The untold truth of Joel Osteen: What you didn't know about the televangelist

Famous televangelist Joel Osteen is most often known for delivering motivational and uplifting sermons — with a side of his signature toothy grin; thick, curly locks; and smooth southern drawl — at his non-denominational megachurch, Lakewood Church, located in Houston, Texas. While many consider his words to be the gospel, the high-profile preacher has also found himself smack dab in the middle of controversy time and time again.

Osteen has faced criticism for a plethora of reasons over the years, especially in August of 2017 for his perceived lack of willingness to open up the church doors to shelter those displaced by Hurricane Harvey (which he called a "false narrative"), his alleged shady book dealings, and even his views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

But there's much more than meets the eye to the preacher turned televangelist turned highly successful book author. Keep reading to learn the untold truth of the pastor that really needs no introduction... Joel Osteen.

Joel Osteen is 'the son of a preacher man'

According to IndyStar, Joel Osteen gets his knack for preaching to the masses honest from his father, John Osteen, who was a Southern Baptist pastor. But what you may not know is that Osteen was hesitant at first to follow in his father's footsteps. It took his dad's constant cajoling to finally persuade Osteen to stick his foot in the proverbial preachin' pond. Osteen finally gave in to his father's wishes and gave his very first sermon on Jan. 17, 1999. Tragically his father unexpectedly passed away only six days later after suffering a heart attack.

The story goes that it was Osteen's father who founded Lakewood Church in 1959. The megachurch came from extremely humble beginnings, as it was first housed in a feed store. As reported by Celebrity Net Worth, it was in 2003 that the megachurch moved into the gargantuan Compaq Center, most known for being the home of the NBA's Houston Rockets. The worship services are now televised and the church is comprised of over 40,000 members, per IndyStar. That's some serious growth.

Joel Osteen is close with Tyler Perry AND Kanye West

While it may come as a surprise to some, it appears that Joel Osteen is pretty tight with both Tyler Perry and Kanye West. During Osteen's Hurricane Harvey PR nightmare, it was actually Mister Tyler Perry himself that came rushing to the televangelist's defense. In a Facebook video, Perry defended Osteen's choice to keep the church's doors closed and went as far as donating a generous amount of $250K to Osteen's Lakewood Church. "I know that there's been some controversy about Joel Osteen and him not opening doors of the church. Let me tell you something: Joel and Victoria are amazing people. There is no way they would lock people out of the church and not let people in for shelter," the famed producer maintained.

Some might argue that Osteen's friendship with West might be a bit more contractual as the two teamed up on one of West's famous Sunday Services. According to TMZ, the rapper's collaboration with Osteen in November of 2019 garnered 4.17 million viewers, a dramatic increase from Osteen's typical 1.3 million. Is this what we call "friends with benefits"?

Joel Osteen is more wealthy than you probably expected

Joel Osteen's income has been the subject of much criticism. While many may presume pastors live on a meager income, they'd be wrong when it comes to Osteen. In fact, Celebrity Net Worth reported the preacher is worth a whopping $100 million — yes, that's one hundred million big ones. It's also reported by People that his lucrative job as televangelist and author affords him a 5,000-square-foot home; staff for said home to help with the cooking, cleaning, and chauffeuring; and even the opportunity to surprise his daughter and the rest of the family with Hannah Montana tickets and a white stretch Hummer to get them there and back.

It's worth noting, however, that Osteen hasn't accepted his $200K annual salary from Lakewood Church since 2005, and instead lives off his highly lucrative book deals. But even that decision doesn't sit well with some. According to The National Enquirer, the state of New York's attorney Richard Garbarini blew the whistle on Osteen in 2015 for what he perceived as "leveraging the church as a money-making vehicle! The church pays [to air] his sermons, which are just de facto infomercials to promote his books." He called the church "a shell to funnel people to his website" to sell books.

But even with all the criticism, Osteen only has ears for God. According to People, the famous pastor professed in a 2007 interview, "I say, 'God, you just got to lead me.'"