Sunday, January 17, 2010

Marte Tilton: Our Hearts Were Pure

Here's an oldie but goodie from 2001 - A Steve Blow column in the Dallas Morning News where he visits with Marte Tilton on the occasion of her book, The Only Way Out is Through, being published.

It almost felt like returning to the scene of the crime.

Back when I was digging around on TV preacher Robert Tilton, people often called to say they had spotted him in a high-dollar shop at the Galleria or at the Westin Hotel there.

The Galleria Westin was where Bob and his wife, Marte, stayed while in town after they had secretly moved to a mansion in California.

Well, when Marte Tilton agreed to visit with me the other day, where did she suggest we meet? At the cafe just outside the Westin Hotel in the Galleria.

It felt a little weird. But I guess we're all creatures of habit.

To be honest, I lost interest in Brother Bob a long time ago. People still ask me about him. And I tell what little I know – that he moved to South Florida and carries on with a smaller, cheesier version of his TV ministry.

But it's Marte I have continued to wonder about. She's the one who stayed around – through the collapse of their church, through their divorce, through Bob's quick marriage and messy second divorce, through the laughingstock that the name Tilton became.

"God has done a lot of healing in my life," she said as we visited over coffee. We had found a quiet table out of the way, overlooking the ice-skating rink.

"I don't remember a lot of things – which I'm glad about. Obviously I wouldn't be sitting here today with you if I remembered a lot," she said, laughing.

And I laughingly told her how hurt I was to not get a single nasty mention in her recent book, The Only Way Out Is Through – Courage In Times of Trouble.

Rightfully, she gives credit for the ministry's public disgrace to Diane Sawyer's PrimeTime Live expos̩. But Marte still insists that the central accusation of that program Рthat prayer requests went straight into the trash Рwas wrong.

"They were absolutely wrong. I set the system up. I knew how it was supposed to work," she said.

But on the other hand, she doesn't contend that the ministry was innocent. "I don't blame the media for all this," she said. "It has to do with the heart."

In her book, as well as face to face, Marte is frustratingly vague about the sins of the ministry. "There was a shift in our hearts," she said. "It was gradual. I can't say exactly how or when it happened."

But what happened?

"I can't speak for Bob. I was just trying to keep up. I became a workaholic instead of ministering to the people. When you don't have time to open your Christmas gifts for six months, you've got a real problem. Our focus had been lost.

"As for Bob, I don't know what happened. But obviously something happened in his heart or he would not have dropped his family as he did."

That's about all she will say about her ex-husband. She said they have spoken only twice in the last year.

"I don't hate him. We had 25 wonderful years together. We had four wonderful children. How could I hate him? I don't know why things happened like they did. But I know that God did a lot of good things in those 25 years, and that's what I try to look at."

The Tiltons have two grown children and two teenage sons who live here with Marte. She asked that I not specify their suburb.

"My kids have suffered a lot because of their last name," she said.

My biggest problem with the Tiltons was always one of stewardship. The ministry brought in $70 million a year at its peak, and the Tiltons controlled every cent. They lived like royalty – with no deacons to answer to, no elders, no oversight of any kind.

Yet Marte still sees no problem with their lifestyle. "Obviously it was a higher level than a lot of people lived. But not higher than a lot of high-profile ministers."

And what became of the millions of dollars in church property that she and Bob controlled?

"I have no idea," she said. "After the divorce, I was kicked out and cut off."

Since the divorce, Marte has operated a small gifts business. For a while, she sold from a kiosk at Vista Ridge Mall in Lewisville – feeling conspicuous and humiliated.

She speaks some at pastor conferences and women's retreats. But she knows she doesn't have the charisma of her ex-husband.

"I'm more of a behind-the-scenes person," she said. "My real gift is administration. I'm an organizer, for goodness' sake."

She hopes to turn that gift into consulting work for private schools and ministries.

As Marte talks, her voice warms most when she recalls those early days – when she and her exuberant young husband first got saved, when he felt called to begin a tiny church.

"Nobody could bring people to the Lord like Bob. It was thrilling and all so exciting," she said.

"Our hearts were pure."


  1. Marte You were never the blame. I gave to the ministry and watched You all everyday beleiving something wonderful would happen. Believe it or not i did get a miracle from giving. So all is not so bad that happened. I think people did get blessings until it all started going the wrong way. My heart goes out to You and just never lose the faith because God is real, even if Bob became unreal in His last days on TV.
    Your sister in the Lord

  2. I just wanted you to know that I got saved through WOF church. Bob could really preach a sermon but never cared for him when I saw him preach on t.v. It was like a different person than who I saw at church. I wish nothing for the best of you and I pray that you have found peace after all these years. God Bless!

  3. no one is even close to perfect, but jesus him self. i was so blest by bob and marte ministry, over the years, only God truly altogether knows the lives that He touched by His Holy Spirit through any one who serves Him with the gifts He alone gives . Christ Jesus is coming soon to bless and judge the world .we all fall short, only by God the Fathers plan of grace for all ,seeing the future of everyones lives before the world began,but still gives us a another chance to recieve His mercy - even now

  4. I read that book. She's more full of shit than he is.

  5. I attended WOFWOC for about 5 years and felt then and now that I received some of the best teaching in the world. We had a smorgasbord of top notch speakers from around the globe. What I learned there has sustained me to this day. Thank you. I pray for you and your family and for God to do a work in Bob's heart to bring him back to his beginnings with God. He did bring many souls to the Lord, people were healed and Bob made a huge effort to bring in those from the streets and to teach us not to love them. He was not the first or the last to be caught up by the "love" of money in or out of the church so no one should be throwing stones. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders not stone them.

  6. I did post a comment on the good things that were accomplished in this church and you refused to post it! How biased is that?!

  7. I never could figure out what Bob did wrong. His message was no different than many others, for example Kenneth Copeland. I also learned a lot from WOF Church. Bob taught me how to fight and stand on the Word of God. I viewed him as almost like an enthusiastic kid, because it seemed that he just could not understand why anyone would not want Jesus.

  8. I was one of the thousands and thousands blessed by Bob and Marte Tilton and the Word of Faith ministries. The thing that I have always found so baffling is that no one in the media or regulatory agencies EVER asked about the source of accusations. Ole Anthony....what a pathetic individual he is. Yet no one bothers to ever glance in his direction...and he is still up to it. I don't know of one ministry that he has "provided information on" that his allegations have been proven. They make for a lot of juicy headlines, a great deal of false accusations, huge legal costs and ruined reputations. Why don't you turn your attention on that slandering fool and investigate him and his tactics? God only knows the damage he has caused and continues unhindered because the media loves his "headliners".