Joyce’s ministry is one of the fruits of her success not just as a Bible teacher, but as a person as well. From its inception, Joyce Meyer Ministries has grown to become one of the leading international Christian ministries, reaching out to literally millions of people and helping them not just by the preaching of the Gospel, but also by charitable programs and causes wherein people can benefit materially.
Joyce never takes any glory for all the successes that she enjoys, but rather gives all of it to God, whom she believes is the reason why all of this is even possible. And in this note, she often points out the importance of letting God work in every area of a person’s life because it is what makes one truly extraordinary. As she often states:
“God wants to be involved in our everyday life. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, he wants to be part of and invited into everything that we do. We need to let God out of the Sunday morning box that we try to keep him in. God cares about everything I do. We get him involved in the everyday things of life and then that ordinary life can become very joy-filled and even exciting.”
Joyce Feels for Others
Having experienced abuse and terrible things in her childhood, Joyce is able to empathize with people who have gone through the same experiences, and as such is able to successfully bring the right word of encouragement to them. Because of this, one of the areas that Joyce deals with in her messages is relationships:
“When you're hurt very badly in your childhood, the area that it has the greatest effect on is relationships. Once you feel like you can't trust people, once you feel like that they don't care about you, that they're really not going to take care of you, it gets very difficult in relationships. And you know, I've been so mistreated by male authority in my life that I had a terrible time in my marriage trying to be a submissive wife, you know. I mean, I wanted to rule the roost in everything. And it wasn't even really that I was rebellious; I was afraid of being hurt. And I think that a lot of people that choose these alternative lifestyles, I think it's because they've been hurt somewhere along the line very badly.”
Looking at the life and ministry of Joyce, one can definitely say that she is being used mightily by God in helping uplift and bring hope in the lives of people. With all of the experiences that she has gone through, it is so amazing that she was able to rise up from her circumstances and live a life of serving others. As she says:
“That's the biggest challenge that any of us will ever have: to really get up in the morning and say, 'OK God, what can I do to help somebody else today, how can I be a blessing to somebody else?'”
Joyce’s Early Beginnings
She was born as Pauline Joyce Hutchinson on June 4, 1943 in the city of St. Louis, Missouri. Not long after Joyce was born, her father was called to serve in the army to fight during the Second World War, leaving her mother to take care of her in her early years. After the war, her father returned home, but did not bring for Joyce the kind of life that she, as a young child, was supposed to have.
A Victim of Abuse in Her Very Own House
Unlike most children in her age, Joyce suffered a lot during her childhood, primarily due to being constantly abused by her father in almost every way she could think possible. She was abused sexually, verbally, mentally and emotionally. His father was always drunk whenever he would be around the house. In an interview Joyce gave many years later, she boldly remembered the terrible life she had as a child:
“When I look back, it was as long as I could ever remember. And, in different ways, it got worse as the years progressed. My father drank a lot. He just—something must have happened in his life or happened to him and he was just really just down right mean. I mean, just very unpleasant and mean.”
And even though Joyce’s mother loved her, she found herself unable to do anything because she did not know how to handle the situation. Joyce’s mother was married when she was seventeen years old, and as a result was not mature enough to deal with situations like this. Joyce remembered in an interview when she tried to tell her mother about the abuse one time:
“I told my mother once when I was about 9 years old. And I remember her examining me with a friend, and then going in and accusing my dad, and he just lied about it and said I was lying. And so, I guess, what woman wouldn't want to believe her husband? She didn't want her marriage to end. And so, when I realized that, you know, she didn't really know how to help me, wasn't going to help me, the more I realized nobody was going to help me.”
Because of her father’s abuse and her mother’s seeming indifference about it, Joyce grew up with a very negative perspective in life. She looked at herself at a negative way, and did not think much about any future in life. And even though she came to be baptized as a born again Christian at the age of nine, Joyce did not see much of a change due to all of the negative experiences that she had to deal with every single day.
Her father’s abusive nature greatly affected every area of Joyce’s life, causing her to have a very low self-esteem. Back in the fifties, it was nearly impossible to go public with the fact that someone is being abused for fear of scandal, and because of this, Joyce carried this heavy and overwhelming burden for the rest of her young life.
Joyce stated in an interview about the suffering of trying to keep her abuse a secret:
“It wasn't a subject that you could bring out in the open like today. People frequently say, well, I'm abused or you're abused, or you were abused. But you never heard that word then. It was just a secret that you kept, and you told no one, and, you know, even the people that you did try to tell didn't want to get involved. The few times that I did, you know, try to say something to somebody, it was like they didn't want to get involved. I never said anything at school. You know, abuse is an interesting thing. You just feel like you have to hide it from everybody.”
In spite of having low self-esteem, Joyce was nevertheless a bright student, as evidenced by her marks in school. And even though she was frequently bullied by other youths whenever they learned of her father’s abuse, Joyce still made good grades enough for her to complete her elementary and high school years. However, without the proper guidance, Joyce’s life became more astray, with her sole goal in life to get away from her home, which she finally did when she was eighteen years old.
Joyce’s First Marriage: Scars From Her Terrible Childhood
In her high school years, Joyce attended the O’Fallon Technical High School. And in spite of her having good marks, because Joyce was so eager to leave her family, right after she finished her senior year in high school she married a part-time car salesman whom she met just a few months before.
Finally getting away from her abusive father, Joyce thought that her marriage would signal the start of a better life. However, the pains and the insecurities that were brought upon her by her father’s abuse that she carried caused her married life to be dysfunctional, with Joyce often fighting with her husband due to the fact that he always cheated on her. And even though Joyce was successful in her job, she stated in interviews many years later that her husband persuaded her to take payroll checks (that were not for her) from her employer so that they could go on vacation.
Joyce’s first marriage lasted for five years, and during that those five years she had a miscarriage once and finally got pregnant right at the end of the marriage. However, before Joyce could give birth to her child, which she named David (after her brother), her first husband left her for another woman, greatly devastating Joyce and causing her to sink down in depression. She frequently visited bars after that incident, but still decided to raise her child on her own.
Getting Married Again
At that point, Joyce’s life was spiralling downward. She had a failed marriage, and even though her life seemed successful on the outside because of her job, she was all worn out and down inside. It was around this time that she met Dave Meyer, an engineering draftsman who took a liking on her in spite of learning of her troubled past.
Although she had been scarred by her past relationship, Joyce eventually found new love in David. After several months of dating, the couple finally got married in early 1967, with David having no problems of taking care of Joyce’s son, knowing full well that he was not his own. Due to Joyce’s past experiences, their married life became very turbulent at first, with Joyce often being the cause of the trouble. Because of her insecurity, Joyce often fought with her husband Dave, with Dave constantly showing her love and understanding.
Joyce related this experience in an interview many years later:
“I looked OK on the outside. I mean, I had a good job. I was always in management and leadership, and drove a car and had a husband. And starting having kids. And, you know, we went to a church. On the outside, we looked like your all-together, average, suburban couple. But behind closed doors, we were fighting all the time and arguing, and weren't getting along. And I wasn't happy if I wasn't getting my way, and nobody could tell me anything, because my attitude was, I got pushed around all my life and nobody was going to tell me what to do again. And so I had a lot of changes that I needed in my life.”
Joyce’s Amazing Transformation
In spite of the ‘seemingly’ everyday fights that they had, David, unlike Joyce’s previous husband, did not leave her. David loved Joyce very much and always made an effort to show Joyce just how much he loved her, something that gradually changed Joyce as their marriage went further. Knowing full well the past that Joyce had, as well as being a Christian, David understood that Joyce’s perspective was simply a result of her past experiences and committed himself to not being a part of the problem, but being a part of the solution, which was to show her that there was something more to life than what she had experienced.
David’s actions and decision to not leave Joyce made a significant impact in her life. Because of the love, care and understanding that Joyce received from David in spite of their constant fights, she came to slowly change her perspective about life and started to take her Christian life more seriously. She began attending church with David and their children, and started to take steps in order to become a better wife to David and a more loving mother to her children.
Taking Christianity Seriously
Joyce knew that she had always been a Christian since she was nine, but apart from accepting Jesus Christ, she knew nothing else about what the Christian life should be. She said in an interview:
“I was a Christian, but I wasn't a committed Christian. In other words, you know, I was—I had received Christ as my savior when I was a child, but I didn't know anything. I didn't have any knowledge. I didn't go to church. And I had a lot of problems, and I needed somebody to kind of help me along. And I think sometimes even people who want to serve God, if they have got so many problems that they don't think right and they don't act right and they don't behave right, they almost need somebody to take them by the hand and help lead them through the early years.”
But after meeting Dave and experiencing how to be loved, Joyce started to want to live the Christian life more seriously. It was a struggle at first, partly due to the conflicting principles of the Christian faith and her past experiences, as well as having the wrong mindset about how the Christian life should be lived. During those early years of Joyce taking her Christian life more seriously, she felt like she was trying to follow a set of rules on how to be a Christian but was not really putting her heart into it. She felt terribly frustrated with the fact that even though she was a Christian, she was still impatient and selfish, and was hard to get along with.
The Defining Moment of Joyce’s Life, and How God Called Her
Back then, when people looked at her from the outside, she was everything that a successful woman should be—she had a good job (Joyce worked as a manager in a seafood wholesale company), had a caring husband and had loving children. But on the inside, she was in turmoil, and was desperately looking for change in her life. The frustration that Joyce felt eventually got her fed up, that in February 1976, while driving to work, she just stopped her car and poured everything she was feeling out to God. And in that moment, as Joyce often said in her interviews, God touched her life in such a way that it became the defining moment in her life.
Joyce related this experience when she was interviewed on what changed her life:
“I was just so frustrated, because I was trying to do what I felt like the church was telling me to do. I was going to church. I was doing church work. You know, I was trying, trying, trying, trying. And it just wasn't working for me. And I just basically, in my car, cried out to God and said, something is wrong, something is missing. When I read the Bible, I see that we should have victory in our life and be overcomers, and I can't even control my temper. I'm impatient. I'm hard to get along with. I'm selfish and self-centered, and I don't seem to have any control over it. And that day in my car, God touched me. I became so very acutely aware of not only the presence of God, but the goodness of God. And I actually felt like somebody took my head off and filled me with liquid love and put my head back on and turned me loose.”
From that moment on, everything changed for Joyce. She began to realize how her own efforts were not getting her anywhere, and it was only through experiencing the love of God that a person could be transformed from the inside out. Joyce stated in many of her interviews that she went home that day a changed person, and from that day on, she began to look at life in a different way.
One of the greatest things that Joyce says God dealt with her was that she was carrying all these burdens from her past that she kept on the inside, and the fact that she found it hard to forgive everyone that hurt her. Joyce remembered how a message from the church she was attending changed her attitude towards forgiving people, especially her father:
“Years ago, I remember going to a church service and when the pastor said he was going to teach about our need to forgive people who had offended us, I thought something like, 'I don’t need to hear this. I don’t have any unforgiveness in my heart.' But as the service went on, I realized I really was offended and upset with two people in my life at that time. God helped me to see that I was not being honest with myself about this sin in my heart and I needed to confront it.”
And she did. From 1976 onward, Joyce not only experienced success in her job and career, but she also began to live successfully in her personal and married life. She also started to put more effort and focus on studying the Bible, which helped her become more confident and bold in talking about her past and how God changed her life.
Joyce Starts Giving Sermons
Joyce and her family were members of the Life Christian Center in Missouri, where she and her husband Dave were active in the ministry. After starting a Bible study class in a cafeteria near where they lived, Joyce began to gain popularity as a Bible teacher in their area. Within a span of a few years, Joyce rose to the ranks and eventually became Life Christian Center’s associate pastor. With Joyce being part of the leadership team, Life Christian Center became one of the leading charismatic churches in their community, and even had her doing a fifteen minute radio broadcast at one of the local radio stations.
In the early eighties as Joyce’s career as a Bible teacher continued to flourish, she began to receive criticism from the church that she and her husband Dave pastored for her preaching in the pulpit. The head pastor of Life Christian Center advised Joyce and Dave that as the man, Dave was supposed to be the one who should have been preaching in the pulpit and his wife Joyce sitting and supporting her husband. And while the couple, wanting to respect the authority of their pastor, tried to have it done that way, it was not in Dave’s personality to stand up and preach to a pulpit of people, and Joyce did not feel comfortable sitting down and not saying anything, knowing that God had put in her so much to share to the congregation.
Joyce stated in an interview regarding the roles given to her and Dave:
“Well, at first, he wasn't really all for it. He thought it was a little odd that God called me and not him. After all, he's the man, and why shouldn't he do that? But I have a wonderful, Godly husband. And God just dealt with him, that he had given me a gift, and he needed not submit to me, but to my gift and to help me, and Dave is just as much involved in the ministry as I am, except he's not up front.”
Establishing Life in the Word and Joyce Meyer Ministries
Eventually, both Joyce and Dave became unhappy with their situation that they started going back to what they were really called to do: Joyce preaching in the pulpit and Dave supporting her and evangelizing people personally. This earned the couple the frustration of the church elders, who remained insistent on not letting the women preach in the pulpit. Because of the increasing pressure that was being mounted against them, both Joyce and David decided that the frustration of having to deal with the church elders and trying to please them was not worth what God had called them to do, and in 1985 Joyce resigned from being an associate pastor from their church and agreed with her husband to start a new ministry.
And so, right after leaving Life Christian Center, Joyce and Dave established “Life in the Word,” which was the couple’s ministry. Life in the Word had humble beginnings, starting with a few people, but through Joyce’s upbeat, sound and humorous methods of teaching the Bible in a practical way, the ministry soon found itself among the most popular in the community, so much so that Joyce expanded her radio broadcast on six other stations, ranging from Chicago to Kansas City.
God’s Marvellous Grace: The Success of Joyce’s Ministry
From there on, God took Joyce and her family to places that they never even imagined. Within the next decade, Life in the Word grew to cover the United States through the radio broadcasts which multiplied in just a short time. In 1993, with the suggestion of Dave, Joyce started going into television with a weekly broadcast of Life in the Word. The program immediately garnered popularity nationally, and further established Joyce’s reputation as one of the rising Bible teachers in the nation.
From 1995 onwards, Joyce’s ministry exploded exponentially and went beyond the borders of the United States. The increasing demand for television services helped propel Joyce’s ministry, and from a weekly broadcast on one television station, Joyce started to air her teachings through national and international stations such as Black Entertainment Television and Trinity Broadcasting Network. In 1997, Joyce changed the name of her television broadcast from Life in the Word to “Enjoying Everyday Life,” which reflected the theme of her ministry.
One of the things that greatly contributed to the growth and expansion of Joyce’s ministry was her style of preaching and the things that she preached. Joyce’s upbeat and humorous illustrations of Bible principles have drawn people from all over the place who were looking for a relief from the old-fashioned, “hellfire and brimstone.”
Forgiveness: The Heart of Joyce’s Mandate
Much of Joyce’s preaching and teaching is centred on forgiveness, something that God dealt with in her own life because of all the negative things that she experienced. And the way she preaches forgiveness is not just the traditional ‘if you don’t forgive, God won’t forgive you’ way of teaching forgiveness, because she knew from her own experience that unless you don’t receive God’s forgiveness, then you would not have the ability to forgive others. For Joyce, forgiveness also releases the person from holding on to an offense that would practically destroy him/her inside out.
In an interview made with her, Joyce discussed on the topic of forgiveness:
“I know from personal experience how damaging it can be to live with bitterness and unforgiveness. I like to say it’s like taking poison and hoping your enemy will die. And it really is that harmful to us to live this way... God isn’t asking us to be doormats for people to walk all over. Forgiving others has to do with your heart attitude toward them and how you treat them. Jesus never mistreated anyone just because they mistreated Him. He confronted them in a spirit of gentleness and then continued to love them.”
Being a Successful Bible Teacher
Throughout the last decade, Joyce has experienced so many wonderful blessings in both her life and career as a pastor. She has been invited to speak in literally hundreds, if not thousands, of conferences from all over the world to share her life-changing testimony and the love of God to the people. She is a frequent guest in international conferences such as the Hillsong Conferences in Australia and Europe, and has been invited several times for interviews with secular programs such as Larry King Live. In 2005, Joyce was named one of the ‘25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America’ by TIME Magazine, a testament to the amount of influence that as a pastor she carries today.
Criticisms and Issues Faced by Joyce and Her Ministry
Of course, along with the success and popularity of Joyce came criticisms and negative comments about her, especially on the area of her family’s prosperity. In 2007, Joyce Meyer Ministries was one of the Christian ministries in the United States that were investigated in the ‘United States Senate inquiry into the tax-exempt status of religious organizations’, which was led by United States Senator Chuck Grassley, in an effort to find out whether or not the investigated heads of ministries were making any personal profits from the financial donations given by its partners. Joyce and her team complied with the requirements and were cleared of any wrongdoing after the three-year investigation.
In 2009, Joyce Meyer Ministries was accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability for meeting the organization’s requirements of financial accountability and transparency, as well as the methods of government and fund-raising of the ministry.
Today, Joyce Meyer continues to follow the mandate of which she was called to—to preach the love of God to the people and to help them live peaceful, fulfilled and joyful lives—the kind of life that God intends for everyone to have. And with the help of her friends and family, as well as sharing her powerful story of overcoming the past and building a bright future, Joyce is doing just what God has called her to do.
“I believe that people need to get their worth and value from knowing that God loves them. I believe that all healing in our inner man and even, you know we know Christ also heals people's physical diseases, but the Bible says he heals our wounds and bruises. And I believe that just knowing that you're loved. God loves you, and he loves you unconditionally. And he wants to be in relationship with you. Don't worry about what's wrong with you right now, God accepts you just the way you are and he will help you be what he wants you to be.”
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Joyce Meyer Ministries
- St. Louis Dream Center Church and its various ministries
- African Leadership Institute
- The A21 Campaign
- Action & Impact Plus
- Be’ad Chaim
- Beatiful Dreams Society
- Burkina Faso Outreach
- Center for Total Transformation
- China Care International
- Complexe de Sante Hosanna
- Christian Missions International
- Convoy of Hope
- CURE International
- Dan Salas Ministries
- Effective Ministries, Inc.
- Embrace a Village
- Empowerment Advocates International
- Global Expeditors
- Hand of Hope Project
- Heart of Mercy
- Heart for Lebanon
- Hillsong Church London and its various ministries
- His Heart and Hands Ministry
- House of Mercy
- International Crisis Aid
- Iris Ministries
- Joint Aid Management
- Loaves and Fishes
- Los Angeles Dream Center
- Love A Child
- Mercy Ministries
- Ministerios Guerrios de Deus
- Nairobi Lighthouse Church
- National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
- New Life Homes Trust
- Rick Renner Ministries
- Riga Good News Church and its various ministries
- Service International
- She Rescue Home
- Stand Up and Be Counted
- Top Chretien
- Trinity Church International and its various ministries
- Urban Youth Impact
- Vision America
- Project Jeremiah
- Alliance Defending Freedom
Awards and Achievements
- 2005: Included in the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America by TIME Magazine
- 2012: Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Oral Roberts University, Oklahoma
- 2012: Honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology from Grand Canyon University, Arizona
Wikipedia (Joyce Meyer)
Beliefnet.com ('You're Responsible for Your Own Joy': Interview with Joyce Meyer)
CNN (Larry King Live: Interview With Joyce Meyer)
CBN.com (Do Yourself a Favor...Forgive: An Interview with Joyce Meyer)