Dallas service to bear witness to Osteen allure

Robin Lovin, SMU's Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics and former dean of Perkins School of Theology, talks about the ethics of Joel Osteen charging admission to his religious services.

 By SAM HODGES / The Dallas Morning News

Most preachers throw open the church doors and hope for a decent-size crowd. Joel Osteen, in his traveling worship services, charges admission and still draws a throng.

The majority of the nearly 15,000 expected for Mr. Osteen's Sunday night event at American Airlines Center will have paid $15 for a reserved seat. . .

Robin Lovin is a professor at Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology, specializing in ethics. He doesn't see a problem with charging admission so that costs are shared among those attending a worship service.

"No one who thinks about it can maintain the illusion that worship is free," he said. "The lights have to be turned on, the space has to be heated or cooled, and at least some of the people who are providing leadership have to be paid for their services. That's true in a small congregation or in an American Airlines Center event."

But Dr. Lovin said he doesn't necessarily buy into the idea that big events can't be handled smoothly without charging for tickets. He noted that free tickets were distributed for Pope Benedict XVI's stadium events in Washington, D.C., and New York this past April.

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