07.11.14

How Much Is Too Much for a Pastor to Earn?

Perhaps you’ve heard that question asked before. It’s a good question, along with how much does a pastor need in order to provide for his family. There is too little, which is what most pastors make. And then there is waaaay too much!

The Atlanta Black Star recently published one measure of waaaay too much. The newspaper featured “Eight Black Pastors Whose Net Worth Is 200 Times Greater Than Folks in Their Local Communities.” Whatever figure you had in your head as “too much,” I’m guessing you weren’t anywhere close to 200 times what average people in the congregation and neighborhood make!

Net worth is simply a person’s total assets (what they own) minus their total liabilities (what they owe). When all the bills are paid, whatever is left is your net worth. So, after these pastors have paid all their bills, they still have in their accounts more than 200 times what the average person in their congregation makes in a year! Actually, they appear to have more than 200 times what the average person in the neighborhood makes in their lifetime. Most reasonable persons with a sense of justice and compassion would conclude that that’s too much.

The Pastors

So who are these eight high-rolling pastors? They span both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Turns out Atlanta and Nigeria have a lot in common when it comes to producing obscenely opulent lifestyles for clergymen. Here’s the list:

Creflo Dollar, World Changers International
Net worth: $27,000,000
Neighborhood’s avg salary: $29,640 (College Park, Ga)

David Oyedepo, Living Faith World Outreach Ministry
Net worth: $150,000,000
Nigeria avg salary: 55% of Nigerians earn less than $2/day

Eddie Long, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church
Net worth: $5,000,000
Neighborhood’s avg salary: $25,154 (Lithonia, Ga)

Christian Oyakhilome, Christ Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria
Net worth: $50,000,000
Nigeria avg salary: 55% of Nigerians earn less than $2/day

T.D. Jakes, Potter’s House
Net worth: $18,000,000
Neighborhood’s avg salary: $56,954 (Dallas, TX)

Temitope B. Joshua, Synagogue Church of all Nations in Lagos, Nigeria
Net worth: $15,000,000
Nigeria avg salary: 55% of Nigerians earn less than $2/day

Matthew Ashimolowo, Kingsway International Christian Center in London
Net worth: $10,000,000
Nigeria avg salary: 55% of Nigerians earn less than $2/day

The article also lists Charles Blake of West Angeles Church of God in Christ in South Central Los Angeles. The article doesn’t mention Blake’s net worth but refers to his 10,000 square foot Beverly Hills mansion and $900,000 per year salary. The average salary for South Central LA where the church is located: $27,907. Whatever else Blake is and does, he doesn’t run with your typical boyz in the ‘hood. This ain’t “doughboy” and crew; this is just plain dough.

Objections

I’m certain some well-meaning persons will defend these men. They will want to push back on what they see as unfair attack against deserving, faithful men. (By the way, this is The Front Porch. We welcome respectful and thoughtful disagreement.) As far as I can tell, two broad defenses are usually offered.

1. “They made their wealth from things other than preaching.”

But here’s my response to such defenses: Every one of these men have used the pulpit and the local church as a platform for their other ventures. Were it not for their fundamental role as pastor, they would be unheard of and unable to amass this kind of wealth from their derivative products and ventures. They would have no credibility and standing to even attract interest in their books, cds and the like.

2. “God’s servants deserve the best in life.”

Men of God do deserve the best in life. Only the best is God himself–not wealth. In fact, we wouldn’t even think to defend such lifestyles among clergymen if their prosperity teaching wasn’t already affecting our thinking! There was a time when every one of these men would have been written off as a “Daddy Grace”-type cult leader on sight. But their teaching has convinced some (many!) that this is God’s plan for the preacher. But God’s best for the preacher is God himself. This is precisely why the priests of Israel had no inheritance in the Promised Land–the Lord was to be their inheritance (see Ezek. 44:28, for example). What we want are pastors who live modestly and live as if Christ is their great Treasure ().

Conclusion

There are no magic guidelines for setting a pastor’s salary, but you can be sure that 200 times the average neighborhood resident’s salary is far too much. Let’s call it what it is: fleecing the sheep. I fear the Father’s judgment on such practices will be more horrible than we can imagine.

If you’re in one of these churches or another church preaching the false gospel of prosperity, I pray the Lord gives you strength to leave. Find a healthy church where leaders live modestly and shepherd the flock of God in their care. Your soul is too valuable and you work too hard to entrust either your soul or your money to men who have already grown filthy rich off the backs of others.

43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (ESV)

Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor of Anacostia River Church (Washington DC). He is the happy husband of Kristie and the adoring father of two daughters and one son. Holler at him on Twitter: @ThabitiAnyabwil

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