In his Sunday sermon, multimillionaire pastor Joel Osteen addressed the criticism against his decision to initially close the doors to his 16,000-seat Houston megachurch during Hurricane Harvey, in which thousands of people were left homeless and 60 were killed (as of this posting).
“There’s been so much misinformation about the church this week, I wanted to clarify some things,” Osteen told the congregation of Lakewood Church Sunday morning.
As reported by msn.com, the non-denominational megachurch — formerly the Compaq Center arena for the Houston Rockets — draws some 16,000 worshippers on most Sundays. But that wasn’t the case this week.
This Sunday, Lakewood’s two services each drew between 1,000 and 1,200 worshippers. And while Osteen typically preaches 20 to 30 minutes on Sundays, during the first “Hope for Houston” service, his message ran just six minutes.
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At the 8:30 service, the crowd reportedly cheered after Osteen offered to clarify the church’s position.
“I know y’all love me,” he said. “You need to get on social media.”
“This building flooded in 2001, when the Rockets were still playing basketball here,” Osteen explained. “It was over five feet of water in this lower bowl. Knowing that, when we took possession, we installed large flood gates around the building.”
The water, he said, came within a foot or two of reaching the new gates and flooding the building again.
“So (it) receded late Sunday, maybe early Monday; we felt it was safe to start taking people in on Tuesday.”
He repeated: “We’re not victims in Houston: We are victors” at least three times during the service.
Osteen blamed “misinformation” for criticism levelled at the church for remaining closed.
“Had we opened the building sooner and someone got injured, or perhaps the building flooded and someone lost their lives, that would have been a very different story. Now I don’t mind taking the heat for being precautious. But I don’t want to take the heat for being foolish.”