I'm all for generous giving, and I'm all for taking care of ministers of the gospel, but I will not be sending Creflo Dollar $300 to help him buy a $65 million jet for his ministry. The very thought of it is obscene.
On a manipulative video now removed from his website, the narrator explains how Pastor Dollar's ministry is touching people worldwide and how the old private jet they've been using for years has become unusable, also explaining how it is actually dangerous to fly.
Now, we are told, in order to travel around the world, he needs a new jet, and not just any jet. It is a top of the line jet that is being coveted by billionaires who are on a waiting list to purchase one.
Yes, Creflo Dollar is asking for 200,000 people to send him $300 each in order to buy this ultra-luxury flying machine.
What's really sad is that some people will actually do it.
What's even sadder is that this same money could be used in millions of more productive ways.
What's the saddest of all is that this financial appeal is bringing reproach to the name of Jesus and making a mockery of the gospel before the eyes of the world.
Can we be real for a moment?
Creflo Dollar is not the only super-busy gospel minister on the planet (let's put aside whether you agree with the message he preaches), and many of us run hard for the Lord day and night, also flying around America and to the nations.
We can manage just fine without a private plane.
Yes, you're in and out of lots of airports; yes, there are more flight issues to deal with because of delays and often, the seats aren't that comfortable. Yes, there are baggage problems and there can be lots of time wasted; yes, sometimes you have to fly through the night, arrive without much sleep in the morning, and start a full day of ministry.
That's called life, and all of us have to deal with it.
But given the choice of redirecting multiplied millions of dollars for ministry work to fund the gospel—we're talking about the cost of buying the jet and the cost of maintaining it—or putting those millions towards the ultimate private jet, I think the choice is pretty easy to make.
Can anyone really think that their own ministry is so important that 200,000 people should give sacrificially to help them travel in greater comfort?
To be perfectly clear, if God blessed Pastor Dollar with a best-selling book and he used the money to build a gorgeous house, that's between him and God.
The same would hold true if he made some financial investments that were abundantly blessed or if someone gave him an amazing jet to use. I wouldn't begrudge him in the least.
Why should I begrudge someone from enjoying God's blessings? If they are not greedy for gain and if they do not see godliness as a means towards financial prosperity—something that Paul denounced in the strongest terms in 1 Timothy 6—then what they do with their money is between them and God.
Over the last 39 years, my wife and I have been blessed with some very nice houses and with some not-so-nice houses (and apartments), and we weren't any more holy living in a small apartment than in a spacious house. Being poor doesn't mean that you're spiritual and being rich doesn't mean that you're carnal.
I also believe in the stewardship of our bodies, and if we can travel in a way that helps us be stronger and fitter for the work of the gospel, so be it.
Smith Wigglesworth was once asked why he traveled first class on trains and he answered, "I'm not saving the Lord's money. I'm saving the Lord's servant."
Yet Wigglesworth never got rich off the gospel (may I ask what Creflo Dollar's salary and benefits are?) and he donated all royalties for his sermon books to missions.
The issue of financial stewardship is shouting to us right now.
Because of my height and some sleep issues, when I travel overseas to countries like India (which is quite often), we do our best to find ways to upgrade to business class, using miles or other perks or finding discounted tickets. And there are large congregations that gladly cover a business class fare when they invite you overseas, and that's a great help when traveling so far.
But I've sat in the back of the plane hundreds of times (stateside and internationally), and I'm still alive and well, while the ministry times in each location have always been blessed.
In 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 Paul wrote, "But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger," and, he added, "by flying commercial rather than private jet." (Sorry. I just made that part up. He never said that.)
You might say to me, "Maybe you can manage without a private jet, but some people cannot do without them."
Again, that's between them and God, and to say it once more, I begrudge no one God's blessing.
But there are ways to share planes with others (a rich business executive told me that's all he would ever do, and he felt it was outrageous that people had to have their own jets) or to get safe and functional planes for a tiny fraction of the cost.
But my goal in writing this is to be redemptive.
Every year since 1993, I've worked with a ministry in India that has planted more than 7,000 churches in unreached tribal regions (hint: you can't get anywhere near these villages with any kind of jet), along with building hospitals, schools, orphanages, homes for the aged and mentally ill, not to mention feeding the hungry day and night.
For $50 per month, you can support one of these devoted tribal pastors and his family—and I mean full-time support. (Some of them have been beaten for the faith; at least one was killed. They are sacrificial servants of the Lord.)
For $25 per month, you can support one of the precious children in the children's home—and that means food, clothes, shelter, and a terrific godly education. (A couple of years back they got their first beds after years of sleeping on the concrete floor, but even before then, their smiles were precious and their love for Jesus contagious.)
And so, while I sincerely pray for God's very best plan for Creflo Dollar and his ministry team, whatever that plan is, I'm going to sow my money where it really counts.
Will you join me?
Michael Brown is the author of 25 books, including Can You Be Gay and Christian? and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show "The Line of Fire." He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience.