TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) - The pastor of a well-known mega-church is defending his lavish lifestyle after drawing national criticism.
Greenville News reports Pastor John Gray has been living in a $1.8 million house paid for by the church. He came under fire last month for buying his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini Urus as a present for their anniversary.
Gray, who is the leader of Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C. and associate pastor at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, took to social media to defend the pricey gift.
"The stories that I hear, and I've tried to not listen to it, but one of them is, 'Pastor buys his wife, you know, this expensive car,'"Gray said in a video message titled "Through the Fire."
"First of all, it wasn't a pastor that bought the car. It was a husband that bought the car. Get that in your spirit," he continued. "It occurred to me that many people still do not know me, don’t know my heart, don’t know me and my wife and because many news outlets are trying to define who we are, may God bless them. I’m going to take the power back and let y’all know who we are. We love Jesus. We serve Jesus."
Gray said he always wanted to live in the suburbs as a child and that he faced hardship while living out of hotels when he first moved to Greenville.
"We were staying in different hotels in Greenville for months, preaching the gospel, so that everybody else could get established, because we believed in the vision," Gray said.
According to Greenville News, Gray's house about 10 miles away from the church. It is 7,247 square feet, "consistent with the size and value of about 25 homes in the community."
The home is located in a gated subdivision and serves as a church parsonage, an official residence provided by a church for its pastor, which stays with the church if Gray decides to leave.
"This is not anything new," Travis Hayes, chief financial officer for Relentless, told the newspaper. "This is a practice that is done with every denomination in the nation. That’s what this is. This is an asset that belongs to the church."
According to Hayes, Relentless Church has about 15,000 members, and about 200,000 people viewed the sermon online on any given Sunday.