Forbes Magazine is famous for its annual list of the world's wealthiest billionaires. If Forbes compiled a list of the world's wealthiest religious leaders, I wonder how people would rank on such a list and what their net worth would be estimated at.
Complicating the matter of estimating net worth is that many televangelists/pastors live in extravagant homes owned by their "non-profit" ministry or church. Some also travel in private jets owned by their ministry. So these assets would not necessarily be included with personal net worth.
Nehanda Radio based in Zimbabwe has compiled a list of 10 of the wealthiest pastors and the list has spread rapidly on the Internet. Almost 300 people have liked the article via Facebook.
This list includes five pastors from Nigeria. It also indicates the estimated net worth for some pastors but doesn't include the sources used in compiling this list.
Nehanda Radio's List:
- Bishop T.D. Jakes - net worth $150
- Bishop David Oyedepo - net worth - $150 million
- E A Adeboye
- Benny Hinn - net worth $42 million
- Chris Oyakhilome - net worth $30 to $50 million
- Creflo Dollar
- Kenneth Copeland
- Billy Graham - net worth $25 million (note: this amount is questionable, see below)
- Matthew Ashimolowo - annual income $200,000
- Temitope Joshua - net worth $10 million to $15 million
Well known pastors Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Edir Macedo are not included in this list. Brazilian pastor Macedo is founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. According to Forbes, Macedo is worth $1.1 billion.
In 2009 World Magazine examined book royalties for pastors and reported:
Royalty figures are among the publishing industry's best kept secrets, but industry insiders estimate that Warren gets at least 20 percent of the wholesale price of the book. All of this means that Warren's royalties from The Purpose Driven Life and its spin-offs, some of which have been certified gold and platinum themselves, likely approach $100 million.
World also estimated that Osteen has received $25 million from the sales of his books.
These pastors do not disclose to the public how much they pay in taxes or how much they give to charity which also makes it difficult to determine net worth. Jesus told his disciples to do their works of charity in secret so there is a valid reason for Christian philanthropists to give anonymously.
By using a search engine I determined the website therichest.com is the source for net worth for Benny Hinn and Billy Graham. This website doesn't explain its criteria for determining net worth and some of its estimates could be very inaccurate. For example, it estimates televangelist Pat Robertson's net worth as $30 million. In 1997 Robertson sold the parent company of Family Channel to Fox for $1.9 billion. (Source: Los Angeles Times)
A Midwest Today article challenges the net worth reported for Billy Graham:
"Early on, Graham put himself on a modest salary and abolished 'love offerings' -- donations made during and at the end of crusade services. He accepts no speaking fees or honoraria and has given away his book royalties."
Graham's annual compensation from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is also a matter of public record because it is disclosed in the Form 990 which is available through Guidestar and the Foundation Center.
There are plenty of megachurch pastors that earn more than $200,000 which is Matthew Ashimolowo's income. Trinity Broadcasting Network claims to be a church in its 2011 Form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service. This document lists Jan Crouch's income as $395,073. TBN has also given some of its employees a clergy housing allowance.
In the future the IRS could consider new rules to prevent excessive compensation. Leaders of non-profit organizations are not supposed to excessively profit off their tax-exempt organizations.
P.S. Author Ginny Dent Brant (her father worked with Billy Graham) contacted me with information that the Billy Graham Library and The Cove (a conference center) are both property of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association rather than personal property of Billy Graham. It is possible these properties were mistakenly included in the net worth estimate for Billy Graham.