A Tough Decision in Houston for Osteen and Lakewood Church

Joel Olsteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston has a capacity of 16,800.

With predictions of flooding over a week in advance, and as heavy rain was falling, there was a pivotal moment of conversation when the big decision was made. It may have been an afterthought or the issue could have been overthought — but the initial result is the same:

Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church made a bad decision — and then they made a good one.

While many Houston-area churches offered temporary shelter to flooding victims, this 16,800 mega-church was off-limits to people needing shelter. This building is a coliseum and a kind gesture would have matched the super size of Lakewood Church, its congregation, and the vision of the Olsteens. Would they make a mistake and miss a life-changing opportunity to lead their community when times are tough? “Praying for you” was being labeled a lightweight effort in Houston social media.

We all make mistakes and their first decision was beginning to do damage to Lakewood’s legacy.

They needed to make a good second decision.

Big decisions should reflect our biggest goals. If the Lakewood Church congregation’s highest goal is to do the work of Jesus, then this decision is an easy one: You offer to do all you can because that is all anyone can expect us to do. Anything short of offering suggests a different top priority. In a religious context, it would be unfortunate hypocrisy. Carpets can be cleaned, seats can be replaced, and a community can drive past Lakewood Church for another generation and remember with pride that the doors were opened in an attempt to help whomever they could. This was not where the first decision was leading. It was, act now or never.

A good publicist knows you never have time to explain why once people stop listening.

Bravo to Lakewood’s second decision to open the doors and bring in air mattresses and provide shelter. This was a tough practical decision, no doubt. As a business person, I can see liability concerns and property concerns and safety concerns. Yet, it is an emergency and the rules change when people are in harms way. I suspect that the size of this decision was initially misjudged. A big decision requires the question, “What will my future look like if I do A versus B?” We consider possible consequences of each option. In this exercise, option A included offering shelter and the worst consequences involved ruined carpet and dirty seats and coordinating a barrage of volunteers and donations. I know there are a dozen factors that can logically justify Option B (not opening the doors). However, the worst consequences of Option B include a blemished Lakewood reputation within a community knowing only one thing:

They didn’t open their doors.

It could be the Olsteen’s finest hour — and they saved it with a good second decision. Perhaps one question assists all decisions when people are in crisis: “What would Jesus do?” Redemption is possible with a good second decision if we make that decision in time to make a difference.


The Decision Makeover: An Intentional Approach to Living the Life You Want hits shelves on Sept. 12th — available now for pre-sale on Amazon.