What does actor John Travolta, rapper Jay-Z, and Pastor Creflo Dollar have in common? They are all well-known millionaires and own personal jets.
But, apparently, the mega pastor of World Changers Church International and his ministry team need yet another aircraft to jet around the globe. According to his recently-released fundraising video, the team’s first plane is decrepit and not flight-worthy due to several mechanical issues—probably too many Good Samaritan trips.
How much tithe will be needed from this preacher’s faithful congregation? Sixty-five million dollars.
Even before this campaign, however, the Atlanta-based minister appears to have already been sailing on blue skies. Two years ago, he sold a condo in Manhattan for 3.75 million. He also owns two Rolls Royces.
But Creflo, and Creflo Dollar Ministries (CDM) have also been criticized for their “lavish lifestyle,” as ABC News reports. Senator Chuck Grassley investigated CDM in 2007 for possible financial misuse as well. Most recently, Ministry Watch, which exists to identify “wasteful spending practices” in charities, issued a “Donor Alert” for CDM’s latest fundraising campaign.
Yet, Rick Hayes, Dollar’s wingman and manager of the project, stresses the necessity of the Gulfstream G650: “We have offices on multiple continents and our ministry stretches across television, personal appearances, and meeting the needs of people all over the world, so a plane is a vital part of the mission of our ministry.”
I applaud Mr. Dollar and his teams’ vision to “deliver the Gospel to more than 40 nations.” Yet, somehow, I believe the Great Commission won’t be thwarted because one of Jesus’ messengers must travel on a commercial flight.
More people might be motivated to fill this huge coffer if the plane served another benevolent purpose. Unfortunately, the jet’s cargo bay won’t be loaded with food for starving people. Nor will it transport critical patients to lifesaving care. Instead, it will only be used to move one celebrity pastor and his team from point A to point B.
The video’s only mention of any social justice is ancillary. “Visits to nation like Liberia, India, and Brazil resulted in the development of childrens’ homes, affordable housing, and other life-changing outreaches.” (italics added)
It’s not exactly convincing.
It also makes zero financial sense to purchase this aircraft. In addition to the mammoth sticker price, it costs roughly $9,400 per hour to fly—that’s equivalent to buying a round-trip business-class ticket to anywhere in the world, every hour.
Elitist travel like this places someone in a category with business giants like Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger, or IKEA’s Ingvar Kamprad. They have enough buying power to write personal checks for multiple Gulfstreams. Nevertheless, to avoid superfluousness, these billionaires actually choose to fly alongside us common folk in economy class.
This outrageous fundraiser for a private jet also creates another serious image problem for the Gospel. How does a sixty-five million dollar plane coalesce with the Gospel? Or with Jesus, who modeled humility and servanthood?
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. (John 13).
Not surprisingly, the Internet is now backlogged with satirical articles mocking the irony of this campaign.
As a follower of Jesus, it’s disheartening to hear of the persistent scandals that erupt from the failings of high-profile Christian leaders. And it’s defeating to be associated with the ones who actually hand the mud to the people who then sling it at the church. In this case, Project G650 gave the church’s critics another mound of dirt to use.
Maybe with this firestorm, Dollar will finally wise up and understand that it’s not just his own reputation he’s hijacking.
If Jesus walked on earth today, He wouldn’t fly on private planes or drive exotic cars. In fact, I don’t think he’d even be a televangelist. I think he’d be a mechanic. And when he traveled, he’d be the contented, easy-going guy sitting next to you in coach. You’d have a normal conversation with Him, and He would listen to you as you talked about your family, your job, and how the seats are crammed.
Most of won’t us live in mansions or fly aboard private jets. But, we can still exhibit the same exclusiveness if we huddle in religious circles or become hypnotized by our own consumerism.
I know if I were given the opportunity, like Pastor Dollar, I’d avoid every inconvenience of a regular flight in a heartbeat as well. Who wouldn’t? You’d see me hop on that private plane quicker than you could say prosperity gospel.
Perhaps there’s a bit of Creflo in me—maybe in all of us?
But thank God for His grace. And I’m grateful that in between my normal pattern of excessive Western living, He continually reroutes my passion to focus on those in spiritual and economical need.
Late last week, the Project G650 fundraising video was abruptly removed from their website, but there is still an option to give to Project G650. No reason was given, but I can hear his public relations team yelling, “Mayday; Mayday!”
It’s possible the project was running out of fuel or their marketing debacle left the pastor looking for his parachute. With his ministry’s track record, it could have also been removed to create space for a fundraising video for their new evangelistic yacht.
In any case, at least their math is transparent. The video states that if “200,000 people gave 300 U.S. dollars towards this project we’d achieve our goal.”
Roger that, Creflo. Roger that.