Osteen was born in Houston, Texas, and is one of six children of John Osteen and Dolores (“Dodie”) Pilgrim. His father, a former Southern Baptist pastor, founded Lakewood Church, of which Osteen is the current senior pastor, in the back of an old feed store. He was educated at Humble High School, a public high school in the city of Humble, Texas, from which he graduated in 1981, followed by Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he studied radio and television communications, but did not graduate and did not receive a degree from a divinity school. In 1982, he returned to Houston and founded Lakewood’s television program, where he produced his father’s televised sermons for 17 years until January 1999, when his father died unexpectedly from a heart attack.
Osteen’s father encouraged him to preach for many years, but he declined, preferring to work behind the scenes until January 17, 1999, when he accepted his father’s suggestion and he preached his first sermon. John Osteen died six days later of a heart attack. Two weeks after his father’s death, Osteen began preaching regularly and later that year was installed as the new senior pastor of Lakewood Church on October 3, 1999. Since then, Lakewood’s attendance has grown from 5,000 to 43,000.
In 2003, Lakewood Church acquired the Compaq Center, former home of the NBA Houston Rockets. Renovations cost $105 million. The renovations took over 15 months to complete, and included the addition of five stories to add more capacity. Lakewood’s 2005 grand opening was attended by an estimated 56,000 people, including Texas Governor Rick Perry and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Lakewood Church services are seen in over 100 countries. Osteen was selected by Barbara Walters as one of her 10 Most Fascinating People of 2006. Former presidential candidate John McCain has described Osteen as his favorite inspirational author. The Osteen family attended Easter breakfast hosted by President Barack Obama at the White House in 2010.