Evangelist Joyce Meyer brings her practical style of preaching to Metro Detroit this weekend
Joyce Meyer sounds like a gravely-voiced waitress in a greasy-spoon diner, but thousands travel miles, cram buses and wait hours to hear whatever she has to say.
Meyer doesn’t use her voice to sing, shout or dramatize her messages. The designer suit-wearing Christian evangelist simply dishes out the word like a brassy mother sitting at a kitchen table, often sauntering across the stage with a Bible in her hand.
Meyer is both stern and comical. She tells followers to dump their “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” and cautions them to get over themselves. “Jesus said, ‘Follow Me,’ ” she says. “He didn’t say, ‘you take the lead and I will follow you.'”
When it comes to Christian evangelists, people tend to think of men: Oral Roberts, Billy Graham and Bishop T.D. Jakes. However, a throng of women like Meyer have gained national and international distinction.
These female evangelists pack arenas and attract a following unlike no other women in history. Meyer, for instance, is expected to draw about 40,000 people during her four-sermon stint that ends Saturday at the Palace of Auburn Hills (see at left for details).
Unlike some ministers who can draw only one type of audience, Meyer’s messages cross all boundaries and attract people from all denominations, genders, races and income levels.
To illustrate her prominence in the ministry, more than 2.5 billion people can tune in to her television broadcasts on 400 stations around the world. Her messages are heard on more than 300 radio stations across the country. And booksellers say Meyer is the top-selling female Christian author in America (she just released her 52nd book, “How to Hear From God” (Warner Faith, $21.99).
“There are few people who have reached the level of prominence of Joyce Meyer,” says Jennifer Rothschild, a St. Louis-based speaker, author and founder of WomensMinistry.Net, an online service for women in ministry. “People are hungry for the bread of life. Joyce Meyer feeds them.”
Nancy Armstrong of Highland is excited about Meyer’s visit to Metro Detroit. Her church, the Cornerstone Church in Highland, will send two bus loads of members to see Meyer.
“She preaches the word in such a way that I can really understand it and really apply it to my life,” says Armstrong. “That’s part of her popularity. She understands the thinking of a woman and that’s why she relates so well to women.”
Victoria Myles of Detroit also is a Meyer fan.
“She’s lived through things and has been victorious,” she says. “She reminds you that there are other people who have gone through what you’re going through.”
From Bible study to ministry
What started as a Bible study class at work evolved into the suburban St. Louis-based Joyce Meyer Ministries. Since 1985, Meyer has given followers personal testimonies of victories in her own life.
For example, she shares how she dispensed the gospel while smoking cigarettes.
She talks about being mean to her husband of 35 years, Dave, her business administrator.
She tells how she has refused to speak to him for three weeks at a time.
She confesses the rage she carried for years before forgiving her alcoholic father for sexually abusing her when she was a child.
“People come because I tell the truth and they are looking for truth,” says Meyer from her Fenton, Mo., office. “I don’t pretend that I don’t do anything wrong. People are tired of phony stuff. They want practical answers to real problems.”
Meyer says she can be helpful to people because she has had similar trials and tribulations.
“I had a lot of problems, and I am a very practical person,” she says. “I am a ‘how-to’ preacher. I feel very strongly that most people, even though they are Christians, are not enjoying their life.”
In fact, Meyer says she wants Christians to enjoy their lives so much that she plans to change the emphasis of her ministry.
Instead of “Life in the Word,” next year she plans to rename her ministry and call it “Enjoying Everyday Life.”
“Enjoying your life doesn’t mean entertaining yourself all the time,” she says. “You have to deal with people you’d rather not deal with and do things you’d rather not do. But it’s important that we enjoy the journey.
“How many really, really happy Christians do you know? Christians think you’re supposed to be miserable and poor.”
She provides that same guidance in books, videotapes and CDs.
Curtis Cecil, manager of Family Christian bookstore in Canton Township, says Meyer helps drive the Christian book business.
“She’s the best-selling charismatic interest author we have,” he says.
Kuhlman, who from the early 1950s until her death in 1976, conducted miracle services around the country. Hickey, a Denver-based evangelist, has traveled the world ministering the gospel for the past 30 years. She has met with world leaders and been admitted to Muslim countries, where no other Christians have been invited.
Yet, only in the last decade have Meyer and other women like her gained national and international prominence in ministry. For many people, Meyer is a household name.
“Everything evolves,” says the Rev. Lottie Jones Hood, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Detroit and instructor at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit.
“Just as women got to vote, we got our first women lawyers, physicians and judges. God selects who he wants to carry his word. He says there are neither Jews nor Greeks, male or females. We are all one. One’s gender does not dictate whether you can see the face of God.”
Frank Franciosi understands that.
As general manager of three Metro Detroit radio stations, Franciosi selects the ministers who are included in programming lineup. He says Meyer has so much impact she is indispensable to his stations.
“She touches listeners across the board,” says Franciosi, who manages WMUZ-FM (103.5), WEXL-AM (1340) and WRDT-AM (560). “We want our listeners to say, ‘That made a difference in my life today. I can’t go a day without Joyce Meyer in my life.’ “
Meyer not only appeals to the masses, but to ministers as well.
Prophetess Juanita Bynum, who will address 20,000 people at Bishop Eddie Long’s Church in Atlanta next week, counts her as a mentor. So does the Rev. Paula White, a Lutz, Fla.-based evangelist and minister whose messages are broadcast daily on television.
“Joyce is a great friend and a wonderful mentor,” says White, who also works under the leadership of Bishop T.D. Jakes and who addresses more than 80,000 at Jakes’ women’s conferences and hundreds of thousands during her international trips.
“Joyce has been a mentor to many women in ministry. I have gleaned from her teaching and wisdom to break down the word and make it applicable to life.”
Women in the Pulpit
Arguably Joyce Meyer is the country’s leading female evangelist. Here is a partial list of other prominent women in the ministry:
- Age: 60
- Location: Joyce Meyer Ministries/Life in the Word, Fenton, Mo.
- TV Broadcast: “Life in the Word” on cable stations TBN, ABC Family Channel, WGN, Court TV, Direct TV, the Church Channel, the Word Network and World Harvest. In Metro Detroit, on WADL (Channel 38), WDWO (Channel 18) and WLPC (Channel 26).
- Radio Broadcast: 6:45 a.m. WEXL-AM (1340); 10:15 a.m. and 11:45 p.m. WMUZ-FM (103.5); 12:15 p.m. WLQV-AM (1500).
- Media: Author of 52 books; videotapes, cassettes, CDs.
- Age: 44
- Ministry: Juanita Bynum Ministries, Waycross, Ga.
- TV Broadcast: “Weapons of Power” on cable stations TBN, Daystar.
- Media: One book, “No More Sheets;” videotapes, CDs.
- Age: 72
- Ministry: Marilyn Hickey Ministries, Denver.
- TV Broadcast: “Today with Marilyn Hickey” on cable stations TBN, Daystar, the Word. In Metro Detroit, WADL (Channel 38).
- Media: Author of more than 100 books and booklets; videotapes, cassettes, CDs.
Anne Graham Lotz
- Age: 55
- Ministry: AnGel Ministries, Raleigh, N.C.; Just Give Me Jesus conferences worldwide.
- Media: Author of five books; CDs, videotapes, workbooks, Bible studies.
The Rev. Jacqueline E. McCullough
- Age: 53
- Ministry: The Gathering at Beth Rapha, Pomona, N.Y.
- TV Broadcasts: Regular appearances on cable stations TBN and CTN.
- Media: One book, “Daily Moments with God: In Quietness Confidence;” videotapes, cassettes, CDs.
- Age: 38
- Ministry: Co-pastor of Without Walls International Church, Tampa, Fla.
- TV Broadcasts: “Paula White Today” on cable stations TBN, BET, Court TV, the Church Channel and Daystar.
- Media: Book contract pending with Warner Faith; videotapes, cassettes, CDs.