What would it be like to become the first black pastor at the largest church in the country?
Pastor John Gray opened up about the experience on media tycoon Oprah Winfrey’s program “Super Soul Sunday.” Gray is the associate pastor at famed televangelist Pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, which happens to have the largest congregation in the United States.
“So you’re the first black pastor at Lakewood church,” Winfrey said to Gray when hosting her show Sunday on her OWN Network. “What does that mean to you that one of the most influential religious leaders of our time certainly in the united states shares that platform with you?”
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” said Gray, who preaches at the church’s Wednesday service that grew from 2,500 people to 9,000 in attendance each week. “But to be the first African American to literally be on staff and just to weekly speak into the life of the church is a high honor.
Gray went on to describe his relationship with Osteen.
“I’m this fiery loud kind of boisterous guy and he’s the sweetest guy in the whole world. If he’s in ‘Friday the 13th’ he’d still be this guy,” Gray said before mimicking Osteen’s soft spoken southern accent. “‘Jason, don’t stab people, you’re supposed to love people.’ The reason why we connected is because we have different expressions but the same heart.”
When it comes to Lakewood Church, Gray believes that its inclusiveness is part of the reason for its success.
“He casts a wide net of hope. Anybody is allowed to walk in that church and find hope and life,” he said. “Every single person that we will ever encounter was created by the same God. I believe that. And everybody has inherent value. And so we were able to connect.”
As far as his Wednesday service at the megachurch, Gray believes his authenticity keeps people coming back.
“In Houston with traffic Oprah, you can’t even stay saved in the traffic. You have to come to church after all the cussin you do on the highway,” the comedic pastor joked. “You know for 9,000 to come, I believe it’s because they know my heart is pure and I’m authentic in what I share. I believe what I speak.”
Gray also has a comedic docu-series that debuted on the OWN Network Saturday called “The Book of John Gray,” which premiered April 15 and comes on every Saturday at 10 p.m. ET.
“The Book of John Gray is a dramedy docu-follow hybrid about the life of John Gray and his uniquely humorous way of helping people. John, who is an associate pastor at Houston’s Lakewood Church under Pastor Joel Osteen, is just beginning to achieve success,” a
description of the show states.
“Known for his loud, hilarious, unconventional ways, John will give viewers unprecedented and intimate access into his church and home life. John uses his deep convictions, hard-earned wisdom and famous sense of humor to help people overcome their greatest challenges, all while facing his own everyday struggles as a husband and father.”