Meet The Wealthiest Religious Leaders In The World
According to The Pew Research Center’s latest study, an incredible 84% of the world’s population identifies as being religious. Only 16% identify themselves as atheists. With an estimated 4,200 religions to choose from worldwide, it’s no wonder so many of us ascribe to a belief in something greater than ourselves.
Astonishingly, salaries for clergy can mount up into millions of dollars per year. While church members often operate under the assumption that their leaders receive average wages and live modest lives, we have evidence that clearly proves the contrary to be true. However, it’s important to keep in mind, many of these men and women of the cloth operated businesses outside the church which made them independently wealthy. Buckle up for our list of the world’s richest religious leaders.
Net Worth: Approximately: $1 Million. Bill Moyers actually got his start in journalism. Fresh from completing his degree at the University of Texas, Bill Moyers undertook an internship with the United States Senate. In this role, he managed to meet and impress Senator Lyndon B. Johnson. A pretty fortuitous move on Moyers’ part. Senator Johnson was so taken by Moyers he got the young man a position working as an editor.
While excelling in his broadcast work Moyers continued his studies, just in a relatively unrelated field: theology. This passion continued to blossom and, in 1959, Moyers was ordained as a Baptist pastor. With such a massive portfolio of work in journalism and broadcasting, Moyers has worked hard for his $1 million net worth.
Net Worth: Approximately: $25 Million. Rick Warren isn’t just the pastor of a megachurch, he’s pastor of the sixth largest megachurch in the US. Which, given the amount of times we’ve mentioned megachurches already in this article, and give the fact that we’ve barely scratched the surface of them, is no small claim to fame.
The evangelical Christian preacher, who presides over California’s Saddleback Church, is also an author whose book, The Purpose Driven Life made the New York Times best-seller list after selling an incredible 30 million copies worldwide (and counting). Warren and his wife, Kay, are global thinkers with initiatives in place to assist people with HIV, combat global warming and work towards peace in war-torn regions. They definitely don’t play small with their ambitions!
Net Worth: Approximately: $40 Million. Joel Osteen is a preacher considered by most to fall in the prosperity gospel category. You may have noticed that, as we’re getting to the top end of the net wealth stakes, more and more of these seed faith preachers are popping up. Interesting, huh? Though, to be fair, Osteen does not see himself as being akin to your regular seed faith televangelist. He sees a distinction between what he teaches and the money-centric messages of most prosperity gospel proponents.
While money is apparently neither here nor there for Osteen, he has been estimated as having a net worth of around $40 million. Pretty impressive for someone who’s not that impressed by money. Osteen presides over Lakewood Church, which currently boasts the largest Protestant congregation in the US. His messages tend to be focused more on love and the mercy of the Lord rather than hell and divine judgment.
Net Worth: Approximately $20 Million. We know what you’re thinking: “wait, wasn’t Kirk Cameron that kid from Growing Pains?” Yep, he sure was. The child star has gone on to become an evangelist who spreads his message through The Way of the Master ministry which has a radio show affiliated with it. Kirk is also responsible for The Firefly Foundation, which he co-founded with his wife (another child star), Chelsea Noble.
Along with his charitable and ministerial work, Cameron has continued to make film and television appearances. He narrated a documentary called Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure and has also worked on a number of Christian-themed productions like the trilogy Left Behind, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force, and Left Behind: World at War, all of which are based on survival in the apocalyptic world that remains after the return of Christ and rapture of the faithful.
Net Worth: Approximately: $25 Million. William Franklin Graham Jr. was arguably the most famous evangelist of our modern era. Known to most as Billy Graham, the pastor has delivered his sermons in churches, over the radio and on television. He was known for his strong religious and political views, ideas which he staunchly supported throughout his career.
By 1947, Graham was already presiding over the Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis. At just 29 years of age at the time, his appointment to the position made him the youngest ever president of a United States college. Graham was known to be in friendly terms with Queen Elizabeth II of England and was regularly invited to events attended by the royal family. Like a couple of other preachers on our list, Graham also served as a presidential adviser. However, he had the remarkable distinction of offering spiritual counsel to not just one but three US presidents: Eisenhower, Johnson, and Nixon.
Net Worth: Approximately: $1.5 Million. Here’s a fact that will send a chill down the spines of all There Will Be Blood fans: Charles Stanley was just a kid when he commenced his Christian ministry. At the tender age of 14, he was already building a name for himself among his flock. Stanley has attained a handful of degrees, starting with his bachelor’s degree and culminating with a master and doctorate in theology.
He got his star as a preacher for the First Baptist Church, and from there it was only ever onwards and upwards for this ambitious man. He founded the international Christian outreach organization, In Touch Ministries and has his hands in many money-making pies. He can be seen and heard on television and radio stations across the world. Stanley credits much of his wealth to having read the influential book, Think and Grow Rich in his younger years.
Net Worth: Approximately $10 Million. Pastor, gospel singer and best-selling author, Juanita Bynum is a powerful force within the world of televangelism. So much so that Shaila Dewan of The New York Times, called her “the most prominent black female television evangelist in the country.” Juanita isn’t afraid to speak out on topics like domestic violence and promiscuity, dishing out blunt but kind words of wisdom to the masses.
Juanita has authored several books, some of which have appeared on The New York Times best-seller list. She’s also released a handful of gospel albums which have, again, been a big hit with the public, appearing on Billboard’s list of top contemporary Christian albums. All those royalties, along with her public appearances, have contributed to netting Juanita her impressive fortune.
Net Worth: Approximately: $2 Million. Founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, Robert Charles Sproul was also a theologian and author. He served as a presbyterian pastor for much of his life and, while he was definitely an old-school preacher, wasn’t afraid of making use of the internet in building his flock of followers.
R.C. Sproul was so enamored with the internet and it’s limitless ability to reach people, in fact, that he started an online radio station, which he called “the Reformation Network.” If you’re waiting for the controversy, well, there really isn’t any with Sproul. From all accounts, he was a highly educated theologian, accomplished author and all-around stand-up guy. Kind of what you hope for in a religious leader right?
Net Worth: Approximately: $250 Million You may know him more as a boxer (or the guy whose name is on that grill in the back of your kitchen cupboard), but this Olympic gold medalist and heavyweight champion is also a born-again Christian. Not only that but, when he wasn’t throwing punches and creating kitchen equipment, Foreman went so far as to become an ordained minister.
Since his retirement from boxing back in 1997, Foreman has been putting more and more energy into his religious pursuits. He claims he was inspired to take up this path after a post-fight near-death experience. After dropping from a heatstroke, Foreman says he descended into a hellish dimension, one he never wanted to return to, and this sparked his desire to spread the word of the Lord.
Net Worth: Approximately $4 Million. Tony Campolo has both a secular and biblical education, with degrees in sociology and theology, as well as a PhD from Temple University. This highly educated ordained Baptist minister went on to become Bill Clinton’s spiritual advisor during his tenure as president.
Campolo was responsible for founding the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education. He also stands out somewhat from others on this list with his rather liberal views on gay marriage. Campolo’s wife believes that, so long as a relationship is monogamous, sexual orientation shouldn’t be an issue and all people should have equal rights to marry. It seems her beliefs softened Campolo up a bit as he has since declared that the government shouldn’t get to dictate who can and can’t marry.
Net Worth: Approximately: $2.5 Million. Here’s another highly educated theologian and preacher: Nicholas Thomas Wright. The former Bishop of Durham is, in fact, considered one of (if not the) most popular scholars of the New Testament in all of the UK. An Anglican minister, Wright commenced his ministry way back in 1975.
While Wright has a squeaky-clean record with no skeletons in his closet, he does hold to some pretty contentious opinions. Wright is an old-school minister who is firmly opposed to same-sex marriage and gay clergy members being allowed by the church.
Jack Van Impe
Net Worth: Approximately: $2.5 Million. Jack Van Impe is an interesting character. His biblical knowledge is so great he is known by many as “the Walking Bible.” Van Impe was a Detroit Bible Institute graduate, completing his education in 1952 and immediately launching into his evangelical career. By 1954, Van Impe’s visage could be seen spreading the word of the Lord from television screens all over the nation, under the banner of the Jack Van Impe Ministries show.
The most fascinating thing about Jack is his literal belief in the Revelation story of the Bible. He believes the combined forces of a dark political leader (the Beast) and a false prophet will soon lead us into the return of Christ, the rapture and then the end of the world as we know it. Heavy stuff. While he waits for the end of days, Van Impe is doing pretty well for himself. The Jack Van Impe Ministries International Foundation netted him his millions. While the foundation brings in around $12 million per year, Van Impe receives a reasonable salary of $150,000 for his work.
Net Worth: Approximately: $3 Million. Also known as Louis X, Farrakhan started off, as a musician in the 1950’s. However, the Bronx-born New Yorker soon became enamoured with the teachings of The Nation of Islam and, by the ’70s, had become the religious movement’s new leader. You may not know this, but Farrakhan was actually the force behind the Million Man March which was held in 1995 in Washington, D.C.
It has been rumored that Louis X was implicated in the assassination of fellow minister and human rights activist, Malcolm X. While no direct connection was ever established, and no charges laid, Louis X did eventually admit to 60 Minutes, “I may have been complicit in words that I spoke.” Prior to Malcolm X’s murder, he wrote an article criticizing him, which people believe led his murders to kill him. He later regretted writing it.
Net Worth: Approximately $3 Million. Ernie Fletcher maintained a relatively y clean-cut image. Not just a preacher, Fletcher is remarkably also a medical doctor and a politician, having served in the United States House of Representatives and later as the 60th governor of the state of Kentucky.
Eventually, his work as a Baptist minister gave way to his political career. While Fletcher was embroiled in some controversies – one pertaining to his budget and unconstitutional spending, the other relating to a minor security scare triggered by his private aircraft (that’s right) – Fletcher has maintained a pretty clean profile in the community.
Net Worth: Approximately $3 Million Clifton. Davis is a man of many talents, as recognizable for his preaching and proselytizing as he is for his acting and singing. Davis is highly educated in theology, holding both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, earned from Oakwood University and Andrews University respectively. In his musical capacity, Davis has written songs for Broadway and for super famous groups like The Jackson 5. As an actor, he’s appeared in numerous films and television shows, including The Love Boat, Grace Under Fire, and The Jamie Foxx Show.
Blending his creative mind, performance skills and theological education together has also made Davis an unstoppable force in the world of televangelism. He regularly stops by as a guest host for the Trinity Broadcasting Network and was host of Gospel Superfest for a good eight years, his tenure running from 2000 to 2008.
Net Worth: Approximately $4 Million. Here’s a millionaire pastor whose mission for God led him all the way to Africa. The German-born missionary obtained his education in Swansea before returning to his homeland to preach. He didn’t stay in Germany long though, as he felt inexplicably drawn to Africa. While his efforts were a bit of a failure early on, Bonnke claims he continued to receive visions and messages from God instructing him to persevere.
He founded the organization, Christ for all Nations (CfaN) and, in the wake of its successful spread, now claims to have preached to more residents of our planet than any other evangelical pastor in the world. Bonnke became embroiled in a humanitarian crisis in 1991 when rumors were spread that he intended to blaspheme against Muhammad during his visit to a predominantly Islamic region of Nigeria. Riots broke out during his visit, many Christians were injured and Bonnke wasn’t safely able to return to Nigeria until the 2000’s.
Net Worth: Approximately $4 Million. There’s no denying Jenkin’s evangelical roots. The South Carolina local took a dark path into the Lord’s teaching, starting with arson and conspiracy to assault, and then becoming a born-again Christian after his conviction in the late ’70s. It took a while before Jenkins actually mended his devious ways though. In the ’90s, along with more criminal activity, the man attempted to marry a 77 year old woman who had the charming features of being both senile and in possession of about $4 million in lottery winnings. Irresistible, right? Fortunately, a court ruled that the poor old lady was incapable of making a rational choice to marry and the union was annulled.
From such lowly beginnings, Jenkins built a faith healing ministry based around his special “miracle water.” Yep. Leroy Jenkins Ministries obtains this elixir of the Lord from a well on his compound (are you getting the Jonestown vibes yet) which he’s called “the Healing Waters Cathedral.”
Net Worth: Approximately $5 Million. Far less controversial man of God: Noel Jones. At 19 years of age, when his contemporaries were focused on girls and underage drinking, Jones had enrolled himself in Aenon Bible College. He went on to graduate with a bachelor of science degree, majoring in theology.
Jones went on to become a minister for the Greater Bethany Community Church, located in Los Angeles. The charismatic preacher proved to be such a draw card that the congregation of the church ballooned to such a degree that a new location had to be obtained. His flock is now more than 17,000 people strong and Jones has even released a gospel album that topped the Billboard 200 Gospel Album chart in 2007.
Net Worth: Approximately $5 Million. Did you know there was such a thing as megachurches? While the title sounds pretty boss, it simply describes a church with a regularly attending congregation of 2,000 or more people. Your boy, John Hagee, presides over just such a megachurch in San Antonio, Texas.
Hagee completed his theological education in the ’70s and went on to lead San Antonio’s Trinity Church. He then created the Castle Hill Church, before moving on to his grand project: Cornerstone, which is the megachurch we spoke of just moments ago. Hagee is a Christian-Zionist whose sermons are television and broadcast over the radio.
Net Worth: Approximately $5 Million. Stepping outside of the states for a moment, allow us to introduce you to Joseph Prince, a pastor for Singapore’s New Creation Church. Like Hagee’s Cornerstone, New Creation is a megachurch. Prince also acts as the church’s executive chairman and he earns what many would call an obscene amount of money for his efforts. Hence his multi-millionaire status.
In the wake of receiving a $50,000 per month pay raise, Prince admitted to The Sunday Times that he was, indeed “well paid.”
Net Worth: Approximately $5 Million. As a civil rights activist, minister, and host of many television and radio shows, Al Sharpton cut a controversial path through American history. The Baptist minister was ordained in 1994 and went on to become an advisor to Barack Obama during his presidency. While Obama described Sharpton as “the voice of the voiceless and a champion for the downtrodden,” there’s no denying his multi-millionaire status puts him in a whole different league to the people he’s supposed to be the voice of.
This wouldn’t be such an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that Sharpton allegedly spent a good few years dodging his debts and avoiding paying taxes. Sharpton’s career has, in fact, been dogged by controversy with everything from slander and involvement in fake rape allegations, to being a spokesperson for a dodgy loan company. There were even allegations that he was an FBI informant, leaking information on fellow civil rights activists. While these are all rumors, it’s still a bit ironic that Sharpton hosts a radio show entitled Keepin’ It Real.
Net Worth: Approximately $5 Million. Coming from a background as a car salesman, Long started his ministry in a small church in Georgia. He worked his way up from there to the position he enjoys now as the senior pastor at yet another megachurch: the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
Like most, Long’s controversies all center around sex and money. A long investigation took place looking into just how Long’s ministry made the millions of dollars it was bringing in and whether the distribution was fair. While no charges were ever laid, donations did drop after news of the inquiry spread. Long is also a proponent of programs purporting to “cure” homosexuality. He has also been the center of sexual allegation charges, though he denied these stringently and the lawsuits were settled out of court. Whatever the truth may be, Long’s secrets are now forever sealed as the charismatic preacher passed away in 2017. According to his church, Long was afflicted with an aggressive form of cancer.
Net Worth: Approximately $5 Million. Kay Arthur is both a multi-millionaire and an internationally acclaimed bible teacher. She has won multiple awards as an author and is the co-founder of Precept Ministries International. Before her success, Kay had a tumultuous life. Her first husband suffered from bipolar disorder and eventually committed suicide. However, as she was raised in a Christian family, Kay found that, no matter how far she strayed from the path she was taught as a child, she always felt the draw to return to it.
When Kay returned to what she feels is the calling of her life, she returned with gusto. She now regularly travels both nationally and internationally to teach from the bible. She also hosts a daily bible-teaching radio program called Precepts for Life.
Net Worth: Approximately $5 Million. John MacArthur has been an evangelical preacher since the 1960’s. He is highly educated and has published more than 150 books so far, the most popular of which being, the MacArthur Study Bible. This bestseller has sold more than a million copies worldwide (and counting) and has also received prestigious awards from within the Christian literature community.
California-born, John MacArthur commenced his ministry at the Calvary Bible Church in the temperate climate of Southern California. Throughout his career, MacArthur has stuck to his home turf and now presides over the Grace Community Church in his hometown of Los Angeles.
Net Worth: Approximately: $5 Million. This pastor looks as innocent as can be, yet she has created a remarkable amount of contention in her time. Over her years as non-denominational minister, she has drawn criticism for various statements that orthodox Christians feel go against the teachings of the bible. For example, she was quoted as saying that Jesus Christ was not the only son of God.
In addition to this, White is a proponent of seed faith, a form of theology in which people are asked to send money to the ministry and have faith that this donation will act as a seed to create prosperity in their lives. The idea is that you will receive exponentially more back from God than what you donated, so the more money you give, the more you’ll get back when your “seed” flourishes. Think what you will of this, but White is monstrously popular, particularly because she is known to include humor in her sermons.
Net Worth: Approximately $7.5 Million. Ravi Zacharias is one of the most colorful characters on the list. The Indian-born Christian apologist claims he was an atheist up until the age of 17, despite having been raised in an Anglican family in Delhi. Ravi attempted to take his own life by swallowing poison. He was brought a bible while recovering in hospital and from there, he says, his Christian awakening was spawned.
Ravi has authored many books, some of the award-winning. While he is an immensely popular evangelical preacher, Ravi has been called out for a number of inaccuracies in the stories he tells. For example, he supposedly adds the title “Dr” before his name on the regular, despite not having a medical degree nor a PhD in any field. There was also the matter of an awkward legal situation regarding possibly explicit communications between Ravi and a Canadian woman. The matter was settled out of court and Ravi denied any wrongdoing.
Net Worth: Approximately $7.5 Million. Nigerian-born televangelist, Chris Okotie, is a Pentecostal preacher who currently resides in Lagos, Nigeria. While Chris is hugely popular in Nigeria, his three runs for presidency of the nation have all proven unfruitful for him. Okotie’s last attempt was back in 2007. He put politics aside after his third time, and focused on his church – The HouseHold of God International Ministries – and its affiliated programs.
Recently, however, Okotie’s flock were delighted to hear his announcement that he would once again delve into the world of politics with yet another presidential run in 2019. Okotie feels that Nigeria is in desperate need of a trustworthy leader and, with his seemingly impeccable character and strong Christian morals, Okotie hopes he can be the man for the job.
Net Worth: Approximately $10 Million. Another Nigerian-born pastor for the list. Unlike Chris Okotie, Matthew Ashimolowo left his home nation for the Western world, settling in London, England. There, Ashimolowo presides over the Kingsway International Christian Centre. He has a daily radio program which airs, not just in London, but all throughout Europe and back in his homeland of Nigeria.
According to Forbes magazine, most of Matthew Ashimolowo’s fortune has been amassed through the sale of Christian literature and income from his media company, which bears the straight-forward title, Matthew Ashimolowo Media. The charity behind Ashimolowo’s church (which Ashimolowo is in charge of) has been investigated for improper use of charitable funds.
Net Worth: Approximately $10 Million. Here’s a pastor you’re sure to have heard of before today. Along with his Christian ministry, Jesse Jackson is a civil rights activist and politician. While he was ordained way back in 1968, Jackson is perhaps better known for his political activism and civil rights work. Jackson shared Chris Okotie’s conviction that strong Christian morals were an important foundation for any presidential candidate. Just as Okotie ran for leadership in Nigeria, Jackson ran for presidency of the United States in 1984 and then again in 1988.
While Jackson was unsuccessful in his presidential bids, he did serve from 1991 to 1997 as a shadow US senator. The man is highly respected for all the work he has done for the American people and has received numerous awards over the years, including a Jefferson Award in 1979 for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged. In 2006, a black voices poll determined Jackson to be not just one of but the “most important black leader.”
Net Worth: Approximately $10 Million. Joyce Meyer’s faith is a little different to those you’ve seen so far on this list. The woman is a charismatic Christian minister, a movement that has affected a variety of different Christian denominations and that centers around proponents having “gifts” from the Holy Spirit, such as healing, divination and the ability to speak in tongues or cast out demons.
Meyer has authored several books and, like Paula White, she tends to add humor to her speaking engagements, even poking fun at typical Christian behavior. Through her television shows, radio programs, public speaking tours and publications, Meyer has amassed a considerable fortune. When criticized for the lavish lifestyle (she has a penchant for private jets, among other extravagances), Meyer has been known to respond with: “there’s no need for us to apologize for being blessed.”
Net Worth: Approximately $10 Million. Peter Popoff is the quintessential televangelist. While he was born in Berlin, Popoff emigrated to the US and, by the late ’70s, had kicked of a career as a TV minster. Popoff’s seemingly miraculous faith healing “gift” made him a sensation and people marveled at his ability to somehow know what ailments people were suffering from and even there names.
Turns out it wasn’t God whispering in Popoff’s ear, but his wife, Elizabeth. She would get a list of attendees before each show, including the ailments they were hoping to have healed. She would then communicate these details to Popoff through an earpiece. It was all just smoke and mirrors and theatrics. When the hoax was revealed in the ’80s, Popoff disappeared for 10 years: long enough for the dust to settle and for people to forget his deceit. The fraudulent healer had a second coming in the ’90s with the same shtick repackaged for a new audience.
Net Worth: Approximately $11 Million. Now for a pastor who has done a lot of genuine good in the world: Edwin Barry Young. Armed with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Young founded the Fellowship Church back in 1990. From humble beginnings in a rented office space, Young gradually built the church, adding international ministry and aid work along the way.
In addition to massive international projects, like helping the survivors of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Young is responsible for outreach work back home in the States. His church now has a number of in-prison campuses to provide support to inmates. The clean-cut Baptist preacher can be seen on Ed Young Television, Fellowship Live and C3 Global and has also authored a number of books.
Net Worth: Approximately $15 Million. Temitope Balogun Joshua is an evangelist for the new era. In fact, if you subscribe to his teachings, he’s not just an evangelist but an all-out prophet. With a social media following of more than 3.5 million people, and a huge following throughout Latin America and Africa, the Nigerian minister certainly has a knack for convincing people of his spiritual legitimacy.
Along with declaring prophecies on the regular, T.B. Joshua has purportedly been responsible for a number of miracles. Many claim to have been healed by his anointing water, and there are even videos available supposedly showing the preacher healing people from blindness, cancer, open wounds and even AIDS. As you might expect of a charismatic minister who claims to have such power, Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations has a monumental following and, according to Forbes magazine, this has helped the man ascend to being the third richest Nigerian preacher.
Net Worth: Approximately $15 Million. Trimm is a woman who identifies herself as many things: motivational speaker, life coach, business strategist, entrepreneur and CEO of Trimm International Inc. While her LinkedIn profile shows no official theological certifications and doesn’t advertise herself as a pastor, even on her website, Cindy Trimm certainly does teach from the Gospels in her YouTube videos and at her numerous public speaking engagements.
Trim has worked in politics, becoming a senator in Bermuda when she was just 30 years old. Through the business-related aspects of her work, the life-coaching, and the public speaking, Trimm has amassed a considerable wealth. She now apparently serves as a pastor at the Embassy Worship Center in Florida and short sermons are regularly published online by Cindy Trimm Ministries.
Net Worth: Approximately $15 Million. Buckle up for another figure, so epic its contentious- Ernest Angley. While this American evangelist ostensibly spreads the word of the lord through his books, sermons and in broadcasts on the television station he owns, he is perhaps best known for the scandals that keep piling up against his name.
Angley has been taken to court and forced to pay damages and back paid wages to people who were treated as “unpaid volunteers” at his restaurant. A restaurant that was making a profit for the church. A profit that contributed to Angley’s own wealth. At the same contentious restaurant, in 1999, one of Angley’s staff members murdered a 15-year-old volunteer. Angley has also come under fire for claiming that Jesus heals AIDS through him since he’s failed to offer anything by way of proof. Finally, and most alarmingly, the man has been at the center of a number of sexual abuse allegations. Yikes.
Net Worth: Approximately $18 Million. Here’s another pastor in charge of a megachurch: Thomas Dexter Jakes. This American preacher is also an accomplished musician, filmmaker and author who has won numerous awards for his works, and has been granted honorary degrees and even doctorates. His megachurch, The Potter’s House, has an astounding 30,000 members and, while it is non-denominational, Jakes holds the position of Bishop. He commenced his ministry in 1980 at the tender age of 23.
Jakes makes regular television appearances and you may recognize him from such shows as Dr. Phil and Good Morning America. He is a firm advocate for abstinence and, from what we can tell, it seems he is one pastor who practices what he preaches.
Net Worth: Approximately $26.5 Million. Another of the more famous preachers on our list, Kenneth Copeland has also been at the center of a fair amount of controversy over the course of his career. The televangelist falls under the banner of the Charismatic Movement and preaches the infamous prosperity gospel, also known as seed faith, which we described before (aka: send us your money and the Lord will send you abundance, we promise). Unsurprisingly, this lucrative form of ministry cops a fair amount of heat from all walks of society, brought into question by atheists as much as other Christians.
Copeland has also been criticized for encouraging an anti-vaccination mentality among his followers and for raising funds for charitable actions that were never actually followed through on. For example, Copeland fundraised for “Angel Flight 44,” a mission that was supposed to deliver aid to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. However the mission was never even attempted, let alone completed. Meanwhile, Copeland had, just the year before, attempted to claim tax exempt status for his $3.6 million dollar private jet.
Net Worth: Approximately $27 Million. With a name like Creflo Dollar, you surely won’t be surprised to learn that this televangelist is also a fan of Copeland’s favorite kind of ministry: seed faith. He is a non-denominational pastor who founded Georgia’s World Changers Church International. While the results of ascribing to the prosperity gospel are, at best, questionable for the followers who send money, there’s no doubt this form of ministry makes the pastors who espouse it monumentally wealthy. With a $27 million net worth, Dollar is the proud owner of a private jet, two shiny Rolls-Royce’s, and a fat real estate portfolio which includes two multi-million dollar homes, one in Atlanta and one in New Jersey. Not to mention his inner Manhattan home which he put on the market for a cool $3.75 million.
The things Dollar requests his followers to send him money for are truly astounding. While Copeland at least gives the premise of wanting to help out people in need (whether he follows through on it or not is a different matter), Dollar genuinely called for his followers to donate funds to pay for a new private jet when his own Gulfstream III crashed at Biggin Hill Airport in the UK. That’s $60 million total he was asking everyday Americans for, so he could have a shiny new Gulfstream G650. $300 each would do it, he suggested. Perfectly reasonable, right? While the project received a whole lot of backlash and was, as a result, made optional for church members rather than mandatory, we can confirm that Dollar did eventually get the funds needed for his Gulfstream G650. He’s so blessed.
Net Worth: Approximately $30 Million. Isn’t it interesting that politics and religion seem so often to go hand in hand? As with many of the pastors on this list, John Danforth’s career took him as far into the realm of politics as it did into the world of religion. Danforth served as Missouri’s Attorney General for seven years, his tenure spanning from 1969 to 1976. From there, he went on to serve for 19 years in the US senate. Danforth, in fact, had a remarkably illustrious political career, having also headed up the investigation of the 1993 Waco siege, and later working as Ambassador to the United Nations for the US from 2004 to 2005.
It wasn’t until he retired from politics that Danforth really started dedicating energy and time to serving as an Episcopal priest. Though, during his tenure as Ambassador to the UN, he did officiate the funeral of former US president, Ronald Reagan.
Net Worth: Approximately $42 Million. Benny Hinn is arguably the ultimate archetype of a televangelist. The Israeli-born Pentecostal minister even freaked his Greek Orthodox family out, not simply by converting but by becoming what they felt was something of a religious fanatic. Indeed, Hinn was responsible for the “Miracle Crusades” of the ’80s. These you certainly will have seen footage of. Hinn would pack out stadiums in which energetic revivalist meetings would be held, complete with the frenetic chaos of faith healing. All of this would be broadcast to a worldwide audience.
Like most faith healers, Hinn claimed to have the miraculous power to bring sight to the blind, cure cancer, reverse AIDS, and even repair damaged limbs; though he stopped short of claiming to be able to regrow amputations. While skeptics had been throwing shade of Hinn’s capabilities for some time, they were really brought into question when he was hospitalized with shortness of breath (that he apparently couldn’t clear up with his powers) soon after returning to California from spreading his ministry in Brazil. Since then, investigations have been conducted and no confirmed cases of permanent healing from an encounter with Hinn could be found.
Net Worth: Approximately $50 Million. Here’s another faith healer for you, though he is, admittedly, less contentious than Benny Hinn. Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s ministry is carried out in his home country, Nigeria. His church, commonly referred to as Believers’ Loveworld Incorporated, or The Christ Embassy, is of the non-specific, Christian variety, with a focus on faith healing.
When he’s not telling people (through his Treatment Action Campaign) that AIDS can be cured by faith healing alone, Oyakhilome spends his time operating a global prayer network. He achieves this through social media and has an impressive 1.2 million followers on Twitter. Even more astounding, Oyakhilome boasts more than 30 million followers on a social networking site of his own creation, which he’s titled Yookos.
Net Worth: Approximately: $50 Million With $50 million to his name, it should come as no surprise to you by now, that Robert Tilton is a proponent of the prosperity gospel. You’ve probably seen the American televangelist’s infomercial-esque program, Success-N-Life. While he doesn’t offer free knife sets, he does teach that any hardships viewers may be experiencing – poverty in particular – are as a result of their own sin. Conveniently, the best way out of the self-made predicament is to send money to Tilton, thus planting a seed of prosperity through the penance and faith embodied in the act. Tilton doesn’t ask for small amounts from these poverty-stricken people either. Apparently $1,000 is a minimum benchmark for impressing the Lord enough to be blessed with material abundance in return.
Tilton was investigated in the early ’90s by Diane Sawyer, who’s piece aired on ABC News. Among other shocking revelations, Sawyer depicted Tilton throwing away prayer requests from viewers, his only interest being in the money they were accompanied by. Around this time, Tilton’s ministry was hitting its peak, pulling in around $80 million each year. After his fraudulent ways were brought to light in the media, however, many donors sued the minister, meaning the incredible $50 million he’s sitting on today is actually a step down for him. Guess he needs to starts planting more seeds.
Net Worth: Approximately $50 Million. If there was a queen of controversial religious figures, Janice Crouch would be it. The American televangelist and entrepreneur (who crafted her look after a pink puppet she used to use in one of her kids shows) founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network with her husband, Paul, in 1973. After nearly 40 years of building her faith-based empire (which includes a theme park called The Holy Land Experience), Jan was taken to court over allegations that she was funding her lavish lifestyle with money illegally funneled from her religious enterprise.
Some of Crouch’s personal expenses included mansions, private jets, those custom wigs (the cost of which would surprise you), and an air-conditioned mobile home designed specifically for her little Maltese terriers. Crouch also rented adjoining rooms for herself and said pups at a deluxe Florida hotel for nearly two years while she was building her biblical theme park.
Net Worth: Approximately $55 Million. These Nigerian ministers are really doing well for themselves, huh? Enoch Adeboye was, for a long time, the pastor presiding over the Redeemed Christian Church of God. New laws in Nigeria prevent a single leader from holding sway over a congregation for more than 20 years, and this was the only reason the popular Adeboye stepped down from his position. He does still maintain a general overseer position.
While to English speakers, the preacher’s name lends itself more to being nicknamed “attaboy,” in his homeland, Adeboye is commonly referred to as “Daddy Go.” Due to his yearly prophetic declarations, Daddy Go is also often referred to as “the prophet of the world.” Indeed, he is intent on spreading the Redeemed Christian Church of God all over the globe, and while the majority of his campuses (14,000 odd) are located in Nigeria, he has already developed a global presence.
Net Worth: Approximately $1.5 Million. Here’s a controversial one for you: the scandalous tale Jimmy Swaggart. Since the 1950’s, Swaggart has been working as an evangelical minister. The emotionally intense preacher launched his own radio show before turning his talents to television evangelism. His impassioned sermons were aired on an astounding 200+ networks, all of which shared his message (and his requests for donations).
As the ’80s and ’90s rolled around, an already wealthy Swaggart hit the news for all the wrong reasons with a number of sex scandals involving prostitutes coming to light. Swaggart made an epic confession, taking his characteristic intensity to the max with his tearful declaration, “I have sinned” (imagine in a Louisiana accent). Swaggart was defrocked and de-affiliated. No organised religions were keen on having him represent them and even his most ardent supporters pulled away. However, Swaggart didn’t give in. He continued his ministry unaffiliated and, through his incessant efforts, rebuilt both his following and his millionaire status.
Net Worth: Approximately $150 Million. David Oyedepo is a man of many skills: preacher, author, architect, shrewd businessman and megachurch founder. He serves as the Bishop for Living Faith Church Worldwide. The clever businessman in him was clearly behind its other title: the Winners’ Chapel. Who wouldn’t want to go there? Oyedepo’s pursuits have led him into quite lucrative fields of work, allowing him to amass a wealth that puts him in the top echelon of wealthy preachers the world over.
Oyedepo also holds the honor of being Faith Tabernacle’s senior pastor. Featuring a massive, 50,000 seat auditorium, Faith Tabernacle was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest church in the world.
Net Worth: Approximately $1 Million. Richard Rossi took a surprising pathway into the life of an evangelical minister: it all started with a drug overdose! Inspired by his jazz guitarist father, Rossi got into the music scene at a young age. Even during these tumultuous early years, Rossi harbored a fascination for faith healers. After his father’s hospitalization for bi-polar disorder, and Rossi’s own subsequent drug overdose, the young man decided it was time for a drastic change. Rossi became a Christian and then set to work getting qualified to preach. He then blended his two passions by touring as a “rock ‘n’ roll preacher.” In the early ’80s, Rossi started his own church which bore the technically innocent, yet somehow deeply ominous name, The Fellowship. A decade later, in 1994, that its impossible to pin down darkness manifested in the form of outright violence.
Rossi’s wife was found beaten half to death in a ditch by the side of a road. The investigation and attempted murder trial were nothing short of a circus, with stories constantly changing and accusations being made and then withdrawn. After the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision, Rossi agreed to a plea deal and served a sentence for second-degree aggravated assault. His congregation during this time dropped from 300 to 12. However, Rossi was able to stage a remarkable turnaround, rebuilding his church and regaining his fortune by working in the entertainment industry.
Net Worth: Approximately $500 Million. Our second wealthiest pastor on the list is almost as well known for his mouth as he is for his monumental fortune. Pat Robertson got his start, back in the early ’60s as minister of the US-wide Southern Baptist Convention church. However, he is better known for his TV program, The 700 Club; and more specifically, for the extreme declarations he makes on said show.
Pat Robinson isn’t a fan of non-Baptist denominations (of which there are a fair few) and, in the past, has declared that the Protestant faith harbors the antiChrist, Islam is Satanic, and Hinduism is demonic. In an interview just after the September 11 terror attacks, Robertson told the interviewer that “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians helped it happen.” That’s just one of many golden quotes that have, over the years, stirred up furious reactions from the public.
Net Worth: Approximately $1.1 Billion. Those of you who have been observing the patterns on this list were probably expecting our top Bible-slinging preacher to be from Nigeria or the US. However, the richest pastor in the world, who is a confirmed billionaire, is actually from Brazil. Edir Macedo is founder of a church with the most grandiose name we’ve encountered so far: the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. The evangelical leader also owns Rede Record, Brazil’s second biggest TV network.
While he breaks the location pattern of the list, he most certainly conforms to the seed faith pattern we’ve seen emerge as the net worths shot up. Macedo has used the funds obtained from this money-making ministry to purchase his television network, radio stations, real estate, a health insurance company, and a flipping airline. As you might have expected, Macedo has been criticized for using money from vulnerable people to buy things like mansions and airlines. However, he glibly countered: “if I preach prosperity and my clothes are ragged, who will follow me?” Clearly the takeaway here is, if you want to be mega wealthy, don’t simply follow the prosperity gospel, preach it.
Net Worth: Approximately $1 Million. Pentecostal preacher, Paul Cain was an infamous revivalist of the ’50s, part of the Voice of Healing movement. He commenced his church-bound career at the remarkably early age of 18. By 1987, when Cain was 58 years old. he had shifted his association to the Kansas City Prophets. Not long afterwards, Cain shifted again to become part of John Wimber’s ministry.
February of 2005 brought some shocking revelations from Cain who admitted to a decades-long struggle with alcoholism and troubles reconciling with his sexual orientation. His confessions were so at odds with the beliefs of the religion he espoused that Cain stepped down from his leadership position. By 2007, he had apparently successfully gone through rehabilitation and was restored to his ministerial position.