Houston’s Lakewood Church was the site of a shooting incident on Sunday afternoon, prompting a swift response from law enforcement officials. According to Sheriff Troy Finner of the Houston Police Department, a woman in her 30s or 35s entered the megachurch wearing a trench coat and carrying a backpack containing a long rifle. Accompanying her was a young child, estimated to be around 5 years old.
At some point during the incident, the woman opened fire, causing panic and chaos. However, two off-duty police officers who were working as security personnel for the church quickly intervened, shooting and killing the woman. Tragically, the child who was with her sustained critical injuries and was rushed to a nearby hospital. Additionally, a 57-year-old man who was present at the scene was shot in the leg, although authorities do not believe he was involved in the incident.
Lakewood Church, located in the southwestern part of downtown Houston, is known for its large congregation, with tens of thousands of people attending its Sunday services on a weekly basis. Witnesses reported hearing multiple gunshots just as the church’s Spanish language service was about to begin. The incident has left both the church and the community shaken.
Senior Pastor Joel Osteen expressed his devastation over the shooting but also expressed gratitude that the situation was not worse. He addressed the media, offering prayers for the injured child, the deceased woman, her family, and the injured man. Pastor Osteen emphasized the church’s resilience and faith in the face of such tragedy, stating, “There are forces of evil, but the forces of God are stronger than that.”
In response to the shooting, the church was evacuated, and a reunification center was established at a nearby fitness center for people to locate their loved ones. The area surrounding the church, particularly the Southwest Freeway service road, was closed by authorities, urging the public to avoid the area.
Lakewood Church has a rich history, starting from its humble beginnings in a converted feed store on the outskirts of Houston in 1959. Over the years, it has grown exponentially, with 45,000 worshippers attending each service and millions more tuning in from around the world to watch Pastor Joel Osteen’s sermons. In 2003, the church moved to its current location, the former Compaq Center, which was later purchased by the church in 2010.
Under the leadership of Joel Osteen, who took over as senior pastor after his father’s unexpected death in 1999, Lakewood Church has become a beacon of hope and prosperity. The church’s non-denominational approach has attracted people from all walks of life, and its prosperity gospel has garnered a large following. Lakewood is now recognized as the largest megachurch in Texas and the third largest in the United States.
The shooting incident at Lakewood Church serves as a stark reminder that even places of worship are not immune to violence. As the community comes to terms with this tragic event, thoughts and prayers are extended to the victims and their families.