When Jesus spoke of money and possessions in the New Testament, he pled for people not to amass or become too attached to materialistic gains. As it turns out, many of his purported followers tasked with spreading his message haven’t taken these words to heart and have amassed considerable fortunes for themselves.
Thanks to the advent of mega-churches and televangelism, some people have managed to become millionaires, due, in large part to the contributions of their flock. Here are ten examples of Christian ministers & preachers who are both revered and reviled, but missed the mark on the whole “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth” bit from the Bible.
10Temitope “T. B.” Joshua – Net Worth: $10 Million
T. B. Joshua is one of Nigeria’s most revered African prophet/ministers with more than 50,000 followers belonging to his church, The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN). His church owns and operates the Emmanuel TV station in Lagos, and Joshua is one of the most popular preachers in Nigeria. He has more than 3.5 million fans on Facebook, and his YouTube channel boasts more than one million subscribers, many of whom describe him and his ministry as the “Oprah of evangelism.” While he is incredibly popular, Joshua isn’t without his critics.
Joshua and SCOAN were charged in the deaths of more than 115 people when a building belonging to the church collapsed in September 2014. Comments from Joshua and representatives from SCOAN blamed a low-flying aircraft, the wreckage of which wasn’t found amongst the debris. Eventually, SCOAN and its board of trustees were found culpable, though Joshua’s popularity among his sizable flock didn’t suffer from the incident. His net worth has been estimated at around $10 million, though he has been praised for his philanthropic efforts over the years, which have resulted in more than $20 million in donations to education, healthcare, and rehabilitation programs throughout his native Nigeria.
9 T. D. Jakes – Net Worth: $18 Million
Thomas Dexter Jakes Sr., more commonly known as T.D. Jakes was called one of America’s Top 10 Religious Leaders by Ethics Newsweekly. He has appeared on several notable television stations where his sermons and other programs are broadcast on The Potter’s Touch, which airs on Lightsource.com, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the BET. He is “Bishop” of The Potter’s House, a non-denominational Christian Mega-church that has approximately 30,000 members, but more than that, he hosts an annual festival called MegaFest, which pulls in crowds totaling as many as 300,000 people.
Over the years, Jakes has amassed a considerable fortune, but not all of his money was earned in the way you might think. He put out a gospel album called A Wing and a Prayer for which he won “Best Gospel or Chorus Album” at the 46th Grammy Awards in 2003. Additionally, he makes considerable amounts of money via his televangelism, and his work has dubbed him as potentially being the next Billy Graham. His current net worth sits at around $18 million in personal wealth.
8 Billy Graham – Net Worth: $25 Million
William Franklin Graham Jr., better known to the world as Billy Graham, was a Southern Baptist minister known throughout the world for his teachings to conservative Protestants. He passed away in 2018, but throughout his 99 years on Earth, he was well known for how his teachings helped to shape the Evangelical and conservative political nature of American politics for decades. Because of his work in radio and television, it is estimated that he has reached more than 2.5 billion people with his ministry and is considered to have preached Christianity to more people in history than anyone else.
Many of his views were controversial, such as his views on women’s rights, abortion, and just about any other hot-button issue relevant to Evangelical Christianity. Despite these criticisms, Graham was well regarded by numerous world leaders. He had friendly and close relationships with 12 US Presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama, and he was also close to Queen Elizabeth II. Graham was easily one of the most influential Evangelicals in modern history, and over the course of his life, he amassed a personal wealth amounting to $25 million.
7 Joel Osteen – Net Worth: $40 Million
Joel Osteen is the Senior Pastor of the Houston-based Lakewood Church, which is the largest Protestant church in the United States. He is highly prolific with his sermons, which are broadcast 24/7 via satellite radio to an estimated seven million followers in more than 100 countries. His church in Houston stands as the largest single congregation in the United States, with more than 42,000 members. The church grew so large under Osteen’s leadership, it eventually moved to the former Compaq Center, which was once the home to the NBA’s Houston Rockets, though it can only seat 16,000 at a time.
His considerable fortune was amassed mainly via his televangelism, which may be attributed to his constant happy attitude, earning him the title, “The Smiling Preacher.” Unlike many of his contemporaries, Osteen does not preach against things like Pro-Choice and Homosexuality, preferring to preach scripture and keep out of politics. He lives a life of luxury like others on this list and maintains a home valued at more than $10.5 million. Osteen has faced harsh criticism for his luxurious lifestyle and his estimated $40 million net worth.
6 Benny Hinn – Net Worth: $40 Million
Benny Hinn, born Toufix Benedictus Hinn, was born in Jaffa, Israel before he eventually immigrated to Canada, where he became heavily involved in the Pentecostal movement in Toronto. He later moved to Orlando, where he founded the Orlando Christian Center and began to perform ‘miracles’ where he claimed to heal people in his congregation as a conduit for God. This led him to create his Miracle Crusades, where he began to tour the country in stadiums hosting tens of thousands of people.
He has been called out by fellow Christians as a ‘false idol’ for his teachings of faith healing, which has been widely debunked. His fortune was mostly amassed due to the Miracle Crusades, where he indicated that the best results of his miracle healings would occur when the adherent gave money to his ministry. To his credit, he changed his way of thinking in September 2019 during a nearly four-hour sermon, where he said, “The blessings of God are not for sale. And miracles are not for sale. And prosperity is not for sale.” Granted, this came after decades of amassing wealth estimated to total around $40 million.
5 Chris Oyakhilome – Net Worth: $50 Million
Chris Oyakhilome, better known as Pastor Chris to his flock, is the founder of LoveWorld Incorporated in Lagos, Nigeria. His ministry is massive and multifaceted with three Christian television channels, a publishing house, and a healing school. He regularly broadcasts television programs claiming to portray miracles and faith healing to millions of followers. When he holds an event, he broadcasts it to large stadiums filled with people in different places all over the world, and many of these can gather more than 3.5 million people at a time. He has millions of followers on Facebook and Twitter, and he has his own messenger app called KingsChat, which he encourages his followers to use.
Pastor Chris isn’t without some controversy, as he’s been called out for his statements on marriage and gender equality. In one message titled, “Who is the husband and what is his role,” he made statements regarding husbands as “masters” instead of “male partners.” He further explained on Facebook that Christian marriages often failed because women “believe they are equal partners. (But) ‘husband’ does not mean the male partner in a marriage, [the] husband means master.” He referenced 1 Corinthians 11:3 as his justification for this statement. Despite his views on gender equality, his writings and evangelicalism across his media empire have amassed a fortune estimated at around $50 million.
4 Janice Crouch – Net Worth: $50 Million
During her lifetime, Janice Wendell Crouch was one of the most influential and wealthy American pastors of all time. She founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network in 1973 with her husband and Jim Bakker; the network has gone on to become the world’s largest religious television network. Crouch came from a religious family, and she followed in her father, the Reverend Edgar W. Bethany’s footsteps, to become a preacher in her own rite. Early in TBN’s broadcast history, she became well known for her work with children, which included the use of a child’s puppet she called Babushka.
Towards the end of her life, Crouch was embroiled in controversy for her lavish lifestyle. Her granddaughter and another employee of TBN publicly accused her of fraudulently spending more than $50 million in non-profit acquisitions on herself, which included 13 mansions, money spent towards the purchase of a $50 million jet, expensive wigs, and a $100,000-mobile home for her dogs. Another of her granddaughters alleged she was raped by a TBN employee at the age of 13, but when she went to Crouch for help, she screamed at her, blaming her for the assault. A subsequent cover-up made headlines, and after Crouch’s death in 2016, the granddaughter was awarded $2 million in damages, a considerably small sum compared to Crouch’s total net worth of $50 million at the time of her death.
3 Enoch Adeboye – Net Worth: $65 Million
Enoch Adejare Adeboye was ordained a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria back in 1977, and by 1981, he was the overseer of the church. Since he took over the church, he has turned a small, unknown ministry into a worldwide sphere of influence, reaching into 196 countries. The church has more than 14 million followers in Nigeria, and with his global audience, Adeboye extends his reach to millions more. His stated goal has been to put one of his churches within five minutes’ walking distance in developing cities and the same amount of time in driving distance from developed cities, and he’s well on his way with 360 branches in Nigeria alone.
Pastor Adeboye has established for himself a media and religious empire, which has influence throughout Africa and the developing world. This influence has helped him amass more than a few followers; it’s made him incredibly wealthy. Forbes estimated his net worth at as much as $65 million in 2017, and he’s been noted for living a lavish lifestyle. He and his family own a private jet, several houses, and cars worth well over half a million. It was also estimated that he generates approximately $2 million each year in revenue from the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
2 David Oyedepo – Net Worth: $150 Million
David O. Oyedepo is, without a doubt, the wealthiest preacher in Nigeria. He’s a Christian author, businessman, and architect, but he’s best known for being the presiding “Bishop” of the Faith Tabernacle in Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria, as well as the Living Faith Church Worldwide. His network of churches have established locations in more than 300 cities, and he is represented in every Nigerian state, most African nations, Dubai, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Oyedepo’s work was instrumental in developing Africa through the Christian charismatic movement, and he is considered by many to be the most influential, and most powerful preacher in his native country.
Since being “born again” in 1969, Pastor Oyedepo has worked diligently to spread the word of God in every way possible, which has helped him earn quite a bit of money over the years. He spreads his message to three services every Sunday at the Faith Tabernacle, Africa’s largest church, which has a seating capacity of 50,000, and it’s usually at capacity. Forbes estimated his net worth in 2011 to be around $150 million, and his lifestyle is a reflection of that wealth. His money has come from his ownership of Covenant University, Faith Academy, Dominion Publishing House, and other business ventures.
1 Edir Macedo – Net Worth: $1.1 Billion
Edir Macedo Bezerra is the wealthiest “bishop” on the planet and a confirmed billionaire, though he started his professional life as a civil servant. He is a Brazilian Evangelical who founded the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and he made his fortune as the owner and chairman of the second-largest TV network in Brazil, RecordTV, as well as Grupo Record, and later, Record News. From 2013 until 2015, he was on Forbes Billionaire List with a reported net worth of $1.1 billion, making him the richest Christian preacher in the world, and arguably, since the beginning of the religion.
Macedo has been a controversial figure for most of his public life, thanks to his ultra-conservative stand on several key issues. He opposes interracial marriage and wrote an article stating that, in which he claimed the production of interracial children should be avoided, so they wouldn’t suffer discrimination. He’s also faced accusations of racism, misogyny, and religious intolerance, and he’s been the subject of numerous indictments and accusations over the years. These issues haven’t harmed his bottom line, and he continues to rake in tons of cash through his many business ventures, books, and ministry.