Joel Osteen and Rick Warren might be the two bigwigs of Christian televangelism, but for many people, including millions of women, there’s one more: Joyce Meyer, the Christian equivalent of Oprah. Her traumatic life story and willingness to be transparent about it have helped her to change people’s lives — and have made her a fortune in the process. Some critics focus on her money. But to her fans, she’s a Christian rock star.
Meyer is unapologetic about her wealth and is quick to point out, “If you read the Bible, it’s pretty clear that God wants to bless his children.”
The American satirist H.L. Mencken once remarked that “deep within the heart of every evangelist lies the wreck of a car salesman.” Joyce Meyer’s story features an actual car salesman, her first husband, who cheated on her. Her childhood? Not so charmed either. She stole from her employer and was the victim of rape and abuse at the hands of her father. And she is not afraid to talk about it on television, online and in almost 100 books.
Her confessions and compassion have earned Meyer, 70, a ministry of millions of followers. “I think it’s my transparency, it’s just the way I am,” she explains in her folksy, working-class St. Louis accent. “You’re not going to see me in my private life and find me very much different than right here talking to you. I don’t have anything to hide; it’s like, why not tell the truth?”
Carolyn Watson is a doctoral student at NYU and sister of OZY founder Carlos Watson. She says what she admires most about Meyer is her openness. “Not just with her life and its difficulties, but in how her relationship with Christ has been the glue that has kept her together — and helped her to overcome those difficulties.”
Hear Meyer’s daily podcast, Everyday Moments
Meyer’s stature in televangelism — a solo female in a world where women like Tammy Faye Bakker have traditionally served as sideshow performers — has also enshrined her as a role model for Christian women. She’s not just a minister and an independent woman; she’s an entrepreneur and a businessperson. Meyer’s second husband, Dave, has been involved with her ministry for about 30 years and has consistently stood back while his wife takes center stage – a refreshing contrast to most husband-wife partners in their line of work.
But more than a few folks have found Meyer’s candor unnerving, particularly because it’s contributed to such staggering wealth. Her Life in the Word ministry has about 500 employees in offices around the world, and it brings in approximately $100 million per year. It has been the target of multiple audits, one by the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. So far the probes have found nothing illicit, but the criticism of Meyer’s lavish lifestyle persists, from her five homes — including a 10,000-square-foot Cape Cod mansion — to her $10 million private jet. Meyer is unapologetic about such luxuries and is quick to point out, “If you read the Bible, it’s pretty clear that God wants to bless his children.”
She’s not just a minister and an independent woman; she’s an entrepreneur and a businessperson.
What Would Jesus Do? Would he use a private jet if he needed it to help others? Of course, says Meyer. And, apparently, millions of people around the world agree with her.
Why you should care
She’s a compassionate televangelist with a ministry of millions, known for her candor, entrepreneurship and vast wealth.