HOUSTON -- An arena that basketball fans once packed to see the NBA's Houston Rockets has been converted into a 16,000-seat sanctuary for the nation's largest Christian congregation.
Lakewood Church, led by 42-year-old televangelist and author Joel Osteen, will hold its first service Saturday at the former Compaq Center, with Texas Governor Rick Perry among the guests.
Lakewood recently became the first church in the country with an average weekly attendance of more than 30,000 at its services. The renovated facility features two waterfalls, but no cross or image of Jesus Christ. Instead, there's a large globe that will rotate slowly behind Osteen as he preaches.
Critics have accused Osteen of downplaying sin and repentance to
promote a gospel of positive thinking. His mother, Dodie Osteen,
responds: "We don't preach the gospel sad; we preach it glad."