HOW NECESSARY AND COST EFFECTIVE IS OWNERSHIP OF JETS BY MEGA CHURCHES? – Leke Beecroft

With the brouhaha concerning the newly procured jet by Apostle Johnson Suleman, Church Gist went on history lane.

#1. The Efficiency Factor:

First of all, how efficient are the commercial services of the Nigerian aviation system? This answer is an obvious NO and has been so through the years. Is there anyone reading this in Nigeria, who is a regular air traveller and whose flight has never been delayed or who has never experienced some form of disappointment? In 2011, Oyedepo visited 27 countries for missionary purposes. In a particular week, I monitored his movement from sunday evening when he left Lagos for Kenya till friday evening when he arrived back in Lagos, Nigeria for a night ministration. He was in Zambia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Botswana (if my memory serves me right) in a spate of five days and was back to minister at the night session in Nigeria. This would have been absolutely impossible using commercial aviation means in Africa. No wonder Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo pointed out that as close as Liberia or Togo and other West African countries were to Nigeria, it was easier to get a commercial flight to London than to our neighbours here in Africa.

#2. The Ignorance, busy-body and Poverty Mentality Factor:

Secondly, when missionary establishments of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s flew in white missionaries on jets or helicopters, they were welcomed by the Nigerian locals and it was an acceptable sight. Why? They were whites. One of the greatest issues with missionary owned jets in Africa is the poverty mentality. Today, several billionaires in Nigeria are celebrated because they own jets. Young musicians and artistes are also celebrated for wearing large “bling blings” and “Chopping their money” on private jets…but when indigenously established missionary organizations, whose only mission is to save your soul are discovered to own these same aircraft to facilitate easy air trips, every busybody wants to have a say and criticize, sometimes very insultive….including those who have either never stepped foot in a church, never dropped a dime in offerings to God or have never even embraced the commandments of the Bible.

As much as criticism of missionary owned jets may be “religiously and politically” correct, I make bold to say they are scripturally incorrect. We are called covenant children of Abraham; what does the Bible say about Father Abraham? Genesis 13:2 “And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.” Genesis 24:1 “And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things.” I am also very glad that after the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, it took a wealthy man to come get his body and put him in a befitting tomb. Also before his death when Judas was grumbling about the Alabaster Box that should have been given to the poor, the Bible had this to say “Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he CARED for the poor; but because he was a THIEF, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” John 12;4-6.

If the argument is really about giving to the poor, why not also ask all the oil moguls in the country, all businessmen, musicians and all other owners to sell their jets and give to the poor? Obviously the emphasis isn’t about the poor but anger and envy that wealth seems to be moving to the church…unfortunately, it hasn’t even started. The Bible is the constitution of the christian. if what is in the Bible hurts your feelings, I render no apologies….let God be true and every man be a liar. Romans 3:4.

#3. Travel Frequency, Time, Administrative and Global Reach Factor:

For record purposes, as at the last time I checked and I believe I am current, the christian organizations who presently own aircraft in Nigeria are the Redeemed Christian Church of God which has branches in over 190 countries, the Living Faith Church Worldwide with branches in over 60 countries and ‘Shiloh’ online presence in over 170 countries, Christ Embassy with ‘Rhapsody’ presence in over 180 countries and branches in at least 4 continents as well as the immediate past CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor led Word of Life Bible Church. Pastor Ayo began to broadcast to the world before any of the afore mentioned pastors, back in 1987.

(NOTE: Presently, a few other younger generation Nigerian pastors now also own aircraft, either from the mainstream Pentecostals or non-mainstream namely Apostle Johnson Suleman, Jeremiah Omoto Fufeyin and possibly Chris Okafor and TB Joshua of the Synagogue)

I ask another question; is it true that the leaders of some of these organizations travel regularly around the world? Do you have any idea what the itinerary of the Adeboyes, Oyedepos, Oritsejafors and Oyakhilomes entail?

Again it was Pastor Adeboye that said “there are things you need. When you have to oversee churches in 160 countries, you can’t do that on a bicycle,” Bishop Mike Okonkwo in an interview seemed to be in disagreement with some pastors listed here, the press excitedly tried to instigate him the more by asking about the ownership of jets. He explained to them however how he had once travelled to the Central African Republic for a programme but had to wait idly for almost a week for a return flight to Nigeria through Cameroon…… Any serious man or organization has respect for their time. The Church is one of such. Pastor Sam Adeyemi said once that all you need to grow old on time is to be a regular commercial flier on long trips.

#4. The Maintenance Cost Factor:

“If you are rich and desire to become poor quickly, own an aircraft.” Pastor Enoch A Adeboye.

Very many people do not understand what it takes to maintain an aircraft, especially in a country like Nigeria where aviation is controlled almost purely at the Federal level. How many people remember the issues with payment of parking fees for the Nigerian Presidential jet in 2009/10 when President Yar’ Adua was flown to Saudi Arabia? Large sums of money (probably in millions of dollars) were paid for the aircraft which sat idly at the Riyadh King Khalid International Airport. One organization which used to charter aircraft frequently for movement to her crusade venues around the globe once paid about #75,000,000 (Seventy Five Million naira) annually for parking her aircraft at Bristow helicopters in Lagos.

Those who usually tout the example of the Pope who charters and flies Alitalia do not even realise that his accumulated flight expenses along with his entourage in just 30 flights will buy a nice jet. Let me break it down. Is it better to buy a car or charter a cab so expensive that you would have spent the cost of that car in just 30 drops?

My question again is, is it better to park your aircraft idly at the airport and pay these heavy parking sums to the government from church offerings not forgetting servicing, repairs and maintenance costs or lease them to aviation companies which in turn return profit at no cost to the church? Rev Gabriel Oduyemi bought a jet for church use. I do not need to tell the story of what happened to that aircraft but remember that it was the same aircraft that Omotola Jolade Ekeinde’s pilot husband bought as ‘scrap”. Lest I forget, the average Captain in the aviation industry earns $10,000 (N3,600,000 or N3.6m) monthly. For two captains, that will be $20,000 (N7.2m) monthly or $240,000 (N86.2m) annually, not forgetting travel and landing allowances, hotel bills for the pilots etc. Young pilots need to accumulate hours and hours of flight so they opt for commercial planes instead of private jets who do not fly that regularly. This means that owning a private jet leaves you with almost no option than to hire experienced or veteran captains. This of course means you pay well for it. Luke 16:8 “And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation WISER THAN THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT”.

Fortunately, the children of light are wiser now…..they lease out their jets when not in use and avoid incurring unnecesary and exorbitant costs while the aircraft remains active even when not in use. Winners’ Chapel stretched this point. Among the first generation of missionary aircraft owners, she started leasing out her aircraft to EMS Speedpost once she realised what the costs of maintenance entailed and with due notice, she would use same jet for her missionary trips; eventually an oil company also leased the jet and had to pay compensation after an accident. The church decided to buy another aircraft and this time built a hangar at the airport in Lagos. The hangar has space for 6 jets at a time. Now she does not rely on “church income” to maintain the hangar but runs it as a separate concern, funding itself. This is the line Church jet owners should be towing. I will quickly add at this point that for large organizations, it is cheaper to own aircraft than to keep paying for commercial air tickets or for charter services. If leasing a missionary aircraft will save costs and preserve the life of that aircraft for longer use, then that is simply the way to go.

Courtesy: Church gist

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