TV Evangelist Salaries and Perks – The Defense


I had so many people respond on both sides of the issue, I wanted to explore the subject a little deeper and take the time to look at both sides of the issue. First – let’s look at how the mainstream media might be wrong – and actually has been – with many of these issues. (see the attached .pdf at the end of this post).

Using a private jet for “personal use:”  No one in a non-profit situation should make this a habit of course, but if you’re preaching in Hong Kong, you have to stop over somewhere, and Hawaii is as good as anyplace. Plus, pilots have to rest at certain intervals, so it’s not always a matter of simply stopping for gas. On long haul flights, the FAA requires that pilots have a decent sleep interval, so stopping over for a day or more is not unusual. So while some stations (like the ABC affiliate in Dallas) attempted to criticize Kenneth Copeland for using his jet for personal use, it could easily be explained away as stopover time.

As I’ve discussed before, I defend the use of jets in global ministry. Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer are going to get mobbed at airports, and security and logistics becomes an issue for their travel. That doesn’t make it right for everybody, but in certain cases, using private air travel is just good business.

High Salaries: For an organization as large as Billy Graham, Joyce Meyer, Feed the Children and others, we have to pay salaries commensurate with the position. Anyone leading 100 or more people (some ministries have more than 500-700 employees worldwide) needs people with remarkable skill and expertise, and you don’t get that for minimum wage. So there are many places where salaries that some would consider high are OK with me.

Trinity Broadcasting’s $300 Million plus bank account:  20/20 reported that TBN has more than $300 million stashed away in bank accounts. Actually, that’s fairly common knowledge, so they’re obviously not trying to hide it. By implication, they’re trying to say that TBN should stop their telethons and fundraising because of all the excess cash in the bank. But the truth is, that’s what building an endowment is, and colleges and universities do it all the time. Harvard has far more than that amount in it’s endowment – in fact, Harvard could easily live off their endowment in perpetuity, but that hasn’t stopped them from fundraising. Closer to home in the religious world, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association built a massive endowment as well, but continues their fundraising. In order to ensure a ministry can continue well into the future – particularly if you perceive a loss of funds after the death of the founder – then building an endowment is critical.

Those are just some of the “perks” that most people could support when it comes to a large ministry. There are plenty of other questions with some ministry leaders – a garage full of luxury cars, yachts, millions hidden away in personal bank accounts, the percentage of income that actually goes toward ministry, and more.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • R.Zoner

    Having a personal jet is a much more common thing in the corporate world nowadays than even, say, ten years ago.  I think it's a better to compare the salaries/perks of ministry leaders with corporate CEO's and see where they fare…as you said, it's the lifestyle excess (should MTV be doing an episode of Cribs on the homes of well known evangelists?) that conjure up stereotypes of what a media-evangelist is.

  • Craig

    Phil, I don't buy your argument of TBN building an "endowment" as reason to have $300 million in the bank while conducting 2x a year telethons. It comes down to integrity and wisdom – is this really about building the Kingdom of God? My guess is to TBN this "endowment" is really about having a war chest to buy stations and fend off lawsuits and scandals. Paul Sr is an old school German who believes in paying with cash and having money in the bank. Lots of it. That said, TBN's way of treating people and conducting business is a nest of vipers that this blog can't begin to untangle. So I, certainly, won't try. Cutting to the chase – I have a feeling you're being way too kind with TBN because you have to do business with them. Afterall, they're the Big Dogs when it comes to distribution. I can buy the argument that they need to have a reserve…but come on, $300 mil? Especially when Paul Sr brags on the air – and proudly – about how little he pays his staff. I was there when he said it, because he was looking into the camera I was running. I remember I had a little vomit burp at that moment. :-)