Summary: From Fenton to fame
Nov. 13, 2003
By Carolyn Tuft and Bill Smith
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday November 19, 2003
Joyce Meyer says God has made her rich.
Everything she has came from Him: the $10 million corporate jet, her husband’s $107,000 silver-gray Mercedes sedan, her $2 million home and houses worth another $2 million for her four children — all blessings, she says, straight from the hand of God.
It’s been an amazing run, nothing short of a miracle, says Meyer, a one-time bookkeeper who heads one of the world’s largest television ministries. Her Life in the Word organization expects to take in $95 million this year.
Just look around, she told reporters last month from behind her desk on the third floor of the ministry’s corporate offices in Jefferson County.
“Here I am, an ex-housewife from Fenton, with a 12th-grade education,” she said. “How could anybody look at this and see anything other than God?”
In many ways, Joyce Meyer is an American Cinderella.
Describing herself as sexually abused when she was a girl and neglected and abandoned as a young wife, Meyer has remade herself into one of the nation’s best-known and best-paid TV preachers. She has taken her “prosperity through faith” message to millions.
“If you stay in your faith, you are going to get paid,” Meyer told an audience in Detroit in September. “I’m living now in my reward.”
Meyer, 60 and a grandmother, runs the ministry with her husband, Dave, and the couple’s four children. All of the family, including the children’s spouses, draw paychecks from the ministry.
But the way Meyer spends her ministry’s money on herself and her family may violate federal law, legal and tax experts say. That law bars leaders of non-profits — religious groups and other charities — from privately benefiting from the tax-free money they raise.
Last month, Wall Watchers, a watchdog group that monitors the finances of large Christian groups, called on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Meyer and six other TV preachers to find out whether their tax-exempt status should be revoked.
Meyer and her lawyer say she scrupulously abides by all federal laws.
Meyer’s rise to prominence followed years of struggle. But by 1998, Charisma & Christian Life magazine was calling her “America’s most popular woman minister.”
Last year, Meyer was the keynote speaker at the Christian Coalition’s Road to Victory tour, a gathering of some of the nation’s most influential conservative leaders.
And today, her TV shows, regional conferences and fund raising from her Web site bring an average $8 million a month to her ministry. Of that, the ministry says it spends about 10 percent — $880,000 a month — on charitable works around the globe.
Her star has risen so high and so fast that it amazes even Meyer.
“Dave and I feel almost like, `Can this really be us?”` she said. “We feel like we’re the most blessed and honored people on the face of the Earth.”
Meyer’s ministry stretches around the globe.
From a 15-minute St. Louis-area radio show in 1983, it has spread to virtually every corner of the civilized world, largely through the reach of satellite and cable transmissions and the Internet.
She says the ministry gets 15,000 letters a month from India alone.
In September, an Arabic language translation of her program began airing six times a day on the Life Channel network in the Middle East. Meyer hopes to use the network to bring the message of Christianity to 31 Islamic nations.
Meyer and her husband say the ministry has the potential to reach 2.5 billion people every weekday.
The couple’s recent slogan, printed on posters in the ministry’s headquarters and on banners at its conferences, sets out an ambitious goal for the future: “Every nation, every city, every day.”
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