Texas televangelist Kenneth Copeland once called flying in a commercial airplane “getting in a long tube with a bunch of demons.”
His answer to a prayer arrived last week in the form of a sleek Gulfstream V private jet that Kenneth Copeland Ministries bought — for cash — from actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry.
The ministry did not disclose the purchase price. But AV Buyer says it has the “lowest-priced Gulfstream V on the market” listed at $5.9 million, while other used ones are listed on various websites for up to $12 million and more.
The jet, one church member said, is “the plane the Lord had set aside” for the ministry, based in Newark, Texas.
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Now the ministry is lifting more prayers for $2.5 million worth of upgrades to the plane, and $17 million for a hangar.
Copeland, who is 81, joins the high-flying ranks of celebrities including Jim Carrey, John Travolta and rapper Soulja Boy, all of whom are said to own or have owned one of the highest performance private jets in the world, according to the Daily Mail.
The business jet, known as one of the most comfortable in the world, can typically accommodate 14 passengers and four crew members, according to Gulfstream.
The website Beliefnet lists Copeland as the richest pastor in the country, with a net worth of $760 million.
The leader of the “Believer’s Voice of Victory” TV show and network is described as a giant within the Word of Faith branch of Pentecostalism.
The ministry operates on a 1,500-acre campus in the Forth Worth area with a church, private airstrip and hangar for its assorted aircraft. Copeland and his wife, Gloria, live in a $6 million lakefront mansion owned by the church, according to Beliefnet.
The Gulfstream arrived on Jan. 12. Copeland, wearing a flight jacket and a smile, watched it glide down the runway. Video of the arrival is posted on the ministry’s website.
Copeland tweeted about it, too, announcing, “Mission Accomplished.”
A “special team of believers” called the Elite CX Team worked on acquiring the plane to use in outreach efforts of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Eagle Mountain International Church, Reinhard Bonnke Ministries and other worldwide ministries, team leader Charlie Bollinger wrote on his blog on the ministry’s website.
“The Holy Spirit confirmed to Brother Copeland that the Gulfstream V was the plane the Lord had set aside for KCM,” Bollinger wrote.
He said Copeland “developed a wonderful personal relationship with the seller, Christian businessman and movie-maker Tyler Perry. Soon a contract was signed, a cash deposit was paid, and the aircraft was brought to Dallas for a very thorough inspection process, which has wrapped up in November.
“And praise God, it was actually during THANKSGIVING week that the purchase was completed, the title was signed, and thanks to the CX Team, the cash was in the bank to mark it paid in full! Hallelujah, it’s done!”
Bollinger wrote that the original goal was to buy another Citation X, a medium-sized business jet, for the ministry “at a greatly discounted price of approximately $17 million.”
But, he wrote, “the Lord spoke to Brother Kenneth saying, You’re believing for the wrong airplane. The Citation X is too small; you have already outgrown it. The second Citation X will come, but at a later date.
“Brother Copeland said he received a word from the Lord to purchase a different and larger airplane — one with more seating capacity and larger fuel volume. So, the Lord has shifted our priority to a Gulfstream, which is a larger airplane.”
In 2015, Atlanta area megachurch Pastor Creflo Dollar stirred up public outcry when he asked his followers to raise money to buy a $65 million Gulfstream G650 to replace the older Gulfstream he used for his travels around the globe on behalf of his church, World Changers Church International.
Bloomberg once called the Gulfstream G650 the “Holy Grail” of luxury private jets.
The plan was to raise $300 or more from 200,000 faithful around the world.
After the backlash to the fundraising video, the campaign was halted, and the ministry’s board decided to buy Dollar the plane because it was “the best” and “a reflection of the level of excellence at which this organization chooses to operate.”
“A long-range, high-speed, intercontinental jet aircraft is a tool that is necessary in order to fulfill the mission of the ministry,” the board said in a statement in June 2015.
“In light of an unfortunate accident that recently resulted in the ministry’s aircraft being declared a total loss, it is our intention to purchase another airplane at a time, place and price of our choosing.”
Later that year Copeland and fellow “prosperity gospel” movement minister, Louisiana-based Jesse Duplantis, talked about why they needed private planes for their work.
“The world is in such a shape, we can’t get there without this,” Copeland said. “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. ‘Cause you can’t get there from here.”
Copeland mentioned how the late Christian televangelist Oral Roberts had, at one time, flown commercial.
“But even back then it got to the place where it was agitating his spirit, people coming up to him, he had become famous, and they wantin’ him to pray for them and all that,” Copeland said.
“You can’t manage that today, this dope-filled world, and get in a long tube with a bunch of demons. And it’s deadly.”
“And it works on your heart, it really does,” Duplantis interjected.
“I wanted to make that clear so the devil can’t lie to you and say, ‘See there, them preachers spendin’ all that money, just fat cats ridin’ around. No we’re not ...” Copeland said.
The Texas preacher said he could just as well scratch his “flying itch” in his single-engine, open-cockpit plane.
“But we’re in soul business here,” Copeland said. “We got a dying world around us. We got a dying nation around us. And we can’t even get there on an airline.”