If Jesus was to descend from heaven and physically set foot on 21st century earth, prosperity gospel televangelist Jesse Duplantis told his followers, the Redeemer would probably pass on riding on the back of a donkey: “He’d be on an airplane preaching the Gospel all over the world.”
And Duplantis believes Jesus wouldn’t exactly settle for 30 inches of legroom or getting patted down by TSA.
Why would He choose anything less than the Falcon 7X, a private jet that nears the sound barrier but also has noise-limiting acoustic technology, a bluetooth-enabled entertainment center and an optional in-flight shower?
Duplantis, saying he needs roughly $54 million to help him efficiently spread the gospel to as many people as possible, has asked the Lord — and hundreds of thousands of hopefully deep-pocketed followers across the world — for just such a plane.
He is the latest aircraft-seeking preacher to draw raised eyebrows and outright condemnation from critics who say asking for a multimillion dollar luxury jet is not exactly what Jesus meant when he said “store up for yourself treasures in heaven.”
But this is not the first time Duplantis has been enmeshed in the preacher private plane debate. The Falcon 7X would be his ministry’s fourth jet — all paid for with cash drummed up from followers.
And before anyone asks, he already has an answer for nonbelievers and critics who want to know why, exactly, his ministry requires a luxury jet that would make his fleet the same size as Donald Trump’s.
“We believe in God for a brand new Falcon 7x so we can go anywhere in the world one stop,” he told people on “This Week With Jesse,” a regular video broadcast on his website. The video on March 21 carefully mixed the Gospel with a few insights into the economics of international aviation.
“Now people say . . . can’t you go with this one?” he said, pointing to a picture of the plane he uses. “Yes, but I can’t go it one-stop. And if I can do it one stop, I can fly it for a lot cheaper, because I have my own fuel farm. And that’s what’s been a blessing of the Lord.”
Duplantis didn’t immediately return calls from The Washington Post seeking comment.
In the video, Duplantis didn’t specify which ministry-furthering missions the plane would be used for, although he has indicated in the past that he has an extensive travel schedule.
Duplantis is the founder of Jesse Duplantis Ministries, which includes a weekly television program that reached 106 million U.S. households, according to his Amazon author biography. In 1997, he and his wife founded Covenant Church in Destrehan, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans.
“It is his mission to reach every soul of the 7 billion people that now inhabit the earth, making sure that each one has an opportunity to know the real Jesus — approachable, personable, compassionate, and full of joy-the way that he knows Jesus,” the biography says.
He preaches the prosperity gospel, which says God shows favor by rewarding the faithful with earthly riches. Giving money to pastors and their ministries, leaders say, is a sort of investment.
And prosperity gospel preachers have encouraged their flocks to invest heavily in aviation.
In 2015, televangelist Creflo Dollar was widely mocked for starting “Project G650,” a means of getting a state-of-the-art Gulfstream G650 plane of his own, financed by his 200,000 followers. According to The Washington Post’s Abby Ohlheiser, Dollar said he “needs one of the most luxurious private jets made today in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The campaign was widely ridiculed online, and Dollar never made it to the waiting list, which consisted mostly of billionaires.
“Could you imagine if before feeding the multitude w/ 5 loaves and 2 fishes, Jesus set up a gofundme account to buy a plane?” offered one Twitter criticism.
Kenneth Copeland, another prosperity gospel adherent who has appeared on-screen with Duplantis, announced his ministry had purchased a Gulfstream V jet that likely cost millions. The announcement on Copeland’s website showed him wearing a bomber jacket in front of a gleaming white plane.
“Glory to God! It’s Ours!” the website said. “The Gulfstream V is in our hands!”
But the ministry needed more, it told followers. The plane was “an exceptional value” but needed another $2.5 million in upgrades. The ministry also needed to build a new hangar, buy special maintenance equipment and lengthen its runway to accommodate the new plane.
After making the ask, Copeland prayed on camera for God to bless contributors.
He and Duplantis defended their use of private jets in a widely shared — and mocked — YouTube video.
“The world is in such a shape, we can’t get there without this,” Copeland said of private aircraft. “We’ve got to have this. The mess that the airlines are in today I would have to stop, I’m being very conservative, at least 75 to 80, more like 90 percent of what we’re doing because you can’t get there from here.”
“That’s why we’re on that airplane,” he said. “We can talk to God.”
Copeland said he used to travel with faith-healing prosperity preacher Oral Roberts, who flew commercial, and it “got to the point that it was agitating his spirit. People coming up to him. And them wanting him to pray over them.
“You can’t manage that today. This dope-filled world. And get in a long tube with a bunch of demons.”
During his request for a new plane, Duplantis said he realized some people would remain skeptical.
He said there was no obligation, and there was only one surefire way to determine what, exactly God wanted them to do: Prayer.
“So pray about becoming a partner toward it, if you like to and if you don’t, you don’t have to, but I wish you would,” he said. “Because let me tell you something about it, it’s going to touch people. It’s going to reach people. It’s going to save lives one soul at a time . . .
“If you pray about it, I believe God will speak to you.”