Programming note: To learn more about megachurches, watch “United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell” on Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Jesse Duplantis still wants that snazzy new private jet. But he wants to make it clear he’s not asking anybody for money for it.
He just wants his followers to “believe” the aircraft into existence.
“I’m not asking you to pay for my plane,” the televangelist says in a new video posted to his ministry’s website. “The Lord said, ‘I didn’t ask you to pay for it, I asked you to believe for it.’ That is what I said. So I’m believing, and I want you to believe with me.”
Duplantis caused a stir last week after word got out he was asking his followers to chip in so his ministry could purchase a brand new Dassault Falcon 7X, which costs about $54 million. He said Jesus told him to do it.
But now Duplantis, a prosperity gospel televangelist from Louisiana, is backtracking.
“I never raised money for the plane. I put it in our magazine and said believe God with me,” said the leader of Jesse Duplantis Ministries, who owns three other private jets. “There’s a vast difference between ‘believe in God’ and asking for money.”
CNN has reached out to Duplantis for comment.
In the earlier video, Duplantis says the planes get him closer to the Lord – both literally and figuratively – and he had a divine conversation in which Jesus asked for the new aircraft by name.
“It was one of the greatest statements the Lord ever told me. He said, ‘Jesse do you want to come up where I’m at?’” the minister said.
Duplantis’ ministry reaches more than two billion people worldwide, he claims, so the private jets are needed to help him do the Lord’s work around the globe.
So why the change of explanation on who should pay for the jet? Duplantis said the uproar had something to do with it and suggested the media was embellishing the story.
He also said lots of his followers were still interested in making a donation for the plane.
“A lot of people have called me and said ‘I want to get involved in that new plane,’” he said. Duplantis said that’s fine with him, but just remember – he didn’t ask them for it.
Preachers and planes
On its website Dassault boasts that the Falcon 7X combines “fighter jet technology with an elegant, whisper-quiet executive cabin.”
According to prosperity gospel preachers such as Duplantis, material items such as jets and cars are God’s way of blessing people for a faithful life. And by their logic, sharing your wealth with the church will make God bless you even more.
It’s maybe no surprise then that big-name prosperity gospel preachers have a thing for jets. To them, such luxury is not at odds with Jesus’ teachings of moderation and humility.
In 2015, megapastor Creflo Dollar faced a backlash after asking his followers for $60 million for a Gulfstream G650.
Earlier this year, prosperity preacher Kenneth Copeland acquired a Gulfstream V jet from director Tyler Perry, paid for by donations from his followers.
In his new video Duplantis went on to say that he didn’t feel the need to defend himself over the jet because he “he didn’t do nothing wrong.” The whole brouhaha apparently hasn’t disheartened him.
“I’m not discouraged,” he said. “In fact, I am excited. I’ve never had this much press in my life.”
CNN’s AJ Willingham contributed to this report.