Matthew 19:24 famously says, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” – but they never said anything about private jets, right?
In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo imagines his Bishop of Digne as a consummate “Man of God.” He exemplifies kindness, compassion, grace, and forgiveness, and is so charitable he foregoes his own priestly carriage to spend that money on the needy in the name of God and goodwill toward men.
These “Men of God” have a different idea.
In 2015, John Oliver ran a story on Last Week Tonight about popular Evangelists and their exorbitant spending, with private jets being one of his focuses.
There is something undeniably odd about the combination of pastors and private jets. Whatever your personal views on Jesus, Christianity, and Religion, there is no denying that the Jesus of the Bible is a figure who lives meagerly and repeatedly opposes the rich and powerful.
Yet, for many mega pastors across America, it’s all part of their “Prosperity Gospel.” This Neo-Calvinist theology asserts that things like massive wealth – as exemplified by, say, private jets – are apparently a sign of God’s favor.
Of course, these pastors typically claim to have good, godly reasons for wanting private jets. So, who are these pastors, what are their private jets of choice, and why do they claim to “need” them?
1. Kenneth Copeland: Gulfstream V
Copeland frames his purchase of a private jet as a “team” effort, announcing to his followers in a post to Copeland’s ministry’s website on January 12, 2018 that “WE HAVE SOWN A GV as a team and God wants that kind of prosperity” for his team of “Partners.”
At least God has good taste in private jets. The Gulfstream V’s capable of Mach 0.885 and can comfortably carry more than a dozen passengers. And that’s not all – he also owns a Citation 550 and Citation X.
The latter caused a moment of awkwardness for Copeland when, in a sermon in 2016 in which he invited members to “claim” things in the name of God, an audience member shouted, “I claim your $25 million Citation X in the name of Jesus!”
2. Jesse Duplantis: Dassault Falcon 7X
Despite that “trinity” of luxury private jets, Copeland asked his followers in 2015 for a fourth private jet, this one valued at $54 million according to The Washington Post. The jet this time? A Dassault Falcon 7X.
Copeland’s fellow mega pastor, Jesse Duplantis, can tell him all about it, owning one himself. The two share a bond over the issue, asserting in 2016 that their need to fly on private jets stemmed from commercial planes being full of “demons.”
But hey, the Falcon 7X is one of the best private jets out there. Introduced in 2001, it features a swept wing design, has room for 20 passengers, and it is a very quiet private jet to fly aboard.
3. Jerry Savelle: Cessna 500
As someone who has been on the evangelist circuit longer than many of the names on this list, it seems only fitting that Jerry Savelle should also have one of the older planes listed here as well.
The Cessna 500 dates way back to the beginning of the 1970s. Among the planes on this list it’s definitely one of the smallest ones, with a crew of two and room for five passengers, with a top speed of “only” Mach 0.705.
If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll recognize the name Thurman Munson as the 1970s Yankees catcher and captain who tragically died while flying his personal plane, which was a Cessna 500.
4. Joyce Meyer: Gulfstream IV
Once upon a time, Ms. Joyce took to the skies in a Bombardier Challenger 600. Facing criticism over this, Joyce replied that “there’s no need for us to apologize for being blessed.”
Apparently that “blessing” wasn’t sufficient to serve the Lord, however, and so a few years (and a Senate investigation into her ministry’s “tax-exempt” status later) she traded up to a Gulfstream IV.
Blessing or no, the Gulfstream IV is a top flight private jet, with a crew of two, room for nineteen passengers, and a top cruising speed of Mach 0.85. The Gulfstream line’s one of the most popular among pastors on this list.
That’s fitting, as fellow Gulfstream owners Kenneth Copeland and our next entry on our list, Creflo A. Dollar, were also investigated in that same 2007-11 Senate inquiry.
5. Creflo A. Dollar: Gulfstream III
When you preach “Prosperity Gospel” and your last name is literally “Dollar,” perhaps it’s only a matter of time before you purchase a private jet. Mr. Dollar’s ride of choice is a Gulfstream III.
Dollar faced criticism for, among other things, saying of his purchase “If I want to believe God for a $65 million plane, you cannot stop me!”
At least it’s certainly on the roomier side for a private jet, with a crew of two or three and the ability to comfortably fit 19 passengers.
That said, those aboard his Gulfstream III had a bumpy landing in 2014 when it skidded off the runway at Biggin Hill Airport in London. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured.
6. Paul and Jan Crouch: Bombardier BD-700-1A10
This televangelist couple were the founders of Trinity Broadcasting Network, one of the most popular and powerful Christian TV channels. It was an extremely lucrative enterprise, with the pair making $400K and $365K, respectively, as president and co-founders.
Another example of their ungodly wealth came in the form of a couple of private jets, one being an $8 million Bombardier BD-700-1A10 to help with their televangelizing. This private jet was first introduced in 1999 and is still produced today.
There are a few different variations of this plane. It is crewed by three to four people, can host between 13 and 17 people depending on the model, and is powered by Rolls-Royce BR700 engines.
7. Paul and Jan Crouch: Hawker 800XP
We’re not done with the Crouches yet, because what’s a married life preaching “Prosperity Gospel” without matching His and Hers private jets? While Paul Crouch may make use of that Bombardier BD, his wife, Jane, tends to favor the couple’s Hawker 800XP.
This private jet can reach speeds of up to Mach 0.81. It is smaller than the Crouch’s other private jet, “only” being able to carry eight to thirteen passengers. Nations such as Mozambique, Japan, and Nigeria use it in their militaries.
Hawker 800s typically sell for $10 to $13.5 million. Then again, given the Crouch’s lavish lifestyle of multi-million dollar mansions and private jets – to say nothing of allegations made by Jan’s granddaughter that Jan embezzled money from TBN – perhaps that was simply a drop in the bucket.
8. Pat Robertson: Learjet 35
He’s called non-Christians “termites,” Hindus “demonic,” and blamed the 9/11 attacks on, among others, feminists, LGBT people, and the ACLU. Few pastors have been more divisive or embody the televangelist movement more than Pat Robertson – down to the luxury private jet.
In Robertson’s case, that means a C-21 Learjet Model 35, which was first introduced in 1973. However much Robertson may have paid for it originally, as of 2018 Learjets were said to start at $500K.
Robertson’s words on 9/11 aside, the Learjet has been involved in some aviation tragedies, including the tragic death of golfer Payne Stewart in 1995 and a crash in 2014 in the Bahamas that claimed the lives of nine people, including a pastor and his wife.
A Learjet was also shot down in the Falkland Islands War in 1982.
9. Mark Barclay: Cessna Citation III
Let’s conclude with the supposed “Preacher of Righteousness,” Mark Barclay. The reason pastors often give for needing a private jet is to travel and preach, and that’s the case here too. Barclay’s Ministry’s FAQ also includes among the expenses required for him to speak “sowing toward the jet fuel-burn cost.”
That isn’t the only jet-related thing he has asked followers to “sow towards,” either. In May 2013 Barclay was revealed to have asked followers to help pay $79K to paint his Citation III 650.
As far as private planes go, the Citation III 650 is on the older and smaller side, with a crew of two and space for “just” six to nine passengers. That said, they can still cost well over a million dollars.