Prominent televangelist and leader of Lakewood Church in Houston, Joel Osteen, declared Sunday that his “reputation is in God’s hands,” a week after weathering blistering attacks over his church’s delayed response to Tropical Storm Harvey.
“My reputation is in God’s hands. He knows how to protect, how to vindicate, how to promote. That’s why I’m at peace. I know we did the right thing,” Osteen said as he urged his congregation to “stay united in faith” in his return to the pulpit for the first time since the storm.
Osteen was forced to respond to critics on social media last week after he was accused of not opening his church quickly enough to shelter Harvey victims. He said flooding at his church caused the “precautious” delay but many critics online have argued that he exaggerated the flooding.
He has argued in several television network interviews last week that his church’s delayed response was due to being “precautious” and he reiterated that position on Sunday.
“There’s been so much misinformation about the church this week I wanted to clarify some things,” he told his congregation as they roared with cheers and applause, some standing to their feet.
“This building flooded in 2001 when the Rockets were still playing basketball here. Knowing that, when we took possession, we installed large floodgates around the building. Last Sunday morning…the water came within a foot or two of breaching the new floodgates and flooding the building again. Without those floodgates we wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
“The water started receding late Sunday, maybe early Monday. We felt like it was safe to start taking people in on Tuesday. Had we opened the building earlier and someone been injured, or perhaps that it flooded and people lost their lives that would be a whole different story,” he explained responding to critics who claimed he only opened the church because he was shamed into doing so online. “I don’t mind taking the heat for being precautious but I don’t want to take the heat for being foolish.”
He then calmly called out his critics for trying to discredit his ministry.
“There’s a lot of people, well it’s for people from a distance to make judgements without having the information. And some people that don’t know the facts and don’t want to know the facts, will continue to try to stir things up. They would love to discredit the ministry, lessen our voice but can I tell you, they’re not that strong. The forces that are for us are greater than the forces that are against us,” he said.
“I realize it’s not just an attack on me, it’s an attack on what we stand for – for faith, for hope, for love. Jesus even said ‘when the world hates you, remember it hated me first,’” he continued.
Prior to addressing the controversy over his church’s response to Harvey, Osteen and his wife Victoria encouraged the congregation to have faith in God.
“We made it through Harvey. We’re here alive, we’re here healthy, we’re here strong. We are so blessed to have you all here and I know it took a great effort to come out this morning but the faithful people of Lakewood saying you know what? Harvey is not gonna keep us away. We’re going to give God praise. You know I know it is a difficult time because so many in our city are hurting and maybe even some of you but we’re really not here today to have a pity party to think about what’s wrong. We’re here to celebrate the fact that God, we’re still alive and you brought us through the storm,” Osteen said.
“You know anybody can give God praise in the good times but it takes a man or woman of great faith to say ‘God I’m gonna give you praise when things are not perfect in my life,” he added.