<b>Joel Osteen's message helps you build a better life</b> Don't worry about searching for a place to sit at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston there are 16,000 seats to choose from. And if you can't make it to a church service, you can always watch the weekly TV broadcast of Osteen's sermons, which has been described as the most widely viewed Christian show in television history. And then, of course, there are the books, the podcasts and the DVDs.

The nondenominational Osteen is part of a new evangelical movement of celebrity preachers who use a wide range of media to send out their messages and, in turn, engage new followers. With a tone that's upbeat and optimistic, rather than accusatory or fatalistic, Osteen has built Lakewood into America's largest church, with 38,000 members in Houston and millions more around the world watching on TV. A native Houstonian who studied radio and television communications at Oral Roberts University, he definitely knows how to attract churchgoers and use the media to his church's advantage. Lakewood has a 12-piece band, a lighting designer and three projection screens. Concerts by popular bands like Newsboys are held in the sanctuary.

Osteen's first foray into the publishing world 2004's <i>Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential</i> was a mega-hit, selling four million copies to date and reaching the number-one spot on the <i>New York Times</i> bestseller list. He returns this fall with <b>Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day</b>, which goes on sale nationally on October 15. The book will have a first printing of three million copies, reportedly the largest ever in the history of Simon and Schuster.

In Become a Better You, Osteen argues that too many people are living below their full potential rather than reaching for greatness. God always wants to increase us, to do more in and through us, Osteen writes, building on the message he set out in Your Best Life Now. He didn't create us to be average. He doesn't want us to settle for good enough.' To introduce the idea of stretching to the next level, Osteen relates the story of his own ascent to the ministry after his father, John Osteen, died in 1999. John Osteen had founded Lakewood Church in 1959 and guided its growth for 40 years. He wrote 45 books and for 17 years hosted his own weekly televised sermon, which was produced by his son Joel. Upon John's death, Joel took his father's place behind the pulpit. For seventeen years, my father tried to get me to speak at our home church, but I had no desire. I'm naturally quiet and reserved and would much prefer working behind the scenes, Osteen writes in the book. Despite the fact that he had never preached before, he took over the 6,000-member ministry as senior pastor. I took that step of faith and God has taken me places that I never dreamed of. Osteen says his latest book is aimed both at those who are struggling and those who are already succeeding in life and want to do better. He outlines seven principles that are crucial to living a fulfilling life: Keep pressing forward; be positive toward yourself; develop better relationships; form better habits; embrace the place where you are; develop your inner life; and stay passionate about life. These concepts are developed in-depth in individual chapters and coupled with stories about people who have advanced their lives through prayer, perseverance and acceptance of the self.

Osteen frequently cites his wife, Victoria, as the individual who keeps him motivated with her encouragement. A popular figure in her own right, Victoria Osteen serves as co-pastor of Lakewood and plans to release her own book on family life next spring. Joel Osteen describes their marriage as having good days (when they adapt to one another's quirks) and bad days (when they argue about driving directions). He is quick to point out that a healthy marriage needs both the good and the bad for a couple to learn from one another.

Overall, Osteen's popular appeal is rooted in his positive spiritual message, which urges his followers to work on themselves to better their lot in life. Being aware of one's words, treating strangers with kindness and remaining vigilant in relationships draws a person closer to God, says Osteen, and closer to the individual God hopes that he or she will become. In a style that has clearly clicked with millions, Osteen puts into words the lessons we all are aware of but many have so far failed to heed.

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