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They paid nearly 0,000 in Harris County property taxes last year, records show.Yet the cost of operating the church and showcasing Osteen on its many platforms does not come out of their pockets.His is a church that finds its followers, no matter who or where they are.*** Osteen doesn't flaunt a life of luxury, but he does enjoy one."All you get is an empty box of hope for a better life someday." Osteen responds that building a personal fortune is not in conflict with his belief that God wants all who worship Him to prosper.

His influence transcends political, economic and religious boundaries.

His 10 books, self-help manuals filled with homespun wisdom about the power of positive thinking, have sold more than 8.5 million printed copies in the U. He is Lakewood's most valuable asset, the embodiment of the message itself. Some religious scholars and church watchdogs say Osteen's wealth clashes with Christian teachings about the corrupting effects of worldly riches, and that Lakewood's high-powered marketing exploits the vulnerable.

"There's always the question of how much money is too much for a pastor to earn," said Carl Trueman, a pastor and professor of church history at the Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.

MORNING REPORT: Get Houston's top stories in your inbox each morning Lakewood is the nation's largest church, attracting as many as 50,000 people a week to its cavernous sanctuary, the former Compaq Center where the NBA Rockets once played.

Broadcasts of its thunderous, music-filled services reach an estimated 10 million U. viewers each week on television — and more via websites and podcasts.

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