Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church passes collection plates to Harvey victims [VIDEO]

By @chelean on
Joel Osteen, best-selling author and pastor of Lakewood Church in Texas, and his wife Victoria
Joel Osteen, best-selling author and pastor of Lakewood Church in Texas, and his wife Victoria attend an Easter prayer breakfast hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington April 6, 2010. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Controversial Christian pastor Joel Osteen is once again being roasted on social media after it emerged his church asked for donations from the attendees of his sermon last week. The attendees included “several hundreds” of Hurricane Harvey victims.

The American televangelist came under fire online when people learnt his Lakewood Church in Texas was safe from flood but closed from the public while many people needed refuge from the hurricane, which devastated more than 300,000 people in the state. He has since opened the church to storm victims, claiming that they were just waiting for the government to ask them to open when other refugee centres become full.

On Aug. 30, the church began its usual sermon, this time with the attendees were mostly Texans who lost their homes from the hurricane. The service was apparently dedicated to the Hurricane Harvey victims.

In the video posted on YouTube by user arealkooldude, Lisa Osteen, the sister of the senior pastor, is seen telling the audience to pray for those displaced by the storm. She then tells them that there would be great things waiting for them from God.

“I just feel like we should pray for them that God is going to bless them with unprecedented favour in the next coming days and the next coming weeks and the next coming months because you know they have a lot of calls to make, they have a lot of work to get down, and their lives were so interrupted,” Lisa says in the video. “But you know what, we can trust God it will go smoother than anyone could ever imagine.”

Near the end of the almost 4-minute video, though, collection plates are seen being passed around the audience, which are mostly made up of the hurricane evacuees. The band starts playing while a few people are seen seemingly asking for donation. The move was condemned by social media commenters, who noted that the embattled church has once again not only failed to help Harvey victims, but also “exploited” them.

Following the massive outcry on Osteen’s initial refusal to open Lakewood Church for the victims of the hurricane, Osteen has finally given in and opened the 16,800-seat megachurch. Osteen blasted his critics, claiming they had been in touch with the government since the beginning but opted not to open the church because they were not asked to. He also claimed he didn’t open the church due to safety concerns.

On the Lakewood Church’s official website, the church has offered prayers for the hurricane victims but has also asked people to donate a minimum of US$50 (AU$63). Osteen also told attendees at his first sermon since the storm on Sunday that the victims should not have the “poor old me” mentality.

“So let’s not have a victim mentality; let’s have a restoration mentality,” he told the audience. “Lord, we thank you that you’re going to pay back what belongs to us.”

Hurricane Harvey hit near peak intensity in Texas on Aug. 25. It affected the Texas and Louisiana states in the US, and some areas in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guyana and more. Dozens have been reported dead, while more than 30,000 were displaced from their homes in the US alone.

Watch Lakewood Church passes around collection plates to victims of Hurricane Harvey