Due to his congregation's 'faithfulness', megachurch pastor Joel Osteen paid off a $100 million construction debt in 19 years with donations.
On Sunday, Osteen ripped up the loan agreement at the 17,000-seat NBA stadium turned church in Houston, Texas, crying.
Lakewood has grown to over 50,000 members and 200 million weekly viewers under his leadership for over 20 years.
The pastor, thought to be worth over $40 million, has been criticized for receiving a $4.4 million government Covid loan and initially refusing to house Hurricane Harvey victims at his church.
His lavish lifestyle and $14 million mansion have also been attacked, but he says: 'We simply feel that this is God’s blessings.'
Osteen, 60, leased the Houston Rockets' facility for $11.5 million for 60 years in 2005. On January 14, he preached: 'Daddy left us that lot of money so we just signed the lease.'
They were quoted $100 million to turn the arena into a church after 'quite the effort' to obtain it.
Osteen claimed the first bank they sought for a loan was'so negative' and stated, 'Man, it's not going to happen'. He claimed he let their criticism 'run in one ear and out the other' and approached the Bank of America.
He claimed: 'They showed up at our office the first day we were there, without knowing us or seeing our financials, with a $25 million cheque they told we could borrow. Later, the Bank loaned them $100 million to convert the stadium into a church.
He replied, "It's because of your faithfulness," when they paid off the debt on December 31. God will do for you what he did for Lakewood.
He also said they were 'excellent custodians' of 'God's money' because interest has been 'historically low' for 19 years.
After Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the pastor was criticized for refusing to let evacuees shelter at the church, alleging it was flooded. Following widespread uproar after critics recorded the supposedly dry chapel, he opened the doors.
Osteen is reported to be worth $40–100 million. Zillow values his Houston River Oaks mansion at $14 million.
The 17,000-square-foot home features six bedrooms, six bathrooms, three elevators, a one-bedroom guest house, and a pool house.
Osteen and his wife and business partner Victoria have two church-active children, Jonathan, 28, and Alexandra, 25. Victoria, 62, co-pastor of the Church and co-authored numerous books with her husband.
Osteen said to Oprah that he did not feel the need to apologize for his prosperity. We think this is God's gift. He added: 'We do what we teach. We've donated millions, and I don't mind having a wonderful home and being blessed.
Osteen told PennLive in 2013: 'It is not that tradition stating you are meant to be poor and humble. I think Jesus died for us to live abundantly and lead. People seem to like that element of the ministry."
"I think God wants you to succeed in health, family, relationships, business, and profession. If that's prosperous gospel, I believe it."
In 2017, after Hurricane Harvey, Osteen reportedly refused to let evacuees stay at his church, sparking widespread outrage.
He initially said the church was flooded, but as people posted videos of it drying out, he let them in.
He later called the controversy a 'false narrative' spread by church opponents on Today.
He was criticized again in 2020 when his church received $4.4 million in federal COVID-19 aid for small enterprises.
After widespread criticism, he returned the money a year later.