In her first sermon as the new pastor of New Destiny Christian Center, Paula White described herself as a “messed up Mississippi girl” who was picked on as a child.
But don’t let this blond hair fool you, she told the congregation, this girl knows how to fight.
“I came out of my momma’s womb fighting,” she said. “That’s why I will go to war. I will fight.”
White often refers to her past personal hardships as examples of how faith and determination have elevated her into the pulpit. Her rags-to-riches travails inspire those in the congregation who have experienced difficulties in their lives.
“Part of her appeal is the success theology she preaches,” said Sheila Strobel Smith, an expert on leadership transition in megachurches like Apopka’s New Destiny. “For people feeling down and out, they can see she has picked herself up and made a success of herself. And her life continues to play that out.”
White has plenty to work with. In her books, sermons and cable television show, White has recounted her father’s suicide, her mother’s alcoholism, her sexual abuse as a child, her life on welfare, her stepdaughter’s death from brain cancer, and her two marriages that ended in divorce.
Her second marriage was to Randy White, with whom she founded the Tampa megachurch Without Walls International Church. White, 45, had a son with her first husband. Randy White had three children from a previous marriage, but the couple had no children together.
Their marriage lasted 18 years.
It ended in 2007, around the time their church became the focus of a congressional investigation into several high-profile preachers suspected of living lavish lifestyles at the expense of their congregations.
The Whites refused to cooperate with the investigation, which concluded in 2011 with no penalties or charges of wrongdoing.
SOURCE: Orlando Sentinel