Pastor Joel Osteen’s Houston, Texas megachurch has suffered a $600,000 theft leaving the community “heartbroken” as said in the email disclosing the theft to the members. The thieves stole not only cash and checks from the safe at Osteen’s church, but also acquired credit card information of those who donate to the Lakewood Church.
Houston Police Department spokesman Victor Senties said that $400,000 in checks was stolen, as well as $200,000 in cash. The money and credit card information was stolen from the Texas megachurch sometime between 2:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon and Monday morning around 8:30 a.m. The donations were made on Saturday and Sunday from the congregation. The leaders of Lakewood Church sent out an email to church members on Monday following the discovery of the missing money by a church employee.
Jodie Silva, Houston Police Department spokeswoman, said that no one had been arrested in connection with the crime. The police refused to release any more information regarding the theft.
Osteen’s Houston Church has more than 40,000 members and more than 38,000 people attend weekly services. The TV broadcast of Osteen’s sermons are seen worldwide in almost 100 countries. The Lakewood Church has the biggest church population in the United States. Osteen also has several published books.
Church officials have told members who donated over the weekend to keep an eye on their bank accounts for any fraudulent activity that may occur following the burglary and to report any suspicious account behavior immediately. The stolen funds are insured and there has not been a breach in the church’s electronic data, according to church officials. None of the members that donated electronically will be affected. A church statement said that they are already working with the insurance company to regain the missing funds. However, the $600,000 theft still remains heartbreak to Osteen’s Texas megachurch.
The church is working in conjunction with the police on the issue, but has not made any further statements regarding the recent robbery. Lakewood Church spokesman, Donald Iloff, Jr., said that they are refraining from making any comments right now because they “do not want to compromise the investigation.” Therefore, it remains unknown how the robbers accessed the safe and any other details about whether it was a forced robbery.
Osteen and wife Victoria Osteen lead the church and encourage giving to the church. The Lakewood Church website reads, “Giving is a biblical principle.” The donation section of the website makes it easy to give donations with quick buttons ranging from $25 to $500 and the ability to give once or a monthly donation. The Osteens and Lakewood Church believe that “When you give, God will multiply back to you what you’ve sown” and that giving is a “lifestyle.” The thieves took advantage of the church’s incredibly large population and the “giving” mindset by robbing the church safe. This week, the $600,000 that was given to God through offerings is most likely in the hands that stole it, leaving Osteen and his Texas megachurch “heartbroken” from the theft.
By Rebecca Hofland