Winning By Sticking Around

John Osteen was the founding pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest church in the United States and one of the great churches serving my generation. But Lakewood Church was not always a large church. Starting the church in 1959 in an abandoned feed store in an economically depressed neighborhood, Osteen was faithful to give his best every day to the small group of people who initially attended his church. His passion and his zeal then attracted many more people, and, by the time Osteen died in 1999, he had built a thriving congregation that exceeds more than 43,000 people under his son and successor, Joel Osteen.

Toward the end of his life, Osteen was being questioned by a writer about the great church he had built. And, of course, the writer wanted to know Osteen’s “secret” for success. He wanted to know the rare and mysterious quality Osteen possessed that enabled him to do what few church leaders had ever done in the history of Christendom.

When confronted with this question, Osteen did not give the profound answer that the writer was expecting. Instead, Osteen simply said that he had been successful because he had been in Houston longer than any other pastor. The others pastors who were there when he first arrived in 1959 had died, retired, or accepted positions in other communities. They were no longer at their posts in Houston. Osteen attributed his success, therefore, to the fact that he had simply been around longer than his peers. While others had packed up and moved away over the years, he stuck things through, and he eventually stayed in Houston so long that he basically outlasted all the other pastors of all the other churches. Sometimes, the missing ingredient for success is simple tenacity. Sometimes, a man can “win” simply by sticking around.

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