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One of the driving commonalities between all of us is a need or desire to make money in some capacity. The paths we follow for that goal differ. Some look to climb the corporate ladder, others aim to follow a passion. Teachers, law enforcement, and the focus of this list, religious leaders, generally fall into the second column. They look to protect or inspire people, regardless of the income that their profession brings. While most will make a livable wage, some strike lightning and end up with millions in the bank, one pastor is even closing in on the billion-dollar mark.

There are a few points of contention here as many view those that follow the path of leading a religious group as one that is about the “good word” and their lifestyles can seem to contradict their teachings. The argument isn’t without some foundation, but that isn’t the point of this article. This is more of a personal belief and not something that can be stated as a fact. Therefore, we will cut through the controversy and simply look at these big names in religion and how they live, how they became so wealthy, and hopefully understand a bit more about why they do what they do.

 

1. Kenneth Copeland (Net Worth $760 Million)

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Kenneth Copeland, another Texas native on this list (there are a few), is the second wealthiest religious leader as of this writing. At age 79, he is showing no signs of slowing down his ministry called Kenneth Copeland Ministries or KCM. As a prosperity gospel teacher and part of the Charismatic Movement, this televangelist has been on television for longer than many of us have been alive.

He didn’t turn to Christianity until he was in his 30’s, following a path as a musician which landed him a Billboard Top 40 hit “Pledge of Love” in 1957, which peaked at #17 and stayed on the charts for 15 weeks.

He owns a 1998 Cessna 550 Citation Brave, which was donated in 2007 for domestic flights, and a 2005 Cessna 750 Citation X which is used for international travel. KCM is also restoring a 1962 Beech H-18 Twin to use for disaster relief efforts.


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Some scandals have come from the use of the aircraft for personal vacations and enjoyment of friends. KCM also takes advantage of a FAA program which keeps flights private from tracking websites, which allows five of the ministries aircrafts to move with anonymity.

Copeland also found himself and KCM in hot water when a measles outbreak in Tarrant County (Fort Worth is located here) started to cause fear in 2013 and was blamed on KCM for their anti-vaccination sentiments. In response, a statement was issued which denied the organizations issues with vaccines and even encouraged it.

Controversy or not, Copeland has built an empire that will continue once he steps down, yet he is not known to live an overtly lavish lifestyle. Copeland’s net worth is $760 million and his assets include the 1,500-acre campus near Fort Worth previous mentioned. While he boasts he is a billionaire, there is no proof of that as of this writing.

 

2. Pat Robertson (Net Worth Varies by Source – Up to $1 Billion)

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Pat Robertson has been active in the religious world since 1961, at the age of 30. There are so many things that can be said about this man it is hard to write anything but a book about him. So here are the bullet points of how this man lives and why he is such a controversial figure.

With an honorary title of Doctor Robertson, it would seem that he brings a great deal of critical thinking to the table. Instead, he has become that crazy uncle that always talks about how the world is ending. That isn’t to say that the host of The 700 Club is crazy, just that he has some pretty wild ideas about how God communicates to him.

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His failed 1988 run for President of the United States made him a household name, but a new generation learned about him through his constant predictions sent to him by God himself. In 1982 he said the world would end that year, in fact, he guaranteed it. With that out of the way, it took until 2007, when he declared the U.S. would be hit by a serious terror attack for him to find his way into the minds of a new generation. When the attack didn’t happen, he thanked all those that prayed and stopped it through God’s will.

There is no shortage of controversy surrounding Mister Robertson, but there are plenty of questions about his net Worth. Some put Robertson at a mere $100 million, while others estimate $1 billion or more. He owns a diamond mine and sold his network to Fox for $1.9 billion, so my guess would be closer to the higher end of the millions at a minimum.

 

3. David Miscavige (Net Worth $50 Million)

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David Miscavige, for those unaware, is the head of the Church of Scientology. Many argue that Scientology is not a church at all, or at least not a religion, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is considered a powerful religious leader.

One of the scariest parts of how Scientology came to be recognized is in how they worked with the IRS. In 1991, after speaking with then Commissioner Fred T. Goldberg, Jr. about religious recognition for obvious tax breaks, he was turned down. Countless lawsuits were filed against the IRS, but the most disturbing part comes from a report by The New York Times. In the report, they said that the church’s lawyers hired private investigators to look for anything that could be used against individuals in the IRS through investigating their personal lives and conducting surveillance operations to find vulnerabilities.  To make matters worse, they hired whistle-blowers to attack the agency publicly.

Miscavige then offered a cease to the constant lawsuits if Goldberg would give them tax exemptions as a religious organization. After two years of negotiating the church finally won and in an announcement to 10,000 members in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, he declared “The war is over!” The statement was followed by a ten-minute ovation.

The Scientologists Headquarters

The Scientologists Headquarters

While he is not a preacher in the traditional sense, Miscavige is more of a head of the company as it were. He is the public face, alongside Tom Cruise, of Scientology and uses his charisma to increase membership to the organization. He is married to Michele Diane Miscavige, a fellow Sea Org member, but she has not been seen in public since 2007 shortly after she filled multiple vacant positions without David’s permission. While the LAPD stated that they had met with her in 2013, that was later debunked and questions remain as to her whereabouts. The church assures any who ask that she is being guarded, for her own protection presumably, within the main headquarters of the church, but no further information is available as of the time of this writing.

David Miscavige is a charismatic leader to say the least. He uses his power to rub elbows with the rich and famous, but he is under constant scrutiny and often the center of another scandal as people try to understand what is going on in his secretive society.

4. Joel Osteen (Net Worth $40 Million)

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Joel Osteen started out as the producer for his father’s program which had run for 17 years. After plenty of encouragement from his father to get out from behind the cameras, most of which Joel turned down, the first pastor on this list finally gave in. Sadly, his father died six days later from an unexpected heart attack. Joel Osteen has been the face of Lakewood Church ever since.

Worth an estimated $40 million, Joel doesn’t hold as many assets or seem to care about the money nearly as much as the next individual on this list. While his home is lavish and worth $10.5, it is modest compared to many in his tax bracket. With six bathrooms and bedrooms, three elevators, a guest house, a pool house and five fireplaces, it is a subtle mansion compared to most. He also owns his $2.9 former home.

He stopped taking his $200,000 salary from the church in 2005, so most of his income is from his books and non-church related speaking engagements. As an accomplished author, he has touched millions through his televised sermons and his inspirational writings. Some take issue with his wealth considering he teaches about a rich life based on family and happiness, but he says that the money is just a part of what he does and not what defines him.

 

5. Benny Hinn (Net Worth $42 Million)

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Benny Hinn is probably best known for being the miracle man. His televised shows often lay witness to him laying his hands on his followers and seeing them pass out from the power of the lord as it passes through them. Toufik Benedictus Hinn has made a significant amount of his money with the Prosperity Gospel method. In this way, you send in seed money, which the Lord will then help you turn in to a significantly larger sum. Criticisms have been raised towards Benny Hinn and this method as nothing more than a scam, but it is without question working for at least Hinn himself.

Unfortunately, Hinn has done himself no favors as information about his lifestyle is rather sparse considering the controversies that surround him. The “faith healer” owns a private jet, several homes, none of which seem humble by any definition, and many luxury vehicles. He is also known to go on many extravagant shopping sprees. Questions about his marriage also arose as rumors came out that he was dating fellow televangelist Paula White. After two years of separation, a “miracle” remarriage brought him and his wife of 30 years back together.

 

6. Jesse Jackson (Net Worth $10 Million)

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Jesse Jackson is likely not someone you think of when you consider the big names in religion, but he is a Baptist pastor that attended theology college. The interesting thing about Jesse Jackson, and the next person on our list, is that they used what they learned, that special way to “preach” to people and inspire them through nothing more than emotional speech, is he used it outside of a church for most of his life. Most of his time was spent fighting for civil rights, and trying to break further and further into politics, running failed campaigns in 1984 and 1988.

Unlike most on this list, he didn’t get wealthy from running a large church or congregation but from his speeches, television appearances, and work at high levels in different organizations. While he doesn’t live a lifestyle that flaunts his wealth, he does stay in the public eye as much as possible constantly pushing is evolving views on the world. He isn’t just a Baptist preacher though, he was also made a Master Mason which resulted in him become a Prince Hall Freemason.

After an affair with a staffer in 2001, resulting in a daughter Ashley, and several payments made to the woman he had an affair with out of one of his companies, Jackson stepped out of the spotlight for a short time. It didn’t last long though as he is a regular on many discussion panels televised nationwide at this point.

 

7. Martin Luther King Jr. (Net Worth $250 Thousand)

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Though you may not consider him to be in the same area of the religious world as most of the individuals on this list, you recognize Martin Luther King Jr. as a figure of great importance. Much like Jesse Jackson, someone he had a close relationship with, he used his ability to preach to help push for civil rights, living the life of an activist until his assassination.

To this day he is a celebrated figure and often looked at as a softer spoken but more powerful figure than Malcom X, whom fought for the same ideals. The sad part of the whole story though is that MLK never lived to see the effect he had on the world. While not rich by today’s standards, he was comfortable in his lifestyle and could dedicate his entire time to using his strongly held beliefs to better the world.

 

8. Matthew Ashimolowo (Net Worth $10 Million)

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As the founder of Kingsway International Christian Center in London (the largest Pentecostal church in the UK) Matthew is becoming a powerful man in the religious sector. The church itself has assets worth over $40 million and earns a profit of over $10 million per year.

In early life he was dedicated to Islam, but when his father died he converted to Christianity at the age of 20. The charity behind his church has been investigated significantly finding that there was serious misconduct or mismanagement of the Charity, that he was responsible for approving an alarmingly large amount of payments, and that he received benefits from the Charity including free accommodations for his family and himself, an expensive car and a timeshare in Florida to name a few.

The controversy has not kept him down though as it seems his church continues to grow year after year. Of course, he teaches the Prosperity Theology.

 

9. Rev. John Hagee (Net Worth $5 Million)

(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

One of the lesser known church leaders with a large bank account, John Hagee has made a name for himself as the senior pastor of Cornerstone church which he is the founder of. He is a divisive figure to be sure as he has criticized Islam, homosexuality and Catholicism while supporting Israel.

He doesn’t live a life of grandeur or flaunt any type of assets as others on this list do, but he does get his name out in the world with some wild predictions. In Jerusalem Countown: A Warning to the World, his 2005 book, he says the Bible predicts that Russia and the Islamic states will attack Israel only to be destroyed by God. This will thing lead to the Antichrist which will head the European Union which will cause a confrontation between China and the West over Israel. He may not be the most interesting person with his money, but his ideas are worth a look, regardless of the reason you check them out.

 

10. Prophet T.B. Joshua (Net Worth $15 Million)

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When you first see that Temitope Balogun joshua calls himself Prophet, you may expect him to fall into the less honest side of this list, but he is known as a philanthropic preacher. He heads Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria, which was founded in 1987. While his faith healing brings some controversy, what doesn’t is his humanitarian works.

Most of his time is spent on working on education, healthcare and rehabilitation programs. Much of his income is part of his Emmanual TV Christian Television Network. He is also considered Nigeria’s most powerful preacher by a large margin.

 

11. Edir Macedo (Net Worth $1.1 Billion)

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Edir Macedo Bezerra is a Brazilian preacher and theologian, media mogul, and chairman of Rede Record, the second-largest television network in his home country… oh and he owns a bank.

You read that number correctly, that is not a misprint, he is estimated to be worth 1.1 Billion dollars. While plenty of controversy has surrounded the man, including a televised kicking of a Catholic icon on his show which landed one of his pastors in prison for two years, he is also probably the most understandably rich person on this list. He isn’t just a pastor, so it goes without saying that all of his other dealings have helped him reach that big “B” and dropped the “M” in his bank account. He is a Prosperity Gospel preacher, which he obviously believes in at some levels, look what it has done for his life.

 

12. Rev. Joseph Prince (Net Worth $5 Million)

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This Singaporean pastor has an annual salary of $550,000 from his post as the senior pastor of the New Creation Church in Singapore. The church itself brought in almost $45 million in 2008. As the host of a religious program called Destined to Reign he seems to be starting to grow in popularity as he is fairly early in his career. Joseph Prince may be one to watch in the coming years.

 

13. David Oyedepo (Net Worth $150 Million)

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David Oyedepo is one of the richest religious leaders on this list and he lives in one of the poorest countries on this list. How is that the case? Some argue it is because the poorly educated are more likely to turn to religion and give money. That may be a bit cynical, but it may hold some truth.

With two mansions and four private jets, he isn’t afraid to throw his wealth around. And just to make sure he doesn’t run out anytime soon he has reinvested some of the earnings from his teachings into starting a publishing company in which he pushes out books at a high margin. A businessman first it would seem.

 

14. Juanita Bynum (Net Worth $10 Million)

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Juanita Bynum is unlike any other leader on this list. She came in to prominence during a 1997 sermon which is now known as “No More Sheets.” She discussed her longing for a good man of God and was tired of sleeping around. She wrapped herself in sheets to show all of her premarital sexual encounters and denounced it with a cry of “No More Sheets!” as she dropped it, renouncing that lifestyle.

Unfortunately, her then husband and fellow pastor, Thomas W. Weeks assaulted her and was accused of terrorist threats against her. This had many questioning her desire to find that man of God and accused her of living a fairy tale. Still, she has made her life a success through her church, her singing, authorship and acting. As a New York Times Best Selling author, she stays close to her message, reinforces it, and finds no significant publicity about her rich lifestyle.

 

15. Bishop T. D. Jakes (Net Worth $18 Million)

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8 29 2013-Lifeclass-Dallas

As the chief pastor of The Potter’s House (a non-denominational mega-church) in Dallas, Texas, T.D. Jakes leads his 30,000 members through his consistent and inspiring messages. As an author with a great a great number of books published, his income seems to come more from his writing than his church.

While he is a fairly quiet man outside of his sermons, he is well regarded by many. Not living the extravagant lifestyle like some of the big names on this list, it is hard to envision him living a life unlike his congregation. He is so well respected that Time featured him on the cover of a 2001 issue asking “Is This Man the Next Billy Graham?” Not a bad person to be compared to.

 

16. Joyce Meyer (Net Worth $8 Million)

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The second female on the list is one of the most recognizable faces in the religious community. At age 73 she has not only aged well; she has done so why bringing herself out of a very rough early life. With abuse and a less than desirable first husband she seemed to be destined for a joyless life. Through her preaching, writing and inspirational leadership she has defied everything that tried to stand in her way.

At the same time, she is no stranger to flaunting her wealth. The St. Louise Post-Dispatch published a special report in 2003 detailing her assets, which lead to an IRC investigation. This all led to her reducing her $900,000 per year salary (including half of that again to her husband) and living on the royalties of her books that were sold outside of the ministry. The assets that started this include, a $10 million corporate jet, $4 million worth of houses for her and her children, $5.7 million in furniture, glassware, artwork and the cutting-edge equipment and machinery, a $30,000 round table, a $14,000 custom office bookcase and a $23,000 marble-topped antique toilet, just to name a few. How her current net worth isn’t higher is a mystery.

 

17. Billy Graham (Net Worth $25 Million)

(Photo by Jemal Countess/WireImage)

(Photo by Jemal Countess/WireImage)

Billy Graham is easily one of the most well respected individuals on this list. As the “Pastor to Presidents” his following of the Good Book in his life has made him an ideal religious icon for politicians to align with. While he fought for rights in his early life, he did find some controversy in saying that women should follow the traditional wife, mother, homemaker path instead of competing with “male chauvinists”.

With a small home and a few collectible items to his name, he does not live the lavish lifestyle so many others on this list do. Instead, he lives modestly like the people that follow him. As an author of a significant number of books, his words seem to be sincerer than nearly anyone else on this list. At 98 years old, he has not made many public appearances in the last decade, but when he does they are generally well received. Truly a man of faith that honors what he taught.

 

18. Paula White (Net Worth $5 Million)

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Paula white seems to be growing more popular by the day at this point. She is ageless. At 50 years old, she could pass as someone half her age, but this may not be a miracle but plastic surgery. Though it is hard to find a confirmation about the rumors, it adds just one more question about the mega-televangelists.

But Paula White isn’t a normal congregation leader, not only is she one of the few females on this list, she has also been through several marriages ending up with Jonathan Cain of Journey. While she does preach an inspiring message, she just may be a walking example of the saying “Do as I say, not as I do.”

 

19. Creflo Dollar (Net Worth $27 Million)

(Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

(Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Creflo Augustus Dollar, Jr, is the founder of the World Changers Church International in Georgia. As another author and televangelist, he is often criticized for his teachings. The gospel of wealth falls right into his lifestyle though, as he has a number of houses worth more than $2 million each, two Rolls-Royces, a private jet and a big grade “F” for financial transparency from Ministry Watch.

When his private jet ran off the runway at Biggin Hill Airport in 2014, he started a fundraising campaign to have his followers raise $60 million for a newer model. This was met with significant backlash and he ended the campaign. Months later, his church announced they were ready to purchase the very jet he was trying to raise funds for. At least he practices what he preaches.

 

20. Rick Warren (Net Worth $25 Million)

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Rick Warren is the senior pastor at the 8th largest church in the United States; Saddleback Church in Forest California. As a best-selling author with his devotional The Purpose Driven Life which sold over 30 million copies. As a conservative theological he has traditional views on same-sex marriage, stem-cell research and abortion. On the other hand, he calls on his followers, as well as other churches, to focus on battling global poverty and disease. On top of that, he also pushes for wider educational opportunities for those that may not have the same options as others while also pushing to care for the environment.

Unlike many others on this list, he has avoided controversies by sticking to his beliefs and living that life. Not much information is available as far as his personal assets, but his accolades are abundant. In 2005, U.S. News and World Report named him one of “America’s Top 25 Leaders. Time named him as a member of the “15 World Leaders Who Mattered Most in 2004” as well as one of their “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2005. Newsweek also honored him with being one of the “15 People Who Make America Great.” While he isn’t the richest, or most well-known on this list, maybe a few others could learn from his example.

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