Update: A response from Joyce Meyer Ministries appears at the end of this article.
Joyce Meyer overcame a background of sexual and emotional abuse to build one of the largest Christian ministries in the world.
She is also a bestselling author of more than 90 books, including Battlefield of the Mind, Never Give Up, and Eat the Cookie...Buy the Shoes.
Her ministry has been the subject of controversy, however, and she was one of six Word of Faith preachers investigated by U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) in 2007 for their lavish lifestyles. Since that time, Meyer has reduced her and her husband's salaries and relies more on royalties from her books. She has also increased the financial transparency of Joyce Meyer Ministries.
Did God Make Joyce Meyer Rich--or Did Her Donors?
Like several other Word of Faith preachers, Joyce Meyer lives large on things supplied by the ministry: a private jet, a luxurious home for her and each of her four grown children, expensive cars, and an opulent headquarters building adorned with costly furnishings.1
A 2003 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article detailed some of the office trappings:
The decor includes a $30,000 malachite round table, a $23,000 marble-topped antique commode, a $14,000 custom office bookcase, a $7,000 Stations of the Cross in Dresden porcelain, a $6,300 eagle sculpture on a pedestal, another eagle made of silver bought for $5,000, and numerous paintings purchased for $1,000 to $4,000 each.2
Meyer told the Post-Dispatch that her home, a 10,000 square foot Cape Cod with a swimming pool and guest house, was no different from a parsonage that many churches supply to their pastor.3 She makes no apologies for her lifestyle, saying she has obeyed God and done his work and that he has made her rich as a reward.
Critics, such as Ministry Watch and the Trinity Foundation, say such finery has no place in a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. Meyer's ministry came under investigation by Senator Grassley in 2007 with five other Word of Faith preachers: Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, and Paula White.
At the conclusion of the probe, Meyer joined the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a respected group with high standards for financial transparency and independent governing boards.4
Joyce Meyer's Rocky Beginning
Born in 1943 in south St. Louis, Missouri, Pauline Joyce Hutchinson has stated that her father sexually abused her after he returned from World War II. She graduated from O'Fallon Technical High School, marrying a part-time car salesman shortly after. That marriage lasted five years.
Following her divorce, she married Dave Meyer, an engineering draftsman, in 1967. She frequently credits Dave Meyer's support and encouragement with helping her turn her life around. She admits she was blunt, selfish, and rude in the early years of their marriage.
Meyer said she received a personal message from God in 1976. She got her start in ministry by leading a Bible class and soon became associate pastor at Life Christian Center, a charismatic church in Fenton, Missouri.
That led to a daily 15 minute local radio program. She resigned as associate pastor in 1985 to start her own radio ministry, "Life in the Word." Her husband suggested they expand to television ministry, which started on Superstation WGN in Chicago and included the Black Entertainment Television network (BET).
Today, Joyce Meyer Ministries' "Enjoying Everyday Life" TV program is broadcast in more than 40 languages on 900 TV and radio stations throughout the world. The Missouri headquarters has 507 employees, with another 464 workers in 12 satellite offices throughout the world.
According to Meyer's website, the organization provided 29.5 million meals in 2010 through its international feeding program, operates about 40 children's homes throughout the world, provides medical care to hundreds of thousands, and supplies disaster relief in the United States and overseas. Other programs include inner city outreach, water relief, prison ministry, and support for centers fighting human trafficking.
Joyce Meyer Preaches On
Largely unscathed by the negative publicity, Joyce Meyer continues to speak at about a dozen women's conferences a year, as well as host her television program. She is a staunch defender of the Word of Faith message, claiming that God blesses his people financially and materially for their faithfulness to him.
Her primarily female audiences love her humorous, gently scolding style and say her battles with abuse and breast cancer make her messages practical and uplifting.
And, her books continue to sell briskly. Five of her titles, Battlefield of the Mind; Power Thoughts; Hearing from God Each Morning; Starting Your Day Right; and Eat the Cookie...Buy the Shoes were among the 100 best selling Christian books of 2010.
Editor's Note: In response to this article, Joyce Meyer Ministries has asked to print the following clarifications and updates:
- Although the ministry does still own the jet, no homes or automobiles have been provided for any family members.
- The malachite round table, the marble-topped antique chest of drawers and the porcelain statue were donated to other ministries. The bookcase, which is built into the wall of an office and the two eagles statues still remain with the ministry.
- The ministry no longer owns the parsonage.
- Senator Grassley commended the ministry for its transparency and membership in the ECFA, which Meyer joined on March 12, 2009.