Pastor Joel Osteen was heckled by six men at Lakewood Church in Houston on Sunday during his sermon. The incident led off-duty police officers working security for the pastor to boot them out of the church, according to USA Today.
Ostend just started his sermon when one of the men stood up and shouted, “Joel Osteen, you’re a liar!” He continued his sermon as five other men started yelling.
The group was identified as Jacob Gardner, Mark DeRouville, Kevin Fessler, Randall Valdez, Matthew Martinez and Richard Trudeau, who were all arrested on trespassing charges. They are all thought to be associated with the Church of Wells, a small religious group based in Wells, Texas.
Joel Osteen was heckled, even though it doesn’t happen often, but this happened in his own church of all places. The Lakewood megachurch, the country’s largest Protestant church, sees an average of more than 40,000 parishioners each week.
“We’ve learned that the protesters who disrupted one of our Sunday morning services were the leaders of a small controversial church in Nacogdoches, Texas, called the Church of Wells,” a spokesman for Lakewood Church said in a statement. “This group is known for protesting many Christian churches with whom they don’t agree.”
“Lakewood Church takes the disruption of our services seriously and plans to pursue criminal charges, as well as all other legal remedies against these individuals and the Church of Wells,” he added.
“Thank you all for your patience and we’ll just continue to receive what God has for us. It’s a good day to be alive,” Osteen continued after church security escorted the men out of the facility. The congregation then applauded as Joel continued with his worship.
“He kept on going. He kept his composure. He really got the message out and he said no weapon formed against me shall prosper,” a witness said. “Kudos to him for delivering a good service.”
Casey Eaglin, who attended Osteen’s service, said one of the hecklers “jumped up with his bible and started screaming, ‘Shame on you Joel, shame on you Joel’ and Joel kind of just repeated scripture and they just escorted them out.”
With the Charleston church massacre fresh on churchgoers’ minds, Eaglin admitted that he “was terrified for a quick second there. After the first guy, I thought oh it’s just a random heckler, but then you start seeing the second, the third … I started thinking about the church shooting that happened and I was thinking ‘Oh God something bad is about to happen.'”
Joel Osteen isn’t the first to be heckled during his own sermon. But this was one rare incident seen by the church.