Did Joel Osteen Really Close the Doors of His Texas Megachurch to Victims of Hurricane Harvey? Here’s What Really Went Down

Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Pastor Joel Osteen found himself in a heap of trouble when a social media posse came looking to burn the Houston megachurch preacher at the stake after his church’s Twitter site posted that the church, Lakewood, was “inaccessible due to severe flooding” following Hurricane Harvey, and then listed other places where those looking for shelter could find help.


The tweets came fast and furious.

So did Osteen really shut the doors to his church—which is the former home of the Houston Rockets, by the way—in his flock’s most dire time of need? Well, yes and no. On Tuesday the church claimed that it never shut its doors. It also said that it didn’t want to function as a shelter but, rather, as a distribution center because it claimed that there was flooding inside the building. Photos posted to CNN and CBN show what appears to be flooding inside the facility’s parking garage that could make its way into the church.

Meanwhile, one Twitter user actually went outside and took video showing that there was no flooding surrounding the church.


CNN notes that there was a flood wall put in place at the church, which can seat over 16,000 people, years ago after a previous storm flooded the area.


“We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need,” church spokesman and Osteen’s father-in-law, Donald Iloff, told CNN. “We are prepared to shelter people once the cities and county shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives.”

Let me say this again so that people in the back can hear it: If you live blocks away from the church and your home has been flooded, you cannot stay at the church. The church is not housing you until the shelters have reached capacity, so as long as there is space at a local shelter, even if getting to said shelter requires a boat, then you are out of luck. Oh, and about those tithes that you’ve been giving the church: Thank you!


Four people have already died as a result of the storm, and more than 12 inches of rain are expected to hit the Houston area Tuesday. If you are in the neighborhood and you need toiletries or a place to pray for someone to get you to a local shelter, then Lakewood is open and ready for business.

Read more at CNN and CBN.



In the grand scheme of mega church celebrity pastors Osteen is, relatively speaking, less awful than some.

He’s not peddling neo-conservative talking points like Pat Robertson, he’s not shamelessly peddling prosperity theology like Creflo Dollar, and he’s not fraudulently making up miracles like Benny Hinn, and he’s not peddling hyper-misogynistic bullshit like Mark “Women are penis-homes” Driscoll.

He (for the most part) peddles a feel good, self-help Jesus. He’s got a pretty good Doctor Phil-esque (but way less confrontational) schtick that sells well with a certain class of white Christians, hence the massive church and the books that always sell millions of copies.

He doesn’t completely ignore the parts of the Bible that talk about self-sacrificial charity, he just doesn’t really play them up either.

Basically, if I had to pick a megachurch pastor to be the end all be all “Opiate of the masses” while getting rich off of said masses, given the options, he wouldn’t be the worst one to choose.