Joyce Meyer is as close as it gets to being a Christian rock star. But she herself abused as a child, divorced young, a woman who admits to stealing from her boss says she is an unlikely success story.
People, women in particular, flock to Meyer's conferences on Christianity, which are peppered with down-home advice on how to live, love and work with God in your life.
"I tell people, and it's the truth, I could sit in my garage for a week and it won't make me a car," Meyer said. "And you can sit in church till your bottom is flat and that won't make you a servant of Christ."
It is in large part Meyer's honesty about her struggles that makes her so appealing to so many.
"I was in a terrible mess in my childhood," said Meyer, who calls herself a Bible teacher. "Just had so many devastating things happen to me; sexual abuse, verbal abuse, abandonment, just one mess after another. So let's just say by the time I was a young adult, I was really messed up."
The sexual abuse Meyer suffered at the hands of her father is part of her preaching, part of what defines her.
"The abuse started, I guess, around the time I was 5," Meyer said. "As I got older, it turned into, you know, him actually having sex with me. My own father raped me. ... I know it happened at least 200 times, so for me to stand here and say I'm of sound mind, I'm whole emotionally, I've been married to the same man for 44 years, I have four wonderful children, almost 10 grandchildren, and I'm being able to help people all over the world, God has done a lot for me."
One question that arises from Meyer's life narrative is whether we'd be talking about a Joyce Meyer Ministry without her horrible childhood, without the continual rape.
"I'm not sure we would be," Meyer said. "And I can tell you something even crazier. ... I used to say, of course I wish that would've never happened to me. But, and one day I just thought, you know, I can't even really say that anymore. Because of the deep need in my life, because of what had happened to me, I had to find help with God, no one else was going to help me. And the things that I've been through, and even being in this public position, the judgment, the criticism, the potshots that people throw at you, I mean other than my immediate family, I've had to find a way to go on in God."
Meyer said she believes her candor is a large part of her appeal, which she displays not just at conferences but also on her global television show.
"I think it's my transparency, you know people ask me about that and it's not something I do on purpose, it's just the way I am," she said. "It's what you get, you're not going to see me in my private life and find me very much different than right here talking to you. ... I don't have anything to hide, it's like, why not tell the truth?"
Joyce Meyer Admits to Stealing, Facelift
Judging by Meyer's past sermons, she means what she says about transparency, to a point that some audience members might find cringe-inducing. In one sermon, Meyer talked about having worked in a company where she was involved in stealing money.
"That was just so important to me, because that was a secret that would have always made me fearful of someday being caught had I not brought that out in the open," Meyer said. "God wanted to use me in ministry, but that was something I needed, that was something I could go back and make right, he wanted me to go back and make that right. I was petrified. ... I was like, 'What if they arrest me,, what if I go to jail, what if, what if?' ... But I really felt like it was what God was prompting me to do, that I needed to go make that right, that I didn't have to have that between me and God."
Meyer decided to go to the owners of the company and confess. She paid back the money she had stolen.
The preacher has also been honest about having had a facelift.
"God doesn't love me anymore or less because I had some work done on my face," she said. "You know, I prayed about it a long, long, long, long, long time, because there again, I wouldn't want to do anything that I felt was going to be offensive to God. ... But I just felt like he finally just came to my heart, you know, it's your face, do what you want to. ... It was a really good thing that I did for me. It made me feel good. ... And you know, when you're in front of millions of people every day, you want to look your best."
Meyer said she didn't think it was a religious matter.
"I want to look my best for God," she said. "So many people have the attitude that if you're a Christian you've got to dress bad, wear an old color, not do anything to your hair, have nothing. It's no wonder that Christianity is not very attractive. I mean, how many people do you know in a Western culture that's going to go, 'Yeah, give me some of that'?"