Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lakewood Church Celebrates Golden Anniversary

America's largest church celebrated a major milestone on Mother's Day. It turned 50 years old.

On May 10th, 1959, Lakewood Church held it's first service in Houston, and that same year, moved into an old feed barn. There were less than 100 members led by the late John Osteen.

"We felt all along and some of our people said that it should be a lighthouse to the world," said Virginia Ferguson, a founding Lakewood member. "And here we were... An insignificant group of people."

That group now includes tens of thousands of members.

"We made a decision that even if we grew to be a big church we would still keep that love that we had in the beginning," said Ruthie Dearman, a founding Lakewood member.

Joel Osteen took over in 1999 after his father passed away. In 2003 the church moved to the Compaq Center. The late pastor John Osteen had told his wife, one day he would be preaching at the Astrodome. Though it's not the Astrodome, one look at Lakewood Church and people will agree the pastor's son has fulfilled his father's dreams.

"I feel like my dad would be smiling on us today," said Pastor Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church. "He always imagined a place where people would be helped no matter their situation or what kind of background they came from."

The church was not without it's controversies and critics, but it also had its share of miracles. John's wife, who's turning 76 this year, was healed of liver cancer.

"I am thankful to be alive and thankful to the people who have stood with us all these years," said Dodi Osteen, the widow of the late Pastor John Osteen, and mother of Pastor Joel Osteen.

So what's in store for the next 50 years? Joel and Victoria Osteen say they hope their children will continue the Lakewood legacy.

"We just believe that all of the children will be a part of the ministry," said Victoria Osteen. "That they will find their place."

Lakewood Church boasts nearly 40,000 members to date.

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