Why Women Want Moore
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, Moore has spoken not just on the Bible but also on psychological issues like addiction and depression. At her ministry's headquarters in the wooded suburbs of Houston, Moore explains why her latest campaign focuses on insecurity in Christian women.
"I'm telling you, it is the number one issue I see in us right now," she says, her large eyes locked on mine. "My very addictive personality and all sorts of strongholds are a thing of the past for me. Yet at the root of every single one of those issues was insecurity, something I had battled since childhood."
Amazon.com, the Times bestseller list, and others put many of her books in the self-help category, but Moore, 53, says she's just trying to reflect the Bible's attention to the whole human self, psychological issues and all.
"We keep compartmentalizing when the whole spirit, soul, and body belong to the Lord," she says with her hand on her Bible. "He is the soul-ologist."
For example, Moore says, her own insecurity largely stemmed from the sexual abuse she experienced as a child.
"Any time something huge like that has happened to you, there really is not a lot of gray for people like us," Moore says. "I have to have a daily, vibrant relationship with Jesus in order to survive that process toward healing."
The abuse, which Moore references regularly in her work, came from outside the immediate family, but Moore is as deliberately nebulous about describing it in interviews as she is in books and videos.
"I have found, especially in the area of sexual abuse, details do not really bless and edify. I try as hard as I know how to keep my reader relating on a broad level so I don't lead her someplace where she thinks that's the only thing that could cause insecurity," Moore tells Christianity Today. "I also owe my family some safety and my extended family some safety, so I am careful to stay vague." (Her office has said that the family did not turn the offender over to police.)