Top 15 Ways Pastors Get Rich

Ever been ripped off by a pastor? It’s embarrassing.

In San Francisco many years ago, my wife and I were relieved of our wedding rings at a Pentecostal meeting. The mega-church preacher had flown in “unexpectantly” from Argentina to host this spontaneous meeting for us pastors and leaders. I don’t remember if I handed over my ring before or after he put his hand on my head and knocked me backwards since it was all a little cloudy that night, and still is, actually, but I do remember wondering how the pastor was going to get all that jewelry through customs. And what he would do with the money once all that gold was melted down.

“A church isn’t a family business you know; it is a family, but it’s not a business.” Mark Vrankovich, How Pastors Get Rich.

Pastors get rich money

I may have been ripped off but at least I was done over by a PRO. Lets face it . . . the guy was GOOD. The $10 wedding ring I have now is silver and, due to some knuckle swelling, has permanently mounted itself to my finger so I can safely enter a prosperity church and return without having to explain a ringless finger to my wife. If I wanted to, that is.

There is a great article at cult watch called “How Pastors Get Rich” in which Mark Vrankovich outlines some nasty practices you should watch out for. Its a little scary, and if you see some uncomfortable parallels with your own church then it might be time for a second opinion from someone outside the church.

Top 15 Ways Pastors Get Rich.

1. The Multilevel Marketing Pattern

2. Books

3. DVDs

4. Hyped Conferences

5. The Christian Speaking Circuit

6. Pastor Owned Businesses that Feed Off the Flock

7. The Honor the Pastor Scam

8. High Pressure Offerings

9. Cathedral Building Wars

10. Siphoning Cash into Property

11. Excessive Wages

12. Perks

13. Nepotism

14. Their Fabricated Tithing Doctrine

15. The Carrot and the Stick

Related on TSK: Ka-ching in the Ka-church

Image source.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • As a pastor who is a published author, let me tell that very, very few get rich from publishing books. There isn’t as much money there as people think there is.

  • Megan says:

    I looked at the “How Pastors Get Rich” article on CULT WATCH and I just wanted to say something about tithing…according to God’s Word, Christians don’t HAVE to tithe, but they should WANT to tithe if they love Jesus…and I think that even a financially unstable person would be wise to vest the little that they have in God (but not a cult pastor!), not because of the Law, but because of their trust in God…
    Mark 12:41-44:
    “41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
    43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
    God blesses a generous giver…(not a generous taker, like a corrupt pastor)…just wanted to throw that out there, because while tithing isn’t necessary, it is totally worthwhile for a Christian…I guess its just important to be sensitive to God’s direction for where your money should go, so it doesn’t end up in the claws of a greedy “shepherd!”

  • Agreed without a doubt – with the shifts in publishing, advances have shrunk (and in many cases disappeared). And I moved into writing about religion for secular markets and also doing non-religious piece among other ventures.
    But what this article illuminates is a marketing pattern that starts by branding oneself – missional, new monastic, organic, etc. The focus shifts into marketing said brand by employing some of means described in this article. Next thing you know, pastoring takes a back set to promoting this vision and often the person leaves the pastorate to purse one’s platform. And while this article focuses on “pastors,” this an be applied to academics who get so caught up in the cutting edge theology/philosophy that their scholarship goes out the window. Same with journalists who forget they’re storytellers and end up becoming the story themselves.

  • says:

    I’ve seen this too often & have been a victim. Good list you posted. Try giving only anonymously in your church! Thanks for posting this Andrew.

  • Andrew says:

    Hi Jamie. Nothing wrong with writing a book. I am actually working on my first one now [again]
    but what Mark is writing about in this article is megachurch pastors pushing their sub-standard books to their captive audience and appealing to their loyalty rather than their good sense.
    I quote:
    “Books. The first product is the leader’s book. Let’s be honest, many of these books are below par. Like bad business books they have one good idea, if that, and then are padded with motivational sayings and anecdotal stories of how the leader obeyed the dream and so God hosed him down with wealth. The theological content is basically non-existent. These books would tank on Amazon or in a real bookstore, but hyped to their captive market they sell like hot cakes.” Mark V.

  • Gabe says:

    Megan, I love Jesus. And I don’t tithe. And I’m certain He’s okay with that. Instead, we share our resources, our home, our time, with those in need, from African children who need medical attention, to orphans, to our neighbors and customers. Tithing is so Old Covenant. I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t “want” anything Old Covenant, only the freedom found in the New. It’s quite wonderful.

  • Drewe says:

    It’s terribly sad when this happens, because, it creates an impression of Christianity, because we all use the ‘same’ title. Honest and dishonest alike say ‘Christian’. I’ve been ‘milked’ once, reluctantly, but since then whenever I hear that message I run, and remember the Bible says none of the things they claim!

  • Megan says:

    Gabe, When I say “tithing” I realize that it is a term that could mean tithing money, time, or other valuable resources (as you have done!)…I should have clarified that in my original comment. A person definitely doesn’t HAVE to tithe to be a lover of Jesus…I just mean to say that sometimes it is worth it to take a little leap of faith with one’s money–if God’s calling one to do so!

  • Rachel says:

    It’s sad when churches and pastors focus more on money and numbers than on Christ. He said to seek Him first and He would provide all we need. It seems like many churches are seeking to grow financially instead of in the word of God. Thanks for the post!

  • Jason says:

    Very sad that pastors do this sort of stuff. Even sadder that I know several who do this kind of thing.

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