COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (Christian Examiner) -- Georgia televangelist Creflo Dollar, who caught flak after launching a $65 million campaign in March for the purchase of a G650 Gulfstream aircraft, blasted critics this week in defending his "need" for a multi-million dollar private jet.
Until now, the World Changers Church International pastor had not publicly commented on the controversy since removing the fundraising push from his ministry's website. But a YouTube video of his most recent sermon showed an emboldened Dollar lashing out at detractors.
A FAITH INITIATIVE, OR ...
Addressing a host of online rumors, spanning the range of from his alleged real name (Michael Smith) to facing incarceration for an abuse of church funds, Dollar said he decided to talk about the fundraising fiasco after God led him to do so.
"I wouldn't say this except the Spirit of God led me to say it," he claimed, attributing attacks on his character to the devil's aggressive attempts to discredit his voice. He also said his brow-raising campaign was evidence of his faith and ability to believe God for the things "the devil says you can't have."
"I can believe God as long as I want to. If I want to believe God for a $65 million plane, you cannot stop me," Dollar said to a cheering congregation. "You can't stop me from dreaming! I'm going to dream until Jesus comes!"
Dollar argued that his multi-million dollar request would be a drop in the bucket compared to the promotion he would undertake if life were found in space.
"If they discovered that there's life on Mars, they're going to need to hear the Gospel and I'm going to have to believe God for a billion dollar space shuttle," he said. "Because we got to preach the Gospel on Mars. I dare you to tell me I can't dream!"
Attempting to explain that people simply do not understand the reach of his international ministry, Dollar brought his message back to earth with the example of his need to travel to the Middle East.
"We got over three million partners, three million donors around the world who support the ministry so I can get to where they are," he explained. "I had a man from the Middle East to send a letter saying they cut off my relatives head we need you in the Middle East. Here's a check right here for that plane."
According to previous reports about the campaign, Dollar sought to replace his ministry's current jet, a 30-year-old plane he claimed experienced an engine failure on an overseas trip to a global conference.
... A STEWARDSHIP FAILURE
But Dollar's message about dreams and faith did not address the issue of stewardship, or best use, of such a large amount.
A check of commercial flights revealed round-trip tickets from Atlanta to Tuaraif, Saudi Arabia, an area which borders Jordan and Iraq, cost less than $2,000 with a 30-day advance purchase. At this price, $65 million would buy 32,500 passages, nearly 90 years of daily travel to and from the Middle East, and save the expenses of maintenance and operations of a private jet as well as hangar fees and related upkeep ($444,631 of annual fixed costs and another $770,982 for 100 flight hours flown).
The G650 would take about 12 hours to fly one way of the round trip point to point compared to about 19 hours for an airline making two stops.
As for the Great Commission, $65 million would keep 1,250 missionaries in the field overseas for one year (or 125 workers for 10 years), according to figures from the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board.