As Beth Moore walks onto the convention center stage, the crowd erupts into screams and cheers. Several snap pictures with their cameras and cell phones. It's the largest crowd the Springfield, Illinois, venue has hosted, topping Elton John's appearance over a decade ago. More than 8,000 women, from teenagers to senior citizens, have traveled from 30 states and shelled out $60 each to watch Moore open her Bible live and in person.
"Anybody just need a fresh dose of Jesus?" Moore yells. The crowd roars back.
Over 658,000 women have attended Moore's Living Proof Live conferences, and millions more have read her books. Her most recent, So Long, Insecurity: You've Been a Bad Friend to Us, reached the number two slot on The New York Times advice bestseller list shortly after its February release. Meanwhile, women in churches of all denominational stripes are discussing Scripture together using video clips of Moore's teaching as study guides.
Her stories about her big hair and self-tanner keep her audience in stitches—and also reveal her unmistakable rootedness in Southern Baptist culture. But her call to study the Bible seriously, as well as dramatic stories from her own life—sexual abuse as a child, a recent hysterectomy, giving her adopted son back to his birth mother—have earned Moore a following well beyond both Baptist and Southern communities.
"Baptists tend to be in silos and tend not to overlap with other denominations, but Moore is able to cross over to different pockets of evangelicalism," says Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University in Houston. "She has a tremendous appeal in that she has this homespun sensibility, yet there's a polished, savvy teaching style."
At Home in Houston
In recent years, ...