Pastor Joel Osteen responded Tuesday night to the bevy of criticism he and Lakewood Church received in recent days concerning allegations that the Houston megachurch failed to be helpful to those in need during the devastating throes of Hurricane Harvey.
Osteen spoke with local Houston station, KRIV-TV, and admitted that he didn't pay too much attention to the criticism he and the church received earlier in the week.
Osteen's comments to KRIV
"We work with the city all the time, and at that time the city was asking for us to use city shelters," Osteen explained of the delay in opening the church. "When they got filled up, that's when we said, 'Hey, you need more room, Lakewood would love to have people. ... This is what we're all about, helping other people."
Osteen said that he didn't pay much attention to the criticism he and the church received: "We don't run our lives by what happens on Twitter," he said. "Many of those people, some of them possibly, don't care for us. They're in another state, they're not in our shoes where you can't necessarily open your building when it's very close to flooding itself."
He added that despite criticism, the church is dedicated to their mission to serve and love others and God.
"I just feel like when you do what you're called to do, you're always going to have critics, but we just keep moving forward and helping people," Osteen said. "That's what Lakewood is all about."
— Kaitlin Monte FOX26 (@kaitlinmonte) August 30, 2017
Osteen speaks to 'Today'
The pastor also appeared on NBC's "Today" Wednesday, and in addition to defending the church's position and their priority of safety, Osteen provided background on the church facility's history of flooding.
Co-host Savannah Guthrie asked Osteen, "Why did the church wait until yesterday to start taking in people?"
"Our church doors have always been open," Osteen responded adamantly. "In fact, we took people in right when the waters started to recede, which was just a day or two after the big storm hit."
Osteen then echoed remarks made by Lakewood Church spokesperson Don Iloff, and noted that the church had been working fervently with local officials from the start in order to assist the public in any possible way.
Osteen said that city officials initially did not need Lakewood to be a shelter, but as the storm progressed, the city deemed it necessary for the church to become one. In response to local government's request, Osteen told "Today," "We said, 'Hey, we'd love to be a shelter.'"
"I think this notion that somehow we would turn people away, or that we weren't here for the city, is as false as can be," Osteen said.
When pressed further as to why the church didn't immediately begin taking in storm victims, instead of waiting for shelters to fill up before doing so, Osteen voiced his concerns about the building's safety.
"We're all about helping people," Osteen explained. "This is what our church is all about. ... I think if people were here, they'd realize there were safety issues — this building had flooded before, and so we were just being precautious, but the main thing is, the city didn't ask us to become a shelter then."
Osteen said that despite the backlash the church received over not immediately taking in shelter victims, he's not sure that the church would have done anything differently if offered the chance to remedy the impetus of the criticism due to "safety issues."
"Sometimes social media can be very powerful and they can create this false narrative," Osteen said, and in the church's defense, added that water came within a foot of spilling over into the facility.
"If [local authorities] would have asked us to become a shelter early on, we would have prepared for it all and been ready to help, but thank God we can do it now and help the city in this way," Osteen said.
He added, "I mean, think of the story if we housed a whole bunch of evacuees and the building flooded. That wouldn’t have been a good story."