How do you help millions of TV viewers find local churches? Of the 20 million Americans who tune in to Lakewood Church‘s pastor Joel Osteen, Lakewood’s Wendell Burton estimates 10 million of these people do not have a church home. And it’s his job to help them find one.
Like him or not, Joel Osteen pastors the largest church in the U-S and his books and broadcasts bring many, many people to Christ. In this interview Burton talks about Osteen’s passion to plug his viewers into local churches – that grow as a result.
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No matter which side of the debate you find yourself – liking Joel Osteen or not – all agree his message has resonated with more people than perhaps any other modern American preacher. Joel is not going multi-site or opening franchises, rather he is trying to plug his millions of followers into established, local churches. The effort, which has already gathered 250 churches, is called the Champion’s Network, and it’s leader Wendell Burton describes it for us.
Discipleship is Hard
Like every pastor Wendell Burton laments at the small percentage of churchgoers who carve out time to go deeper with Christ. While Lakewood has 300+ ‘Life Group’ small groups, it should have far more, and this new affiliation appears to have that in mind.
Stress Love Over Judgment
Critics call it ‘theology lite’ but Wendell says emphasis on the good news of the Gospel is what people are hungering for, and what Christ preached. If more churches emphasized the joy and hope of the Christian faith, Wendell says we’d do much better.
Osteen Viewers Are Devout
Based on feedback from the Champions Network, Burton says the people who have been referred to Network churches have plugged in quickly and are apparently finding the ‘community’ they’ve come looking for.
About Wendell Burton
Prior to joining the pastoral staff of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Wendell worked in a variety of roles in the entertainment business from freelance actor, singer/songwriter and director to television executive. His acting credits include starring roles in television, stage and motion picture productions, such as The Sterile Cuckoo, Fortune and Men’s Eyes, Red Badge of Courage, East of Eden and Hallmark Hall of Fame’s production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. In 1997 Wendell moved to Houston to help Joel Osteen launch a new family-friendly television station, KTBU, then working as the director of programming and national sales. Wendell now serves Lakewood as Director of Creative Ministries as well as the Senior Director of the Champions Network, a community of several hundred like-minded churches associating with Joel Osteen Ministries.