Joel Osteen streams service to 4 million from empty church amid COVID-19 crisis

Julian J Rossig

(HOUSTON) -- Pastor Joel Osteen was one of many religious leaders across the country to stream sermons Sunday, as people lean on faith amid the novel coronavirus affecting the globe.

Four million worshippers tuned in as Osteen spoke from Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, without an audience present -- a first for Osteen in his 20 years of ministering.

"I just had to imagine that they were out there and try to ignore all the empty seats but it's just an unprecedented time," Osteen said Monday on "Good Morning America." "We're blessed that we do have the technology [so] people could still worship and we can gather in different ways."

Faith appears to be guiding some people during the pandemic and with many encouraged to practice social distancing, places of worship are finding workarounds like drive-thru confessionals.

Pope Francis recently delivered his own blessings in St. Peter's Square.

"When things get out of our control we can't handle it necessarily on our own...we turn to our faith because we need something stronger than ourselves," Osteen said. "It gives you the peace and it helps you get through the difficult times because really, peace is a place of power. [When we're] worried, upset and panicking, we're drawing in the negative so I think it's a choice we have to make...even though it may be a little chaotic around us."

To those looking to keep the faith, Osteen suggests starting the day with a grateful attitude rather than drawing in negativity.

"Find something to be grateful for. Whether you have your health, your family, friends -- I believe when you start the day off in faith, it will help the day to go better," he said. "You are setting the tone for the day."

"It takes just as much energy to worry as it does to believe."

Osteen also suggests taking it one day at a time.

"Sometimes we think, 'I can't do this another month.' You don't have to. Just do it for 24 more hours," he said. "You have grace for today ... you have the strength, the power, the favor to get through this day with a good attitude."

Lakewood Church will host blood drives to help fight the nation's blood shortage as thousands of American Red Cross blood drives have been canceled in the U.S. as concerns over the COVID-19 virus grows.

Osteen said the drives start Monday.

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