HOUSTON, Tx. – More than 43,000 worshipers were in attendance at Lakewood Church Saturday evening when Joel Osteen, Lakewood’s Senior Pastor, reportedly levitated nearly ten feet above the stage following the conclusion of his sermon. “People were hysterical,” said Maya Rodriguez, who, like thousands of others in the Houston area, attends weekly services at the nondenominational megachurch.
Witnesses say roughly forty-five minutes into the 7 P.M. service, Pastor Osteen suddenly appeared disoriented before suffering a violent coughing fit. “His forehead and neck were just drenched in sweat,” said Colton Bradshaw, a Houston native, who was seated with his wife in the second row. The events that followed, according to Bradshaw and corroborated by more than a thousand other witnesses, left worshipers feeling perplexed and, in many cases, terrified.
Osteen reportedly fell to his knees on stage while clutching his chest. “We thought he was having a heart attack,” Bradshaw said. It was then that the charismatic pastor outstretched his arms, threw his head back, and violently arched his back. Dozens of cellphone videos taken by parishioners and uploaded to the popular media website YouTube show Pastor Osteen, seemingly in a trance-like state, rise from the stage. Screams and cries of disbelief from the congregation can be heard as Osteen levitates more than nine feet off the ground.
In one of the higher quality videos uploaded to YouTube by user TheChristianBlessing, Osteen can be seen hovering above the stage with his head slumped forward before, as one witness put it, “suddenly awakening.” As Pastor Osteen appears to hang with his arms outstretched in midair, he opens his mouth and, in a deep, commanding voice, says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” Then, his body drops “like a rag doll” to the ground where he remains motionless.
Colton Bradshaw’s wife, Karen, along with dozens of other worshipers, fainted during the ordeal and later required medical attention, but Bradshaw himself remained alert throughout the entire spectacle, which lasted less than four minutes. “When he spoke those words from the Book of Revelations,” Bradshaw later recalled, “It wasn’t his voice that spoke them. It was not Pastor Osteen speaking. The sound of that voice reverberated through the stadium. For as long as I live, I’ll never forget it.”
Paramedics arrived at Lakewood Church at 8:05 P.M. and treated Osteen on the scene. The pastor suffered a mild concussion brought by the nearly ten foot free fall to the stage floor but was otherwise unhurt, save for some minor bruising to his forehead. A spokesman for the megachurch told Fox 26 Houston that Mr. Osteen “has no memory of the events that occurred prior to regaining consciousness.”
Doctors and medical staff at the Texas Medical Center on Holcombe Boulevard in Houston were overwhelmed Saturday night as they treated approximately six hundred and fifty people, many of whom were in a state of shock after witnessing the event. Lakewood Church boasts one of the largest congregations in the United States and reaches an estimated 27 million people worldwide each week. In 1999, Joel Osteen replaced his father, John Osteen, who founded the church in 1959, as Senior Pastor.