Pastors rich list: Who the top 9 are and how they rose to prominence

Pastor Joseph Prince's signature animated and dramatic style of preaching has won him fans and legions of followers at the church he founded, New Creation Church. He is preaching here at Singapore Indoor Stadium on Sep 28 to a full house. The church,
Pastor Joseph Prince's signature animated and dramatic style of preaching has won him fans and legions of followers at the church he founded, New Creation Church. He is preaching here at Singapore Indoor Stadium on Sep 28 to a full house. The church, which has a congregation of 17,000, holds its services at Suntec City's Rock Auditorium, but moved to Indoor Stadium this particular weekend because of the F1 race. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The New Creation Church council has rubbished the claim by an online report that Joseph Prince, the founder and senior pastor of New Creation Church, has a net worth of US$5 million (S$6.38 million) - making him the 10th richest pastor in the world.

The report was published on Oct 7 on www.richestlifestyle.com, an entertainment website which describes itself as "dedicated to the celebrity lifestyle", and "giving you scoops on luxury cars and yachts" and "celebrity net worth".

On Tuesday, the church's council said in a statement posted on its website that the pastor had stopped drawing a salary from the church since 2009, and that his net worth is "substantially lower than the US$5m that has been alleged".

The Straits Times looks at the nine others in the list published by Richest Lifestyle:

1. David Oyedepo, 60 years old, Nigeria

Net worth: US$150 Million

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Bishop David Oyedepo has been billed the richest preacher in the world.

After he said he received a mandate from God in 1981 to "liberate the world from all oppressions of the devil through the preaching of the word of faith", he founded the Living Faith Church Worldwide, which is also known as Winners Chapel.

According to the David Oyedepo Ministries website, the network of churches now spans over 300 cities and towns across the 36 states in Nigeria. His congregants affectionately call him "Papa".

The pastor is said to own at least two private jets, as well as several luxury cars. His businesses include bakeries and petrol stations.

He has invested his money into improving the standard of education in Africa by establishing many primary and secondary schools, as well as universities. He also owns a publishing house, Dominion Publishing House.

He is married with four children.


2. Chris Oyakhilome, 50 years old, Nigeria

Net worth: US$50 Million

Chris Oyakhilome is said to have been in ministry for more than half his life, having started his church Believers Loveworld Ministries - also known as Christ Embassy - as a university student. It reportedly has more than 40,000 members across five continents.

The pastor has a healing school, and is a television host and author. According to his church's website, he pioneered the first 24-hour Christian Network from Africa to the rest of the world in 2003. He now owns three television channels. He also has his own social media site, called Yookos.

According to website Buzz Nigeria, he bought an entire airline in 2006 and called it Skypower.

Last month, Nigerian daily Thisday Live reported that his wife, Pastor Anita Oyakhilome, was seeking to divorce him on the grounds of "unreasonable behaviours". Citing court papers, the newspaper revealed that she had accused the pastor of having inappropriate relationships with some of his female staff members, felt stifled by him, and found him "more devoted to his work" than he was to his family. The couple have two daughters.


3. Benny Hinn, 61 years old, US

Net worth: US$42 Million

An Israeli-American, Benny Hinn said he received a vision in 1974 where he saw people "falling into a roaring inferno" and he heard that if he did not preach the Gospel, every "soul who falls will be your responsibility". He preached his first sermon just after he turned 22 and has been an evangelist ever since.

His worldwide ministry sees him involved in conferences, television broadcasts, and healing services. He has also written several Christian books.

According to the pastor's official website, he is also involved in humanitarian work in the form of My Father's House - a chain of childrens' homes in Mexico and Asia where "abandoned, needy and less fortunate children" live in and are schooled, the founding of a paediatric ward in India, as well as other feeding and crisis relief programmes.

He is married with three daughters and a son.


4. Creflo Dollar, 52 years old, US

Net worth: US$27 Million

Creflo Dollar founded World Changers Church International in 1981 and is its senior pastor.

According to the church's website, the American received a vision as an undergraduate and started a Bible study group. He was so able to preach the Word of God that the group grew to more than 100 students strong. He then set up a church in 1986 which he called World Changers Ministries, and its first service was held in the cafeteria of a school. The church's congregation grew quickly over the years and was later renamed to World Changers Church International.

Situated in College Park, Georgia, the church has about 30,000 members and has many other branches across the United States. Pastor Creflo Dollar's goal is to "establish 500 satellite churches around the world", as stated on the church's website.

He is also an author, a conference speaker, and has a television programme.

He is married with five children.


5. Billy Graham, 95 years old, US

Net worth: US$25 Million

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Billy Graham was born during the last days of the first World War and became known nationwide at about 30 years of age after he preached evangelistic messages at the Los Angeles Crusade in 1949. Over eight weeks, he preached to hundreds of thousands of people and many came to believe in Jesus Christ. This was also the beginning of his commitment to take the Gospel across the lands.

A year later, he founded the Billy Graham Evangelist Association in 1950. According to its website, it exists to "proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ by every effective means and to equip others to do the same".

Billy Graham has evangelised in 185 countries and territories and more than 215 million people have responded to the Gospel as a result of his preaching, says website Inspirational Christians. Although he retired in 2005, his sermons continue to be broadcast over radio and television. He has also authored several books.

He celebrated his 95th birthday last November, but is now frail from multiple ailments and falls and lives in a town in North Carolina. His wife, Ruth Graham, died in 2007. They have five children.


6. T. D. Jakes, 57 years old, US

Net worth: US$18 Million

Bishop T. D. Jakes is the founder and senior pastor of The Potter's House, a church in Dallas, Texas that was established in 1996. It now has over 30,000 members and over 50 outreach ministries.

Besides influencing people across the world through his sermons, Bishop Jakes is also involved in humanitarian and community service projects, television and radio programmes, as well as Hollywood. His website says he has produced eight films to date, including this year's Heaven is for Real, based on the experience of four-year old Colton Burpo who said he encountered heaven following a near-death experience.

He is married with five children and three grandchildren.


7. T.B. Joshua, 51 years old, Nigeria

Net worth: US$15 Million

Temitope Balogun Joshua calls himself Prophet T. B. Joshua, and is the head of the Synagogue Church of all Nations. The church was founded in Nigeria in 1987 after Prophet Joshua said he received a vision, was in a trance for several days and saw the Apostles named in the Bible.

According to a 2012 article in The Economist, his megachurch sees 15,000 congregants attending service every Sunday.

Like some of the other top-grossing Nigerian pastors in this list, he too is a tele-evangelist with his own television channel, and his ministries focus on healing, prophecy and deliverance.

The church was most recently in the news last month, after more than 100 people died following the collapse of a multi-storey guesthouse attached to the church.

Information on his family life is unclear - it is not stated on his biography on his church's website, but reports say he is married with at least one child, a daughter called Serah who graduated from the London School of Economics in 2012.


8 (tie). Matthew Ashimolowo, 62 years old, Nigeria

Net worth: US$10 Million

The Nigerian-born Matthew Ashimolowo converted to Christianity from Islam at the age of 22, and subsequently enrolled himself with a Bible school.

His church - Kingsway International Christian Centre - found its beginnings in a rented hall in a boys' school in North London. According to the church's website, it is the "largest growing church in Western Europe" with thousands of worshippers every Sunday. It has a significant following in the United Kingdom.

He has radio programmes and television shows, and also runs his own media company, Matthew Ashimolowo media, which reportedly contributes to a large part of his wealth, apart from an annual salary of US$200,000 from being a pastor.

He is married with two sons.


8 (tie). Chris Okotie, 56 years old, Nigeria

Net worth: US$10 Million

Chris Okotie set up the Household of God church in 1987, which began in the living room of his home in Nigeria. The numbers swelled and the church, which is also known as Apokalupsis, now has thousands of members.

The pastor is also a tele-evangelist, an author, a businessman and a politician. He has attempted to run for President thrice, most recently in 2011 via a party he founded, the Fresh Democratic Party.

He loves cars, with his most recent purchase being a 2014 Bespoke Edition of the Rolls Royce Coupe, worth N120million (S$929,394). This was supposedly to mark 30 years of being a Christian and 27 years as a pastor.

Chris Okotie has been married twice. He separated from his first wife over undisclosed issues, and married his second wife in 2008 despite his congregation and family being against it, the Daily Times Nigeria reported. He split with his second wife in 2012, citing "irreconcilable differences".


Sources: Richest Lifestyle, The Sun, The Daily Mail, David Oyedepo Ministries International, Buzz Nigeria, Christ Embassy.org, Thisday Live, Benny Hinn.org, Creflo Dollar Ministries.org, World Changers.org, Inspirational Christians.org, Biography.com, Christianity Today.com, Tdjakes.org, The Potter's House.org, The Economist, Synagogue Church of all Nations.org, Sahara Reporters, African Spotlight, Kingsway International Christian Centre.org.uk, TheRichest, Household of God Church.com, Daily Times Nigeria

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