Creflo Dollar Cites Psalm 747 In Asking For Private Jet
Atlanta based pastor Creflo Dollar invoked the Gospel of Bling this week, asking his congregants to cough up some change to buy his World Changers church a Gulfstream G650. The church will watch as Dollar soars through the sky over the College Park ghetto below, the watchers full of hope that, someday, they could be like their oh so successful pastorpreneur.
Next week, Dollar will reportedly request funding for a golden throne, bedazzled with jewel-encrusted oyster shells. He is also taking volunteer applications for those looking to fan the pastor and feed him grapes throughout his lengthy Sunday services.
Okay maybe I exaggerated that last bit. But the Gulfstream request is indeed true. Dollar is head of World Changers, located in College Park, an impoverished area in southern Atlanta. He is known to rock expensive suits and owns two Rolls Royces, which he claims were given to him by former members of his church. What a generous group of people he has surrounded himself with.
Why Are They So Giving?
Dollar practices what is dubbed “Seed Faith,” the idea that one who gives will receive ten-fold what they offered. This deal with God is structured as a sort of guaranteed investment, more sound than anything Pimco or Fidelity can claim. It’s a guarantee of riches…at least for Creflo Dollar.
The pastor is a protege of “name it and claim it” superstar Kenneth Copeland, a TBN celebrity in his own right. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Dollar took the reins and launched his own form of prosperity preaching in which he uses his own wealth to inspire others to live the life of….the guy they are giving their money to, Creflo Dollar. His multi-million dollar home, fleet of cars and a $2.5 million New York City apartment are not things to be hidden from his congregation, but rather used as motivation for his congregants to pray harder and, more importantly, give more so that they may receive more.
This isn’t Dollar’s first scrape with controversy. In 2002, the pastor was arrested for allegedly choking his daughter after she insisted on attending a party against his wishes. The charges were later dropped, but not before Dollar’s story spread across the country and brought light to the lifestyles of the rich and famous prosperity pastors.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about our visit to World Changers, which was a surprisingly positive experience. I agree with Kelefa Saneh of the New Yorker who writes that “when you see him at his best you might conclude that the real rip-off artists are those other barely-competent preachers. Dollar, by contrast, is a brilliant performer.”
By the end of the three-hour service, I left World Changers with a legitimate hopeful outlook. That was until I reflected on the experience a few weeks later.
Call it a short-lasting drug.
Before visiting, I expected a gaudy, flashy show, full of shameless self-promotion and watered down Gospel. Instead, I was captivated by Dollar, who was able to hold the church’s interest for over three hours of true Megachurching. Far from an ignorant huckster, he genuinely appeared to know the Gospel, rattling off verses like a cattle auctioneer and relating serious theological discussion to everyday problems plaguing his community’s people.
In addition to the performance, we were struck by the almost surreal friendliness and generosity exhibited by the World Changers’ congregation. Upon hearing that it was our first visit, ushers nearly tripped over each other, trying to get us the best seat possible. They made it clear that first-time visitors are not expected to give a dime…that’s for everybody else to make up.
I also was surprised by the lack of pressure that Dollar exerted towards the church. At some of the other churches we visited (such as Paula White’s New Destiny and Clint Brown’s now defunct Faithworld), the ask was aggressive like a Visa representative trying to feed you a new credit line. This was an uncomfortable experience, but I got none of this from our World Changers visit.
The private jet ask jolted me back to reality a bit. My originalreaction was only a testament to the persuasive skills of Creflo Dollar. I went in there cynical as can be, ready to smirk and laugh my way through it. Instead I found myself desperately wanting to open my wallet to the man I knew was about ninety times more wealthy than anyone in the room.
More disturbing to note is that this is not the first time that a pastor has requested such a indulgent luxury item. Private jets have become a sort of a success badge in certain circles of megachurch prosperity preachers. Private jets have become the new church steeple in the world of the pastorpreneur. Coincidentally, many of the largest prosperity churches lack a steeple.
In Houston, Ed Young’s Fellowship Church purchased a private French-made Falcon 50 jet in 2007. Not to be outdone, Bishop I.V. Hilliard of the New Light Christian Church, also in Houston, asked his congregants to supply $52,000 for repairs on his private helicopter. And there’s so many others that it’s become a must in order to be accepted as a successful prosperity preacher, like a rapper owning a Bugati. (I’ve included a list at the bottom of the article which contains flight records of various private flights out of megachurches across the country for your researching pleasure)
In Nigeria, The Children Starve While Pastors Fly
It’s not only the US that caught a case of Gulfstream fever. Nigeria became the epicenter of the pastor private jet craze. The country, a hub for African Christianity, has seen an intense climb in prosperity preachers at a time when crippling poverty still affects the country as a whole. These preachers are able to tap into the hopelessness of poverty and turn this into a business operation. And they are reaping the benefits.
In December of 2012, Christianity Today reported that Ayo Oritsejafor, head pastor of Word of Life Bible Church, received a $5 million jet from his congregants. The church is located in the Delta city of Warri, which is rich in oil deposits that reaps some winners, but lots more often losers due to displacement and environmental effects.
Also in Nigeria, David Oyedepo, founder of Living Faith Ministries in Lagos, Nigeria’s most-populous city, owns three Gulfstreams worth close to $100 million. If that weren’t enough, Enoch Adeboye, head of Redeemed Christian Church of God and Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy Church, also own private jets.
How’s that for wealth inequality?
The Mega Preacher’s Defense
Back in America, pastors defend the private jet buying spree as the only way to appear at their various locations, which spread throughout their home states and even into other states. Rather than spreading further outward, megachurches set up satellite churches, which are basically franchises built on the church’s core beliefs, systems and performance style (yes, we’re still talking about churches). For example Elevation Church features seven campuses across North and South Carolina, while Australia’s massive Hillsong Church network has churches planted in ten different countries around the globe.
In order to appear at the other campuses, pastors argue that this is only possible through private air travel. Since they are bestowing the word on their congregants, then they are the ones to foot the bill. Sounds almost selfless now, right?
Keep in mind that many of these churches choose to create satellites rather than expand because of neighborhood complaints due to traffic and noise. Also there’s a tax benefit to moving to other locations. Let’s just say I’m skeptical that pastors are choosing to travel in Gulfstreams for the benefit of their churches…
World Changers announced two days ago that they would cease the jet fundraising project due to a massive public backlash. The one positive coming out of this story is that there is a limit to which people will enrich these pastors and blow up their ego. Maybe project G650 was just what the public needed to pressure these ego-inflated pastors into doing the work that they originally intended to do, namely to preach the Gospel.
Perhaps Creflo Dollar will learn a lesson from this PR disaster and dial back his prosperity message. The people have spoken and made it clear that they need more truth and less Dollars in their churches.
Megachurch Flight List courtesy of damiross.net
Agape Church: Cessna 500 (N700VC) NF
Calvary Baptist Church Cessna 180 N7766N http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N7766N
Christian Fellowship Church Piper PA46 N41874 http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N41874
Church Business Ministries Cessna 172 N3936U http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N3936U
Church on the Rock Cessna 421 N472JM http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N472JM
Creflo Dollar/World Changers Church: Learjet 25B (N65A) NT
Dave Roever/Roever Evangelistic Assocation: Learjet 25D (N43DR) http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N43DR
Eagle Mountain Int’l Church (Kenneth Copeland): Cessna 500 N501KG; Cessna 550 (N888H)S; Cessna 750 (N1962J) NT, NO, NT
Faith Baptist Church Aviation Ministry Beech 35 N903Q http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N903Q
Fred Price/Crenshaw Christian Center: Grumman G-1159 (N132FP) http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N132FP
From the Heart Church Ministries: Gulfstream G-1159A (N357PR) NT
Greg Powe Ministries: Rockwell NA-265–60 (N141SL) http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N141SL
Jerry Savelle Ministries: Cessna 500 (N715JS) http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N715JS
Jesse Duplantis Ministries: Dassault Falcon 50 (N770JD) NT
John Hagee Ministries: Cessna 650 (N800GM) NT&NO
Joyce Meyer Ministries: Canadair CL-600 (N7JM) NT
Kenneth Hagin Jr./Rhema Bible Church: Canadair CL-600–2B16 (N91KH) http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N91KH
Leroy Thompson Sr./Word of Life Christian Center: Cessna 650 (N818DE) http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N818DE
Mark Cowart/Church for All Nations: Learjet 24D (N929MC) NO
Michael Freeman/Spirit of Faith Christian Center: Grumman G-1159 (N685SF) http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N685SF
Moore Life Ministries: Cessna 421C (N74KP); Cessna 560 (N61KM)http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N74KP http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N61KM
Nahum Rosario/Maranatha World Revival: Cessna 550 (N741T) NO
Paula White/Without Walls Int’l Church: Grumman G-1159 (N374PS) NT
Quentin Road Bible Baptist Church Cirrus N385C SR22 http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N385C
Tony Brazelton/Victory Christian Ministries: Rockwell NA-265–60 (N1GM) http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N1GM
Word of Faith Christian Center: Learjet 24D (N711PC); Hawker HS-125–700A (N225BJ) NF, http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N225BJ
Word of God Fellowship: Cessna 550 (N717DT) NT