"I heard my dad my whole life and I felt like I had to preach like him because that’s what I had heard," Osteen said. "It took me about a year to find out who I was as a minister. I discovered I was good at encouraging people, talking about everyday life and not trying to explain deep doctrine."
He was also good at the finer points of media, having spent 17 years filming his father's lengthy sermons and editing them down to 25 minutes for television. Osteen explained that experience taught him to prepare every aspect of his sermons, from the message to the language to the camera angles.
"If you start repeating yourself, people will switch the channel real fast," he said.
His attention to detail appears to be working. His weekly broadcast is aired in more than 100 countries and viewed by more than 10 million people in the United States. More than 1.2 million watch it streamed on his website JoelOsteen.com and more than 45,000 faithful attend the weekly sermons live in his Lakewood Church in Houston, making it the largest congregation in America.
Osteen believes that speaking in a language that his unchurched basketball buddies at the YMCA could understand also has something to do with why it resonates with so many people. In fact, he said that early in his ministry his target audience would be the rough crowd he played ball with before he became a full-time preacher.
Avoiding theological jargon is a distinction of his five best-selling books, a podcast that is one of the most popular on iTunes, and a busy Twitter account that puts him among the top three users of the social networking site, according to press information that cites numerous ranking agencies and news article to back up the claims.
While he avoids "church language" in his sermons, his hope is that listeners will head to church for help.
"That's the goal we have in mind for those attend our 'Night of Hope,’ ” said Lakewood spokesman Don Iloff. "(Osteen) is a gentle messenger that really opens up doors to churches."
Contributing: Joe Walker
If you go...
What: Joel Osteen book signing
When: Thursday, Oct. 10, 7 p.m.
Where: Barnes and Noble, McIntyre Center, 1104 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City
What: “A Night of Hope” with Joel and Victoria Osteen
When: Friday, Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.)
Where: Maverick Center, 3200 Decker Lake Dr., West Valley City
Notes: Arena tickets are $15 and available at the venue box office, Ticketmaster.com or Ticketmaster outlets.
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