(Photo: In the 1970s, televangelist pioneer Oral Roberts acquired mansions in Beverly Hills and Palm Springs, CA, leading his Tulsa, OK-based ministry from afar.)
Oct. 31 was the day Martin Luther posted the 95 theses on the Wittenberg Church door—October 31, 1517—which began the reformation, also called by some the 2nd wave of Christianity. He critiqued expensive church real estate along with many other practices of the Catholic Church and the Papacy. Today, Luther’s anger would probably be directed at the aberrant activities of the megachurches. The reformation is over 500 years old and we still struggle with some of the same problems.
To expand their reach and receive larger donations, televangelists and megachurch pastors are planting churches hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles, from their base of operations. Some pastors appear to be motivated by pursuit of wealth, planting churches in wealthy communities. Others are drawn by the allure of Hollywood, taking up residence in Beverly Hills.
The investment in long distance ministry frequently produces extravagant housing expenses and over-the-top travel costs. Why fly first class when your donors will finance a jet?
The late televangelist Fred Price illustrates the trend of long distance ministry by planting a church in New York City while his home was located over 2100 miles away in California.
In 2007, Business Jet Traveler asked Price, pastor of Crenshaw Christian Center, “How much do you fly for the church?” Price responded, “A couple of years back, when we were first establishing the church in New York, my wife and I flew every single week-52 weeks-Los Angeles to New York and return. Now the least we’d go is once a month and recently we’ve had to go twice a month.”
Joseph Prince, the Singapore-based televangelist, has launched two churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and acquired a large plot of land in Colleyville, TX for future expansion. If there is one city in the world that doesn’t need another televangelist, it is Colleyville, the home of Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church, James Robison, head of LIFE Outreach International, Matthew Crouch, head of Trinity Broadcasting Network, and Joni Lamb, head of Daystar Television.
Church members and donors to the churches and ministries cited in this article should ponder critical questions. Can a pastor effectively lead his congregation from afar? Are million-dollar mansions good stewardship?