The Gospel According to Joel Osteen: God Wants You to Be Happy

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'There Was Only One Billy Graham,' Pastor Said

"We believe in ministering to people in every area of their life. And you can't just get up there and tell them to have hope or think right. Some of them need to learn how to balance their checkbook or budget their money. We are just a big believer in 'Let's get practical,'" he said.

It's part of making the Church relevant to the modern world, he said.

"I think in some other countries that's why the church has dried up. They are having church like they had 50 years ago, and you know, the message doesn't change, but the times change. The music, the production, the lights: I believe if Jesus were here today he would have good production. He would have the best of things."

To Osteen the best of things -- prosperity -- is a form of God's blessing, one he wants for his followers. And that makes his critics pounce.

"I believe God, Jesus, died that we not just go to heaven but that we excel in this life. I never think you make money your goal. … God wants you to excel. Just keep him in first place and God will open up doors you never dreamed of," Osteen said.

Yet with all the doors that have opened for Osteen, he has not sought a broader platform. He said he does not want to be another Billy Graham, "America's Pastor."

"I don't mean that I don't want to become everything God wants me to be. But I think there was only one Billy Graham, and he's a friend, and I honor him. … I do feel like God's given us influence, and I want to use it any way we can," Osteen said.

Some would want or expect this to include culture and politics, meaning gay marriage and abortion. Osteen abstains.

"I just think I am good at not being sidetracked from what I am really called to do," he said. He doesn't want to distract his audience from his main message.

"To say, that guy is not for the war or for the war, and I differ on that. Or I differ on the political opinion over here. … I think it starts to narrow you. I mean, for a while … to be an evangelical meant you were a white Republican, and you were against this and against that. I don't want to be put into that mold, because then people judge you before they even listen. … I don't want to divide the very people I am trying to reach."

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