Joel’s back, the exorcist speaks, United Methodist giving down

Catching up with a few things:

tjndc5-5olhb0ef0dg4tug9as6_layout1. Televangelist/media sensation/inspirational speaker Joel Osteen returns to the area tomorrow (Friday, March 19), offering a “Night of Hope” at the Meadowlands arena. I just took a quick look for two tickets on Ticketmaster and there are some left — although the best available was the upper deck.

He’ll come closer to filling the place than the Nets.

2. If you are so inclined, the Times of London ran a story on the Vatican’s official exorcist.

FatherGabrieleAmorthFather Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has held the top devil-chasing post for 25 years, says he has dealt with some 70,000 cases.

He also blames sex-abuse scandals and other problems on the devil infiltrating the Vatican. He speaks of “cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon.”

And if, like me, you’ve watched “The Exorcist” too many times, you’ll be interested to know that Amorth gives a thumbs up to the famous, 1973 film. It’s “exaggerated,” he says, but offers a “substantially exact” picture of demonic possession.

3. Want a pretty good sense of how the recession is affecting the day-to-day operations of a major denomination?

United Methodist churches contributed 84 percent of what the denomination budgeted to support worldwide ministries in 2009.

But the New York Conference was one of only 14 regional conferences (out of 63) that paid 100 percent of its budgeted contribution.

No, I wasn’t there, but you can watch Joel Osteen at the Stadium

Ugh. People keep asking me if I went to Yankee Stadium last Saturday to see Joel Osteen.

I interviewed him beforehand and wrote a preview of the big night, after all.

But I couldn’t go. Just too much going on that weekend.

Truth is, if I had known what kind of reaction I would get to the preview (a lot), I would have done whatever it took to get to the stadium.

Boy, people LOVE this guy.

I can tell you this: You can see much of the Yankee Stadium gig on YouTube right here.

And here is the beginning of Joel’s sermon:

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The weekend line-up

Today: Archbishop Dolan visited Ground Zero.

As he walked out, he said he felt an “overwhelming sadness at the horror, suffering and pain that the site still carries.”

Tomorrow: Joel Osteen at Yankee Stadium. Will he fill more seats than the Yankees?

Sunday: I’m speaking at Maryknoll at 2:30 p.m. about covering the religion beat.

Monday: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life releases a major study on people who switch faiths.

Batting first…lifting you up…Joel…Osteen

Joel Osteen’s big night at the NEW Yankee Stadium is only three days away — and my advance about him is on LoHud today and in the Journal News.

I’ve already received several comments asking me whether Osteen’s inspirational approach is sincere and whether he will last.

Hard to say.

I do think he’s sincere. After all, he is very honest about who he is and what he does — he is the son of a preacher who became a preacher himself and believes that his gift is to lift people up.

And that’s that.

Will he last? I don’t see why not. I was just saying to a colleague that these are dark and cynical times in many ways. Maybe Osteen provides a spiritual salve that works for people?

7 p.m. at the Stadium. Doors at 5:30 p.m. Tickets here.

If you missed it, I used my FaithBeat column this past Saturday to compare Osteen with Archbishop Tim Dolan, in terms of their comfort with the media and their rare ability to communicate with the masses.

And, hey, is it just me, or does Osteen have a striking resemblance to Martin Short? Imagine Short with the hair gel and a less goofy smile.

Maybe it’s me.

Joel and me

The differences between me and Joel Osteen are clear, aren’t they?

He looks relaxed, at ease, hair shimmering, ready to go.

I’m tense, hunched shoulders, semi-perplexed, with a near buzz-cut.

Yeah, that’s me on the left.

I got a chance to sit down yesterday with one of the nation’s most prominent preachers — the most prominent? — to talk about his upcoming gig at the NEW Yankee Stadium. On Saturday, April 25 at 7 p.m., he will become the first non-baseball player to “perform” at the new house.

How did Osteen get this opportunity? Apparently, the Yankees reached out to him. But Osteen told me that he had no idea WHO within the Yankee family decided to turn centerfield over to a Houston preacher.

When I say “turn over,” I don’t mean for free. Osteen’s people are paying a hefty fee to rent the stadium. But it’s a great opportunity, nonetheless. I heard that the Rolling Stones inquired about breaking in the new room, but Osteen — who has some of Jagger’s charisma, I would say — got the spot.

I’ll be writing a profile of Osteen soon, in advance of Yankee Stadium, of course. I talked to him about lots of interesting stuff — interfaith relations, the former Catholics who attend his church, all those unchurched folks out there.

He is certainly a unique guy. Pastor of the largest church in the country. Best-selling author. Beloved by conservatives and liberals alike, despite (because of?) his unwillingness to talk politics or political issues.

He is either truly humble or does a great job pretending to be. He says that his gift is to lift people up with a positive, empowering message — and that’s it. He’ll leave all the other stuff to other preachers with different gifts.

And he can’t quite explain his appeal. It must be God, he told me, because it’s not him.

More to come.

Batting first at the New Yankee Stadium…

Who is going to be the first “performer” at the New Yankee Stadium (other than the Yanks and their opponents)?

Everybody’s favorite Nice Guy televangelist, Joel Osteen.

He and his wife, Victoria, will hold a “Night of Hope” at the House that Ruth…er…Jeter…built on April 25.

It’s quite a score for Osteen, who packs them in wherever he goes and has done quite well at Madison Square Garden.

Osteen’s appeal is undeniable at this point. He “lifts people up” with a bright, positive, hopeful message that avoids politics, divisiveness and all that nasty stuff. He’ll have Christians of all makes and models at the Stadium, and maybe some non-Christians who like his “self-help’ appeal.

Interesting that he’s coming only a week after the Yankees play their home opener — and after Archbishop Dolan gets installed. Who will get more media coverage, I wonder? Yeah, Dolan. But who will cause more of a stir with the people? We’ll see.

And tickets are actually available and only cost $15 — unlike for the Yankees, who have become unaffordable for many folks. But that’s a rant for a different blog.

Osteen writes on his blog:

*****

God has been so faithful to us in so many ways over the years. Since 2004, we’ve had the opportunity to minister in person to over 700,000 people in over 45 cities around the world. And still, God is opening new doors for us all the time.

We are especially looking forward to being with our friends in New York City on April 25th at Yankee Stadium–just nine days after the New York Yankees home opener at the new ballpark! It will be the first non–baseball event in the stadium, and we are so honored to bring the message of hope and inspiration to the tens of thousands who are expected to be there. We’d love for you to come out and join us if you can. There’s plenty of time to get tickets and make travel arrangements if you need to.

Revelation 3 tells us that when we follow God’s Word and put Him first, He opens doors for us that no man can shut. I just want to encourage you today, if you’re in a situation and you don’t see a way out, remember, God will make a way through. Keep looking for that open door of opportunity. Maybe you’ve done all you can do in the natural, but that’s when you can trust that God is working behind the scenes in the supernatural. He’ll bring you out wiser, stronger, and better off than you were before!