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What would Jesus fly?

"What would Jesus fly?" Continued...

Issue: "Home again," July 12, 2008

Some Christian ministries-especially disaster relief and missionary organizations-have legitimate uses for airplanes, but the planes they're using are not luxury jets.

Dwight Jarboe, president and CEO of Ohio-based MMS Aviation, which repairs and overhauls planes for mission aviation groups, estimates that about 120 Christian ministries use aircraft in their ministries: "The majority of these are small single-engine or twin-engine propeller planes." These planes are used for disaster relief, often in remote locations.

MMS Aviation, which receives just over $1 million a year in donations, does not charge Christian groups for its services. "If an airplane is used in Christian ministry, they don't pay for labor, only parts," Jarboe said. His organization doesn't work on the kind of jets used by many prosperity gospel televangelists. He describes one group with a 10-passenger King Air that moves its team to locations that do not have commercial service: "It's not a luxury plane. It's basic transportation."

Mission Aviation Fellowship and JAARS are perhaps the most well-known users of aircraft for ministry purposes. Their planes are generally outfitted to haul cargo, not people, and while both organizations have fleets operating in the United States, most of their planes are in remote areas around the world. JAARS-originally Jungle Aviation and Radio Service-has an honorable and storied history supporting Bible translation efforts and missionaries in off-the-beaten-path-and sometimes hostile-places.

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) takes a pragmatic approach on the issue. Acting president Dan Busby told WORLD, "It really comes down to whether a charity can justify business purpose for a jet, and many charities pass this test. If the business purpose test is met, then it is an issue of documenting any personal use and attributing the value of any personal use for compensation reporting purposes. So, in short, the proper use of jets for nonprofit purposes is a matter of documentation, documentation, documentation."

Of course, ministry ownership of expensive jets offers great visuals for television news reporters looking to disparage Christians as big on spending and low on stewardship. That's a cost of ministry jet ownership that Warren Buffett could have predicted.

High style

Ministries and the luxury jets they fly

Just as bird-watchers develop "life lists" of birds they have seen, so "plane spotters" develop lists of planes they have seen, and their celebrity owners. Several websites-including those managed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-give hobbyists and journalists a way to track planes by their identifying tail number. Below is a sampling of Christian ministries and the luxury jets they own, compiled from some of these sites. For the truly intrepid, type the tail number into an internet search engine, and you can learn even more about the planes and where they've been.
Organization: Type of Aircraft (Tail Number)
Agape Church: Cessna 500 (N700VC)
Creflo Dollar/World Changers Church: Learjet 25B (N65A)
Dave Roever/Roever Evangelistic Assocation: Learjet 25D (N43DR)
Eagle Mountain Int'l Church: Cessna 500 N501KG; Cessna 550 (N888H)S; Cessna 750 (N1962J)
Fred Price/Crenshaw Christian Center: Grumman G-1159 (N132FP)
From the Heart Church Ministries: Gulfstream G-1159A (N357PR)
Greg Powe Ministries: Rockwell NA-265-60 (N141SL)
Jerry Savelle Ministries: Cessna 500 (N715JS)
Jesse Duplantis Ministries: Dassault Falcon 50 (N770JD)
John Hagee Ministries: Cessna 650 (N800GM)
Joyce Meyer Ministries: Canadair CL-600 (N7JM)
Kenneth Hagin Jr./Rhema Bible Church: Canadair CL-600-2B16 (N91KH)
Leroy Thompson Sr./Word of Life Christian Center: Cessna 650 (N818DE)
Mark Cowart/Church for All Nations: Learjet 24D (N929MC)
Michael Freeman/Spirit of Faith Christian Center: Grumman G-1159 (N685SF)
Moore Life Ministries: Cessna 421C N74KP; Cessna 560 (N61KM)
Nahum Rosario/Maranatha World Revival: Cessna 550 (N741T)
Paula White/Without Walls Int'l Church: Grumman G-1159 (N374PS)
Tony Brazelton/Victory Christian Ministries: Rockwell NA-265-60 (N1GM)
Word of Faith Christian Center: Learjet 24D (N711PC); Hawker HS-125-700A (N225BJ)
Word of God Fellowship: Cessna 550 (N717DT)

SOURCES: FAA AND FLIGHT AWARE

Rusty Leonard and Warren Cole Smith
Rusty Leonard and Warren Cole Smith

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