Religion is a big deal in the States, but it is also a big money spinner as well, and this raises concerns about people getting into preaching for the wrong reasons. Sometimes it was a lifestyle choice that didn't necessarily match up with the message they were trying to spread or being hypocritical in the face of the religion.
We're not here to cast aspersions, but we thought we'd take a look at some pastors who caused a bit of ruckus with some of their decisions and some who just have interesting lives.
1. Paula White
Paula White is a Pentecostal Christian televangelist and the senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, she hosts her own television show called Paula White Today. With a net worth of over $5 million, she was the first woman to pray at a presidential inauguration for Donald Trump.
Married several times, White came under fire when the IRS launched what would turn out to be a nine-year investigation into her ministry in 2004 with her then-husband Randy White. Three years laters, the couple would divorce amidst rumors of infidelity.
2. Aimee Semple McPherson
A media sensation in the 1920s and 30s, McPherson was perhaps one of the people who shaped modern evangelical preaching the most with her sermons on radio and television catching the attention of the media where she would direct religious plays, sometimes featuring over 450 people, despite claiming theater and film was 'the devil's workshop.'
She was once pulled over by a police officer and then created a sermon around it called “Arrested for Speeding.” She delivered the sermon dressed in a traffic cop’s uniform as she sat on the saddle of a police motorcycle and revved the engine. She was also, apparently kidnapped in 1926 when she said she had been held for ransom in a desert shack in Mexico but no evidence was ever found of this.
3. Melissa Scott
Marrying Gene Scott, a U.S. pastor, and broadcaster for nearly 50 years, when she was 32 years old, and he was 70, he was appointed as the pastor and teacher of Faith Center Church in Glendale, California by her late husband.
However, it was not the manner in which she rose through the ranks of the church that caused the most consternation amongst her followers but rather the revelation that several people that knew her in a past life came forward to say she used to work in the adult film industry under the name Barbie Bridges. Some members demanded her resignation whilst others used it as an example of the transformative powers of the church. Scott, however, has long denied the accusations.
4. Becky Fischer
Becky Fischer is a Pentecostal children’s pastor; preaching is in Becky's family as her grandfather was an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God for 75 years. However, it was her part in the Jesus Camp documentary that really brought her to wider attention.
In the film she is seen preaching against the fictional novels of boy wizard, Harry Potter, even bringing some children to tears. She is seen saying: “Warlocks are the enemies of God… And I don’t care what kind of hero they are, they’re an enemy of God and had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death!”
5. Nadia Bolz-Weber
A heavily tattooed, progressive Lutheran minister, Bolz-Weber is heavily tattooed and has the mark of the liturgical year and the story of the gospel inked on her arms.
Very open about her alcohol and drug abuse as a younger woman, she has been sober for 20 years, and with a third of her congregation being from the LGBT community, she has a drag queen “Minister of Fabulousness" in her church.
6. Victoria Osteen
Preaching to the largest congregation in the United States, with televised sermons as well Osteen has also written a New York Times Bestseller in 2008 titled Love Your Life: Living Happy, Healthy, and Whole.
In 2005, a Continental Airlines flight attendant, Sharon Brown, accused Osteen of assault and took her to court seeking an apology and $405,000 in damages. However, the court found Osteen not guilty.
7. Bernice King
The youngest child of famous civil rights campaigner's Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Bernice King watched a documentary about her father in her adolescence that led to a breakdown and eventually her working towards becoming a minister.
Despite her mother Coretta Scott King and her older sister Yolanda Denise King, both being outspoken supporters of LGBT rights, Bernice participated in a march against same-sex marriage.
8. Juanita Bynum
A Chicago-born televangelist, Juanita is well-known for her media presence and has also had over 12 books published with one of them going on to be a New York Times bestseller.
What's more, she is also a Platinum Selling Gospel Recording Artist with nine albums and has graced the covers of Essence, Upscale Magazine, Charisma Magazine, and more.
9. Nicole Lamarche
An example of being able to do absolutely anything should you put your mind to it, Nicole Lamarche was once a former Miss California who became the fourth runner-up in the Miss America pageant in 2004. After earning $26,000 in scholarships from beauty pageants, she earned an MA in theology from the Graduate Theological Union and a Master of Divinity from the Pacific School of Religion.
Now a minister for a liberal denomination that welcomes LGBT members and speaks out against anti-immigration policies, Lamarche also regularly holds interfaith events with people of other religions.
10. Shirley Caesar
Not only a minister but also an 11 time Grammy award winner for her Gospel singing and songwriting, which has also scored her seven Dove awards. She’s released over 40 albums and gave a White House performance to George Bush in a career that has spanned six decades.
Still delivering weekly sermons, Caesar also commits a sizable portion of her concert sales to outreach ministries.
11. Joyce Meyer
Joyce Meyer is a Charismatic Christian author and speaker and president of Joyce Meyer Ministries, starting a television ministry back in 1993 and earning multi-million dollar book deals off the back of this.
However, it was her lavish lifestyle that raised a few eyebrows as she owns several homes and travels in a private jet and has been criticized by some of her peers for living an excessive lifestyle. This also caught the attention of the IRS after an article suggested that many of her luxuries were paid for by the ministry. Following the adverse publicity about her lifestyle and Ministry Watch's request for an IRS probe, Meyer announced in 2004 plans to take a salary reduction from the $900,000 per year she had been receiving from Joyce Meyer Ministries.
12. Charles E. Blake
A bishop who lives in the exclusive Beverly Hills area of Los Angeles, reportedly earns $900,000 per year which is enough for him to afford his own 10,000 square ft mansion in the high-end area.
Conversely, Blake's average parishioner $27,907 as he targets those living in poverty in South Central Los Angeles. A reported a new salary figure, down to $227,750. Still, not bad eh?
13. Franklin Graham
You wouldn't necessarily think it possible to create a dynasty in the religious world but Franklin Graham proved that wrong as the son of famous pastor Billy Graham, and the president of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse.
After claiming $1.2 million in from both the aid organization Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Graham said he would stop taking payment from the church. How very generous of him.
14. Bill Moyers
A close friend and former ally and employee of President Lyndon B. Johson, Moyers worked for radio and television stations owned by Johnson’s wife.
Ordained a Minister in 1959, he has made at least $20,000,000 from public broadcasting (that is funded by the taxpayer) but won't officially announce his net worth.
15. Richard Rossi
A successful entrepreneur, Rossi is a filmmaker, actor, producer, novelist, musician, writer, talk radio host, former evangelical minister, church planter, and healing evangelist and started out performing with his family at the age of 7.
Forming a folk rock band to spread his message, Rossi is said to be worth over $1,000,000.