Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki says his $1 million-plus home and $75,000 car are "not much" of a reward for decades of clean and righteous living and taking his message to the masses.
In an interview with broadcaster Willie Jackson on Radio Live yesterday, Bishop Tamaki, who was accompanied by church spokesman Richard Lewis, said his expensive car and $1.25 million home at Maraetai in Manukau City were just reward for living right and working hard.
He said he had never been on a benefit, nor had it been in his mind that ministering to the church, which has a membership of 7000, was a vocation people took to make money.
"My wife and I have lived right, we don't drink, smoke, we haven't wasted our money, we have got some wisdom behind us," he said. "Shouldn't we have a house and a car by now?"
Asked if his approach was too extravagant and lavish and if his dress style was too brazen, Bishop Tamaki said: "I kinda like me.
"I figured really early in life I'd better get to like me first or it would be an ugly situation," Bishop Tamaki said.
"But that's not pride. I'm confident. At the same time, I'm honoured and I'm humbled to be used of God in this measure."
But a former high-ranking Destiny member told the Weekend Herald he and others left because people were hearing less about Jesus Christ and hearing more about the church's leader.
The man, who has since joined another church in Auckland, had a close association with Bishop Tamaki but left after the two clashed over their theological differences.
"You want people to focus on the content of what you're saying, so when the finance, the glitz and the lifestyle take precedence over what you are saying, all people are seeing is the bling," he said.
"What they didn't hear much about was about being good, caring Christians and sure, the pastor shouldn't be riding a Raleigh 20 bike, but there's a fine line and if you want to reach more people you have to tone things down.'
The man said he could understand his former colleague Pastor Andrew Stock's reasons for walking out of Brisbane's Destiny Church this week allegedly because of concerns over the church's covenant.
The Weekend Herald has made repeated calls to Pastor Stock to comment but has received no response.
Bishop Tamaki told Jackson there was not a constant demand on its members to tithe, although this is disputed by several people who have contacted the Weekend Herald saying they were pressured to do so.
"It's a bent perception," he said. "It is a slant, it's sensationalism and people are believing this but they don't want to do good-news stories about what's happening behind the scenes."
The Weekend Herald has made several requests for an interview with Bishop Tamaki but calls have not been returned.