"You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion." - L. Ron Hubbard - Scientology
It is well-known that churches are among the most profitable businesses to invest in as they tend to operate tax free in most countries and they are not obliged to make their earnings public.
Below is an overview taken from a number of random articles, with links to all article headings provided at the end:
10 Richest Pastors in the world as of 2014
10) Joseph Prince – Net worth: $5 Million (Singapore)
9) Chris Okotie – Net worth: $10 Million (Nigeria)
8) Matthew Ashimolowo – Net worth: $10 Million (Nigeria)
7) T.B. Joshua – Net worth: $15 Million (Nigeria)
6) T. D. Jakes – Net worth: $18 Million (United States)
5) Billy Graham – Net worth: $25 Million (United States)
4) Creflo Dollar – Net worth: $27 Million (United States)
3) Benny Hinn – Net worth: $42 Million (United States)
2) Chris Oyakhilome – Net worth: $50 Million (Nigeria)
1) David Oyedepo – Net worth: $150 Million (Nigeria)
Why It’s Good to Run A Church Like A Business
The line between business and church is messy. It’s a line everyone must walk, and nobody’s sure how to do it well.
Is this a church or a business? Or could it be both?
Money may not be your primary responsibility as a church, but it’s certainly important.
While God does provide for our every need, he also honors those who are faithful with what they’ve been given.
Running your church like a business—thinking about opportunity cost, revenue, and growth—is one way to stay true to these fiscal responsibilities.
The better we function as a business, the more we can care for the people on our payroll, offering them benefits and a fitting salary in exchange for their love and hard work.
Sure, the business world can be heartless, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be really smart. When you make more money than you spend, understand budgets, embrace what it takes to hire a high-functioning staff, understand sustainability and maximizing resources—your church can thrive.
Treating our churches more like a business doesn’t have to be Godless endeavor. In fact, creating a healthy, sustainable, well-managed church organization might just be the best way to serve our congregation well.
The Church is a Big Fat Business
The latest revelation, two pieces in the 2013 spring issue of Adventist Today by T. Joe Willey and Jim Walters, is that those exercising the right arm of the message are making themselves millionaires under its banner.
How Rich Is the Catholic Church?
Nobody really knows, because religious groups don’t need to follow regular accounting and disclosure rules.
Pope Francis is not just the spiritual leader of one of the world’s major religions: He’s also the head of what’s probably the wealthiest institution in the entire world. The Catholic Church’s global spending matches the annual revenues of the planet’s largest firms, and its assets—huge amounts of real estate, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Vatican City, some of the world’s greatest art—surely exceed those of any corporation by an order of magnitude.
Our best window into the overall financial picture of American Catholicism comes from a 2012 investigation by the Economist, which offered a rough-and-ready estimate of $170 billion in annual spending, of which almost $150 billion is associated with church-affiliated hospitals and institutions of higher education. The operating budget for ordinary parishes, at around $11 billion a year, is a relatively small share, and Catholic Charities is a smaller share still.
Apple and General Motors, by way of comparison, each had revenue of about $150 billion worldwide in Fiscal Year 2012.
The most lucrative businesses in Nigeria
Church business, on the one hand, is the exploitation of a people’s misplaced and exaggerated spirituality, borne out of the hardships they are facing and the baseless fear of the unknown. Operators of this business have a simple task of continuously orchestrating the people’s helplessness and gullibility regarding issues such as ill health, poverty and unemployment (all outcomes of a failure of leadership in the country) to remain in business.
To ensure success in the business, you have to be a good orator, a psychologist, and a dramatist. It is important that you hold your congregation spellbound all the time. Also, you must run the business like a sole proprietorship. You alone should give the directives and no one should question your authority. Close associates who get too ambitious should be disgraced, called agents of the devil, and excommunicated.
In the meantime however, like a ‘man of God’ told me in an e-mail in response to my article ‘Nigerian Men of God as Con-Artists’, there is enough room for everyone in the business. So if you have the money, invest.
Megachurches: The hidden pillar of Nigeria's economy
Exactly how much of Nigeria's $510bn GDP megachurches make up is difficult to assess, since they are, like the oil sector, largely opaque entities.
“They don’t submit accounts to anybody,” says Bismarck Rewane, economist and CEO of Lagos consultancy Financial Derivatives. “At least six church leaders have private jets, so they have money. How much? No one really knows.”
As the churches have charity status, they have no obligation to open their books, and certainly don’t have to fill in tax returns—an exemption that is increasingly controversial in Nigeria, where poverty remains pervasive despite the oil riches.
The pastors argue their charity work should exempt them.
“We use the income of the church to build schools, we use the income of the church to serve the needs of the poor,” David Oyedepo, bishop of the popular Winners Chapel, told Reuters in an interview. “These are non-profit organisations.”
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) declined to comment on how churches fit into their GDP figures, but a source there said they were included as “non-profit”, which falls under “other services” in the latest figures. In 2013, the category contributed 2.5% of GDP, the same as the financial sector.
A former banker at Nigeria’s United Bank for Africa, who declined to be named, recalled being approached five years ago by a church that was bringing in $5-million a week from contributions at home or abroad.
“They wanted to make some pretty big investments: real estate, shares,” he said. “They wanted to issue a bond to borrow, and then use the weekly flows to pay the coupon.”
In the end, he said, the bank turned down the proposal on ethical grounds.
The bank was more ethical than the church
How the Mormons Make Money
Late last March the Mormon Church completed an ambitious project: a megamall. Built for roughly $2 billion, the City Creek Center stands directly across the street from the church’s iconic neo-Gothic temple in Salt Lake City. The mall includes a retractable glass roof, 5,000 underground parking spots, and nearly 100 stores and restaurants, ranging from Tiffany’s (TIF) to Forever 21. Walkways link the open-air emporium with the church’s perfectly manicured headquarters on Temple Square. Macy’s (M) is a stone’s throw from the offices of the church’s president, Thomas S. Monson, whom Mormons believe to be a living prophet.
On the morning of its grand opening, thousands of shoppers thronged downtown Salt Lake, eager to elbow their way into the stores. The national anthem played, and Henry B. Eyring, one of Monson’s top counselors, told the crowds, “Everything that we see around us is evidence of the long-standing commitment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Salt Lake City.” When it came time to cut the mall’s flouncy pink ribbon, Monson, flanked by Utah dignitaries, cheered, “One, two, three—let’s go shopping!”
The Mormon Global Business Empire
Mormons make up only 1.4 percent of the U.S. population, but the church’s holdings are vast. First among its for-profit enterprises is DMC, which reaps estimated annual revenue of $1.2 billion from six subsidiaries, according to the business information and analysis firm Hoover’s Company Records (DNB). Those subsidiaries run a newspaper, 11 radio stations, a TV station, a publishing and distribution company, a digital media company, a hospitality business, and an insurance business with assets worth $3.3 billion. (See link for much, much more)
Inside the most powerful church in south Africa
Jacob Zuma attends. So do many of the ANC's most senior figures. But suspicion of Rhema's materialist message has left outsiders worried at its growing influence.
To its supporters, who include some of the country's most powerful people, it is a welcome coming together of two of South Africa's favourite pastimes, conspicuous consumption and Christianity. To its critics it's a prosperity cult.
Set in an estate of it own in the comfortable Johannesburg suburb of Randburg, Rhema has a vast car park that is made to resemble the forecourt of a luxury vehicle dealership every Sunday. The charismatic Christian evangelical organisation goes out of its way to make the well-heeled feel comfortable, and so the pastor, who is dressed in a shiny black shirt with contrasting white stitching, is happy to boast of Rhema's status.
"We are not an ordinary church. The president comes to us to ask for advice," he says proudly. "We are very influential and very active on social issues."
Pastor Sifiso leans back into an ample leather armchair and prepares to explode what he sees as the misconception that a rich man cannot enter heaven.
"Listen, the bible tells us that the streets of heaven are paved with gold," he says. As the young preacher speaks there's a glint of the precious metal from the jewellery under his shirt cuffs.
"Where there is Jesus, there is gold everywhere," he insists.
South African Pastor Calls Prosperity Gospel Damaging, Asks 'Where Are We Heading To?'
Thuso Kewana, an ordained pastor and ministry leader living in impoverished South Africa, says he can be silent no longer about the damaging effects of the prosperity gospel, an American export he believes is unbiblical and used by wolves in sheep's clothing to prey on mostly charismatic and Pentecostal Christians not only in his country, but around the world.
Kewana, speaking recently via phone from his home in Polokwane in the Limpopo province, bordered by Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, told The Christian Post he has witnessed how the prosperity gospel can warp people's understanding of God — leaving the impression that He requires worshippers to give money, to ministers, churches or their favorite television network, before they can be blessed with financial, physical and spiritual well-being.
Best-selling Christian author and writer and preacher at Oak Hills Church, Max Lucado
Max Lucado is a preacher with a storyteller’s gift—a pastor’s heart and a poet’s pen. Max’s sermons begin at home with the congregation at Oak Hills Church, which he has led for more than 25 years. It is in this setting that his stories are first told, from a pastor’s heart. Eventually some of these sermons and stories are refined and fashioned into books that are shared far beyond the walls of Oak Hills and the city limits of San Antonio, Texas. Max’s words have traveled around the world in more than 54 languages via more than 120 million individual products. Most of these products are books (92 million), which have now occupied spots on every major national bestseller list. Over the years Max Lucado has been featured in countless national media outlets, dubbed “America’s Pastor” by Reader’s Digest, and even named one of the most influential leaders in social media by The New York Times.
The Zion Christian Church (ZCC)
Lekganyane is synonymous with South Africa’s biggest Christian denomination, the Zion Christian Church (ZCC). It is one of the largest African initiated churches in southern Africa. The ZCC is estimated to number between 2 million and 6 million followers in more than 4000 parishes.
The ZCC is different from the “church businesses” and “prosperity churches”, which are popular among both rich and poor.
Nevertheless, many of its members are small business owners who ask for blessings over their efforts. They thank the church traditionally with a gift of their own choosing.
At the end of the 2013 Easter long weekend: “They say there were 9.4 million of us here today!” That is more than 100 soccer stadiums full of worshippers.
No one has been able to estimate the wealth of the ZCC
The Dutch Reformed Church (DRC)
It consists of three sister churches.
Total membership is 1,074,765 and there are 1,626 ordained ministers in 1,162 congregations.
One of the richer congregations, the Moreleta Park Dutch Reformed Church, built an auditorium seating approximately 7,100 people, completed in 2006 for R95-Million, with administrative facilities worth R62-million completed in 2009 with a third phase in it's planning stages.
Total financial worth of the DRC is unknown.
Angus Buchan, a Zambian farmer of Scottish heritage
He first came to prominence after the release of his book, followed by a movie, entitled Faith Like Potatoes.
By 2010, The Mighty Men Conference, organised by Shalom Trust, seated more than 400,000 people and it is estimated that 80% were Afrikaans men.
He has published a string of books and two films, Faith Like Potatoes (2006) and Angus Buchan's Ordinary People (2012).
"Buchan is an economic change agent, and his story shows how building dreams around God can result in grand results like no other."
A former friend of Mr Buchan's, Shaun Willock said, "But then our paths diverged. It was inevitable, for as he embraced the Charismatic movement and became increasingly involved in it, the Lord was opening my eyes to the unbiblical errors of Pentecostalism/Charismatism, culminating ultimately in my departure from it and utter repudiation of it. And in this can be seen the discriminating grace of God. Separation from all that the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement stood for was what I desired, whereas Angus wanted more of it."
So why is Angus Buchan mentioned here? Well he says he does not make any money from using the Bible. Angus Buchan the money maker? Nah, he is the only man on earth who does not make any money from his films, books, road shows, conferences in SA, USA and across the world, he does it for free remember. According to his entranced followers, most of whom obviously never had maths at school, he does not make even a single cent for himself.
He does not even feature among...
The "Top 10 richest pastors in the world".
1. Bishop T D Jakes: Bishop Jakes lives in a $1,7 million mansion, he has been called America’s best preacher and has been featured on the cover of TIME Magazine. He is a writer, preacher and movie producer.
Thomas Dexter “T. D.” Jakes, Sr: Is the bishop/chief pastor of The Potter’s House, a non-denominational American mega church, with 30 000 members, located in Dallas, Texas. TD Jakes wears custom made suits and sports a diamond ring the size of a coin. This man of God has been endowed with a $150 million net worth.
2. Bishop David Oyedepo: Bishop David Oyedepo is a Nigerian preacher, Christian author, founder and presiding Bishop of Winners Chapel known as Living Faith Church World Wide. Has been hailed as the wealthiest preacher in Nigeria with a total net worth of $150 million and properties like four private jets and homes in the United States and England.
After the foundation of the Living Faith Outreach Ministry in 1981, it has evolved to be one of the largest congregations in Africa and has a flourishing mission in Nairobi.
3. Enoch Adeboye: This messenger of God was listed in an African magazine, NEWSWEEK, as the most powerful man in Africa and one of the top 50 global power elites in 2008/ 2009, among others such as President Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy. Pastor Adeboye heads the Redeemed Christian Church of God, something he has done for the last 28 years.
Among his possessions are private jets. Earlier this year, Bishop Oyedepo was barred from entering the United Kingdom after his church was accused of “cynically exploiting supporters”.
4. Benny Hinn: Israeli televangelist,Toufik Benedictus “Benny” Hinn has an estimated net worth of $42 million. He is best known for his regular “Miracle Crusades” — revival meeting/faith healing summits that are usually held in large stadiums in major cities, which are later broadcast worldwide on his television programme, “This Is Your Day”. Hinn was born on December 3, 1952.
5. Chris Oyakhilome: This is the man behind Believers’ Loveworld Ministries, aka Christ Embassy. His church has an estimated net worth of $50 million.
The charismatic preacher was recently at the centre of a $35 million money laundering case in which he was accused but eventually cleared of siphoning funds from his church to foreign banks.
Christ Embassy, boasts more than 40 000 members, several of whom are successful business executives and politicians. Oyakhilome’s diversified interests include newspapers, magazines, a local television station, a record label, satellite TV, hotels and extensive real estate.
His Loveworld TV Network is the first Christian network to broadcast from Africa to the rest of the world on a 24 hour basis.
6. Creflo Dollar: American Bible teacher, pastor, and the founder of World Changers Church International located in Fulton, Georgia.
Creflo Dollar is estimated to have a net worth of $27 million, most of which came from his ministerial establishments around the United States. Creflo Dollar International covenant association, Arrow records, and the Creflo Dollar ministries are jointly overseen by the popular TV evangelist and his wife.
In 2006, the overall cash revenue received in his church was about $69 million.
His church auditorium named the World Dome was built with $18 million without any bank loans. He is the publisher of Change Magazine with over 100 000 readers around the US.
7. Kenneth Copeland: He runs Kenneth Copeland Ministries and was one of several televangelists whose finances were investigated from 2007 to 2011 by Republican Senato Charles Grassley of Iowa.
According to an article by the Associated Press that ran in 2008, “His ministry’s 1 500-acre campus, behind an iron gate a half-hour drive from Fort Worth includes a church, a private airstrip, a hangar for the ministry’s $17,5 million jet and other aircraft, and a $6 million church owned lake-front mansion.
The article later added that while Copeland has not released up-to-date salary statements, “the church disclosed in a property-tax exemption application that his wages were $364 577 in 1995; Copeland’s wife, Gloria, earned $292 593.
It’s not clear whether those figures include other earnings, such as special offerings for guest preaching or book royalties.”
8. Billy Graham: American evangelical Christian evangelist, William Franklin “Billy” Graham, Jr., has a net worth of $25 million.
The Southern Baptist evangelist rose to celebrity status as his sermons started getting broadcast on radio and television. Graham was born on a dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina in 1918, he has conducted many evangelistic crusades since 1948.
He is now a world renowned televangelist raking in millions of dollars.
9. Matthew Ashimolowo: Ashimolowo, the owner of Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) gets an annual income of $200 000.
Today, his KICC is reportedly the largest Pentecostal church in the whole of the United Kingdom.
His net worth has been put at $6 million and the source of his wealth comes from varied business interests including his media company, Matthew Ashimolowo media, which churns out Christian literature and documentaries.
In 2009, Kingsway International Christian Centre posted profits of close to $10 million and assets worth $40 million.
10. TB Joshua: Nigeria’s most controversial clergyman is also one of its richest and most philanthropic. T.B Joshua heads the Synagogue Church of all Nations (SCOAN), a congregation he founded in 1987, which accommodates over 15 000 worshippers on Sundays.
He has an estimated net worth of $15 million.
References and further reading
Angus Buchan Documentary - YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH8SoFpD_Yo