pastors
Three of the 10 richest pastors in the world: TB Joshua, David Oyedepo and Chris OkotieGetty

A list of the top 10 richest pastors in the world has been published, proving the business of translating the holy word has become a highly lucrative one.

The importance of pastors in serving humanity, giving guidance and providing a backbone to communities is unquestionable.

However, the rise of celebrity-like status, wealth and million-pound mega churches has raised questions and caused quite a stir among Christians and non-Christians alike.

The television show Preachers Of LA, which first aired on Oxygen TV last year, gave the public an insight into how much money is being made by churches and the people in charge of them.

The series chronicling the lives of six wealthy pastors who live in mansions in California and drive Bentleys was met with a mixed response.

Critics of the show quickly complained it was an example of ministers using believers to make excessive amounts of money, while putting the teachings of the Bible second.

Some believe they are simply following the teachings of a Christian philosophy called the "prosperity gospel" - in which following the teachings of the Bible will lead you to prosperity.

However, others argue that when preachers have wealth, it goes against the Christian ideal that promotes building a strong relationship with God and not focusing on getting rich.

Using quotes from the Bible, the pastors in the show dismiss the popular belief that ministry leaders should be modest.

Reverend Clarence McClendon said: "The Bible says that 'I wish above all things that you prosper and be in health. Even as your soul prospers'".

Comparing himself to rappers, Reverend Rob Gibson added, "P Diddy, Jay-Z. They're not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses".

Reports of pastors exploiting vulnerable people and getting involved in questionable activity shows that placing them on a pedestal can be problematic.

The darker side, involves shocking cases of abuse such as the pastor in Brazil who was arrested for allegedly convincing members his sperm was holy milk that he needed to "anoint" them with.

David Oyedepo, who came top on the list, with an estimated networth of $150m (£93m), founded his own ministry in Nigeria but has been accused in the press of "cynical exploitation" after its British branch received £16.7m in donations from followers who were allegedly told God would give them riches in return.

Dubbed the The Pastorpreneur, he owns his own private jets and homes in the US and UK but has also been accused of allegedly slapping a women for believing she was a "witch".

A statement on the David Oyedepo Ministries International website links "disobedience" with "witchcraft", stating: "As far as God is concerned, disobedience is as terrible as witchcraft.

With power, there is always the risk of corruption and that line can easily become distorted and blurred.

Is it wrong for pastors to live flashy lifestyles? No, but like any business, the practices inside should be carefully monitored.