Victoria Osteen, co-pastor of Lakewood Church, in civil court Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008 in Houston.
Pat Sullivan/AP Photo

Megachurch heist raises eyebrows

Updated

Many Americans have probably become accustomed to hearing about televangelists and suspected misdeeds, but what we saw over the weekend was something altogether different.
 
The term “megachurch” is usually applied to houses or worship that draw 2,000 or more regular attendees, but even among megachurches, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church stands out as unique. Estimates vary, but with around 40,000 attendees, this massive institution considers itself the largest church congregation in the United States – a boast that generally goes unchallenged. What’s more, Osteen’s weekly services are then broadcasted to dozens of countries around the world.
 
With this in mind, when there’s a massive heist at the nation’s biggest megachurch, it’s not a routine robbery (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
Lakewood Church – the giant Houston headquarters of celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s evangelical empire – alerted its congregants that as much as $600,000 in cash and checks were taken from the building over the weekend. Even more concerning: The stolen goods include envelopes on which congregants wrote down their credit card information. […]
 
Police are investigating the alleged theft, and haven’t yet arrested anyone. Church members who passed on their credit card information to Lakewood over the weekend were advised to “pay close attention to your accounts over the next several days and weeks and report any suspicious activity to your financial institution or credit card company immediately.”
Based on the preliminary press accounts, it’s unclear if there are even any suspects, though the investigation is ongoing.
 
But while the story unfolds, it’s worth pausing to take a second look at that dollar figure.
 
A $600,000 heist is certainly a big haul, but the Houston Chronicle’s report noted that the money – $200,000 in cash and $400,000 in checks – was “limited to funds given during this past weekend’s Saturday and Sunday services.”
 
This isn’t relevant to the investigation, of course, but it’s a startling figure. This one church in Houston brought in $600,000 in donations in a weekend. It wasn’t a holiday, either – this was just $600,000 in receipts for a regular ol’ weekend in mid-March.
 
While I certainly hope local law enforcement is successful in its investigation, I can’t help but notice that televangelism is nice work if you can get it.
 

Megachurch heist raises eyebrows

Updated