Televangelist who said ‘Jesus wouldn’t be riding a donkey today’ says he will donate old private jet if his followers buy him a new one

Jesse Duplantis branded greedy and manipulative after urging followers to donate money for new $54m jet

Maya Oppenheim
Friday 01 June 2018 15:06 BST
Jesse Duplantis Appeals for funding for a private jet: "if Jesus was alive today, he wouldn't be riding a donkey, he would be in an airplane"

A televangelist who called for donations from his followers for a $54m private jet has said he will give away his old plane if supporters buy him a new one.

Jesse Duplantis, from Louisiana, sparked outrage earlier in the week after he posted a video on his ministry’s website asking for donations.

“I really believe that if Jesus was physically on the Earth today he wouldn’t be riding a donkey,” he said. “Think about that for a minute. He’d be in an aeroplane preaching the gospel all over the world.”

The Evangelical Christian minister, who has a reported net worth of $40m (£30m), has now hit back at criticism and insists he did nothing wrong in imploring people to buy him an aircraft.

The 68-year-old said he required the luxury Falcon 7X for “preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ” and that is had "nothing to do with luxurious”.

Mr Duplantis, who was branded manipulative and greedy for his initial request, also sought to clear up media reports the new jet would be his fourth private plane.

"There was a misnomer on that one. I said I've had three jets, I don't have three jets," he said in an interview with ABC News' Good Morning America. "Two of them now are in other ministries. I only own one aeroplane now."

The pastor said his church, Jesse Duplantis Ministries, plans to donate its old jet if the congregation chips in for the highly sought-after Dassault Falcon 7X, which combines “fighter jet technology with an elegant, whisper-quiet executive cabin” according to Dassault’s website.

Mr Duplantis said they would deliver the old plane to an organisation in need as soon as the new one arrives.

"The one we're flying now, I've had it for 12 years, it's a phenomenal plane and it's a blessing," he said.

Mr Duplantis, a prosperity gospel preacher, previously told viewers of a vlog on his website called This Week With Jesse the new private jet would save money and souls.

He said the planes get him closer to God in a literal and figurative sense, and recounted a divine conversation in which Jesus asked for the new jet by name.

“He told me: ‘Jesse, you want to come up to where I’m at?’ He said: ‘Before you ask, I’ll answer: Isaiah 65:24.’ He said: ‘I want you to believe me for a Falcon 7X.’"

Mr Duplantis said he then wondered how he was going to pay for the jet before claiming God told him: “Jesse, I didn’t ask you to pray for it. I asked you to believe for it.”

“You know I’ve owned three different jets in my life and used them and used them and just burning them up for the Lord,” he said. “Now, some people believe that preachers shouldn’t have jets. I really believe that preachers ought to go on every available voice, every available outlet, to get this gospel preached to the world.”

In an attempt to validate his choice of jet, he said: “Now people say ‘my Lord, can’t you go with this one?’” as he pointed to one of his older jets. “Yes, but I can’t go at one stop.”

He said he could fly cheaper with his own private jet because he has his “own fuel farm” and he “can avoid all those exorbitant prices for jet fuel all over the world”.

In the clip, Mr Duplantis shows his followers a photo of himself standing beside his other three jets: a Cessna Citation 500, an IAI Westwind II, and a Dassault Falcon 50. Beneath the portrait is a quote which he repeats: “It's not about possessions, it's about priorities.”

Mr Duplantis preaches a “prosperity gospel” – the belief that luxurious items like jets and cars are the Lord’s way of blessing people for a faithful life and donations to religious causes will boost one’s material wealth or make God bless you more.

The American religious tradition ultimately sees God as an arch capitalist.

In 2015, megapastor Creflo Dollar, known for his controversial teachings regarding prosperity theology, faced a backlash after asking his followers for $60m (£45m) for a Gulfstream G650.

Earlier this year, prosperity preacher Kenneth Copeland attained a Gulfstream V jet from director Tyler Perry which was paid for by donations from his followers.

Mr Copeland and Mr Duplantis talked about the need for private jets on a 2016 episode of the former’s show, Believer's Voice of Victory, which saw Mr Copeland describe commercial air travel as being “in a long tube with a bunch of demons.”

“The world is in such shape, we can't get [to followers] without [private jets]. We've got to have them,” Mr Copeland said.

He noted that Oral Roberts, a televangelist who is deemed the godfather of the charismatic movement and one of the most recognized preachers worldwide, flew commercial but the people on the planes “agitated his spirit” with their requests for prayers.

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