Although Joel Osteen's mega church Lakewood has already opened its doors to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey now, initially Osteen refused to open the church's doors. This has been met with criticisms. Now, Osteen steps up to respond to the criticisms.
Last Saturday, Osteen wrote on social media that he was praying for the safety of those affected by the flooding. A day later on Sunday he said the church was "inaccessible" due to "severe flooding." However, videos posted by those living near the church showed that the church was relatively untouched by the flooding.
Popular internet preacher and leader of Global Vision Bible Church in Tennessee, Greg Locke was at the forefront to criticize Lakewood and Osteen for unwilling to help the hurricane victms. "People are coming out saying, 'Oh, why would a fellow pastor lambaste another fellow pastor. He doesn't have all the facts. Yes, we do have all the facts. Do you know why there are busloads of people at Lakewood Church right now? Because of the media firestorm," Locke asserted.
"The tweet was only 24 hours ago. Are you gonna tell me that all the water in the building completely assuaged and went away and the entire building was cleaned up so that now they can take refugees? No. It was just as clean then. They're only doing this to save face because of the media firestorm," he continued. "They can do with their building what they will, but don't lie to us about it. At the end of the day, I really hope and pray they help a lot of people. But no, I'm not going to apologize for the tweet because megachurches shouldn't have to be shamed into helping their community."
When asked to explain the videos posted online by his critics that show no flooding, Osteen said it was all relative. "You know, it depends on what day that is," he said. "I think another thing that people don't understand - it could flood. That street could flood and in 14 hours it can be down. ... So you can't go by that. I have video of it flooded on either Saturday night or Sunday night, I can't remember. But, you know, it can go down in 14, 15 hours."
Nevertheless, Osteen was apolegetic in being not prepared in the first instance to help the victims. "Knowing what I know now, I would have put staff in here before the storm hit, put beds, do everything we could to be prepared," he said. "When it catches us by surprise, even when the cities overflow and, you know, nobody dreams that shelters will overflow. ... Hindsight, it's 20/20, but we've got to move forward and do what we've done for the last 60 years and take care of these people, help them rebuild their lives, bring hope to their spirits and let them know that they can come out of this stronger than before."
On Wednesday, Lakewood Church was providing shelter to over 400 storm victims. It has also received thousands of pounds of donated items that the church will be distributing to other shelters and those in need.