Salvation with a Smile
Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church, and American Christianity
by Phillip Luke Sinitiere
Pub Date 13 Nov 2015
Osteen, the smiling preacher, has quickly emerged as one of the most
recognizable Protestant leaders in the country. His megachurch, the Houston‑based
Lakewood Church, hosts an average of over 40,000 worshipers each week. Osteen
is the best-selling author of numerous books, and his sermons and inspirational
talks appear regularly on mainstream cable and satellite radio.
How did Joel Osteen become Joel Osteen? How did Lakewood become the largest megachurch in the U. S.?
with a Smile,
the first scholarly book-length study devoted to Lakewood Church and Joel
Osteen, offers a critical history of the congregation by linking its origins to
post-World War II neopentecostalism, and connecting it to the exceptionally
popular prosperity gospel movement and the enduring attraction of
televangelism. In this richly documented book, historian Phillip Luke Sinitiere
carefully excavates the life and times of Lakewood’s founder, John Osteen, to
explain how his son Joel expanded his legacy and fashioned the congregation
into America’s largest megachurch.
a popular preacher, Joel Osteen’s ministry has been a source of existential
strength for many, but also the routine target of religious critics who
vociferously contend that his teachings are theologically suspect and
spiritually shallow. Sinitiere’s keen analysis shows how Osteen’s rebuttals
have expressed a piety of resistance that demonstrates evangelicalism’s
fractured, but persistent presence.
Salvation with a Smile situates Lakewood Church in the context of American religious history and illuminates how Osteen has parlayed an understanding of American religious and political culture into vast popularity and success.
Phillip Luke Sinitiere is Professor of History at the College of Biblical Studies (TX). He is author or editor of several books, including Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace (NYU Press, 2009).
"The best possible book on Joel Osteen and his place in American religious history. Well researched and well written, it uses Osteen’s own words to portray the man who can now rightfully be called 'America’s Pastor' as Billy Graham passes from the scene. . . . What emerges is a positive yet objective picture of the popular preacher with the big smile who has built the largest congregation in the history of the American church."--Vinson Synan, Dean Emeritus, Regent University School of Divinity
"Charismatic Christianity is increasingly the face of American evangelicalism, and a smiling one at that. Joel Osteen is a major reason why. In this deeply researched and richly contextualized study, Phillip Luke Sinitiere nominates Osteen as America’s new pastor. No fair-minded reader will come away doubting Osteen’s significance and genius. Anyone interested in the nation’s protean religious landscape will benefit from this scholarly labor of love."--Steven P. Miller, author of The Age of Evangelicalism: America's Born-Again Years