2008 Power List: 21. Joel Osteen

Joel Osteen is minister of the sprawling Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, where the average congregation in attendance is over 28,000 making it one of America's so-called "megachurches." Osteen's services are also broadcast in over 100 countries and he has written a bestselling book about his Christian teachings.

Brent Humphreys/Redux

*Pastor, Lakewood Church

(Age: 45; Last year's rank: 16)*

Every spiritual leader in America seeks to make God more accessible, but Joel Osteen presents the Almighty as a stand-up suburban dad who throws great barbecues. "His message isn't theologically sophisticated," says William Martin, a professor of religion at Rice University in Houston. "It's that God wants you to be prosperous and have a good life." Osteen's brand of cul-de-sac Christianity draws 42,000 people to the former NBA arena where his services are held each Sunday. But they're only the studio audience—7 million more consume his religion-lite on TV every week. For some it's a gateway drug to harder Bible-beating, for others an alternative to the teachings of Eckhart Tolle. For Osteen it's a windfall—he earned a $13 million advance for his latest book, Become a Better You, which had an initial printing of 3 million copies and made its debut at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. His blonde siren of a wife, Victoria, and her clingy dresses don't hurt his popularity either. "A lot of men want a wife like Victoria," Martin says. And Osteen is showing her the way as well. This year, he helped Victoria publish Love Your Life, which had a first run of 750,000 copies and landed atop the best-seller list too.


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