Fleecing the Flock: A Snapshot of America’s Richest Pastors

The Huffington Post’s Jaweed Kaleem ran an interesting article on the salaries of MegaChurch pastors. This makes me want to throw-up. I gathered the evidence here so you can see it at a glance. It’s so sad to see how these towers of the church have suffered for the gospel. Rick Warren stands alone – he’s the only one who can still look his church in the eye. These Christian leaders have lost the thread.

Kenneth Copeland – Copeland Ministries
Flies around in a $17.5 Jet, lives in a $6 million lakefront mansion with a 1,500 acre campus and a private airstrip. He and his wife make over $655,000 a year in salary alone. It’s not clear whether this includes speaking fees, book royalties, and “love offerings.”
Creflo Dollar – World Changers Church International
Drives a Rolls-Royce and lives in a Million dollar home in Atlanta, and a 2.5 million-dollar apartment in Manhattan. Dollar will not release his salary information.
John Hagee – Cornerstone Church
His last released salary was nearly $1 million per year (2004). Hagee does not release his earnings anymore. 
Charles Blake – West Angeles Church of God in Christ
Owns a 10,000 square foot mansion in Beverly Hills (btw his congregation hails mostly from impoverished South Central LA)
His year salary is $900,000 per year.
Benny Hinn – Miracle Worker
In 1997 he admitted to making between $500k & $1 million dollars per year
Joel Osteen – Lakewood Church
Stopped taking his $200,000 salary several years ago. Makes tens of millions off of his numerous books. Joel & family live in a $10.5 million – get this – 17,000 square foot mansion. Treasures in heaven people.
Bishop Eddie Long – New Birth Missionary Baptist Church
Long made over $3 million in a three year period from 1997 to 2000. He drives a Bentley, and lives in a 1.4 million dollar home on 20 acres. An investigation into his non profit showed he made more than $1 million dollars from them on top of his church income. No doubt some of that went toward his legal fees in 2011.
Ed Young – Fellowship Church Dot Com
Lives in a 10k square foot 1.5 million dollar home. He gets paid a cool $1 million dollars a year, plus a $240,000 parsonage allowance. That doesn’t count the royalties he makes off of his recent Sexperiment.
Franklin Graham – Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
In 2008 he reportedly made 1.2 million dollars. Your father should slap your face Franklin.
Rick Warren – Saddleback Church
Has made tens of millions off his book sales (it could be in the hundreds). However… Warrenhas made so much money that in 2005 he repaid all of his 25 years of salary to the church & stopped taking any new salary. He and his wife give away 91% of their income to charity. Rick is the only one doing it right – in my opinion.

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • Les

    I was thinking about becoming a preacher….now I KNOW God is "calling" me!

    • gary

      why does these preachers have to live in mansion and beg poor porple for their lasr dollar

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01790563090971858592 Sarah Groh

    I just left the church music business because after 15 years of praise band and choir directing, I still can't afford a pair of jeans that cost $150 and are ripped at the knees. I am not cool enough.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03698978231695842070 Den

    When I became a Christian (1996), the big thing was WWJD. Those letters appeared on bracelets, hats, tee-shirts, coffee mugs, a whole bunch of things. A CD came out with music about Jesus, and there was a copy of the NIV Bible on there for installation on a PC.

    The earnings of these servants of our Lord call all that into question, and Jesus' proclamation about the wealthy and where their hearts truly are. May g-d have mercy on their souls…

  • Bill Morini

    The full article this came from showed several pastors in the same category. But, it also pointed the vast majority of pastors make only about $40K/yr.

    Regardless of what you think of Rick Warren, they should all follow his example.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Hear, Hear, Bill. Warren seems to be working on a completely different assumption about what God is doing in the world & what the gospel requires of each of us. Warren is extremely faithful with his finances & is an example of what to do when you get rich almost accidentally.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15949039922480710935 Bobby Shaw

    There are some folks doing it right, but this post calls a lot of the big pastors into question. I wonder how many others are doing it right; there is a point where the money is enough. More should be diverted sooner if God has chosen to bless someone in ministry in a big way, instead of choosing to enjoy more than what is needed to support their families. There's also several visible leaders not sharing their income levels. Transparency is king.

    Rick Warren is doing it right and my guess is that all of the success of Purpose Driven Life scared the crap out of him and he got some wise counsel and unloaded as much of his wealth as fast as he could! Smart man.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    That's a good way to put it, Bobby. When I've heard Warren talk about the success of the book in the past I really think it was scary for him. It was a challenge to try and keep his integrity through that. I think he came through it alright.

    You are also right to point out that there are probably a lot more pastors doing it right than wrong. However, MegaChurch pastors do make a ton of money as a rule.

    Should we pay a pastor more if the church is bigger?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15949039922480710935 Bobby Shaw

    You are spot on Tim. Mega church pastors should not make mega salaries. Great post. Love the blog and always been a big fan of Satellite Soul. Grammatology is in heavy rotation on the iPhone. Keep up the great work!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16479712737448056001 thejovan

    Tims!

    Hey bud, I've been thinking about this post on and off for a while. I might be missing your point, but it sounds like you're saying that Papa is unhappy when preachers make loads of money (though I don't remember him ever saying so).

    If a vow of poverty was central to Jesus' example for us, shouldn't we all live in the 'hood on 10% of what we make? It's not impossible. As a teenager I supported my family of seven in the costly, dirty city of Chicago on just 30K a year. I sure hope I never have to do that again. Poverty is no curse, but it sure ain't easy.

    It's so convenient to point fingers at the rich, but whenever I do, I remember that 90% of the world could point that same finger at me, demanding that I as a Jesus-follower give away my "grossly inflated" income.

    In the end, what can I say? Every man is accountable to God for how he handles the finances entrusted to him. I hope one day my giving reaches 20%. If it doesn't, will you condemn me? (I trust you will not :-)

    piece of toast,
    ~ jables

    • rusureuwant2know

      Well, we know the Lord had a lot to say about those who “devoured widows’ houses” don’t we?

      “Beware of the scribes, who love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.” Mark 12:38-40
      Lord knows these tv preachers take plenty from the poor. If you’re giving to one of them you need to consider the following:
      “He that oppresss the poor to increase his riches, and he that gives to the rich, shall surely come to want.” Prov. 22:16

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Hey J… good point. Let me clarify what I'm saying/not saying. I don't think God is displeased w/wealth, or that we should all take a vow of poverty. I'm not trying to point fingers at the rich.

    I do believe God is displeased with the opulent lifestyles of these ministers. I am trying to expose those who have gotten rich off of tithes and offerings of the church – you don't get to do that.

    Jesus was very hard on the Sanhedrin who got rich via temple taxes, selling sheep/doves for sacrifices, changing money, etc. Jesus opposes those who got rich via religious power & exposes this as wrong. We can't forget that it was those who profited from religion monetarily and politically who ended up turning Jesus over to Pilate to be executed.

    I think you are right to point out that most of us are rich compared to the rest of the world. Ronald Sider says this is one of the most insidious realities of American culture: we compare ourselves not to the 2/3's of the world who live on less that $2 a day, but to our affluent neighbors.

    Maybe, financially speaking in particular, our sins are all a matter of degrees. But as a pastor, I feel an obligation to speak up about the million dollar salaries, luxury mansions, vacation homes, hundred thousand dollar cars, etc., which are the norm for TV preachers & religious rock stars.

    Yes? No? I'm Crazy? :-)

    • rusureuwant2know

      Tim, the reality is that the cost of living is relevant to where one lives, not somewhere else on the planet. $2 in a third world country might get you enough for one day – here, you would be hard pressed to find a single meal for that much. Do people in grass huts have to pay rent or property taxes? Even here, the cost of living isn’t uniform – $2 in Mississippi or Alabama spends a lot differently than it does in NY. There really are poor in the U.S. too.

  • Anonymous

    The Holiest and the wisest being owns the world and its fullness; His name is God. It will be quite wicked of Him if all His wealth is set aside for the wicked or nonbelievers.
    These rich pastors only take after their Father. So what is the big deal? Job, in the Bible was the richest and most God-fearing person in his time; even God was so pleased with him that He bragged about him. Likewise Isaac, I mean Isaac was so rich that a whole nation envied and feared him (Gen.12 and 13).
    The silver and the gold are mine is what the Lord said. So wake up guys. Find out the secrets to Kingdom wealth and begin to enjoy the best of God, our Father. Jesus paid the price. Stop living like a bastard.

  • ProphetessB.33

    @Anonymous: I CONCUR!!! God would be pleased…I hope and pray God blesses you and me lol and increase our finances for his glory and to be a blessing to the poor, orphans, and widows in Jesus name:).

  • Anonymous

    I would suggest the book Radical by David Platt!!!

  • Pastor Pmc

    I would love to see more Pastors do the right thing by helping more people in need, instead of feeding themselves to the wealth of the Church. In my opinion, why do we need a Bently. Get a Honda and why do we need a multi-million dollar house? What about a nice apartment and an affordable house. Shame on you Pastors who are fleecing the Church for your personal gain. God is heaven is looking at what you are doing to promote the kingdom of God. Pastor Pmc Love always do the right thing.

  • http://blog.chron.com/thepeacepastor/ Marty Troyer

    Marty Troyer: Pastors the slowest growing church in the South. Under $50,000. Minus over $400 every month for seminary loans I hope to have paid off after my kids get out of college. I drive a 15 year old car that's gonna drop dead any day now.

    And love absolutely everything about my life!

  • Pastor Christian Ernest

    I dont see anytin wrong in getin reward 4 ur labor. Howeva,its important 2 bear in mind dat dis reward shuld b a shared one; if much,extend d share 2 others rather than eatin it alone.

  • Martin Ebubeogu(Nigeria)

    IF GODS MINISTERS CANT BE RICH,WHO SHOULD..ARE THESE NOT THE CHILDREN OF GOD WHYO HAVE BEEN CALLED TO INHERIT A BLESSING..ARE THEY NOT THE SEEDS OF ABRAHAM TO WHOM THE WHOLE WORLD BELONGS…

    • W. John Young

      Tiny little camels and giant needles…right?

    • rusureuwant2know

      I guarantee you those are not God’s “ministers”.

  • debbedenbaugh

    HE brings our reward with HIM at HIS return…
    HE (JESUS) our example,
    not sure which jesus some are following

  • Pingback: Law & Grace, Inc. » Egocentric and Manipulative Sermons, Jezebel Assistants and Charity Shams

  • Pingback: Law & Grace, Inc. » Nonprofit Charities, a News Story, and Religion, and POVERTY

  • JD Straw

    Let me add just a few more. TD Jakes, the Whites, Joyce Meyers, Robert Tilton, Paul Crouch, and that Peter Popoff person.

  • Moses-Uganda

    Bible says souls are more precious and important than money; in fact, there is no price to a soul-Scripture! That means there is no salary too big to a pastor who is winning and nurturing God’s people through the Word of God. No wonder Paul the great apostle says ‘whether for selfish reasons or genuine, as long as Christ is preached’.. Better know your bible before criticizing pastors!

    • 4TimesAYear

      They preach “another gospel”

  • temple2u

    You say Rick is the only one doing it right, in your opinion – BUT the man is preaching a false gospel . . .

  • Joshua Ciresoli

    In the rush to the money bag/offering plate, we have forgotten as a people the MANY words of Jesus that contradict the idea of prosperity. Matt 10:25, 24:8-10; John 16:1-4, 32-33. Here are some more verses about how we are called and marked as believers by suffering for His name, unlike what the money-preachers teach: Romans 5:3-5, 8:17-23,26; 1 Cor 4:12-13; 2 Cor 1:7, 4:1, Phil 1:29, 3:7-11; 1 Thes 3:1-8; 2 Thes 1:3-8; 2 Tim 1:8, 2:3-7, 3:10-12; James 1:2-4. Here’s a great passage from James about preferrential treatment of the rich vs. the poor. “My brethren, do not hold yoru faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and fine clothes and there also comes a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?”-James 2:1-7

  • Gayla Reed Wingate

    Could selling sheep be associated with a parable like getting rich at the expense of your members; selling doves, possibly prostituting The Holy Spirit??? This would be sin regardless of amount of money. Prostituting The Word for personal gain is less than a Godly idea anyway you look at it. The churches or Pastors that make the millions, we would probably be surprised how much most of them give away. I know my Senior Pastor makes nothing like the mega churches and he gives much more than he gets. We could not pay anyone enough to do what he does for the body. He does not require it even though he is well worth millions. Perhaps the Pastors that require millions do so because of the expense of their global influence with Kings and Nations, feeding the hungry, minister travel…Surely, we are not getting the whole story. I believe the ones that operate with integrity will be an open book for all to read. Some will understand and continue to pray for them and support them while others may prefer to pay their water and electric bill on time. If we are making greedy people greedier then we are not hearing from God. We cannot place all the responsibility on their shoulders. Which one of you nay sayers would not accept a million dollars if someone came up to you and said, “God told me to give this to you.” What each of us do with our widows mite or our millions is between us and God. We all answer to the same God. Besides, look at the ministries that have been chopped down…It will happen to all of us large or small, individually and corporately. Our God is a God of Grace and He is a God of second and many more chances. He is also a just God. The fear of The Lord is The beginning of wisdom. I pray that everyone who is in sin receives conviction, forgives debt and gets forgiven. Practicing II Chronicles 7:14… and He will forgive us and heal our land.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X