He served as an Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church in San Diego after completing his studies at NBTS and by the late 1940s as a minister at First Baptist Church in Hamlin, Texas. John left Hamlin in 1948 to become an traveling preacher, but within a year he became pastor of Central Baptist Church in Baytown, Texas. During his pastorate of Central Baptist Church, Osteen and his first wife, Emma, began to experience marital unrest and subsequently divorced. He married Dolores "Dodie" Pilgrim on September 17, 1954, and the following year resigned his pastorate. Osteen again entered pastoral ministry at Hibbard Memorial Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, but left in 1958.
That same year, John and Dodie's first daughter Lisa was born with severe health issues. As he wrestled with her circumstance, his theological beliefs began to shift and he had ecstatic religious experiences that he called "the baptism of the Holy Ghost". A year later, on Mother's Day, May 10, 1959, he and Dodie started Lakewood Baptist Church in an abandoned feed store in northeast Houston as a church for charismatic Baptists. The church soon dropped "Baptist" from its name and became independent and nondenominational. Lakewood developed into a body of approximately 15,000 members with active ministries in televangelism, conferences, missionary support, and food distribution. He hosted the weekly John Osteen television program for 16 years, reaching millions in the U.S. and in many other countries. On January 23, 1999, he died from a heart attack at the age of 77. His youngest son Joel later succeeded him as pastor.
30° 05.433, -095° 34.335
Klein Memorial Park