Joyce Meyer, popular Bible teacher and preacher, has shared with her supporters the latest financial report detailing her ministry's assets, expenditures, and the results of its charitable and evangelistic undertakings. The ministry's production of publicly-available yearly financial reports was just one change Meyer made after being named years ago in a Senate probe of the finances of six notable Christian televangelists.
Meyer, named in 2005 by Time magazine among the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America, is a prolific author, having written more than 70 books, including the bestselling Battlefield of the Mind (1995). The 72-year-old minister is also a powerhouse on social media (totaling about 13 million followers across Twitter and Facebook), perhaps falling second only to Joel Osteen where evangelical Christian preachers are concerned.
The Fenton, Missouri-based Joyce Meyer Ministries, founded in 1985, claims that Meyer "reaches a potential audience of 3 billion people worldwide" through her "Enjoying Everyday Life" broadcasts. Meyer's 32nd "Love, Life Women's Conference," the only conference for which she charges an entry fee, attracted 14,000 women who paid $69 per ticket for the Missouri event last year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The ministry's 2014 annual report reveals that 49,930 people "received Christ" at its free conferences (which reportedly number "close to 15 annually"), 1.1 million copies of Meyer's books were distributed globally, and 4.5 billion people were potentially reached via the nonprofit's television program.
The financial report states that 83 percent of the ministry's total expenditures were "for outreach and program services directed at reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meeting the physical needs of the less fortunate all over the world." Some aspects of the ministry's missions work, done through its Hand of Hope relief wing, is helping to build clean-water wells in seven countries, assisting women and young girls escaping sexual slavery, and providing meals to children around the world and in Missouri via Meyer's St. Louis Dream Center.
A breakdown of Joyce Meyer Ministries' statement of activities for 2014 shows that "total unrestricted revenue and other support" yielded $110,528,277, while the ministry's "total operating expenses" were $114,400,756, leaving it with year-end net assets totaling $48,312,112 ($3,872,479 less than it started the year with). The biggest areas of expense were Meyer's radio and television ministry ($30,867,736), missions and outreach ($29,837,903) and print media, which includes salaries, printing and production and postage costs ($15,866,419).
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit operating as a "church," Joyce Meyer Ministries, like other public charities, is exempt from federal income tax and is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, according to the IRS. A nonprofit ministry classified as a church, specifically if it is a large operation, is not required by the IRS to report its financial dealings, a privilege that some Christian ministers have been accused of abusing to secretly and illegally amass personal wealth.
For basic comparison, here is what other charitable Christian organizations have made publicly available about their recent earnings and assets: multi-campus NewSpring Church based in Anderson, South Carolina, reported $59,340,144 total income in its 2014 financial report; LifeChurch.tv, also a multi-site church and based in Edmonton, Oklahoma, reported closing out 2014 with total assets valued at $154,972,715; Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship church pastor Tony Evans reported that his Urban Alternative ministry's 2014 income totaled $8,971,167; Franklin Graham's global relief organization Samaritan's Purse reported $346,712,522 in total assets.
Joyce Meyer Ministries has nine international offices and 25 field offices, 500 employees at its U.S. headquarters and an additional 184 people working at its international offices. Listed on its board of directors are Meyer, her husband and two sons (Dave and Daniel and David L. Meyer, respectively). Also listed on the board are: pastor Tommy Barnett; John Bevere; pastor Don Clowers; Dru Hammer; Paul Osteen; Paul Schermann; Kurt Warner; and pastor Bob Yandian.
A "Management Report to Supporters Regarding Compensation" addresses Meyer's "salary and fringe benefits," which the board of directors decided last year was $250,000, in addition to a housing allowance and contributions to retirement plans. The compensation letter, signed by Chief Financial Officer Delanie Trusty, adds that the ministry's gross profits from Meyer's books and honorariums received by the ministry from her speaking engagements "exceed her total compensation stated above."
The 'Grassely Six' Senate Investigation
Meyer, who once described herself as "an ex-housewife from Fenton (Missouri), with a 12th-grade education," earned a Ph.D. in theology from Life Christian University, an institution not officially recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education. She entered ministry in 1980 and shuns the title "televangelist" in preference of "practical Bible teacher." Her Bible teaching, though popular, has been criticized by some Christians as "prosperity preaching" or "word of faith." As her ministry comments on its website regarding word of faith — characterized by critics as the belief that one can essentially declare his or her desires into existence, presumably in alignment with God's will:
Joyce Meyer Ministries believes in the Word of God. Joyce teaches that God has made promises to us in His Word and as believers, we should trust His promises (see 2 Peter 1:3,4 ). However, it can be damaging when people place their faith in faith alone instead of placing their faith in God. Misappropriation of God's promises solely for personal gain is not scripturally supported.
The Missouri-based minister has also been accused of promoting a "prosperity gospel," said by critics to place a heavy emphasis on God providing financial blessings presumably when believers donate money with that expectation in mind. Meyer's ministry clarifies:
Joyce Meyer Ministries believes that God desires to bless His people. Joyce teaches that God's blessings and prosperity apply to the spiritual, emotional, physical and financial areas of life. These blessings and prosperity are then to be used to bless others (see Genesis 12:2). A "prosperity gospel" that solely equates blessing with financial gain is out of balance and could damage a person's walk with God.
Criticism of Meyer's alleged prosperity teaching and tax-exempt status prompted her ministry, along with five other prominent Protestant preachers, to be scrutinized in a 2007 Senate investigation. Meyer was targeted for a financial probe along with ministers Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Eddie Long, and Kenneth Copeland, dubbed the "Grassley Six." The investigation was led by Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Finance.
Although none of the targeted Christian ministers were obligated to comply with the Senate committee's request for reports on their financial practices, Meyer — and Hinn — did comply. As the Senate Committee on Finance reported four years launching its probe:
"One of the six ministries, Joyce Meyer Ministries, responded fully to Grassley's inquiry and joined the ECFA in March 2009. Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church also provided complete answers to all questions. Both ministries wrote to Grassley to explain they have undertaken significant internal governance reforms."
"The reforms undertaken by pastor Hinn and Joyce Meyer are extensive and are to be commended," the Senate committee stated in its 2011 review, CP reported at the time.
The remaining ministers, "Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church, Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church/Eddie L. Long Ministries, and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries submitted incomplete responses," according to the Senate committee.
"There was abuse. But I don't want to say because there was abuse by, you know, a handful of televangelists that that's spread among all the churches of America," Grassley told NPR last year for its multi-part report on Christian ministers and ministries "avoiding tax scrutiny."
Although the Senate committee's final report "recommended tightening IRS rules on church status and strengthening laws against self-dealing and excessive compensation," according to NPR, "Senator Grassley turned to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability."
The 2009 Senate investigation was not the first time being placed under scrutiny moved Meyer's ministry to make financial changes.
In 2003, the St. Louis-Post Dispatch reported in a money-focused feature that Meyer owned a $10 million corporate jet and a $2 million home and that her husband drove a $107,000 silver-gray Mercedes sedan — all of which she reportedly attributed as blessings from God.
The scrutiny by the St. Louis-Post Dispatch report and by critics prompted the Joyce Meyer Ministries board of directors to reduce her salary and change how she financially benefits from her book sales.
As previously stated, Meyer joined the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, founded in 1979 by evangelist Billy Graham, two years after the Senate's financial probe was launched.
The ECFA states on its website that it "provides accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with established standards for financial accountability, transparency, fundraising and board governance."
"Collectively, these organizations represent nearly $23 billion in annual revenue," according to the ECFA.
The ECFA published a press release when Meyer's ministry joined, and noted that the organization met its "Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship." Included on the ECFA's list of seven standards are "affirming a commitment to the evangelical Christian faith," being "governed by a responsible board," maintaining "complete and accurate financial statements," and submitting financial statements to the ECFA to maintain transparency.
Joyce Meyer Ministries' 2014 report includes a signed statement from the Stanfield & O'Dell accounting firm attesting to its opinion that the ministry "fairly stated" its claims regarding Meyer's compensation and its claim that 83 percent of its expenses were used for "outreach and programs directed at reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
The Christian Post contacted Joyce Meyer Ministries for clarification on its 2014 annual report and information about the salaries of some of its board members and was informed that the executive team was currently out of the country. However, Erin Cluley, managing editor and public relations liaison at Joyce Meyer Ministries, informed CP that its questions would be addressed at a future date. In the meantime, Cluely sent CP the following via email:
We are committed to Financial Accountability
At Joyce Meyer Ministries, we want you to be confident your gifts are being used in the best way possible. That's why we are accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
In the unlikely event an outreach becomes fully funded, your gift will be applied to a similar outreach in need. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent.
Joyce Meyer Ministries is voluntarily audited each year by an independent public accounting firm.