The Prosperous Lifestyle of America’s Anti-Prosperity Gospel Preacher

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Jonathan Charles's picture

Whoa!  She's brave.

I will NEVER give to a pastor's media ministry when his church pays him a full time salary, but lets him take time to have a media ministry.  
 

In the link below, Piper says his church salary only broke $100,000 in his last year at Bethlehem.  And he states that all his royalties are owned by Desiring God; he doesn't receive any of the money since his church gave him time to write. And he states that he gave away all honoraria that he received for speaking. 

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/piper-on-pastors-pay/

Still, MacArthur is long, long way away from being where Creflo Dollar is, who wanted to raise money for a 60 million dollar jet. 

Mark_Smith's picture

that $500,000/year is excessive for a man with a ministry reach as big as MacArthur's. He preaches at a large church, runs a radio ministry, and has written 100+ books. Plus he is the president of a university and a seminary. In fact, his salary seems low to me!

As for family, while I am not a fan of stacking the board, I have no problem with his son-in-law making the money for the post-production of GTY. Someone will be paid either way. Might as well be someone that matters to MacArthur.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The most important distinction here is the difference between "being prosperous" and "preaching a prosperity gospel." There is no inconsistency between the two. Maybe JMac's income is excessive, maybe it isn't, but that's a separate question.

Getting rich off of ministry is one thing. Getting rich off of twisting Scripture into a teaching that it's God's will for everyone to be healthy and wealthy, and that people have only their own lack of faith to blame if they fail to 'approrpriate' the here-and-now best life Jesus died to provide for them.

I haven't read the post, but the headline implies there's some kind of problem with being anti-false-gospel and being rich. There is not.

Maybe he shouldn't be rich. Different topic.

(Of course, all of the above is assuming the story about his income is even true, which for I know, it isn't.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

T Howard's picture

If MacArthur earned his money in accordance with the principles of Scripture, then I don't have an issue with his wealth. Yes, it seems he has multiple income streams: GTY, college/seminary, church, book royalities, etc.

But, think about it, GTY is basically his edited sermons from over 40 years of preaching. Isn't this the fruit of his labor? Book royalties: again, this is the fruit of his (and Phil Johnson's) labors. His commentaries are basically his repackaged sermons.

One could make the argument that because GTY and particularly his commentaries are based on his preaching / teaching ministry at Grace Community Church that the church owns the intellectual property rights to this material. Just like I cannot profit from the work I do for my company because it becomes the intellectual property of my company. But, I imagine these are issues that were agreed upon long ago by the church elders and JMac. If so, then he is well within Scriptural protocols to enjoy the fruit of his labors.

Bert Perry's picture

The laborer is worthy of his hire, yes, and the guy IS working into his eighties, no?  He ought to have some reward for that.  Plus, one and a half million bucks is not that much for a house in California--my brother's 1400 square foot rather dingy ranch in Mountain View (which he rents, alas!) goes for well over two million these days.  (yes, LA isn't the Bay Area, but it's still spendy)  Along those same lines, that wage is not that high--lots of executives, doctors, and I'd guess lawyers get in that regime.  He's well paid, but on the flip side, he's abstained from taking a lot of the royalties he's really entitled to.  We are not talking about Creflo Dollar or even James MacDonald here! (did some thinking on the latter--the 2 million dollar home he bought in Chicago back in 2012 or so is much more anomalous than MacArthur's home)

The thing I think is more significant here is the insider control of the ministries he heads, and from my perspective, I really don't get why he would bother with the hassle of owning three houses when you've got not only AirB&B, but also any number of prosperous donors who I'd guess would be glad to loan him a place to go to do some writing and/or R&R.

So the harshest thing I can say about MacArthur at this point is that he's allowed things to be set up so he doesn't receive the negative feedback he needs, and he may be getting distracted by some of the things he's doing in his private life.  Perhaps he needs the outlet, but for my part, I much prefer having a few nice things that I don't need to mess with too much to having a bunch of stuff rotting and rusting in the barns that take an inordinate amount of my time.  And I obviously have a little bit of Scriptural support for that position!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jonathan Charles's picture

Pastors like MacArthur (or Swindoll, Jeremiah, etc.) make a full time church salary + book royalties + speaking honorarium + media ministry salary. The first three might only be his church's business. If they are ok with him being paid full-time and yet using that time to write books and speaking, making more on top of what they pay him, fine. But when that pastor has a media ministry, raising money from Christian people from all over, often coming to times of the year when they need X dollars to finish the year, or some other plea, do they owe those who support the ministry transparency about the total income of the leader?  Maybe those leaders give a lot of it away and feel if they shouldn't let their left hand know what their right hand is doing, that they should not say what they do with their various streams of income.  Charles Spurgeon and his wife sold eggs from their chickens and were criticized for it when he made a fine salary.  They followed the principle of Matthew 6:3, never telling what came out after their deaths, that they supported widows. However, in the contemporary situation, with leaders who have been greedy, maybe the kind of transparency John Piper is called for. 

Mark_Smith's picture

To add fuel to the fire, when this salary thing for MacArthur first appeared years ago here at SI (as mentioned in the OP), I looked into a few other big radio ministries as well. I never mentioned it, but as of then, Chuck Swindoll's wife made something like $250,000/ year (as I recall) on the board of Insight For Living. That is on top of what Chuck himself makes. That came from the tax forms they released and I found on-line, and is not gossip. I haven't ever heard any complain about him.

TylerR's picture

Editor

JMac, unlike Swindoll, Stanley and other beloved preachers, is pugilistic and deliberately provocative. That means people will scrutinize him more carefully.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

G. N. Barkman's picture

I remember Swindoll coming under fire for purchasing an expensive vacation home some years ago.  (In excess of a million dollars, which would probably be two million or more today).  I can't remember the outcome, but I still remember the bru ha ha. 

G. N. Barkman

josh p's picture

Like others above I’m torn. It’s pretty difficult to say “a pastor should make no more than...”. He seems to live a pretty lavish lifestyle and if I was a member of his congregation I might be concerned. I would never go to a mega church for this reason among others. That being said, the article is obviously a hit piece as anyone reading objectively can see. The tone, language, and argumentation are intended to discredit rather than examine. I personally don’t think a minister of the gospel should make that kind of money from his church but what he does elsewhere has less bearing. Still, it does have some impact on his church ministry. One of my old pastors got involved in real estate with extreme leverage (after I had already left the church) before the crash of ‘08 and lost everything. He had to step down. Obviously JMac isn’t doing that though.

TylerR's picture

Editor

The article presents some credible evidence. The tone is not neutral, and some conclusions are rather sweeping. Phil Johnson and Julie Roys are known for their animosity towards one another. The charges of nepotism are the most damning, I believe.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

josh p's picture

Recently finished WA Criswell's autobiography and it was clear to me that there was a fascination with big ministry. I don't get that impression from JMac but there may be some protecting the ministry. His recent political ravings make him look like the pope of his own denomination unfortunately. I've probably listened to more JMac than all other radio preachers combined. I hope he holds the line until the Lord calls him home. 

 

josh p's picture

TylerR wrote:

The article presents some credible evidence. The tone is not neutral, and some conclusions are rather sweeping. Phil Johnson and Julie Roys are known for their animosity towards one another. The charges of nepotism are the most damning, I believe.

We would have to go paragraph by paragraph but it's obvious to me that she has a bone to pick. It's not exactly balanced. She intentionally words things in a damming way. As I said, I don't really have a dog in this fight but it's certainly not objective.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Her facts may (or may not) be solid. Her interpretation and tone betray an animus.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

The question is what her animus is against.  Since Roys' personal theology is pretty close to that of MacArthur, my guess is that her animus is not against him per se, but rather against the way the ministry is run.  That said, I'll concede that by concentrating on the ministry revenues and personal assets of MacArthur, she's accidentally setting the stage for suggesting she doesn't like JMac.

The trick here is that I think (donation of land site to him, etc..) his assets, and the revenue/assets of his ministry, do seem to lend credence to the fact that the governance of Grace and TMC have been a mess for a while.  So while I think that should have been the central point--bad governance is actionable whether or not the leader is getting rich off the matter--his three homes, and how he got at least one of them, are part of the deal.

Side note; if we reflexively believe and act on the notion that it's personal animus, we're going to make our interactions far, far worse.  It's part of why we joke about the "right boot of fellowship" and the "fighting fundamentalists."

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Back in my 20s, I attended an IFB church with a "big name" IFB pastor. I remember he caught grief from certain people in the community when he bought a brand new Dodge Intrepid to replace his old Dodge Intrepid. He was accused of living a lavish lifestyle and bilking people out of their tithes so that he could buy this new car for himself.

Little did people know that although the church attendance was between 600-800 people on an average Sunday, his salary from the church was <$50,000, and he lived in a 3-bedroom ranch that he purchased when he and his wife were married.

Some people will absolutely assume the worst motives in others based on a surface understanding of the situation.

dgszweda's picture

I think a couple of things need to be put in perspective.  First, $500K (and that is really only a guess by the author of the article) is really not a ton of money for the LA area.  In fact, it is only worth about half that in most other parts of the country.  Second, he is working in a lot of different areas, which creates compensation issues in some cases.  You can't work for a company and be considered an employee and you can't be an employee without getting compensation that is commensurate for the effort you are putting into the employment and reflective of others in a similiar position.  Lastly, I would be suspect in seeing these large numbers without more detail around them.  This includes benefits and other things.  Most people don't really realize that they can receive upwards of $40K in benefits around vacation, insurance and 401K matchings, with it being more money as you get paid more.  Lastly, we don't know how much of this is recordable income and what comes to him personally.  There just isn't enough detail, too much vagueness in the numbers, and some guestimation to be able to accuse someone in this situation.  I think it is petty.

Paul Henebury's picture

I recall that the Baylyblog (as was) called attention to all this some years back.  They also wrote about RC Sproul over the same sorts of things.  Sproul also had a role in the "fortunes" of Don Kistler's Soli Deo Gloria publications fate.  Whatever our opinions of this stuff, God has His opinion.  No one gets past Him.  

When I came to the States many years ago I couldn't believe the amount of nepotism in the ministries over here.  It just seems to be accepted by most evangelicals and fundamentalists. 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Bert Perry's picture

Paul, perhaps you ought to talk a bit more about the pervasive nepotism--I'd go further perhaps and say "self-dealing", isn't that the term with non-profits?--and perhaps make it article length here.  Unless that would cause too many problems and evoke the title of album #3 from Run-DMC.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm as astonished as Paul. I'm an ordinary guy who pastors a small church. I couldn't imagine the kind of arrangements Roys explains here; on their face they make you raise an eyebrow or two. It is unfortunate that some sons ride the ministry gravy train on their father's coattails.

We bought an "economics" course from Ligonier this past year taught by R.C. "Ashley Madison" Sproul, Jr. The thing was laughable. My children even knew Sproul, Jr. was off the reservation the way he continually talked about "creeping socialism" and maligned government. One can have these opinions, of course, but Sproul, Jr. was unhinged about it. I wager the guy would have nothing if his dad weren't famous (or, as famous as evangelicals can be in this culture!).

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Andrew K's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

When I came to the States many years ago I couldn't believe the amount of nepotism in the ministries over here.  It just seems to be accepted by most evangelicals and fundamentalists. 

We're publicly anti-monarchists who all secretly want our own dynasties. ;) 

Wayne Wilson's picture

I do not care for the tone of Julie Roys' article either, though I appreciate some of her past work very much. I think it is unnecessarily spiteful.

That said, I do not think pastors should live in a style far exceeding that of the average church member. I think in times past, very, very few minsters of the Gospel would display such wealth (unless, perhaps, they were born to it) because it would be unseemly. What message does it send?

I think Piper’s perspective (and example) on this issue is spot on. The care he takes to apply Scripture to himself and to realize the pitfalls of fame and great wealth should be a model for godly men in ministry. 

The impossibility of drawing a line between night and day doesn’t mean you can’t know it’s midnight. If someone is starving, they’re poor and need urgent help. If some pastor has ten-times more than the average folks in his church, he is communicating that material things are too important to him. It is a stumbling block.

The Bible commends fasting and feasting—not because food is evil or because no one is starving. It’s because it is evil to be enslaved to good things, and it is good to savor God in his gifts.

I told my children, when the behavior is questionable don’t just ask, “What’s wrong with it?” Ask, will it help me make Christ look great? That was Paul’s passion (Philippians 1:20).

Accumulating money, and buying vastly more than you need, does not make Christ look great. It looks like things are great. There is a reason why Paul said, “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8).

Here is a link to the interview...

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/piper-on-pastors-pay/   

Mark_Smith's picture

The complication with MacArthur, and to some extent Piper but not as much, is he is not just a preaching pastor. He is a university and seminary president. He runs a major international radio ministry. And he has a 40 year consistent publishing ministry. I had two shelves of books with his name on them, plus another of commentaries!

A man who does all of that is going to make money...

So stop comparing him to a pastor of a 500 member church. He is way more than that. 

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

To be fair, if I could afford to pay a guy to take my sermon notes and convert them into prose, I could have written quite a few commentaries, myself ... !

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:

To be fair, if I could afford to pay a guy to take my sermon notes and convert them into prose, I could have written quite a few commentaries, myself ... !

LOL! The problem is no one would publish them because you haven't built up any name recognition outside of your church or SI. JMac is so well known that he can make demands of his publishers. I remember something either he or Phil said about a publisher wanting JMac to change the title of one of his books. JMac basically responded that if the publisher didn't like the title, he'd publish his book elsewhere. The title was published unchanged.

Bert Perry's picture

Not regarding MacArthur, but given that MacArthur used his market power to override the editors, that explains something I saw out of James MacDonald.  I was reading MacDonald's book "Authentic", and there were so many basic errors in it, I had to wonder whether Moody still believed in having editors who actually had power to say "no" to certain things in the books they published.

Looks like at least for MacArthur, the answer to that is "no".    I think there's a huge danger when we ignore our need for counsel, and if MacArthur indeed told his editors to pound sand, then we've got a hint as to his character regarding ministry decisions as well.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry's picture

Moderator

if MacArthur indeed told his editors to pound sand, then we've got a hint as to his character regarding ministry decisions as well.  

Seriously? A author should not have the most significant influence in the title of his book? I think Phil Johnson is his primary editor, but an author's work should reflect the author (not anyone else). And if an author objects to an edit, shouldn't he should be entitled to withhold permission to publish? The bigger an author is, the more sway he is going to have. 

Paul Henebury's picture

Yeah, but three homes?

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Phil Johnson has taken to Twitter to respond, and has posted letters he allegedly sent Mrs. Roys one year ago ... letters, she claims, he never actually sent. Disturbingly, Johnson did not remove Mrs. Roys' personal address from this letter. It is likely she will now begin receiving hate mail (and who knows what else) at her private residence due to Johnson's (unwitting?) error.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry's picture

Moderator

The only address on the letters is the Grace to You address. Her street address is blocked (though it is revealed more by her posting of it than his). 

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