After reports surfaced that prosperity preacher Jesse Duplantis was calling on supporters to help him purchase a $54 million jet, award-winning gospel singer Kirk Franklin called out Christian leaders who appear to abuse their standing as “god’s shepherds” to gain wealth and possessions “on the backs of poor rural minorities.”
“This is Jessie Duplantis. A televangelist who has four planes, and is now telling us that ‘Jesus’ wants us to buy him another one,” Franklin wrote as the caption of an image of the Duplantis story on Instagram Wednesday, May 30. “I’m posting this because now that we see popular culture stand up to the injustices in mainstream society, I believe the church should do the same for its own as well. WE should take the lead when there is an abuse of power that affects our message to the masses; our silence can be as loud as the bigotry and racism we see in the public square.”
Franklin went on to say that many Christian ministries, purportedly similar to Jesse Duplantis Ministries, “built their wealth on the backs of poor rural minorities that put their trust in the hands of ‘god’s shepherds’ only to see the prosperity benefit those doing the preaching.”
The celebrated gospel artist emphasized that he believed there are “GREAT Christian leaders, and there is NOTHING wrong with having a plane.”
“[B]ut if the burden falls on the less fortunate and GREED is the check written by those drowning in socio-economic rivers of systemic disparities, GOD is not flying that plane,” Franklin added.
Watch "this Week with Jesse" as Jesse shows the importance of using aviation as an amazing tool for evangelizing the world! Tune in each Monday at https://t.co/hnG6BhPAvH or on our JDM App. Click to watch https://t.co/PLfSYt2A3U pic.twitter.com/sAvKskmokO
— Jesse Duplantis (@jesse_duplantis) May 21, 2018
Duplantis, a Destrehan-based televangelist and pastor of Covenant Church, was in the news this week after publishing a video on his ministry’s website in which he asks Christian supporters for donations to help him purchase a Dassault Falcon 7X, reportedly worth $54 million. If acquired, this would be his fourth plane.
“I really believe that if the Lord Jesus Christ was physically on the Earth today, he wouldn’t be riding a donkey. He’d be in an airplane flying all over the world,” Duplantis, 68, says in the video.
The Gospel accounts in the Bible describe Jesus, who Christians believe is Lord and Savior, either walking, riding in boats, or using a donkey (briefly and in a single instance) to get around the Middle Eastern region of Judea during his first century ministry. Jesus, who was born into a poor family, was decidedly against people making the accumulation of wealth their main focus in life. He told one particularly wealthy man to protect himself against “all kinds of greed” because life is not about having “an abundance of possessions.”
Jesus said instead that people should strive to be “rich toward God,” or focus on the things that please God, who will look out for their needs anyway.
As with many Christian organizations, Jesse Duplantis Ministries is a non-profit and relies on donations to exist. As with any religious nonprofit in the U.S., the ministry isn’t required to file tax returns with the IRS. Its namesake’s estimated net worth is $50 million, according to Time.com.
Duplantis is described on his ministry website as “a dynamic evangelist who has traveled throughout the world since 1978 preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” He founded the ministry 40 years ago with the “mission in life to make sure everyone on every continent has an opportunity to know Jesus.”
Duplantis’ requests for supporters to help him buy a multi-million dollar plane comes not long after another prosperity preacher, Kenneth Copeland, rapturously announced in a video that he had finally “taken possession of the debt-free Gulf V” jet (generally estimated to cost $36 million). Duplantis and Copeland have close ties, with the former having served on the latter’s ministry board as a director, according to files from a 2001 Senate Finance Committee probe into several high-profile Christian ministries linked to the prosperity gospel.
As I wrote in a Medium post last year: “According to everything written, the prosperity gospel does more harm than it does good — harm usually to the poor who are desperate for financial solutions and good to the ministers who pocket their faith ‘seed’ money offerings.”