Inside Megachurches

What should be considered an abuse of finances?

Kate Erickson, Staff Writer

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In May 2019, Louisiana based televangelist Jesse Duplantis, of Jesse Duplantis Ministries, asked his followers for $54 million in donations to fund his private jet; his three other planes were not cutting it. 

 

“If Jesus was physically on the Earth today, he wouldn’t be riding a donkey,” Duplantis said in a video posted on his website. “Think about that for a minute. He would be in an airplane preaching the gospel all over the world.” 

 

From the outside, Duplantis’ spending behavior seems bizarre. In the televangelist and megachurch world, however, pastors living a lavish, untaxed lifestyle is not uncommon. 

 

In 2015, Atlanta megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar started the fundraiser “Project G650,” aspiring to raise $65 million so he could purchase a new G650 luxury jet. After public backlash, “Project G650” was eventually taken down, but Dollar did not apologize to his congregation. Instead, he stated that this was just the beginning. 

 

Texas-based televangelist Kenneth Copeland is a friend of Duplantis and Dollar and he, too, owns multiple private jets. On his website, Copeland posted a video of himself and Duplantis discussing why they need numerous luxury jets. At one point, Copeland referred to commercial airplanes as “a long tube filled with a bunch of demons.” 

 

Copeland keeps his jets in his airport that is next to his 6.3 million dollar mansion, which is not subject to income tax because it was all paid for by his church. 

 

The spending of Duplantis, Dollar and Copeland may be unethical, but it is entirely legal. Churches are tax-exempt, and if they can explain why their purchases are for religious reasons they are in the clear. 

 

The greed that these men exude is not only disgusting and despicable, but it also distorts Christian values. Tragically, they have a platform where they can spew their disingenuous sermons and brainwash their followers into thinking that their entitlement is what God wants. 

 

How do their followers not see this? How is this allowed? 

 

Although megachurch pastors reach millions of Americans every Sunday, they are not commonly known outside of the bible-belt — a strip of southern and midwestern states that identify as “very religious.” 

 

In 2015, the Hartford Institute for Religion Research (HIRR) conducted a national study of megachurches. The study found that the 15 southern and midwestern states that make up the belt are home to almost 75% of the U.S.’s megachurches. 

 

These churches have congregations ranging from 2,000-22,000 members; these churches are not only massive, but they are also often part of a larger group.

 

Multisite megachurches are churches that are branches of a singular central church — similar to a fast-food chain. The HIRR found that from 2005-2015, the percent of megachurches with multiple sites grew from 27%-63%, and that number is predicted to continue rising. 

 

The growing number of congregants at megachurches make the relationship between the congregation and the congregants more distant. Nonetheless, these churches continue to grow.

If one is searching for a personal relationship with God, will their faith be nurtured in a megachurch, or will they get lost in the shuffle? 

 

The HIRR found that 2005 to 2015, the number of megachurches that believed their congregations were spiritually vital decreased by 14%. During this time, there has also been a 14% decrease in worship attendance. 

 

God is not worried about e Creflo Dollar one billion dollars for a spaceship. He’s not worried about Jesse Duplantis’ and Kenneth Copeland’s luxury jet collections. Churches should be led by someone who is focused on fostering a community that will truly nurture the love of God, but when judgment is impaired by greed, this focus becomes skewed. 

 

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money,” Matthew 6:24.

 

If the Gospel is to be preached, the whole Gospel must be preached.