I think there's a couple things. One, I like to start my day off every morning, take the first half hour and just search my own heart, see if I'm on the right course, try to be honest with myself — am I doing this for the right reasons?
Two, I have good family around me that I think can speak into my life. And the other thing is, you know, I'm — I realize that as quick as you go up, you can really come down that quick. And we've seen it happen with others.
So I just try to not really think about it. I don't feel any different than I did eight years ago.
WALLACE: I'm curious. When you have that morning sort of checklist, do you ever find yourself saying — you know, because of the fact — you're a big deal. You're a national and international figure.
Do you ever find yourself saying, "You know, wait a minute, Joel, I'm losing my way here?"
OSTEEN: Well, I don't. I don't. I can't say that I necessarily have yet, because I've tried to do this a little at a time. And I'm not saying that I'm perfect.
But there are a lot of decisions we pass up on because we think, "You know what? That's just going to build — you know, maybe that's going to build me and not build the ministry and what I'm trying to do." So we pass up on a lot of opportunities.
And again, I'm not perfect, but I think that I've done good to stay focused on what I'm called to do.
WALLACE: Christmas will be here in two days. With all the parties, all the commercialism, all of the gifts, it's kind of easy to forget what this holiday is really all about.
OSTEEN: It really is, and it's gotten — it seems to get, you know, worse and worse, you know, with all the consumerism. But you know what? We just remind people to let's celebrate, you know, the birth of Christ.
And you know, I really don't like to get caught up in all the gifts. And I know that gifts are fun and we, of course, buy them for our family and things. But to me, just not taking people for granted, not just at Christmas, but all through the year.
And I encourage people in a lot of my messages that you've got to make the most of every day. And you know, to me, these are the good old days. Sometimes we look back and 10 years from now. We think, "Boy, those were great old days." Well, you know, we're living in the good old days.
So I think we should enjoy our families and everyone that we love right now, you know, each day.
WALLACE: And beyond that, is there a message you would like to give our viewers before they watch your show, as they're watching our show, a message this Christmas?
OSTEEN: Oh, my message is that — you know, that God is a good God, and that he's on our side, and that he has great things in store and, you know, I believe that as we receive the forgiveness that Christ came and was born and died to give us, then we can live a great life.
WALLACE: Joel Osteen, thank you so much for coming and visiting with us. And merry Christmas, sir.
OSTEEN: Same to you. Merry Christmas.