After enduring a week he described as "one of the most difficult of our lives," Relentless Church Pastor John Gray enjoyed strong support from his congregation in South Carolina Sunday. Gray drew flak for splurging on a $200,000 Lamborghini Urus for his wife on their eighth wedding anniversary.
"I think any husband wants to give his wife nice things," said Relentless member Willie J. Smith, who told The Greenville News that the criticism his pastor is getting is much ado about nothing.
"I've never understood this notion that Christians are supposed to be poor, even though God has promised us blessings. Pastor Gray had been blessed financially long before he ever came to Relentless Church, and I think it's great that his wife doesn't have to drive a clunker. I think every man here feels that way," Smith added.
Church member Tonya Bethea told the publication that the controversy gave her more resolve in her faith.
"If a pastor has the ability to bless his wife with a great gift and doesn't do it, something is wrong," she said. "Things like this are not common in our area, and maybe that's why so many have opinions on it, but I'm glad our pastor is blessed and glad he shows his love for his wife."
Gray cited the book of Ephesians as part of the fuel that drove him to lavish his wife, Aventer, with the expensive gift in a 23-minute monologue broadcast on Facebook Live outside his church last Thursday and made it clear that he would not apologize for blessing his wife with money that he earned.
“Here’s the truth, husbands love your wives like Christ loves the Church. Even giving himself a ransom. That means give everything. Sow everything. Give the best of everything. And that’s where I’m at,” Gray said, quoting from Ephesians 5.
In the monologue on Thursday, Gray, who remains an associate pastor at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, explained that he was still paying for the Lamborghini after making a deposit on it in February. He also reiterated a statement made earlier by his wife that he worked very hard to pay for the Lamborghini. He noted that he saved from a variety of income streams including his second book deal and his Oprah Winfrey Network reality TV show “The Book of John Gray,” which is in its fourth season.
Many people were concerned about the optics of the lavish purchase made by a pastor but Gray insisted that he was making the purchase as a husband and not as a pastor.
In a CP Voices op-ed on Monday, Brian Tome, senior pastor of Crossroads Church, which has campuses in Ohio and Kentucky, said he baptized Gray approximately 15 years ago and defended him as a “good and Godly man.”
“Full disclosure: I know John personally. I baptized him 15ish years ago at the church I started. He is a good and Godly man and I wish I had known the true gift he was and leveraged him more,” he wrote.
He also argued that the criticism being leveled against the celebrity preacher was a bit hypocritical.
“These days, it feels like our favorite past time is finding faults in others and celebrating them. Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Does the perceived hypocrisy make us feel like our hypocrisy is of a lesser potency? Or do we simply have too little going on in our lives to stimulate our imagination? All we can do is look at someone else and think, ‘How can they be so stupid? I don’t think John Gray is stupid. I also don’t think he is hypocritical,” he said.
"The thing about hypocrisy is that you have to be perfect to avoid it. We all fall short of the standards and goals God has for us, and we certainly fall short of the expectations of the social media crowd piling on any misstep."
Other Relentless members like Gerald Galloway told The Greenville News that he had no concerns about his wealthy pastor making such a purchase for his wife.
"It makes no difference to me in my Christian walk," he said. "I'd give my wife one if I had the opportunity."