In March this year, David Oyedepo, a Nigerian cleric generally believed to be Africa’s wealthiest gospel preacher, acquired a Gulfstream V jet for US$30 million. Oyedepo, who presides over the Winners Chapel, one of Africa’s largest churches, now owns a private collection of four aircraft. In addition to his latest acquisition, he previously owned two Gulfstream planes and a Bombardier Challenger Aircraft. He is also reportedly creating a private hanger to accommodate his flying toys.
Oyedepo is not the only Nigerian clergyman to own a jet. Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the revered overseer of Nigeria’s largest congregation, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, is also a proud jet owner. In March 2009, the great man of God spent $30 million on a Gulfstream jet amidst widespread criticism. Pastor Sam Adeyemi, another cleric and founder of the Daystar Christian center, a flourishing Pentecostal congregation which repeatedly preaches financial prosperity, is also a jet owner.
It’s not cheap to own a private jet. On average, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to maintain a personal plane. The majority of Nigerians frown at such flagrant displays of opulence, particularly on the path of their clergymen, given that 60% of Nigerians still live below the poverty line.
From a reader here:
...the idea that Bob Thiel "has" these congregations in the first place is ignoring the realities and economies of the situation:
1) What can Bob possibly do for them that they can't do for themselves already? If these "congregations" are already organized and functioning, why would they need a Bob Thiel? Why would they let Bob waltz in, take them over, and then start calling the shots? Tinkering with their doctrines? Each of these congregations already has it's own belief structures and hierarchies of bigshots. Bigshots don't go out looking for bigger-shots to submit to unless there's something in it for them, like subsidies and/or a chance to extend their influence by building a bigger empire in their own backyard. I would be very surprised if Bob could do anything else for the church bigshots in Africa. He certainly can do nothing for the average member of these congregations.
2) What can the Africans do for Bob? The African bigshots aren't the only ones trying to build bigger empires for themselves. Bob wants to show up LCG by building a bigger empire than Uncle Rod. It's unlikely he'll succeed, but he's gonna give it the old college try. Since it's unlikely he's going to convince these far-flung pre-existing congregations to see things his way doctrinally or prophetically, or allow Bob to re-brand them as CCOG, the only thing these groups are going to allow Bob to do is send them his money. What does Bob get in return for his money? The right to boast of a bigger empire? From a desperate point of view, perhaps. In a perfect world, his money would buy a better safety net for the members of these congregations living on the edge. In reality, we don't live in that world, do we?
3) Does Bob have enough money to afford to be scammed by 20 congregations at once? If anybody is being "had" it's Bob, not the street-smart Africans whose cultures often support very different ideas about "right" and "wrong" that are foreign and unexpected to the simple uninitiated American like Bob. Often their take on Christianity is also foreign with the same words meaning very different things. But I guess I could say similar things about narcissist and sociopathic Christian leaders here in the US. The successful ones tend to be just as street-smart, the less successful ones, like Bob, tend to be naïve blobs of neediness and egotism. Who's zoomin' who? Take another look and tell me, Bobby.
4) Bob is trying to play church Monopoly. Bob cannot acquire and "have" new congregations at the drop of a hat like hotels on Baltic Avenue. Congregations that Bob did not build through his own influence are congregations he can never "have" regardless of what price he pays to buy them. They'll never follow him or believe him, though they might take his money. But Bob's US following is too small to afford to buy many other properties or put houses or hotels on them. We all know this intuitively and discount Bob's boasting, don't we?