50 Richest Pastors
Posted by Karen on
50 Richest Pastors
05/31/2016 06:30:06 AM
Can we get an “Amen!” or a “Hallelujah!” It should come as no surprise that religion is one of the largest and most profitable organizations in the world today as billions of dollars are spent each year on church renovations, advertising, book publications, religious paraphernalia and more! As a matter of fact, visit any supermarket or gas station and you’re bound to find something related to one faith or another as we’ve reached the highest religious population the world has ever seen.
With religions around the world gaining momentum as new followers fill once empty seats and lifetime parishioners flock to new services or locations, Christianity has established itself as the most prominent faith in first-world countries. As a result, congregations quickly put their trust in their ministers, pastors or preachers who have become not only some of the most renowned spiritual mentors in the world but also some of the wealthiest.
So just how much are pastors really making?
Traveling the globe from Nigeria and Singapore to the United States, we found 50 of the richest pastors whose millionaire and billionaire statuses are sure to shock you. Will you recognize any of the names on our list?
Let’s find out!
#50 – Bill Moyers ($1 Million)
The first of many pastors turned politicians (and vice versa) on our list is Oklahoma native Bill Moyers.
First starting his career in journalism with an internship with the United States Senate, the young University of Texas graduate caught the eye of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson who helped secure future work for him as a television editor. While working in broadcasting, Moyers pursued his other passion – theology – and completed his Master of Divinity in 1959 at which time he became an ordained Baptist minister.
Leaving Texas for Washington, D.C., Moyers was appointed the Associate Director of the Peace Corps during the Kennedy administration before taking over as Johnson’s personal assistant after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Shortly after, he was named the 13th White House Press Secretary and served under Johnson from 1965 to 1967. Since then, the now 81-year-old journalist has given a handful of sermons but is best recognized as a pioneer in freedom of the press and public broadcasting in addition to laying the groundwork for the press’s relationship with the White House.
#49 – Richard Rossi ($1 Million)
Once known as the rock and roll preacher with an edge, Richard Rossi became a born-again Christian after a drug overdose inspired him to take his experience and his fascination with faith healing to the pulpit.
Rossi started playing his music on The 700 Club while completing his degree in biblical studies at Liberty University. During his senior year, he married his college sweetheart, Sherrie Lynn Plaugher, and saw moderate success when he opened his first church – The Fellowship – in 1984.
Everything changed for the Pennsylvania preacher in 1994 when Sherrie was found nearly dead on the side of the road and he was considered the prime suspect.
Sent to trial amid testimonies to both his guilt and innocence, the trial ended in a hung jury with Rossi sentenced to probation and domestic violence counseling. The damage to his reputation was already done, however, as his church membership fell to 12. Moving to Los Angeles with Sherrie and their children, the now 53-year-old Rossi has tried to make a fresh start as a pastor, church consultant and actor despite many still believing he got off far too easy.
#48 – Paul Cain ($1 Million)
If everything is really bigger in Texas, then the Lone Star State’s own Paul Cain most likely didn’t think twice when he became one of youngest ministers of the Voice of Healing Revival in Europe during the late 1940s.
Only 18 years old at the time and often preaching in front of tens of thousands, Cain was incredibly popular and was well on his way to becoming one of the most memorable pastors in the world until he did the unthinkable and disappeared from the public eye in the late 1950s.
Finally reemerging in Kansas City in 1987, the religious landscape was far different from Cain’s early days of tent revivals as he traveled the world preaching while working as a consultant with the CIA that left him rubbing elbows with world leaders like President Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein. By 2004, however, his reputation was on a downward spiral when accusations of homosexuality and drunkenness ignited a confession and his resignation from the ministry. Returning to the pulpit once again in 2007, Cain is now 87 years old and continues to preach at his church in Santa Marla, California.
#47 – Jimmy Swaggart ($1.5 Million)
It wouldn’t be a true pastor lineup without Louisiana’s famed Jimmy Swaggart.
Surprisingly low on our list despite being one of the biggest names in evangelism, Swaggart was ordained in the 1950s when he devoted his life to religion and launched his own telecast on a small AM radio network. Enjoying early success and the expansion of the network, Swaggart wanted to reach even larger audiences and turned his attention to television with weekly sermons and an hour-long weekend telecast that aired on over 200 networks.
Despite his rise to fame, the 81-year-old evangelist fell from grace in the public’s eye in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he faced prostitution and sex scandals that left many of his once loyal followers to denounce him as a trusted Christian leader. Ultimately confessing in the infamous “I have sinned” speech, Swaggart has managed to win back his followers and thousands of others while building his estimated $1.5 million fortune through his music, radio and television ministry. After all, when you own a television channel, there’s no one to stop you from airing your program.
#46 – Charles Stanley ($1.5 Million)
A born-again Christian at the age of 12, Charles Stanley was only 14 years old when he began his work as a minister in his Virginia community.
Graduating from the University of Richmond and the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Stanley moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he was appointed the pastor at the First Baptist Church. Once settled in Atlanta, Stanley started a television program called The Chapel Hour in 1972, which was picked up in 1978 and syndicated across the country by the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Rising to popularity as a charismatic television pastor and the third most influential in the world, Stanley launched In Touch Ministries, which prompted a syndicated radio broadcast that took his message worldwide. His largest program today, In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley is translated across hundreds of radio and television networks in over 100 languages. Despite his success and his impressive $1.5 million net worth, the 83-year-old continues to live modestly while ministering and enjoying his second passion, photography.
#45 – R.C. Sproul ($2 Million)
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Robert Charles “R.C.” Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries.
Established in 1970 with humble beginnings as a study center for college and seminary students, Sproul built the ministry into a nationally recognized program that now hosts theological conferences throughout the year with renowned speakers from around the world. He is also the mastermind behind the internationally broadcasted Sirius XM radio program Renewing Your Mind.
Much like the other pastors on our list, Sproul was inspired to take his message even further but, instead of turning to television, looked to the internet. Launching the online Christian radio station known as Reformation Network (RefNet) for reformed Christians in 2012, Sproul may not be the most popular pastor in the world but he’s definitely one of the wealthiest and smartest. Still living and working in his native Pennsylvania, the 77-year-old is worth an estimated $2 million thanks to his five dozen books, a strong Christian message and savvy marketing.
#44 – N.T. Wright ($2.5 Million)
The first pastor on our list from across the pond, Nicholas Thomas “N.T.” Wright is one of the most popular New Testament scholars in all of Great Britain.
Ordained as a minister in 1975, Wright has written and published over a dozen books on religion including the popular series Christian Origins and the Question of God and For Everyone. Because of his work and outstanding dedication to theology, Wright was consecrated in 2003 as the Bishop of Durham after spending five years as the Dean of Lichfield.
Retiring from his position as Bishop in 2010, the 67-year-old has amassed a $2.5 million net worth throughout his career and continues to work today as a professor at St. Mary’s College in the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Carrying great influence in the religious community, he is often recognized for his polarizing views that include his opposition to ordaining gay Christians as well as same sex relationships and marriages. He also argues that the idea of an actual rapture is farfetched and bogus.
#43 – Jack Van Impe ($2.5 Million)
Claiming his nickname as the “Walking Bible,” Michigan native Jack Van Impe graduated from the Detroit Bible Institute in 1952 and began his career as an evangelist on the Billy Graham Crusades.
Meeting and marrying Rexella Mae Shelton during a youth rally on tour, Impe and his new bride launched the Jack Van Impe Ministries in 1954 featuring Impe as the star and Rexella as the cohost of the television series, Jack Van Impe Presents.
Still seen on television across the United States and Canada, the 85-year-old Van Impe has amassed a huge following over the last 60 years in addition to an incredible amount of wealth. Reports show that the Jack Van Impe Ministries International Foundation has a total yearly revenue of nearly $12 million with an annual salary of $150,000 set aside for Van Impe himself. Of course, many argue that the minister has far more money floating into his pockets since his net worth is climbing at $2.5 million.
#42 – Clifton Davis ($3 Million)
Better known as a songwriter, singer and actor rather than a minister, Clifton Davis launched his career in the music business after writing famous hits like “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “Lookin’ Through the Windows” for The Jackson 5.
Taking his talents to the stage in the 1970s, Davis made his acting debut as the star on the television series That’s My Mama and has spent the last 45 years in the spotlight with special appearances on hit series like Amen, Living Single and Grace Under Fire among dozens of others.
Long before becoming a celebrity, Davis pursued his passion for theology and earned a Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University and was ordained in 1987.
He has spent the last 25 years as the co-founder and pastor of the Welcome Christian Center in Huntington Beach, California while making guest appearances on the Trinity Broadcasting Network in addition to hosting Gospel Superfest for the last eight years. When he’s not behind the pulpit, parishioners and fans can find him talking politics as he plays Ephraim Ware on the popular television series, Madam Secretary.
#41 – Ernie Fletcher ($3 Million)
A politician, preacher and physician, Kentucky native Ernie Fletcher wears many hats these days after first joining the United States Air Force with the hopes of becoming an astronaut.
With budget cuts in the program and poor eyesight squashing his dreams, Fletcher earned a degree in medicine and opened a private practice while working as a lay Baptist minister in his community. He became active in Kentucky politics and, by 1999, joined the United States House of Representatives until 2003 when he assumed the role as Kentucky’s Governor until 2007.
Despite his early work as a minister, Fletcher never earned a salary from his position and, instead, built his $3 million net worth in politics – although, even that came at a price. Facing his fair share of controversy while in office, Fletcher was accused of unethical hiring practices that overshadowed his reelection bid in 2007 and left him no other option but to retire from politics and return to medicine. He founded the Alton Healthcare consulting firm in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2008 and, at 63 years old today, continues to serve as CEO after taking a huge step back from the pulpit and the political arena.
#40 – Minister Louis Farrakhan ($3 Million)
Born as Louis Wolcott and trained as a violinist, Bronx native Louis Farrakhan launched his career as a professional musician in the 1950s at the same time he was introduced to the teachings of the Nation of Islam.
Joining the NOI in 1955 and briefly becoming Louis X, Farrakhan gave up his dreams of music and quickly rose through the ranks under the guidance of Malcolm X. With Malcolm’s assassination in 1965, Farrakhan then assumed the role as the national spokesman and representative of the NOI and the minister of the highly influential Harlem Mosque.
A widely polarizing and controversial figure, Farrakhan has spent the last three decades reviving the Nation of Islam while building his following as a minister in the northeast and amassing $3 million in personal wealth. Responsible for the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. in 1995, Farrakhan is now 82 years old but age hasn’t stopped him as he continues to spread his influence through weekly online sermons and speaking at large NOI events. He’s even returned to music with a sound that critics describe as “deep and full of energy that makes the violin gleam.”
#39 – Leroy Jenkins ($4 Million)
No, we don’t mean Leroy Jenkins of the popular World of Warcraft meme.
Instead, next on our list is South Carolina evangelist Leroy Jenkins who became a born-again Christian after being convicted of arson in 1979. Spending 12 years in prison, Jenkins was at it again in 2001 when he married 77-year-old Eloise Thomas who won the Ohio Lottery Jackpot worth $6 million. A recent widow and overwhelmed with grief, Thomas passed away shortly after marrying Jenkins leaving the Ohio court to annul the marriage and deny Jenkins any of Thomas’s fortune.
Despite his reputation as a con-artist and convicted criminal, Jenkins started his own faith healing ministry – Leroy Jenkins Ministries – using “miracle water” to help his followers. Still based in Ohio in 2003, his ministry took a hit when it was discovered that the “miracle water” contained harmful chemicals. Also fined for selling the water without a license, Jenkins packed up his ministry and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona. Now 79 years old and still building his $4 million wealth as an internationally recognized televangelist, Jenkin’s ethics and honesty are undoubtedly questionable.
#38 – Tony Campolo ($4 Million)
When it comes to having one of the coolest pastor jobs in the world, Tony Campolo easily takes the prize as the former spiritual advisor to President Bill Clinton.
Recognized as one of the most influential religious leaders and thinkers today, the Philadelphia native is an ordained Baptist minister and evangelist known for his progressive ideas and association with the Democratic Party. He also founded the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE) to help at-risk youth throughout the United States and Canada.
Frequently criticized by conservatives for his views shared as a guest commentator and advisor on programs like The Colbert Report, Nightline and Larry King Live, Campolo took his opinions on politics, religion and social issues to his own program in 2011 with the launch of Red Letter Christians. Continuing to host the show after retiring from the EAPE in 2014, the 81-year-old sociologist and pastor has published over a dozen books and spoken at hundreds of events while amassing a net worth to the tune of an astonishing $4 million.
#37 – Reinhard Bonnke ($4 Million)
Claiming that he has preached the gospel to more people than any other evangelist in the world, Reinhard Bonnke is known for his missions across Africa over the last 50 years.
Hailing from Konigsberg, Germany, Bonnke became a Christian as a child when his mother told him the only way to avoid punishment for sin was through Jesus. Shortly after and at only 10 years old, Bonnke felt his first calling to preach in Africa and spent the next 17 years completing his degree and pastoring in Germany before embarking on his first mission in 1967.
Initially ministering to only a few dozen followers, Bonnke’s reputation and popularity spread across Africa and ignited the need for large scale evangelism and bigger venues. After trading in sold-out stadiums for tent and open-air gatherings to accommodate 100,000 people at a time, the Pentecostal evangelist quickly found himself as the most notable and influential religious leader in all of Africa. And, with the success of his autobiography, Living a Life of Fire, it’s no surprise why the 76-year-old Bonnke is one of the richest pastors in the world with a $4 million net worth.
#36 – Paula White ($5 Million)
Currently serving as the Senior Pastor of the New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, 49-year-old Paula White has come quite a long way from her Tupelo, Mississippi roots marked by poverty and physical abuse.
Moving around the country with her mother and stepfather as a child, the family finally settled in Maryland where her life took on an entirely new path. By the time she graduated from high school, White had converted to Christianity and claimed she had a vision from God that called her to preach the gospel to others.
Moving to Florida and transforming a struggling church into the Without Walls International Church in the 1990s alongside her husband, White saw great success as thousands attended services each week to hear her humorous sermons. Gaining national attention as a result, the award-winning televangelist divorced her husband and found herself amid controversy when she was accused of financial wrongdoing by the United States Senate. After the investigation cleared her name, White resumed her role on the pulpit and now divides her time between church and the set of her television show Paula White Today.
#35 – John MacArthur ($5 Million)
Ordained in the 1960s as a Christian evangelical preacher, John F.
MacArthur began his career behind the pulpit in 1964 at the Calvary Bible Church in Southern California before joining Grace Community Church in Los Angeles in 1969. By 1977, MacArthur took his sermons to an even bigger audience when he launched his daily radio broadcast, Grace to You. Initially only broadcast in Baltimore, Maryland, the program has since become an internationally syndicated show that has established MacArthur as one of the most influential preachers of his era.
With the success of his radio program, MacArthur was named President of the Los Angeles Baptist College in 1984 and, two years later, established his own college known as The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles. Now at 76 years old and continuing to serve as the college’s president and pastor at Grace Community Church, MacArthur has built an incredible $5 million net worth thanks to appearances on shows like Larry King Live in addition to over 150 book titles including the best-selling MacArthur Study Bible and Twelve Ordinary Men.
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