Other bloggers can talk all they want about John Piper, Scot McKnight, Tim Keller, Francis Chan, etc., but I work in a Christian bookstore and in that environment, only one name mattered this week: Beth Moore. Her So Long Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend To Us (Tyndale, 2010) is out in hardcover at $24.99 US this month and has captured the top spot on a couple of the Spring Arbor overnight Top 100 charts this week.
Before going further, I have to ask: What’s with the United States and all their hardcover releases? I thought y’all were in the middle of an economic downturn?
Okay, the question is rhetorical. When it comes to Beth Moore, money is no object. Almost all her book titles have released in hardcover, a situation she shares with her slightly more charismatic friend, Joyce Meyer. Neither one of these women have any problem sucking money out of the pockets of their fans.
In fairness though, while Meyer may not be able to control everything her publisher does with her hardcovers, she apparently does give away many of her teaching DVDs and CDs to ministry organization.
With Moore, the commercialism is more overt. When Moore isn’t writing general book titles for publishers such as Tyndale, she’s producing another small group Bible study for Lifeway. I gotta be honest here, I have a hard time even typing Lifeway into a sentence, and I just about retch saying it out loud.
Lifeway is the most ingenious money sucking device ever invented by Baptists, and trust me, they’ve invented several. My anger knows no bounds in this, but fortunately it’s righteous anger, so I can rationalize it in large amounts.
Here’s how the scam works: Lifeway, a producer of dated Sunday School curriculum decided long ago that there was far more money in delineating its non-dated adult small group material as curriculum also, and sells it to distributors at what is called a short-discount. Your favorite Christian bookstore or online vendor is simply not making a lot of money on it. So who is?
Often, such as in the case of church choral and orchestral product, or certain esoteric Bible translation materials, the discount is shortened to keep the price affordable. But with many of Moore’s DVD teaching sets retailing at $250 US, that simply isn’t the case here.
Years ago, Serendipity House held back products from distribution — selling them only through their own system — to cover development costs. That’s not the case here, either. The retail prices of the study guides — almost always $19 US and coyly termed “member books” — usually cost participants twice the price of any other DVD-related participant guides and more than cover any possible development costs.
But the price is minor when you factor in the volume. Moore and Lifeway together are selling thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of these things. The Lifeway anchor store we visited in Nashville had a staff member assigned solely to this one aisle of product, and when he went to lunch someone else covered for him. The appetite of Christian women’s groups for Beth Moore knows no bounds; not denominationally and not geographically. James MacDonald, who won’t let the wives of any of his staff members do anything other than be stay at home housewives, included her on his Downpour tour. She’s ubiquitous; able to boldly go where no woman has gone before and command fees that no one has ever charged before.
And what qualifies this person who is teaching our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and girlfriends?
She has a degree in political science.
Okay, let’s be fair, she also has an honorary doctorate in humanities from Howard Payne University (no I haven’t heard of it, either) a Baptist (surprise) university located in Brownwood, Texas (surprise) whose basketball team won a national championship in 1957. According to Wikipedia she went to a Biblical doctrine class (whoo hoo) and then started a women’s Bible study that grew to over 2,000. But when it comes to earned education, their report stops with this:
She has a degree in political science.
Joyce Meyer? She claims an earned degree from the non-accredited Life Christian University, and also has an honorary degree from ORU. She doesn’t have $250 DVD teaching series, nor do her various publishers and DVD creators stiff Christian bookstores with a short discount. And I’m willing to give her points for growing up in adversity and having attended the school of hard knocks.
But the private jet always comes up in conversation. You gotta be careful here, however, since the counter argument is always to look at the places she travels in a year and then compare the cost (and time) involved in commercial flights. I’m willing to let her have the thing.
I’m not so willing to concede on the luxury homes or the lifestyle that goes with them, regardless of how much money she gives away. There are casinos which payout 94% of all they take in. That’s nice. It’s the 6% that bothers me. Check out this estate plan:
Here’s the extended photo caption for this picture by Robert Cohen of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Joyce Meyer Ministries bought these 5 homes for Meyer and her family. The Ministry pays all expenses, including landscaping and lawn care, property taxes and rehab work. Meyer, her husband and each of their four married children live in the homes, free of charge.”
Bought: April 27th, 1999
Purchase Price: About $795,000
Square Footage: 10,000
Cost of Improvements: $1.1 Million
Features: 6 Bedrooms, 5 Bathrooms, Gold Putting Green, Swimming pool, 8 Car Heated and Cooled Garage, Guest House with 2 more bedrooms, Gazebo.
Bought: February 12, 2002
Purchase Price: $400,000
Square Footage: About 5,000
Cost of Improvements: About $250,000
Features: 4 Bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half Bathrooms, All-Seasons room, Prayer Room, Media Center and a Home Office.
Bought: June 18, 2001Purchase Price: $725,000
Square Footage: 4,000
Cost of Improvements: Unknown
Features: 2 Story Colonial, 4 Bedrooms, 2 1/2 Bathrooms, 2 Garages and a Utility Shed
Bought: March 7, 2001
Purchase Price: $350,000
Square Footage: 2,358
Cost of Improvements: $3,000
Features: 3 Bedrooms, 2 Bathrooms with a Fireplace.
Bought: Mar 13, 2000
Purchase Price: About 200,000
Square Footage: About 2,000
Cost of Improvements: $33,000
Features: Brick Ranch With Full Finished Basement
[Read more here] (Last updated 1.11.09)
Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Here’s some alternatives for you to consider: Donna Partow, Luci Swindoll, Elizabeth George, Thelma Wells, Lysa TerKeurst, Liz Curtis Higgs, Shaunti Feldhahn, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Stasi Eldredge, Lisa Bevere, Stormie Omartian, Jill Briscoe, and the list goes on and on. (DVD and/or workbooks are available for study material for the majority of these authors; all at lower cost than the aforementioned Ms. Moore.)
In conclusion, Moore and Meyer are teachers that lead and inspire the women in many, many churches; and many women either dream or consciously want to emulate Meyer or Moore. In Moore’s case, a denomination holding solidly to the premise that women should not pastor (see link below) has no problem ceding the responsibility for much teaching to a woman whose only earned degree is in political science. In Meyer’s case, it’s often both men and women who enjoy her teaching, while she herself enjoys a personal life of excess.
UPDATE: April 4, 2011 — After more than a year of taking a lot of heat for this particular blog post, I’ve decided to close comments. I appreciate the replies to this article, which is the closest thing I’ve ever done to anything investigative, but I really don’t have a vendetta here, and I carry both Joyce’s and Beth’s products in the two bookstores I do buying for.
I’ve defended my reasons for running this and leaving it up in various responses to the comments. Please read them. I’ve tried to make it clear my goal was not to wound or hurt anyone. Still, some writers have made it their goal to judge me for posting this. I’m sorry we don’t know each other better.
I think the replies, 37 as of now, show the variety of opinions people have on this issue. Also, I need to suggest that for some, the “wrongness” or “excess” of any preacher’s housing, if any, will diminish as the U.S. climbs out of recession.
I’d also invite you to read a follow up piece that appeared here several months later.
Finally, I would want to remind you that a great many people found this because they were indeed searching for pictures of Joyce’s house. I really don’t know why. And I also want to reiterate that the main issue concerning Beth had to do with the politics by which her products are sold.
For the record, I am in favor of women as elders, women in ministry and women as pastors. But I would like to think there was a solid theological education underpinning that role. However again, I would also like to say that education isn’t everything, and that the main criteria noted with the disciples in Acts was that they were seen to have “spent time with Jesus.”