EXCLUSIVE: Joel Osteen Talks Hurricane Harvey Backlash: 'I Feel at Peace Because We Did the Right

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Joel Osteen isn't concerned with those criticizing him for not opening his church doors sooner to shelter Hurricane Harvey victims.

ET spoke to the megachurch pastor at the Lakewood Church on Thursday in Houston, Texas, where he talked about the backlash he's received following accusations that he and his congregation weren't doing enough to aid victims. Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry are among the celebrities who have attended services at Lakewood, and multiple GRAMMY winner and gospel star Israel Houghton -- who's now married to former Cheetah Girls star Adrienne Bailon -- used to be a worship leader at the church. Lakewood reaches 20 million followers per month, and has helped Osteen and his wife, Victoria, amass an estimated net worth of more than $50 million.

"You know, I'm not really concerned about the Twitter critics," Osteen tells ET's Kevin Frazier in an exclusive interview airing Thursday on ET. "We're concerned with these people [victims now at the church] and how they move forward. And there were safety issues that people don't understand. But, I really believe that if people were in my shoes, they would have done the same thing. When the building is clear, when it's safe, we can start taking people. That's what we have done for 60 years. We love helping people and that's what our message is all about." 

Lakewood posted that it was "inaccessible due to severe flooding" on Sunday, though videos and photos shared on social media on Monday appeared to show the relatively dry surroundings of the 16,000-seat Houston church. On Tuesday, Osteen tweeted that Lakewood's doors were now open, and in an interview with CBS This Morning on Wednesday, further explained that volunteers couldn't get into the facility to open the church sooner. He also said that the city didn't initially ask the church to be a shelter.

Osteen says critics shouldn't judge him by videos appearing to show the church in good shape despite being closed. He also says that the building -- which used to be home to the Houston Rockets -- had already previously flooded in 2001.

"You know, it depends on what day that is," he explains. "I think another thing that people don't understand -- it could flood. That street could flood and in 14 hours it can be down. ... So, you can't go by that. I have video of it flooded on either Saturday night or Sunday night, I can't remember. But, you know, it can go down in 14, 15 hours."

But Osteen admits to ET that his megachurch could have prepared sooner for the disaster. 

"Knowing what I know now, I would have put staff in here before the storm hit, put beds, do everything we could to be prepared," he says. "When it catches us by surprise, even when the cities overflow and, you know, nobody dreams that shelters will overflow. ... Hindsight, it's 20/20, but we got to move forward and do what we've done for the last 60 years and take care of these people, help them rebuild their lives, bring hope to their spirits and let them know that they can come out of this stronger than before." 

Osteen, 54, says he doesn't pay attention to all of the social media criticism currently being lobbed his way.

"I don't spend any energy on the Twitter universe or social media," he shares. "And I don't mean that disrespectfully. I just don't put any energy into it. I mean, life is too short to put energy into negative emotion and I feel at peace because we did the right thing."

"Hey, my reputation is in God's hands and he can take care of that," he adds. "We're going to continue to help people." 

Now, Osteen is focusing his efforts on providing both spiritual and financial relief to Hurricane Harvey victims.

"It's a long-term effort," he acknowledges. "So, we'll put together teams that will go out and help fix houses, repair the sheet rock. We're working with the relief organizations and this is their specialty. But one thing about Lakewood, we have thousands of volunteers, people that want to help. That's what you see today." 

Osteen also reveals that he has a very large donation coming in.

"You know, we help them spiritually here, but some of these people, they need physical help, financial help," he explains. "We have some large donations coming in. We're going to be able to announce some things next week of just some fantastic help."

"A wealthy man wants to make a donation and it's just an amazing thing," he continues. "He wants to entrust us to help families here in Houston. And I said, hey, he called and I said we would be honored to do it."

For more on how to help/donate to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, please click here.

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