Stop Trashing Lakewood, Read The Real Story

Lakewood Church, the Houston mega-church led by celebrity pastor Joel Osteen has suffered a lot of criticism–most of it aimed at Osteen–for not doing enough to help victims of Hurricane Harvey and unprecedented flooding.

But much of the criticism is unwarranted–or even spurred by jealousy.

It’s true that Lakewood Church cancelled services for Sunday, just after the category 4 storm lashed the coast and dumped nearly 50 inches of rain on southeast Texas. What church wouldn’t have done that–especially one with 16,000 seats and people driving from miles to get there?

Osteen’s most ardent detractors hit him for this tweet:


People who don’t like Christians, or Osteen in particular, jumped right to the conclusion that if the tweet says to pray, it automatically excludes doing anything concrete to help. That’s a ridiculous assumption, especially since Lakewood has been known in the past to provide aid to victims of previous floods. (Houston

The church announced it was inaccessible due to flooding, prompting area activists to try to verify those claims.


Lynne Gabriel, a Houston fashion blogger, tweeted these pictures showing that the church’s lower level is indeed flooded.

Another Twitter user, Keaton Milburn, also tweeted images (some of them are the same pictures).


Lakewood reached out to Faithwire Monday evening to set the record straight.

Don Iloff, a spokesperson for Lakewood Church, told Faithwire late on Monday night that the house of worship has been in touch with city and county officials in recent days and has been planning outreach efforts.

But considering that the church’s building — inside what was once the Compaq Center sports arena — is prone to flooding, Iloff said that Lakewood chose to instead focus its energies on the ways in which the church could serve as a food and resource distribution center, among other outreach efforts.

Iloff noted that the bottom floor of the building is historically prone to flooding, making any decision to use it problematic.

“The fact is that we knew that we could not put anyone on the bottom floor,” he said, noting that the first floor is where the most space exists for housing flood victims. “We were very concerned about putting anyone on that bottom floor given the history.”

One major detail everyone seems to have ignored:

Iloff: “The [church] doors have never been locked.”

On Monday, the church tweeted:


And true to form, people began to bring donations, because that’s what Christians do.

Lakewood’s Facebook page noted Tuesday that the church’s “doors are open to anyone needing shelter,” and that they are needing volunteers and donated items.

It appears that Lakewood’s, and the Osteens’, critics aren’t really upset at the speed the church responded to the disaster. They were more interested in the Osteens wealth.

I’m not a pastor or a psychologist, but could it be jealousy? (That’s a sin.)

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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