There always seem to be rumors swirling about prosperity pastor Joel Osteen and his mega Houston church, Lakewood Church. After all, the church is one of the largest in the country and rakes in more than $90 million a year from donations, as of December 2021, according to Click 2 Houston. Osteen’s “prosperity gospel” has rubbed some people the wrong way.
Lakewood is housed in a 600,000-square-foot former sports stadium that has a 17,000-person seating capacity.
But how much wealth is going into the pockets of Osteen, the church’s pastor?
Twitter user Michael Cleere recently blasted Osteen in a tweet, claiming he is making millions off the church and living an ostentatious lifestyle.
“Pastor Joel Osteen pays himself an annual salary of $54,000,000 from his church profits. He had a custom garage built with 20 car stalls for each of his custom vehicles. His favorite is a Ferrari 458 Italia that cost $270,000. He lives in a 70,000 sq ft mansion,” Cleere’s tweet reads.
It continues, “In the New Testament, four different times, Jesus tells his followers always to pay their taxes. Why is it in the United States that churches don’t have to pay taxes? The IRS figures if all churches paid their fair share of 15% taxes that, it would total over $2 trillion a year. More than enough to solve the homelessness in this country since it looks like these Pastors would rather spend your donations on New Cars instead of feeding the hungry.”
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But how much is true?
The Ferrari story has been floating around on social media for a few years and was sort of debunked by Snopes in 2021.
Snopes reported that it could not verify the televangelist owns a $325,000 Ferrari, even though there were photos on social media of him placed next to photos of a Ferrari.
The photo of the car was posted to an Exotic Cars Flickr page in 2010, and a spokesperson for the account told Snopes none of the photos featured Osteen.
“I saw the car on another occasion at an event, no Joel Osteen was seen,” The spokesperson said.
“While Osteen may own an expensive car (or two)…It should also be noted that reports about Osteen owning a Ferrari 458 Italia have not been verified,” Snopes reported.
Osteen’s net worth hasn’t been pinned down either, though many place it as $100 million. Osteen has claimed he doesn’t take a salary from the church but earns millions for secondary income streams, such as speaking engagements and his best-selling books. He hasn’t taken a salary from the Lakewood Church since 2005, according to the Houston Chronicle.
He reportedly earned $13 million off his second alone in 2021, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
Osteen’s first book “Your Best Life Now,” in 2004, debuted at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list and stayed there for 200 weeks. It sold more than 8 million copies, according to Publisher’s Weekly. He took the book’s message of the power of positivity on a sold-tour, nationwide tour. His second book, in 2005, “Become A Better You,” sold 4 million copies and reportedly earned the pastor more than $13 million in advances and royalties. Again he toured.
Osteen’s book sales, radio show, public speaking fees, and church collection reportedly generate more than $70 million annually in total revenue, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
He does seem to be spending his earnings lavishly, such as on a $12 million home, according to a profile in the Houston Chronicle. He and his wife reportedly paid $247,000 in property taxes in 2017.
Osteen’s church also spends extensively. Lakewood spent roughly $90 million during the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2017, according to a financial statement obtained by the Houston Chronicle. Among its expenses: Weekly services and programs, $31.7 million; night of events, $6.7 million; TV ministry, $25.1 million; general and administrative, $11.5 million; fundraising, $11.9 million; and mission and outreach, $1.2 million.
FILE – This April 24, 2010 file photo shows Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen at Dodger Stadium during his “A Night of Hope” in Los Angeles. Osteen is getting his own channel on SiriusXM satellite radio, which will air his sermon at Yankee Stadium this Saturday, June 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)