Pastor Joel Osteen explains church's Harvey response in Sunday service

Joel Osteen is trying to take the high road.

The televangelist devoted his Sunday sermon to Harvey's devastation and the recent deluge of criticism after his Houston megachurch temporarily closed its doors during the deadly storm.

"Harvey came, but it didn't take us out," Osteen said, after congregants listened to a live band accompanied by a light show. "We are going to come out of this stronger than before."

Lakewood Church closed as the storm slammed southeastern Texas, but reopened Tuesday.

By then, the church and its pastor had received national scrutiny and scorn.

"There's been so much misinformation about the church last week I wanted to clarify a few things," Osteen said, as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

RELATED: Joel Osteen and Houston's Lakewood Church

12 PHOTOS
Joel Osteen and Houston's Lakewood Church
See Gallery
Joel Osteen and Houston's Lakewood Church
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05: Pastor Joel Osteen visits the SiriusXM set at Super Bowl 50 Radio Row at the Moscone Center on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
Service at Lakewood Church in Houston, where Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week. There are currently 842 mega churches that host an excess of three million people on any given Sunday. Mega churches are loosely defined as non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 weekly attendants. (Photo by Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images)
Service at Lakewood Church in Houston, where Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week. There are currently 842 mega churches that host an excess of three million people on any given Sunday. Mega churches are loosely defined as non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 weekly attendants. (Photo by Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images)
Service at Lakewood Church in Houston, where Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week. There are currently 842 mega churches that host an excess of three million people on any given Sunday. Mega churches are loosely defined as non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 weekly attendants. (Photo by Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images)
Service at Lakewood Church in Houston, where Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week. There are currently 842 mega churches that host an excess of three million people on any given Sunday. Mega churches are loosely defined as non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 weekly attendants. (Photo by Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images)
Service at Lakewood Church in Houston, where Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week. There are currently 842 mega churches that host an excess of three million people on any given Sunday. Mega churches are loosely defined as non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 weekly attendants. (Photo by Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: Joel Osteen participates in 'Joel Osteen Live' featuring Joel and Victoria Osteen with special guests Fr. Ed Leahy, A. J. Calloway and Matt and Laurie Crouch at SiriusXM Studios on October 3, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
Service at Lakewood Church in Houston, where Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week. There are currently 842 mega churches that host an excess of three million people on any given Sunday. Mega churches are loosely defined as non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 weekly attendants. (Photo by Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images)
Lakewood Church in Houston, where Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week. There are currently 842 mega churches that host an excess of three million people on any given Sunday. Mega churches are loosely defined as non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 weekly attendants. (Photo by Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images)
Joel Osteen, a nationally televised evangelist and pastor of the nation's largest megachurch, greets Jose and Dalia Salas of Laredo, Texas, after service at Houston's Lakewood Church, in Houston, Texas. Dalia Salas said she hopes her infant, Joshua, will grow up to be 'an anointed man of God' like Osteen. (Photo by Frank E. Lockwood/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT via Getty Images)
Service at Lakewood Church in Houston, where Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week. There are currently 842 mega churches that host an excess of three million people on any given Sunday. Mega churches are loosely defined as non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 weekly attendants. (Photo by Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The building previously flooded in 2001, Osteen said. Floodgates were later installed, but the water came within a foot or two of breaching the walls.

"If we had opened the building earlier and someone was injured, or perhaps it flooded and people lost their lives, that would be a whole different story," Osteen said during a six-minute speech. "I'm at peace with taking the heat for being precautious, but I don't wanna take the heat for being foolish."

Osteen relied on Biblical lessons in describing his predicament.

"This is not just an attack on me, it's an attack on what we stand for — for faith, for hope, for love," he said. "Jesus even said, 'When the world hates you, remember: it hated me first.'"

Osteen admitted to ignoring social media criticism.

"I know y'all love me," he told his supporters. "You need to get on social media."

He also compared himself to the Bible's David, citing Psalms 35: "I am attacked by people I don't even know," Osteen said. "David, I feel your pain, and you didn't have social media, David."

Sunday's services drew up to 1,200 worshippers — down significantly from the usual turnout of 16,000, the Houston Chronicle reports.

With News Wire Services

RELATED: Texans being evacuated during Harvey

20 PHOTOS
Texans being evacuated during Hurricane Harvey
See Gallery
Texans being evacuated during Hurricane Harvey
People evacuate by dump truck from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Dickinson, Texas August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Volunteers unload evacuee Taylor Mitchell from a rescue vehicle at the George R. Brown Convention Center after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing widespread flooding, in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 28, 2017. Picture taken August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
Men look for people wanting to be evacuated from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Dickinson, Texas August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Evacuee Pete Quintana Jr. is wrapped in a blanket at the George R. Brown Convention Center after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing widespread flooding, in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 28, 2017. Picture taken August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
A man carries a child after being evacuated by dump truck from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Dickinson, Texas August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
People are evacuated by a high water truck from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Dickinson, Texas, U.S. August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
People are evacuated from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in a collector's vintage military truck belonging to a volunteer in Dickinson, Texas August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Evacuees are airlifted in a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter after flooding due to Hurricane Harvey inundated neighborhoods in Houston, Texas, August 27, 2017. Picture taken August 27, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
People are rescued from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in an armored police mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle in Dickinson, Texas August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Sterling Broughton is moved from a rescue boat onto a kayak after flood waters from Hurricane Harvey rose in Dickenson, Texas August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Texas National Guard soldiers aid residents in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S., August 27, 2017 Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD/Texas Military Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Barb Davis, 74. is helped to dry land after being rescued from her flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: People are rescued from a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: People are rescued from a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: People are rescued from a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A boy and girl hug their grandmothers' dogs after being rescued from rising floodwaters due to Hurricane Harvey in Spring, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. A deluge of rain and rising floodwaters left�Houston�immersed and helpless,�crippling a global center of the oil industry and testing the economic resiliency of a state that's home to almost 1 in 12 U.S. workers. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Rescuers help a woman from a flooded retirement home into a boat after Hurricane Harvey in Spring, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. A deluge of rain and rising floodwaters left�Houston�immersed and helpless,�crippling a global center of the oil industry and testing the economic resiliency of a state that's home to almost 1 in 12 U.S. workers. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: People wait for a ride to a shelter after being rescued from a flooded neighborhood when it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Dean Mize holds children as he and Jason Legnon use an airboat to rescue people from homes that are inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.