The Many Ministries Of Joyce Meyer
Sunset Hills evangelist has spun a multi-media empire with her world-wide message of the Gospel
By Don Corrigan
Rage Against Destruction, a musical ensemble staging public school assemblies against violence, brought many area residents their first encounter with Joyce Meyer and her evangelical ministries.
The Rage Against Destruction youth entourage provided concert-quality music, high-tech lighting and an anti-violence message to schools. The group toured locally, and all over the country, until it was accused of "stealth evangelism" and acting as a front for Joyce Meyer ministries.
Meyer herself is easily one of the wealthiest residents of Sunset Hills and her ministries consist of a multi-media, multi-million dollar operation that employs more than 450 people. Her organization is headquartered off Highway 30 near the border of Fenton, but its reach is worldwide.
The 60-ish Meyer is a familiar figure for American viewers of TV evangelism and her "Life in The Word" program can reach two-billion people worldwide. Her radio program is broadcast by almost 400 radio stations. Revenue for the ministries comes from sales of books, videotapes, cassettes and fees for conferences, including a convention for Christian women slated an Oct. 2-4 at the downtown Edward Jones Dome.
According to literature for the St. Louis event, Meyer will unveil four teachings from God specifically for those who ante up a $50 registration fee. Others providing "anointed teachings" are Peter Marshall, Roberta Morrison and Christine Caine. This will be the 21st Annual International St. Louis Women's Convention. Last year, 15,000 attended the ministries' event.
Meyer holds an honorary doctorate of divinity degree from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., and a PhD. in theology from Life Christian University in Tampa, Fla. She began religious teaching and preaching in 1976 and entered full time ministry in 1980. Previously an associate pastor at Life Christian Church in Sunset Hills, Meyer established her own ministry and media-tailored messages through "Life In The World, Inc."
A prolific author of more than 50 inspirational books, Meyer's latest work debuted Sept. 2 and is entitled, "How To Hear From God." The book is described as a step-by-step guide to knowing God, and an aid for arming "yourself against negative people, gossip, television, and sometimes even the religious 'rituals' that can distract you from hearing God's words."
Swirl Of Controversy
Despite her heavenly mission and Christian message, Meyer has not escaped "negative people" or criticism of her activities from a variety of quarters. A controversy over her Rage Against Destruction program for schools made local papers and TV news reports in 2002.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) took aim at Joyce Meyer ministries, declaring that its "Rage Against Destruction programs disregard the inappropriateness of using public schools to advocate religious beliefs."
An ADL report noted that the Rage events at public schools were followed by invitations to an off-campus youth crusade called "Firefest." At these events, students were urged to accept the Meyer approach to "the life-changing message of the Gospel."
The ADL accused Meyer of deceiving students, parents, teachers and superintendents by using the anti-violence school assemblies as a front for the primary mission of proselytizing.
Adverse publicity from the ADL report prompted many schools to cancel the Rage youth ministry program. On Dec. 17, 2002, Rage Against Destruction announced that it would "discontinue all future programs and events."
Meyer, who shuns interviews with the press, regularly advises her followers that those who embrace God can expect roadblocks from Satan.
"Every time you and I try to make progress, Satan opposes us," declares Meyer. "He places people in our path and surrounds us with circumstances that are draining, attempting to devour our determination to carry on. With every open door of opportunity comes many adversaries."
One key area where Meyer has run into adversaries is with her theology and teachings. She has been criticized by peers in the evangelical movement for her claims that the heavenly angels sometimes tell her what to preach as she is speaking.
Another Meyers' assertion that has embroiled her in theological debate involves a 1991 booklet in which she stated, "You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell."
Some theologians claim that this teaching is an aberration from accepted Christian belief and implies that Jesus' death on the cross was not sufficient to atone for mankind's sins, and that Jesus was subsequently tormented and tortured in the kingdom of Satan before his resurrection.
The success of Meyer's Life in The Word, Inc. is most obvious in the impressive $19 million headquarters, built within the past two years by R. Messner Construction Co. The sprawling complex is anchored with a giant white cross on a hilltop adjacent to the intersection of Northwest Boulevard and Highway 30 just inside Jefferson County.
Estimates of revenue for the Meyer operation range from $50 million to $70 million, but an exact figure is unavailable since the ministries do not file with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) even though it cannot be classified as a traditional church with a congregation.
The Wall Watchers' Ministries Watch gives Joyce Meyer's operation a grade of "F" in ratings for financial transparency. The North Carolina-based rating service has more than 500 ministries in its data base, with more than 85 percent complying with financial information.
"We've sent letters, e-mails and we have called. We get no cooperation from them," said Rod Pitzer of Wall Watchers. "When we don't see any accountability in organizations such as Meyer's, that are very tightly controlled, with she as the director and her husband as treasurer, that sends up a red flag. That should be troubling to any contributors or donors who want to be aware of how their money is being used."
The Meyer's operation also lacks accreditation from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), a Virginia-based service.
"We endorse what ECFA does," said Pitzer. "When Joyce Meyer does not cooperate with either our group on accountability, nor with ECFA, that is a warning signal."
Like the evangelical ministries of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, Meyer's operation does not shy away from offering God's view on various political issues. Her website takes aim at Hollywood and its depravity, gay marriages and Senate Democrats who have created a "graveyard of good judges" whose nominations are lost in "liberal quicksand."
Her website also supports federal legislation to "Give Free Speech To Your Pastor." House Bill 235 would prevent churches from losing their tax-exempt status for endorsing candidates or for getting involved in promoting campaign funding.