Megachurches have gotten a pretty bad rap, which is understandable considering the pastors at some of them are riding around in private jets and preaching to a stadium full of people about the importance of being humble. The definition of a megachurch, however, is simply a church that has a congregation of over 2,000 people. As a whole, not all of them are as bad as they may seem but some are and that’s why we’re here isn’t it?
One running theme among the nation’s largest churches is the fact that oftentimes, they end up going out of business, and being forced to sell to another ministry. But a lot of them are also generating tens of millions of dollars every year, and some of them are making even more than that! So, how exactly do these non-profit organizations make so much money, and where does it all go? Keep reading to find out!
Life Church Live
Life Church brings an all-new kind of experience to the Christian crowd, with Pastor Craig Groeschel delivering his messages to not only the thousands of people in the church but thousands more watching from home. Each Sunday, Groeschel live streams his sermons so that every one may take part in the service, even if they’re unable to make it out of the house for some reason. Each Sunday, nearly 100,000 people tune in to lifechurch.tv to listen to the pastor speak.
Life Church started out as just a small gathering of worshippers in Oklahoma and has grown to become the largest in the United States. Recently, scammers targeted congregates of the megachurch by posing as the pastor on Facebook. The people behind the scam messaged those they thought would make easy targets and asked them to send donation money.
Employees are Paid Peanuts
While this isn’t necessarily the case in every circumstance, many times the people who are doing most of the leg work to keep the megachurches running aren’t being paid near what the face of it all is making. Take for instance former megachurch employee Rob Fee, who spoke to VICE magazine and described his miserable wages. At one point, he said he looked around for hidden cameras because he thought he was being pranked since it was so bad.
And while Fee was making less than $2,000 per month working overtime nearly every day – guess what the pastor was doing? He was sleeping tight in his multi-million-dollar mansion. To make matters worse, Fee was let go from his job when he had a child on the way. That doesn’t seem like a very Godly thing to do, but then, as Fee says, things are not always as they appear with these organizations. Up next: this pastor’s book marketing tour cost as much as a Lamborghini
The Good Book…Sale?
Mark Driscoll is not only a popular televangelist, but he’s also a New York Times Best Selling author. Unfortunately, the two don’t really mix in the eyes of many megachurch critics, who frowned upon Driscoll’s $200,000+ self-promotional marketing tour. The pastor gained a notable following when he started the Mars Hill Church in Seattle. But through the years of its existence, the church was rife with scandals and controversy, and in 2014, they completely dissolved.
Reports of Driscoll running Mars Hill like an “organized crime syndicate,” forced his home church to close their doors for good. But these days, Driscoll is back at it, preaching in Scottsdale, Arizona. But critics are right there on his tail, accusing him of being a “plagiaristic peddler,” that uses religion to promote his own agenda. And, they may be on to something, given the fact he was recently caught selling signed sermon notes after Sunday services at the Trinity Church, where he currently works. Up next: see what it’s like to work in a megachurch through the eyes of an employee.
The Inside Scoop
If you’ve never actually attended a megachurch, you don’t have much to go on when trying to imagine what it’s like. One benefit of going to a church with thousands of people is that there is always a lot going on, and there’s something for everyone to be a part of. On the flip side, however, all of those people can be a bit overwhelming, and even cliquey. So, if you’re an introvert, you may want to think twice before making plans to join a mega-congregation.
Singing in the choir of one of these churches is like singing on stage at a major concert, which would be a positive thing for some and negative for others. Plus, if you’re all the way in the back of the house during a sermon, it’s probably a little tough to hear what’s being said. Most megachurches go above and beyond for stage production, incorporating bright lights, booming mics and even special effects like smoke.
The Biebs’ on His Knees
Standing outside of Hillsong Church in New York City waiting to get in isn’t much different than waiting around to get into an overcrowded pop concert – for multiple reasons. For one, it’s got a star-studded congregation full of celebs like Justin Bieber, the Kardashian clan and Chris Pratt. The church’s pastor, Carl Lentz, is younger compared to the average clergy member, and his style of preaching (not to mention the prospect of running into a celebrity) attracts the same type of congregates. Lentz’s over-the-top sermons often include lots of music, which has earned him the nickname, “the rock star.”
But critics of Hillsong say that the performances delivered on any given Sunday in one of the huge buildings are nothing more than a façade to bring in more money. The church has also been accused multiple times of harassing and bullying gay people. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to those that have had negative experiences in dealing with Hillsong, called: Hillsong Church, what they don’t want you to know.” Up next: This megachurch live streams their sermons to the world.
P.O.D (Prayers on Demand)
The congregates of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia can get their fill of hallelujahs any time, day or night with the prayer on-demand service offered through the church’s website. Each sermon is recorded and uploaded so that members can relisten whenever they need words of encouragement. But most of the 10,000+ churchgoers most likely try to show up in person for the fun-filled musical sermons delivered by the bishop. Before her death, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez of TLC was a member here, and it’s where her funeral services were held, as well.
These days, the services are mainly given by their new pastor, Jamal-Harrison Bryant, who has become a favorite among churchgoers. In fact, he’s amassed his own substantial following on social media that’s grown to include more than 300,000 people! It probably has a lot to do with the fact that he delivers his sermons online, as well as in person. The incredibly large number of followers that the church has lends to its beefy annual budget. Up next: the budget for this next church is pretty ridiculous.
Not that this is the exception to the rule, because most megachurches do have insane annual budgets, but this will give you a good perspective on just how much these things bring in. Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, has over 60,000 people who attend services. Pastor Ed Young (Homer Edwin Young,) delivers the sermons to his excited congregates these days. He first came aboard in the late ’70s, when the church had a modest congregation of around 500 people.
Ed Young grew up poor himself, but today he leads one of the wealthiest (and largest) churches in the nation. The enormous “town within a city,” generates an annual budget of over $50 million. That’s quite a lot of money, especially considering it can’t be taxed! But where does all of the money that flows through the church annually go? Keep reading to find out exactly how most megachurches divvy up their impressive finances. Up next: see how enormous the inside of this church really is.
A Peek Inside of Second Baptist
You could really get lost inside of this megachurch if you didn’t know your way around the enormous buildings. And you know that crazy annual budget we discussed on the previous page? Well, Second Baptist used nearly double that in expansions for its Houston locations back in 2006, alone. This year, they announced yet another addition to their complex, in which they will be adding on more offices and classrooms. The new expansion is set to cost around $9.4 million.
Second Baptist does not consist of just one location, however. The megachurch is comprised of 6 separate campuses scattered throughout the state of Texas. They were created in Houston in 1927 with a modest congregation of 121 people and steadily expanded into the giant organization that they are known as today. Up next: this guy’s numbers are truly a miracle.
Bishop Jakes’ Book Sale
30,000 congregates fill the pews every Sunday at the Potter’s House Church in Dallas, Texas. Inside, reverend T.D Jakes speaks enthusiastically through his booming mic, promoting the good book…and his own, too. That’s right, he doesn’t miss many opportunities to push his books, Let It Go, Instinct, Destiny, and Soar! on the churchgoers. But it isn’t just the church that he uses as a platform to boost sales, he’s also got his own website. And, it isn’t just books that he sells online. Head over to tdjakes.org, where you can buy all sorts of “godly” goodies, like DVD’s and coffee cups.
TD bought the Potter’s House location in 1996 at a very good price from another televangelist that was sent to jail for evading taxes. The new congregation, which consisted of around 50 families, spent $45 million to expand the building originally. By 2000, there were already over 23,000 people showing up for services. And TD, himself is doing very well, living in a $1.7 million mansion and sitting on a net worth of over $150 million. Up next: where stars go to worship.
West Angeles Church of Christ
If you’re ever in Los Angeles and you’re looking to rub shoulders with some celebrities, head over to the West Angeles Church of Christ for a Sunday service. Congregants that have been seen inside include major celebrities like Denzel Washington and Angela Bassett. This megachurch got its start back in 1943, and hardly qualified as such then, with a congregation of just 40 people in the early days. But it quickly started to grow until it became one of the largest (and most popular) churches in the nation.
When Clarence E. Church first launched the spiritual center, he probably didn’t imagine that it was going to grow into a home for Hollywood’s finest. The services are geared towards their evangelistic faith, and often include a ton of song and dance. West Angeles is located at 3600 Crenshaw Boulevard in L.A. It holds services twice on Sunday mornings, at 8 and 11. They have quite the social media following, with over 150,000 people alone following their Twitter page. Up next: delivering sermons to a full house runs through the blood of this family.
Dr. Ed Young’s Son is a Preacher, Too
Megachurch preacher and author Dr. Ed Young has 3 sons, 2 of which went into clergy themselves and the other who leads a Christian folk band. His son, Edwin Barry Young, followed closely in his father’s footsteps, however. As he grew up watching his dad woo a massive congregation and decided it was what he wanted to do, as well. Young preaches to 10’s of thousands of church-goers at his home base in Fort Worth, Texas.
Edwin Young got his start working as an associate pastor for his father’s church, of course. But after he got his own 2 feet on the ground, he developed a pretty firm following of his own. He started Fellowship with about 30 families in the congregation. Today, the massive church has over 20,000 members in attendance. Not too shabby, is that it’s over a 1/3rd of what his father has done! But he’s got something else in common with his dad: being on the bestselling author’s list. Up next: this church actually does reverse tithes!
Saddleback Puts Most of its Earnings Back into its Community
“Tithing,” in the bible, is giving 10 percent of everything you earn back to others. Most churches actively practice tithing, but Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, California, decided to go (way) above and beyond. Rick Warren is the main pastor of the church, with his wife, Kay, co-preaching there as well. Both of the pastors only hold on to 10 percent of everything that they earn. The rest all goes back into whatever the Saddleback community may need.
Sure, they make millions upon millions of dollars each year, but it is still pretty generous to use most of the income that they generate to support their mission. But preaching isn’t the only way that the Warren’s make their money. Rick is also a very successful author, reaching the bestseller’s list for his book, A Purpose Driven Life. Up next: the mightiest of the megachurches is located deep in the South.
The World’s Largest Megachurch is Located in South Korea
The Yoido Full Gospel Church was founded in the late ’50s by Pastor David Yonggi Cho, along with his mother-in-law. They started off with a very small, yet loyal congregation, which consisted of about 50 people. But the audience quickly started growing until it turned into the largest in the world. Today, there are nearly 1 million people who go to Yoido Full Gospel.
The church is located in Seoul, South Korea, which is one of the world’s largest cities. Pastor Cho preaches about how prosperity is God’s will for humanity, too. He uses the Three-Fold-Blessing, which talks about unity between soul, body, and spirit, to justify the teachings. Up next: Yoido is known for having women preachers, which is still something that is (unfortunately) fairly uncommon among church leaders.
Women Lead the Charge at Yoido
Pastor David Yonggi Cho co-founded Yoido Full Gospel with his mother-in-law, Choi-Ja-shil. This may be one of the reasons why Cho firmly believes in having women lead the church, something that is very rare not only in Korea but in the Western World as well. However, more women are breaking on to the megachurch preacher scene every day. Take for instance Joel Osteen’s wife, Victoria, and Reverend Amy Butler of Riverside Church in New York.
Yoido has been attracting women that lead since its inception when Cho set up a bunch of different “cells” across Seoul and appointed various women to lead the worship services. But in 1960, an all-women’s fellowship was introduced to the church. Unfortunately, Pastor Cho received some very unwanted press in 2014 that shined a light on some shady things that had been happening in the church. Up next: as Yoido’s congregation grew, so did their income, but what did Cho do with the money he earned?
Yoido’s Incredible Growth
When Yoido opened its doors in 1958, it had nowhere near the number of churchgoers that it has today. Cho and Ja-shil were able to turn their investment into the largest megachurch in existence! In their early days, they gained followers by putting in the necessary footwork. Cho literally went around knocking on doors and handing out flyers for Sunday services. But even though things have gone seemingly very well for Cho, things took a dark turn for him just a few years ago.
In 2014, Pastor Cho was charged with fraud and tax evasion. He reportedly had over $5 billion worth of unpaid taxes and was guilty of a stock scheme worth an additional $9 million. Most of his followers were outraged, and the whole thing caused him to step down as senior pastor of Yoido. Elders of the church were responsible for his ultimate arrest when they reported him of embezzling money back in 2011. Up next: take a look at the first megachurch in the country!
The First Megachurch in the United States has Quite a History
Crystal Cathedral is hailed as the first-ever megachurch in the country. The establishment began in 1955 as The Garden Grove Community Church. Nearly 2 decades later the congregation had grown to include more than 2,000 people. The building that the church currently occupies in Orange County, California, didn’t come into play until 1981. But of course, when it did, it made an entrance – as the biggest glass building on Earth.
These days, the church is known as Christ Cathedral, rather than Crystal Cathedral. After it went bankrupt several years ago, it was purchased by the Catholic church. Renovations lasted for several years and cost more than $75 million. Christ Cathedral is the 7th-largest Roman Catholic Church Diocese in the country. They recently held their first mass after the renovations. The church holds services in multiple languages, including English, Spanish and Chinese. Up next: see what other megachurch had their fair share of financial issues.
This Megachurch’s Pastor Drove his Creation Right into the Ground
Cathedral of Tomorrow was first built in 1958, to complete the vision of pastor Rex Humbard. His ministry was off to a great start, and thousands of people came to fill the 5,400-seat space each Sunday. But in the early 1970s, scandal tore the church apart, and Humbard’s greed started to show itself to the saddened church-goers. In 71’, he even attempted to build a rotating restaurant aboard a tower on the property. Ultimately those plans fell through and Humbard took off for Florida, leaving the tower to the highest bidder at auction.
In 1994, the church was sold to Reverend Ernest Angley and his ministry and was rebranded as Grace Cathedral. While the current church is still quite large and houses a few of the original areas, such as the TV studios and offices, but they don’t quite have the attendance to be considered a full-on megachurch. Across the street sits a popular restaurant named after the location, called The Cathedral Buffet. Up next: this megachurch was founded on the basis of segregation.
Old School Megachurch Bought Out By Big-Name
Akron Baptist Temple is one of the first megachurches that ever existed in the United States. It was started in 1934, and founded during segregation, with the reverend at the time in strong support of the time’s movement. Dallas F. Billington delivered sermons originally to around 15 people. But as time went on, more and more churchgoers started to show up to listen to him speak, until the congregation was comprised of over 4,000.
Interestingly enough, the property of the former Akron Baptist Temple was recently sold to The Word Church. The Word is a megachurch in its own rite, has locations all over the county and is known for having a congregation that is made up of mainly men and women of color. The location is nearly 300,000 square feet and holds a nursery and gym, among many other sections. Dr. R.A Vernon, pastor at The Word, and his ministry paid $1.5 million for the property. Up next: another popular, early megachurch with a largely black congregation.
Tindley Temple in Philly
This megachurch first popped up on the scene in Philadelphia back somewhere between 1923 and 1928. It was founded by and named after Reverend Dr. Charles Albert Tinley. The church originated as Bainbridge Street Methodist and was home to a mainly black congregation of over 3,000 members. In its heyday, it was filled wall-to-wall with churchgoers each Sunday.
The reverend was known for his charismatic delivery of sermons, as well as his own, original hymns. In total, he wrote more than 60 of them over the course of his ministry. Everyone loved listening to him so much that more than 12,000 people would show up each week for different services. Tindley Temple United Methodist still exists today, but they don’t hold their megachurch status anymore. Up next: see which megachurch has been able to hold on to its popularity over the years!
This Church is Packed Every Sunday, and it has Been for Decades.
The Moody Church in Chicago, Illinois, has managed to keep its megachurch status for several decades, an uncommon feat in the world of megachurches, these days. Many times, congregations begin to dwindle over the years until eventually, the owners are forced to sell to a different church completely. But luckily for Moody, they’ve always had more than 2,000-5,000 people showing up for services each week.
The megachurch was named after its founder, D.L Moody, Evangelist who started the church as Chicago Avenue Church in the late 1870s. Amazingly, when the church first started, it had a congregation of around 10,000 people. But a lot of those people went elsewhere after Moody’s death in 1899. So, the ministry moved locations and now has the capability to seat somewhere around 4,000 churchgoers. Up next: see how much money these megachurches actually make. Hint: it’s more than some of the world’s biggest businesses.
Megachurches in the United States Have an Insane Average Annual Income
In Joel Osteen’s words, “of course megachurches are like businesses.” After all, the average megachurch in the country makes around $5 million every year – tax-free. Of course, Osteen’s church makes about 10 times that much, bringing in over $50 million in 2008. But how exactly do these places make all of their money? They have all sorts of avenues for income, including church bookstores that sell music, books, and videos.
By definition, megachurches have at least 2,000 or more people in their congregations, and there are hundreds of them that exist in the country, today. In total, there are nearly 7 million people in America that attend a megachurch. It’s no wonder that these places don’t have any trouble bringing in the big bucks – they’ve got enormous (and eager) audiences to pitch their products to. After all, is there really any better motivator for sales than holy redemption? Up next: see how megachurches spend their money.
Most Megachurches Spend Half of Their Income Paying Their Employees
These huge buildings and theatrical productions can’t run themselves. According to a report by a religious researcher from Harvard, most megachurches spend nearly half of their income on payroll. But who makes the most money? The preacher, of course. Most megachurch preachers bring in at least $100,000 per year, and some of them, like Joel Osteen, make much, much more. The rest of the money goes towards renovations on locations, productions, and other expenses.
What other employee roles are available in these huge churches? Aside from the lead pastors, who are making the most money, there are several other people working on a daily (or weekly) basis. There’s an accounting department, a family department, worship, operations, a teaching pastor, an administrative pastor, and a church administrator, among others. After lead pastors are paid, the remaining 50 percent of revenue is divided up among these roles. Up next: demographics among megachurch participants differ a bit from that of smaller congregations.
Those Who Attend Megachurches May Earn a Bit More
Now, this isn’t always the case, but research in some studies has shown that the families who attend megachurches may earn more money than those going to smaller churches. The study, run by Warren Bird, discovered that 15 percent of those who attended churches with less than 1,000 members earned over $100,000 per year. When they looked at the families who were going to megachurches, they found that 26 percent of them made the same amount. Not a huge difference, but a noticeable difference, nonetheless.
Aside from being a higher-earning crowd, megachurch attendees also appeared to be younger than their smaller-church going counterparts. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that most megachurch pastors are very charismatic and capable of drawing in concert-like crowds. According to the reports, the average age of men and women who attend a megachurch is 40 years old. Up next: why critics argue that megachurches are anything but Godly.
Megachurches are Cash Cows
All of the churches on this list obviously have a lot of fans – at least a few thousand of them. But megachurches have a ton of critics all over the world, as well. People have a lot to say about these ginormous buildings, some of which have even been referred to as cities, that see hundreds of millions of dollars every year and don’t even pay any taxes. Sure, they are covered like all churches, to an extent, but the tax-free protection is supposed to end where commercial begins – and some say that’s exactly where the CD and book sales start, among other things.
Some critics have even coined a term for the way these organizations are run: McChurches, due to its use of extreme consumerism. Pastor’s at these megachurches are more like Hollywood celebrities than they are clergy members. People are so mesmerized by their charisma that they buy up their books and anything else these guys tell them to buy. They have also been likened to CEOs of large corporations like Walmart and McDonalds.
The New Megachurch That was Inspired by Joel Osteen
Well, if you’re going to train under someone in a megachurch, you might as well train at Lakewood, which has a higher annual income than any other church in the country. And that’s exactly what John Gray did when he preached in Houston under the charismatic senior pastor. But he started to amass so much of a following on his own that he moved to South Carolina to open a megachurch of his own: Relentless Church in Greenville.
But Gray didn’t just tell Osteen behind-the-scenes that he was moving away to start his own congregation, he actually announced it on his TV show, The Book of John Gray. Osteen reportedly gave the new leader his full blessing and wished him luck in his duties as senior pastor at Relentless. But apparently, he doesn’t need too much luck, because as of 2018, he already had a net worth of around $7 million. Up next: this pastor asked his congregation to buy him a $67 million private jet.
God Says to Put Me on This Plane!
Pastor Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church International in Atlanta had his eye on one of the most expensive, luxurious private jets on the market, and he wanted churchgoers to foot the bill for him. Dollar put up an entire webpage on the church’s website explaining how he needed at least 200,000 people to donate $300 to make his dream a reality. And before you ask, yes, he says that’s the name he was given at birth.
The pastor told his congregation he needed the jet to fly around the world and deliver sermons. Although he claims not to take any money from his missions, he has a lot of side-businesses that make him wealthy, including breeding horses and publishing books – over 30 of them, to be exact. He also makes at least $100,000 for every event that he’s paid to speak at. This isn’t the first time Dollar’s appeared sketchy in the media, as he was allegedly arrested before for beating his daughter, who was a teenager at the time of the report. Up next: this church is the 2nd largest in the country.
This Megachurch has 6 Locations Around Atlanta
North Point Community Church is not only one of the most popular and widely attended churches in ATL, but also the largest in the city and the 2nd largest in America. It was started back in 1995 by lead pastor Andy Stanley, who preached to a smaller congregation at rented locations at North Point’s inception. Today, there are nearly 40,000 members that attended services.
The first location that was purchased for the ministry was an 83-acre piece of land in Alpharetta, a suburb outside of Atlanta. There were already 4,000 churchgoers in attendance by the end of their first year. In 2011, Stanley retired from his role as senior pastor, leaving the reigns to Joel Thomas. Stanley is still around behind-the-scenes, working in an advisory capacity.
This Pastor Has Been Called a Cult Leader
Bill Johnson is the senior pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California, he works alongside his wife, Beni. Both of the Johnson’s have a pretty harsh reputation from former churchgoers and experts on Theology, alike. The church reportedly teaches along the lines of The New Apolistic Reformation, which is considered a cult among a large percentage, and says that a church must be led by a modern-day prophet or apostle.
Those that have attended and “escaped” from the Bethel community, describe how Johnson’s sermons go a little above and beyond what many pastors speak about at Sunday service. Those who call him a cult leader are upset by the fact that he teaches his congregation they are capable of doing great things with their own 2 hands. While the message in itself is inherently harmless, critics, such as members of The Berean Call Ministry, describe how it tends to cause a detrimental sense of false pride, especially among church leaders. Hey, it must make for good book sales when everyone thinks you’re a prophet! Up next: this pastor got away with scamming churchgoers for decades.
Fired for Bad Behavior
James MacDonald spent around 30 years working as the lead pastor at the Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. But earlier this year, church elders announced that MacDonald had been fired, as the result of what they called, “harmful” to the church. Investigations into MacDonald’s leadership apparently began back in 2013, after the elder board received a letter from multiple former elders of the church, themselves, describing his behavior as “self-promotional, domineering and misleading.”
According to a report released by journalist Julie Roys in World Magazine, hard evidence was compiled against MacDonald, and some others in his administration, by church elders that showed a “repeated pattern of deception and financial abuse.” The article also revealed that the former pastor acted out of rage on more than one occasion, including one time where multiple witnesses described how he stabbed another former pastor’s photo at Camp Harvest. MacDonald did deny that the incident ever happened, however
Blindly Following the Leader
Another major problem with megachurches that critics have pointed out is that many followers tend to exhibit cult-like tendencies, which makes for much better business for the church leaders. Take for instance the congregates of La Luz Del Mundo in Los Angeles. Many of the thousands of Mexican Americans who attend the megachurch are standing behind their pastor who is currently behind bars accused of some pretty horrific charges. But it wouldn’t be the first-time churchgoers turn a blind eye to the wrongdoings of their leaders.
Joaqín García, the 50-year old lead pastor of the church, along with one of his followers, were recently arrested on charges of child sex trafficking. The evidence against them is paramount and include witnesses and victim testimonies. Yet still, other leaders of the church and many of its 1 million followers refuse to believe he’s capable of the horrible crimes. Pastors are currently telling congregates that the accusations are the “devil’s work.”
This Pastor Stole More Than $1 Million From Elderly People
Kirbyjon Caldwell, the senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, along with Gregory Alan Smith, the manager of Smith Financial Group in Shreveport, Louisiana, was charged with multiple counts of fraud and money laundering in 2018. The charges came nearly 5 years after the alleged offenses took place, which consisted of the pastor selling elderly men and women bonds which held no actual value. In total, they stole more than $1 million from the unsuspecting investors.
The pastor, who announced in 2018 that he suffers from prostate cancer, has denied any wrongdoing. But Gregory Alan Smith plead guilty to the charges of fraud, and according to CNN, evidence that has been released shows that Caldwell received more than $750,000 from the investors, which he used on personal things like paying his mortgage. Caldwell continues to preach at the megachurch in Texas.
The Biggest Megachurch in the Country
Out of the hundreds of megachurches that exist in the United States, this one is by far the largest. Lakewood Church is located in Houston, Texas, and is reigned over by the famous televangelist Joel Osteen. Although the church is built with seats for over 16,000, over 50,000 people show up for services every Sunday. The building started out as the Compaq center before it was purchased by the Osteen’s.
Osteen doesn’t just preach to his physical congregation. He also has it set up to where each sermon he delivers is broadcast on national television and the radio. More than 7 million people from all over the world tune in to listen to him speak. Maybe one of the reasons so many people tune in for Lakewood’s services is that they are delivered in 2 languages – English and Spanish.
Lakewood’s Congregation Took Cover the Former Houston Rocket’s Territory
Joel Osteen’s father, John, and his 2nd wife, Dolores, were the ones who purchased the first property in 1959. Lakewood initially started out as a simple feed center, until they moved into the Compaq Center, which used to be home to the Houston Rockets. The team played in the building for over 60 years before it was sold. The family reportedly dropped $13 million on 30 years of using the building.
Joel took over preaching duties in 1999 after he suffered a heart attack and passed away. In 2003, he paid over $100 million on renovations to the facility, which took over a year to complete. In 2005, he held a grand opening ceremony, which was attended by over 50,000 people, including the governor of Texas. Up next: Lakewood has an annual budget that tops any other megachurch in the world.
Osteen’s Church has a $90M Annual Budget
In 2017, the Lakewood church had an estimated yearly budget of $90 million. According to the Houston Chronical, over $30 million of that was spent on church activities and just over $1 million was spent on mission. The church has seen quite an increase in profit since 2008 when its annual budget came in at around $70 million. Joel Osteen said at one point that he never wanted to preach but reconsidered immediately after his father passed.
When Osteen took over for his father, John, in 1999, the congregation began to increase exponentially. Today, a service at Lakewood is attended by over 50,000 people. But critics have a lot to say about Lakewood – and the man behind it. Joel Osteen makes a ridiculous amount of money, and some say it’s not very Christian of him to do things like ride around on private jets and spend millions in advertising. Up next: see how much money Joel Osteen really makes.
Does Joel Osteen Make Too Much Money For a Pastor?
Osteen grew up in the church, watching his father preach. In fact, his father used to try and get him to give his own sermons, but Joel always refused. He had very little interest in public speaking before he began his career in 1999. But what exactly are Joel’s qualifications to preach to such an insane number of people? After all, it isn’t like he has any education in divinity (like most revered pastors.) In fact, Osteen never even attended college.
Osteen has accumulated a net worth of around $50 million. A lot of his money comes through his book sales, which he actively and eagerly promotes during his highly televised sermons. Additionally, he makes his money through other appearances and events. His wealth has been criticized by many throughout the world who tend to see right through his charade.
Preaching to the Choir?
While Osteen preaches to others about the importance of living a humble life, he goes home at night to his $10 million mansion. Although he no longer specifically profits from delivering sermons at the church, he still makes plenty of money off of his message, both from his television appearances and book sales. The pastor has been criticized for his lifestyle choices, which include his enormous home and private jet. Although he reportedly “makes no apologies” for his status.
Tons of people across the state of Texas took to social media in outrage after Osteen made a seemingly coldhearted decision in the midst of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The storm left thousands of people without shelter, and yet the pastor made no attempt to open the doors to the largest church in the state…or the country, for that matter. Critics pointed out how it’s the complete opposite of what Jesus would have done, himself, and how it’s odd for someone to preach something they don’t practice, especially when they’re making millions for those words. Up next: take a peek inside Lakewood’s extreme television broadcasts.
Lakewood Spends Around $25 Million per Year on Production Costs
Lakewood Church has an estimated count of about 200 million people from around the world that tune in every week to watch Joel Osteen speak. The quality of production that they reach for rivals that of some Hollywood hits. Russ Berger Design Group created the broadcast studio that they use to film, which also happens to be the center stage on which Osteen performs inside of Lakewood.
With all of the cameras, booms, and lights that you see around on Sundays, you would think you were seeing the filming of a major film. Up next: what Joel has to say about his “prosperity theology.”
Critics Point Out the Issues in Osteen’s Message
Let’s circle back for a quick second to the fact that Joel Osteen has no formal background or education in theology. But Joel does happen to preach about theology to hundreds of millions of people around the world – prosperity theology, that is. You see, Joel likes to think that God wants us all to find wealth and prosperity. As you can imagine, the public reacted negatively to his message. After all, this guy is riding around in private jets while there are people in his own backyard suffering from homelessness.
Critics argued that Joel’s message makes him seem like a hypocrite. It’s understandable, especially when he does things like shut his doors to those that need him the most when they are at their most vulnerable. Some have also raised issues over the fact a non-profit is supposed to operate on the basis of public interest, not to support any one individual, and it seems as though Lakewood loves to put the spotlight on Osteen and his own interests.