Pastor Joel Osteen never imagined he'd lead the largest church congregation in the country. But when his father died unexpectedly in 1999, there was no one else to fill his shoes.
Call it divine intervention or maybe a stroke of luck, one thing's for sure, people from all over the world are drawn to what this Houston preacher has to say. News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Tanji Patton traveled to Houston to experience the mega-church firsthand.
The energy is contagious and spreads as the crowd grows.
Before this Sunday morning is done, more than 35,000 will attend. Thousands from places near and far will pass through this former Compaq Center, renovated to the tune of $90 million, now known as Lakewood Church.
Joel and Victoria Osteen discuss what draws thousands to Lakewood Church each week.
"I don't know if it's one thing but I know something that they tell us is that, it's the message is hopeful, it's positive, it's a celebration. They leave feeling better than before," Joel Osteen said.
Osteen does not talk about current events in his sermons. "My gift is to encourage people to uplift them and I don't like getting side tracked by different issues."
The Osteen's 19 year marriage is a partnership on stage as much as it is off. Ironically, they came to this building on their first date.
Osteen's wife, Victoria, is also very active at Lakewood. She frequently takes the stage to preach and will pray with many of the people who come to the church every Sunday.
When asked if she ever pictured herself in her present role at Lakewood, Victoria says, "The comment I always hear is, 'you know what, thank you for getting up there because it, it inspires me to go on and do things.' So it's a wonderful effect."
Joel agrees his wife has a pivotal role leading this church. "You know, she's going to reach people that I never could. To me it brings strength to my ministry and our ministry together."
The people who come see him every Sunday say they're getting the message.
"He's very inspiring, he's very uplifting," says one church member.
"He just moves the spirit in me," adds another.
Osteen says he's glad his church-members are hopeful. "To me our whole goal is to plant the seed of hope in somebody. You know we may not solve all their problems in one service. But you know what, let's just get that seed of hope in there and let 'em know that God's on their side and kind of change their thinking a little bit and so that' s what we try to do."
About 30,000 so-called members attend services each weekend. In addition, at least 5,000 people also attend a Spanish speaking service.
To see all of Tanji's interview with the Osteens, click here.