Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church, Joel Osteen, was publicly ridiculed on Social media for refusing to open the doors of his 16,800 seat megachurch to help flood victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Lakewood Church in Houston had escaped the majority of the storm but had no intention of opening its doors before the online shaming began. In a tweet posted on 26th August, Osteen said, "Victoria & I are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family."

In a Facebook post 27th August, Lakewood Church wrote, "Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding!"

Social media backlash

Within minutes, angry social media users were quick to point out Osteen's less than Christian actions.

Photographs of the closed, but visibly accessible church were posted online and many voiced their disapproval.

Twitter users began using the hashtag #JoelOsteenCharlatan and directly asking the Pastor why he refused to open the church. Many were subsequently blocked by Osteen.

Another prominent Pastor, Greg Locke, the Lead Pastor of Global Vision Bible Church also tweeted to Olsteen to remind him of his Christian obligations. He wrote: "Joel Osteen, as a Pastor you have a huge obligation to show the love of Christ at this very moment.

OPEN THE DOORS. #HoustonStrong"

Opening the doors

In a series of tweets from Lakewood Church's Twitter account, it was made clear that the church would open as a collection site for distributing emergency supplies to the Houston area shelters. Asking for both volunteers and supplies, such as baby and adult nappies, baby formula and food.

They also posted links to a relief fund, Samaritan’s Purse, a "disaster relief organisation" overseen by Franklin Graham, the president, and CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Lakewood Church has since posted a statement, writing: "We have never closed our doors.We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need.

We are prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm"

The megachurch also posted numerous photographs showing what they say is flooding around and inside the building.

Twitter user @cmclymer posted a photograph from inside the church, showing multiple air mattresses on a floor with the post, "Lakewood Church apparently bought countless air mattresses and are prepping to open their doors. Took a while but good news."

Hurricane Harvey has already claimed two victims with more flooding expected within the next couple of days.