How much is worship worth? That question is at the heart of a quiet (and, for many, uncomfortable) issue: pastor compensation. It would be a very different world if people were paid based on their value of their profession to society. Most clergy in America earn a humble $45,000 or less per year as they work tirelessly to share the gospel. While most seminarians don’t pursue a career in preaching expecting to get rich—some spiritual leaders have built lucrative empires comparable to the dynasties previously only enjoyed by star athletes, A-list actors, and corporate elites. Who are these pastors and what are their net worths? Let’s get to know some of the richest pastors in America.
Kenneth Copeland: Net Worth $760 Million
Kenneth Copeland, who leads the “Believer’s Voice of Victory,” TV show and network, is a giant within the Word of Faith branch of Pentecostalism. Kenneth Copeland Ministries operates on a 1,500-acre campus near Fort Worth, TX, equipped with a church, a private airstrip, and a hangar for the ministry’s $17.5 million jet and other aircraft. Copeland resides with his wife Gloria in a $6 million church-owned lakefront mansion. Copeland, who is of partial Native American descent, converted to Christianity in the 1960s. His first dream was to be a recording artist. His “Pledge of Love” made No. 12 in the Top 40 in 1957.
Pat Robertson: Net Worth $100 Million
Marion Gordon “Pat” Robertson, son of U.S. Senator A. Willis Robertson, served as a Southern Baptist minister for many years before carving out a career as a media mogul and executive chairman. Robertson is host of “The 700 Club,” the flagship program of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which Robertson launched in 1960 in Virginia Beach, VA. After an unsuccessful presidential bid in 1988, Robertson founded the Christian Coalition, a Christian Right organization that raises money for conservative political candidates. Robertson was instrumental in building a number of organizations committed to promoting conservative Christian ideals. He is the founder, CEO, and chancellor of what we know today as Regent University. He also established the American Center for Law & Justice, a major public interest law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Benny Hinn: Net Worth $42 Million
Toufik Benedictus “Benny” Hinn is a televangelist originally born in Jaffa, Israel and was raised in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. He converted to Pentecostalism as a teenager in Toronto and became so immersed in the faith that it actually concerned his family. Despite dropping out of high school, he went on to found the Orlando Christian Center in 1983 and began professing his faith healing abilities.
Hinn’s teachings are characterized as charismatic Christianity, with an emphasis on spiritual gifts and the prosperity gospel. He is best known for hosting “Miracle Crusades” —faith healing summits—generally held in large stadiums in major cities, which are later broadcast worldwide on his television program, “This Is Your Day,” on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Hinn has been scrutinized for personal use of church-owned luxury goods and a lack of financial oversight on the ministries’ boards, which are often populated with family and friends of the televangelist.
Joel Osteen: Net Worth $40 Million
Joel Osteen is a best-selling author and the senior pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest Protestant church in America, based in Houston, TX. Osteen spent much of his career behind the scenes. He founded Lakewood’s television program and produced his father’s televised sermons for 17 years until his father died suddenly from a heart attack. Although his father always encouraged Osteen to preach, he didn’t take the stage until two weeks after John Osteen’s death. Since then, Lakewood’s attendance has grown from 5,000 to 43,000. In his teachings, Osteen says that he aims to focus more on the goodness of God and on living an obedient life rather than on sin. He says that he tries to teach biblical principles in a simple way, emphasizing the power of love and a positive attitude. Sometimes his teachings are characterized as prosperity gospel. He lives with his family in a $10.5 million home.
Creflo Dollar: Net Worth $27 Million
Creflo Augustus Dollar, Jr. is at the helm of a number of organizations: Creflo Dollar Ministerial Association, Creflo Dollar Ministries, and Arrow Records. He is the pastor and founder of the non-denominational World Changers Church International based in College Park, GA, a suburb of Atlanta. Raised in a Baptist church, Dollar received a Bachelor of Science degree in education from West Georgia College in Carrollton before holding his first sermon in an elementary school cafeteria in 1986. By 2007, he was preaching to a congregation of 30,000 members with $69 million in revenue through gross cash collections. Both his prosperity gospel-style teachings and his lavish lifestyle have been criticized. He owns two Rolls-Royces, a private jet, and three multi-million dollar homes.
Billy Graham: Net Worth $25 Million
William Franklin Graham is a well-respected Southern Baptist minister and best-selling author who was one of the first pastors to reach celebrity status in the 20th century. Graham is known for hosting the annual Billy Graham Crusades from 1947-2005. It has been estimated that 3.2 million people have accepted his invitation to “accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior,” and that 2.2 billion people have tuned into his radio and TV broadcasts. It is believed that more people have heard him preach than any other person in the history of Christianity.
Graham served as a spiritual adviser to Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon. He was active in the civil rights movement, held integrated crusades, invited Martin Luther King, Jr. to preach jointly at a revival, and even bailed MLK, Jr. out of jail.
Joyce Meyer: Net Worth $8 Million
Joyce Meyer is a charismatic Christian speaker and author who previously ranked as No. 17 on the list of “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” by TIME Magazine. In 2003, Meyer and her husband, Dave, launched a television ministry, “Enjoying Everyday Life,” headquartered in the St. Louis suburb of Fenton, MS.
A mom of four kids, Meyer has received flack for her extravagant lifestyle. In 2004, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch detailed her and her husband’s assets, which were reportedly all paid for by the ministry: a $10 million jet, several homes that cost up to $2 million each, and a $107,000 silver Mercedes sedan. The ministry’s $20 million headquarters is outfitted with $5.7 million worth of furniture (including a $23,000 antique marble-topped commode).
She responds to her critics by saying that she doesn’t have to apologize for being blessed.
The Bottom Line
There is nothing wrong with being wealthy, of course. But with great wealth comes great responsibility. Regardless of your rung on the income ladder, we must remember that Jesus viewed wealth as a gift from God to be used in His service. The Parable of the Shrewd Manager teaches us that God must be the most important thing in our lives: “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13-31).