Prosperity Preachers and ‘Private Jets for Jesus’

Christianity Today reports on the apparently growing trend of Pentecostal pastors in Nigeria owning private jets.

Prompting this article was the gift of a private jet to the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ayo Oritsejafor, by members of his Word of Life Bible Church. The 10-seater jet was given in celebration of the pastor’s birthday and his 40th anniversary ministry.

Christianity Today (CT) writes that Oritsejafor “joins a growing list of preachers with private jets in the West African nation, which is Africa’s largest oil producer.”

David Oyedepo, the founder of Living Faith Ministries (popularly known as Winners’ Chapel) in Lagos, Nigeria’s major port and most-populous city, owns three Gulfstreams (plus a Learjet) worth almost US$100 million. (By contrast, Oritsejafor’s Bombardier Challenger jet is worth less than US$5 million.) Enoch Adeboye, general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, also owns a private jet. So does the flamboyant founder of Christ Embassy Church, Chris Oyakhilome. Source

This reality is a controversial one since many professing Christians in Nigeria remain poor. CT notes that, among the general population in Nigeria, “more than 70 percent [of people] live on less than US$1 per day.”

Oritsejafor is defending his generous birthday gift, however, and claims that it is a necessity rather than an extravagant indulgence.

Sometimes, my schedule is so complicated,” he said at a press conference. “Now, I can move. I can even go and come back home. It is a bit more convenient for me, and I suspect that this is one of the reasons a lot of these other preachers have planes. Source

It is not only Nigerian preachers that appear to be living in what some may deem unnecessary luxury. In America, Ed Young, Jr. of Fellowship Church came under scrutiny two years ago for his lavish living, including a private jet that is leased and paid for by the church.

When questioned about her private jet in a 2010 interview with ABC News, popular Word Faith teacher Joyce Meyer stated,

I really could not fly commercial at this stage of my life and do what I’m doing. I could not endure it physically if I had to do that. Do you know how hard it is to fly commercial now? Source

The reality is that it is quite likely that the majority of women who follow Meyer’s teachings do know how difficult traveling can be. In fact, it would not be unreasonable to assume that most of Meyer’s followers have never flown first class, let alone ever even imagined owning their own private jet.

In 2007, the Senate began an investigation of six prosperous televangelists and their ministries. The investigation, which targeted the ministries of Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Paula White, Creflo Dollar and Bishop Eddie Long, took over three years to conduct. The Associated Press notes that the report raised questions surrounding “personal use of church-owned airplanes, luxury homes and credit cards by pastors and their families.” Upon completion of the investigation, however, there were “no definitive findings of wrongdoing” and those pastors who refused to cooperate with the investigation did not receive any penalties.

Though it has no legitimate biblical foundation, the prosperity gospel has grown beyond the over-decorated sets at TBN and is now beginning to infiltrate even mainstream evangelicalism. As evidenced by this recent article in Christianity Today, the phenomenon is not unique to the United States, and is prevalent and growing in other areas of the world. This offers even greater reason why true Christians must not shy away from boldly and unreservedly sharing the true and saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.