Pastor/founder/millionaire Joel Osteen caved to public pressure last week and opened his Lakewood Church to victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Osteen had initally kept the church closed to people who had been forced out of their homes, posting a notice on social media that the building was closed because of "severe flooding."
People took to social media to show un-flooded streets around the church, leading to backlash that eventually led to the church opening. Osteen said the firestorm may have "helped us to step up some things" to prepare for evacuees. "The first day or two, this building was not accessible," Osteen told CNN. "We would never put people in here until it was safe. And it was not safe, I can tell you."
But Osteen is in hot water again after footage emerged of church ushers collecting donations from storm victims.
Dedicated to hurricane victims in the audience, the service includes Lisa Osteen Comes asking people affected by Harvey to stand up:
Many people in the audience do stand, and their fellow churchgoers pray for them:
Almost all experts agree that recovery from a disaster of this magnitude will be both slow and hard.
Comes tells worshipers that recovery from Harvey will not be slow or hard, but quick! And easy!
As soon as Comes finishes praying for the victims of the hurricane, ushers begin passing out collection plates so the people of Houston may donate to the church. Many of those people have lost their homes to the record floodwaters, while Osteen's net worth is estimated at $40–70 million.
Watch the whole video:
Joel Osteen's eye is always on the bottom line: how much money can we make and what do we have to say to make it?
In a 2013 interview with the Christian Post, Osteen talked about asking for money:
But I don't believe in pressuring people for money. At America's Night of Hope, I'm going to take a donation for World Vision, for other people. But on the flip side, I believe God wants us to excel and be blessed so we can be a bigger blessing to others. I feel very rewarded. I wrote a book and sold millions of copies; and Victoria and I were able to help more people than we ever dreamed of. But when I hear the term prosperity gospel, I think people are sometimes saying, "well, he's just asking for money."