Doodle: Joyce Meyer and Restaurant Dinners

Last week I posted an article that criticised the word of faith movement, following a critique of Andrew Wommack. Prior to posting them I was – and still remain – aware how these sorts of articles can be perceived: proud and presumptuous. I have also written on 1 and 2 Timothy, exploring the perils of being hypercritical, unhealthily fixated on controversy. But amidst those dangers, I am reminded of Paul’s description of an elder, in Titus 1:9, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Paul says elsewhere that with sound doctrine Timothy will save his hearers (1 Timothy 4:16). The implication being that unbiblical and false teaching results in the opposite. Therefore doctrine matters and correction is necessary. So I hope that this piece comes from the same place as Paul’s impassioned anathemas in Galatians 1.

GalatiansOver the course of this year I have interacted with a handful of people about Joyce Meyer. Despite having written on the unhelpful and harmful half-truths championed by many of the faces that frequent TBN, I felt this short post necessary for at least one very important reason: Joyce Meyer speaks much truth. I have noticed this and so too have the people asking about her teaching. She also regularly quotes the Bible. That being said, Meyer’s entire ministry – indeed how she handles the Bible – is couched in what some have labelled: ‘prosperity lite’. Meyer’s message is a toned down prosperity gospel when compared to others like Creflo Dollar and Benny Hinn. She does not promise wealth, or deploy the tired televangelist rhetoric, ‘sow into this ministry and you will reap far more’; she says things like this: “Who would want to get in on something where you’re miserable, poor, broke and ugly and you just have to muddle through until you get to heaven? I believe God wants to give us nice things.”

The fact that Joyce Meyer does speak biblical truth in her sermons should not fool us into thinking that the rest of what she teaches is harmless. Imagine there was a trendy restaurant in your town that made delicious food, but 1 in every 10 of those meals is laced with deadly poison. Would you send your friends to that restaurant because there is a good chance they will get a tasty meal? No, if you cared about your friends you would never let them go where there is even the slightest chance they will be poisoned. It is no different with Joyce Meyer. Sometimes she serves up truth, but most of the time her messages are closer to Oprah Winfrey’s than the Bible. Like the restaurant that occasionally serves a meal containing deadly poison, Meyer’s teaching is laced with unbiblical and therefore spiritually noxious ingredients.

Maybe you are not convinced by my analogy, so let us consider a verse familiar to many, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe” (James 2:19). In this section of his epistle (2:14-26), James corrects belief, or faith, that is fruitless. He concludes by saying that faith without works is dead (2:26), or as the Reformers put it positively: true faith is never without works. Back to the point at hand, James says that even demons know true things about God. More than knowing things about God they believe them, even speak them (see Mark 5:7). Being familiar with aspects of the Christian faith or able to quote Bible verses occasionally does not mean faithfulness to God.

I have heard and read Joyce Meyer explain the gospel. But that does not mean she is safe and it definitely does not mean I would ever encourage someone to sit under her ministry. Using the logic that her writing and sermons often contains biblical truth – something I remain unconvinced about – does not undo the fact that most of her teaching is far from this. You would not encourage your friends to eat at a restaurant where they might be poisoned. You would not send them to a church pastored by a demon that knows some truth and holds a Bible while preaching. Nor should you endorse the teaching of Joyce Meyer.

Graham Heslop
I have an insatiable appetite for books, occasionaly dip into theology and am presently serving full time at Christ Church Umhlanga in Durban. Most often found on the beach, a soccer field, or my couch
  • Brad Flood

    Thanks Graham. Totally agree that shepherds need to protect their sheep from wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.

    The fact that these false teachers mix some truth in with their false teaching makes them extremely dangerous to undiscerning Christians. One approach I find helpful in separating true and false teachers is to work out which of the following two questions is the fundemental question that they are trying to answer in their teaching.

    1. “How can I, in light of my sin and corruption, stand before a holy God?”

    2. “How can I live a fulfilled, happy, healthy, wealthy and purposeful life?”

    Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and Benny Hinn are all trying to answer the second question in their teaching. I have heard all of them proclaim the gospel in various ways, but ultimately they are teaching that Jesus is the means to moving towards a better, more fulfilled, purposeful life now. This is contrary to what Jesus and the apostles teaches in Scripture. Trials, suffering, persecution, hardship and troubles are part and parcel of the Christian life. We are strangers, aliens and foreigners here on earth. Our true citizenship is in heaven and we will never be completely satisfied this side of glory.

    • thanks Brad, those two paradigmatic questions are useful. As I said in my response to Christo above, and really just unpacking Piper’s thesis: Jesus is the means to a happier, purposeful, and fulfilled life. But those things are found in Christ and not our circumstances. God satisfies us with himself. The wickedness of the prosperity gospel and word of faith movements is that they deceive people into looking for those things in everything from God; and at best, in things he gives us.

  • christo

    The restaurant analogy is brilliant. I am defnitely using it from now on. I alway wondered about JM. My mother used to buy her dvd’s because JM was abused by her father and she made up with him and he sat in the front row of her church. This spoke massively into the reason why my mom listened to her. But dubious spending on flashy world material made me wonder whether she was legit. You are right. Its in the fruit that we can see whether someone is legit, not in what they say only. Even demons can say nice fuzzy true things

    • I’ve been watching some of her sermons as I prepared to write these and do a talk about it at our church in a couple of weeks, and what makes Meyer so deceptive is her use of the Bible. On TBN she is currently doing a series in the book of Colossians – which happens to coincide with her writing a book on it, available for purchase – and the way she abandons context, snips verses, and ‘amplifies’ the text is a masterclass in mishandling while still convincing.

      Added to that – and perhaps the most damnable aspect of her preaching – she has mentioned Jesus and the cross on a few occasions but never sin or the atonement. Her drivel concerning the cross of Christ can be summed up as, ‘This isn’t the life Jesus died to give you.’ Now, if she went on to say he died to give you eternal life that would be great, but she doesn’t; according to Meyer, Jesus died so that you can have a better life now. Even is dangerously close to the truth, since God promises contentment, security, satisfaction, and purpose, but by a “better life” she means comfort, things, and success

  • Chantel

    It saddens me how many people I know that’s influenced by this false gospel, me been one of them in the past. Her message is dangerous indeed and exposing her would be acting out of love for our friends and family! Unfortunately Joyce’s Meyer is one of many false teachers. Her teaching has just gained more popularity.
    Thanks G