Depending on how skeptical your views are on the church and religion, most people would agree that you don’t dedicate your life to serving god or a ministry to get rich. However, religion is one of the largest and most profitable organizations in the world. Each year, billions (with a B) of dollars are spent on church renovations, advertising, religious paraphernalia and more!
Right before communion, a collection is passed around every Sunday at mass. This is supposed to be a part of Christian “charity” for the week. But with the amount that these pastors are making, we would be hesitant to believe they need any more charity to sustain their divine lifestyles.
Charles E. Blake: $3 Million
Charles E. Blake is a California bishop who reportedly earns $900,000 per year and lives in a 10,000 square feet Beverly Hills mansion. He earns his massive salary from the help of 25,000 weekly members who attend his church, and 50,000 online weekly participants. While he lives the good life, his average parishioner earns just $27,907 while living in poverty in South Central Los Angeles.
Joseph Prince: $5 Million
Joseph Prince was born to a Sikh priest and originally wasn’t on a religious path in life. Employed as an IT consultant, Joseph had a change of heart and committed his life to his religion. He joined the ministry and founded one of the largest churches in all of Asia: New Creation Church.
Franklin Graham: $25 Million
Franklin Graham is the son of the famous pastor Billy Graham, and the president of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse. He was born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina with four other siblings. After finishing his primary education at The Stony Brook School, a Christian private school in New York, he attended LeTourneau College in Longview, Texas. He wasn’t there for long before being expelled from the school for keeping a female classmate out past curfew.
Billy Graham: $25 Million
Billy Graham is one of the most well-known pastors on the planet and has earned the nickname, “America’s Pastor.” He was born in 1918 and thus has been involved in many historical events including bailing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. out of jail during his fight for civil rights, and directly writing for and supporting Nixon during the Vietnam War.
Kenneth Copeland: $25 Million
Before dedicating his life to Christianity, Kenneth was a recording artist and his song, “Pledge of Love” made it to #17 on the top 40 billboard hits in 1957. After his conversion, Kenneth concentrated his passion on the gospel and ministry work.
Creflo Dollar: $27 Million
Creflo began developing World Changers Church International (WCCI) in 1986. He held the Church’s first worship service in the cafeteria of an elementary school in College Park with eight people in attendance.
E. A. Adeboye: $39 Million
Enoch Adejare Adeboye began his career in preaching during a professorship at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. With his Ph.D. in mathematics, he worked as a lecturer in mathematics at the Universities of Lagos. At the time, Adeboye joined the Redeemed Christian Christian Church of God.
Benny Hinn: $42 Million
If you were to think “controversial American Televangelist,” Benny Hinn would come to mind. He’s best known for his regular “Miracle Crusades”— faith healing summits that are usually held in stadiums in major cities. Followers believe that if they are prayed over, they can be healed of any ailment.
Chris Oyakhilome: $50 Million
Pastor Chris’s teachings, like Billy Hinn, center on “faith healing;” Chris claims he can inspire faith that will heal any illness… including AIDS. Despite his questionable teachings, his religious “business” is quite impressive. His ministry runs several different branches including the Healing School, Rhapsody of Realities, LoveWorld Books, and an NGO called the Inner-city Missions for Children.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kay Arthur ($5 Million)
Born into a religious Michigan family, Kay Arthur attended Tennessee Temple University where she majored in modeling and later attended nursing school. After divorcing her first husband and learning of his suicide, Arthur spiraled out of control in a series of bad relationships before she turned to her faith for guidance. Admitting that she “went down on her knees a harlot and got up a saint,” Arthur married a second time in 1965 and joined her husband in Mexico as a missionary before returning to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Eddie Long ($5 Million)
Hailing from the Tarheel State otherwise known as beautiful North Carolina, Eddie Long was a sales representative for Ford Motor Corporation long before he ever went into ministry. Losing his job at Ford and moving to Atlanta, Long studied theology and became a pastor at a small Georgia church before taking over at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in 1987. Growing the church from 300 to over 25,000 members in a matter of years, Long managed to build his wealth as well to the tune of $5 million.
Al Sharpton ($5 Million)
One of (if not the) most controversial pastors on our list is civil rights activist, talk show host and Baptist minister Al Sharpton. Growing up in Brooklyn and preaching his first gospel at the age of four as his mother struggled to put food on the table, Sharpton was ordained a Pentecostal minister at just nine years old. He then spent much of his early career as James Brown’s tour manager and an activist alongside Jesse Jackson before shifting his focus back to ministry and joining the Baptist church in the late 1980s.
John Hagee ($5 Million)
Everything’s bigger in Texas, even the churches! The son of a renowned Texas reverend, John Hagee played college football at Trinity University in San Antonio before following his dreams of becoming a pastor. Once finished with his theological training, Hagee led the Trinity Church in San Antonio in the 1970s before establishing The Church at Castle Hills in 1975. Starting with only 25 members, the church blossomed under Hagee’s leadership which inspired him to launch John Hagee Ministries and broadcast his sermons on television and radio across the United States.
Noel Jones ($5 Million)
Born in Jamaica as one of seven children, Noel Jones moved to Syracuse, New York with his family when he was 15 years old. Inspired by his father, who was a bishop and politician, Jones felt called to the ministry at the age of 19 and enrolled at the Aenon Bible College where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Theology. Dreaming of leading his own church, Jones finally saw his dream come true at the age of 26 when he moved to Longview, Texas to serve as pastor of Bethel Temple.
Chris Okotie ($7.5 Million)
An inspirational Pentecostal pastor and a successful Nigerian televangelist, Christopher Oghenebrorie Okotie loved music and singing as a child but never imagined he would one day make a career in the spotlight. After his father died, however, everything changed when Okotie dropped out of law school to pursue a career as a pop musician. With little success, Okotie returned to school to finish his law degree only to shift his focus to ministry as he enrolled in Grace Fellowship Bible School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ravi Zacharias ($7.5 Million)
Breaking the mold as one of the few popular evangelists from India is Ravi Zacharias who became a Christian at the age of 17 after a suicide attempt brought him face to face with the Bible. Turning his life around, Zacharias moved to Canada with his family in the late 1960s and completed his studies to become a minister. He traveled to Vietnam in 1971 where he preached to American soldiers and later followed up his trip with a visit to Cambodia in 1974 as part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada.
Peter Popoff ($10 Million)
Born in war-torn Berlin in 1946, Peter Popoff moved to California with his family at a young age and completed his studies at the University of California before finally marrying and settling down in 1970. Before long, Popoff made his way to television ministry where his aggressive and energetic messages were broadcast across the United States and transformed him into an iconic faith healer known for yelling “break free of the devil” at some of his sickest followers.
Joyce Meyer ($10 Million)
Whether you are flipping through the television channels or perusing the latest titles on a must-read list, chances are you’ve seen the face or name of the world renowned Joyce Meyer. Spending much of her early life living in the fast lane frequenting bars and stealing from her employers, Meyer says that it wasn’t until 1976 when she heard the voice of God calling her to turn her life around. Becoming a born-again Christian, Meyer started small by leading a bible class before launching her own ministry in 1985 followed by a weekly radio program.
Jesse Jackson ($10 Million)
Perhaps first known as a politician and then as a religious leader and civil rights activist, Jesse Jackson has achieved great success in all of his endeavors. Born in South Carolina in the 1940s, Jackson rejected a minor league baseball contract in order to accept a football scholarship to the University of Illinois. Transferring to North Carolina A&T and still playing football, Jackson became active in local civil rights campaigns as he enrolled in the Chicago Theological Seminary before dropping out three classes short of earning his master’s degree.
Matthew Ashimolowo ($10 Million)
Taking the 15th spot on our list and the title for leading the largest church in the United Kingdom as Senior Pastor of Kingsway International Christian Centre is 64-year-old Matthew Ashimolowo. After the death of his father, Ashimolowo converted from Islam to Christianity at 22 years old and enrolled in bible school where he excitedly pursued his passion of theology and church leadership. Today, Ashimolowo is obviously living the dream as he leads the KICC whose assets value at $40 million with an annual profit of $10 million thanks to over 12,000 active members.
Juanita Bynum ($10 Million)
Born in the Windy City of Chicago, Illinois, Juanita Bynum established herself as a charismatic personality early in her life when she took the stage as a child theatrical star. After graduating from high school, Bynum turned her attention to ministry when she began giving sermons throughout the city until a video called No More Sheets was released in the 1990s and made her a household name. Riding the heels of her early success, she then became a regular on the Trinity Broadcasting Network with speaking engagements around the world.
Ed Young ($11 Million)
It wasn’t until his sophomore year on a basketball scholarship at Florida State University that Ed Young decided to change career paths entirely and follow his father’s footsteps into ministry. Transferring to Houston Baptist University in Texas and completing his Masters of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Young briefly joined his father before opening the Fellowship Church in a small office complex in Houston. Building a large following within a few years, Young moved his sermons to the local gym to better accommodate 5,000 weekly attendees.
Ernest Angley ($15 Million)
Raised in a Baptist family in the 1920s, North Carolina native Ernest Angley became a Christian in 1939 when he was 18 years old. Married and living in Ohio by the 1950s, Angley worked as a traveling Pentecostal faith healer and evangelist with nothing to his name other than a tent, camper and a Bible. He quickly amassed a loyal following and eventually had enough support and money to purchase Grace Cathedral (Temple of Healing Stripes) in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio as well as the local Channel 55 television station.
Cindy Trimm ($15 Million)
Hailing from Bermuda and identifying herself as an empowerment specialist, Cindy Trimm launched her career in politics when she took the title of Senator at only 30 years old. Realizing she could do even more in ministry, Trimm exchanged her political podium for the pulpit as she began leading sermons and writing books about spiritual growth and healing. Using her political prowess and reputation, Trimm’s popularity blossomed as she traveled the globe preaching and promoting her foundation to help rebuild and revitalize communities in need.
T.D. Jakes ($18 Million)
West Virginia native Thomas Dexter “T.D.” Jakes was called to ministry as a teenager when he spent the majority of his time caring for his invalid father. Enrolling at West Virginia State University and preaching part-time, Jakes was named pastor of a local Pentecostal church with only 10 members. As the church flourished under his leadership, Jakes established himself as a gifted speaker and spiritual mentor as he transitioned into radio ministry and continued to expand his congregation. The church’s growth finally came to a head in 1996 when Jakes and 50 other families moved to Dallas, Texas where he established The Potter’s House.
Kirk Cameron ($20 Million)
Making his acting debut at only 13 years old, Kirk Cameron became a household name in 1985 as the mischievous and charming Mike Seaver on the hit ABC sitcom Growing Pains. Cameron wrapped up the series in 1992 and continued to appear in television shows and films like Listen To Me, Fireproof and the Left Behind series before literally leaving it all behind to focus solely on his faith. Partnering with New Zealand evangelist Ray Comfort in the 1990s, Cameron co-founded The Way of the Master ministry.
Rick Warren ($25 Million)
Born to a Baptist minister and librarian in San Jose, California, Rick Warren followed his father’s footsteps into ministry after attending California Baptist University and the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Spending his early years in ministry co-writing two books, Warren established the Saddleback Church in 1980 when he preached his first sermon in front of 200 people gathered in a local high school theater. Using nearly 80 different locations for the next two decades, Warren guided the church to success with over 10,000 people in attendance establishing him as one of the most renowned pastors in the United States.