Everything is bigger in Texas. Televangelist Joel Osteen preaches from the largest church in the country in Houston. His televised sermons have worldwide reach. And as an outright rich, bestselling author, he can afford a $10 million French chateau with five fireplaces, six bedrooms, six bathrooms, a guest house and a pool house.
Osteen, who attributes his shredded six-pack to daily workouts, is expected to draw about 40,000 fans to Little Havana Saturday night for the sold-out Americas Night of Hope with Joel & Victoria.
Lets have a great time here in Miami at the beautiful Marlins baseball park, Osteen, 50, said with a soft Texas twang as he recorded a video at the stadium late last year to promote the event.
Beefy security guards stood nearby. He wore a finely tailored Sams Clothiers pin-striped navy-blue suit and a purple-paisley patterned pistachio-green tie that matched his eyes.
He put his arm around Victoria Iloff Osteen, 52, the former University of Houston student he met in a jewelry store and wed in 1987. She flashed a pearly smile.
Its going to be a celebration with music, inspiration, she said. Bring your friends and bring your family. You wont leave here the same.
The Osteens have been criticized for their prosperity gospel and opposition to gay marriage, but his books have been endorsed by Oprah Winfrey, and he has prayed at the White House with President Barack Obama. This week, the couple received the keys to the cities of Miami and Doral.
Behind the Osteens is an army of former political strategists, FBI-trained security experts and hundreds of volunteers who worked to bring the $1.2 million event to Marlins Park. Tickets were $15 and sold out within weeks.
We have a huge viewership in Miami, said Osteens brother-in-law Don Iloff Jr. He and his wife, Jackelyn Viera Iloff, met while working on the 1988 Republican presidential campaign and later joined Joel Osteen Ministries in donor and public relations.
We are also working on community service events and we are partnering with local organizations to make a difference, Viera Iloff said. We created an autism-specialized room, especially because autism has affected Mayor Tomas Regalados daughter.
Organizing the worship events and running the 43,000-member nondenominational Christian church in Houston which has an estimated $73 million annual budget and is housed in a former sports arena is a family affair.
The Osteens teenage children, Alexandria and Jonathan, participate, as do his siblings Paul Osteen, Lisa Comes, Tamara Graff and April Simons. His sisters have written books, as has the family matriarch, Dolores Dodie Osteen. She says in her sermons that she can cast out demons and that a miracle cured her advanced liver cancer decades ago.
Osteens half-brother, Justin Osteen, former executive director of the church, has a consulting firm that, according to its website, focuses on fair and attractive total compensation packages for ministerial staff and church executives.
Osteen attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., dropping out in 1982 to help his preacher-father, John Hillery Osteen, produce televised sermons promoting the gospel of prosperity the belief that financial blessings are Gods will for Christians.