Official denies John MacArthur makes more than $500K a year from Grace to You

"'...a report has been floating around online for some time that John makes more than half a million dollars annually from GTY. Totally false,' Phil Johnson, GTY executive director and an elder at MacArthur’s Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, said in a statement.'" - C.Post

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Bert Perry's picture

If you read Julie Roys' report, she does not allege that MacArthur earned that much from GTY, either, but rather that his total compensation can exceed half a million dollars annually.  I've got to wonder whether Johnson is tacitly admitting Roys is correct by concentrating only on the GTY income.  If Johnson is in effect shouting "Squirrel" to divert attention.....he's also admitting that there is something objectionable about the arrangement.

And my question, if there is indeed quite a bit of money flowing into MarArthur's accounts, and out to take care of his three homes, why he bothers?  I'm sure that for far less, he could enjoy AirB&Bs that are even nicer than the homes he owns--perhaps even for free as a gift from his prosperous supporters.  Nothing against MacArthur being prosperous and enjoying life, but  going through all this to obscure one's real income is strange to me.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Wayne Wilson's picture

Just publish exactly what the man makes. I can see no reason for hiding the information. That would clear everything up. If it seems excessive to some, explain why you think it is not. Then let it go.

Mark_Smith's picture

MacArthur pastors a church, runs a media ministry, is a college president, a seminary president, and writes books. If you did all those things for 50 years as well as MacArthur has you would own a nice home and some investments too, maybe even some real estate.

What part of this is scamming people to send in their checks to receive a blessing? What part is "God will bless you" if you believe? That is the prosperity gospel?

MacArthur doesn't preach against being "rich."

Wayne Wilson's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

MacArthur pastors a church, runs a media ministry, is a college president, a seminary president, and writes books. If you did all those things for 50 years as well as MacArthur has you would own a nice home and some investments too, maybe even some real estate.

What part of this is scamming people to send in their checks to receive a blessing? What part is "God will bless you" if you believe? That is the prosperity gospel?

MacArthur doesn't preach against being "rich."

I think the multiple positions some men hold are often more problematic than impressive. It certainly led to serious problems at TMU and TMS. That said, John MacArthur is certainly not a prosperity preacher, and I believe he is personally generous.   

But on the general topic, I do not believe a pastor should live in manner far above the people in his congregation. He shouldn't want to. His stress isn't any greater than the people he serves. His needs are not more pressing.

I point back to Piper's wise counsel here:

"With the successful sales of Desiring God starting in 1987, I saw that there could be substantial income from writing and speaking. I resolved that I should not keep this money for myself but channel it to ministry. I never doubted that the Lord would provide us with a salary that would be sufficient for our family. So I saw no reason to keep the money that came in from the books and speaking. These royalties and honorariums were being earned while I was pastor of Bethlehem, and so it seemed the church should benefit from them, not me privately.

At first, I thought I could do this simply by channeling the royalties to the church, but realized soon that this had tax implications. Since these royalties were technically in my control as the copyright holder, giving all of them to the church made me liable for income taxes. So we created a foundation. The Desiring God Foundation now owns all the copyrights of my books and intellectual property, and receives and distributes all the income. I have no access to the money at all. I do sit on the board of the foundation with my wife and five others. This board safeguards the aims of the foundation, and makes the decisions to which ministries the income should be given. It is a thrilling ministry.

In addition, we made the decision that all honoraria would go to the ministries we represent, not ourselves. That was usually the church while I was pastor, and now is Desiring God. While I was a pastor at Bethlehem, I never received an income from Desiring God. So for the last 25 years or so, we have lived on one stream of income. That is still the case, as I am now paid by Desiring God. I have never been in any serious need. None of this has felt like a sacrifice. I know myself incredibly rich by the standards of the world. Beyond all doubt, it is more blessed to give than to receive and keep."

 

 

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

MacArthur pastors a church, runs a media ministry, is a college president, a seminary president, and writes books. If you did all those things for 50 years as well as MacArthur has you would own a nice home and some investments too, maybe even some real estate.

What part of this is scamming people to send in their checks to receive a blessing? What part is "God will bless you" if you believe? That is the prosperity gospel?

MacArthur doesn't preach against being "rich."

My take is that when he's wearing multiple hats, it gets harder to track what hours he's putting in and what compensation he's getting for them.  I also have no objection to MacArthur prospering, but when you apparently need a trained CPA or auditor to suss out what the compensation really is, and his real estate holdings, the ugly fact of the matter is that his well-known opposition to the prosperity "gospel" becomes less credible.  It is also worth noting that when you need a trained auditor (perhaps with subpoena power) to suss these things out, you've got serious reason to doubt the transparency of corporate governance.  And that's a huge deal.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

many times to The Master's Seminary, and Grace To You, as well as buying most of his books. I couldn't care less how much money he makes. The more the better IMHO.

As for these "investigations" they are gotcha type stuff. Nunya bidness... Go look into something important rather than following after someone you just don't like.

Steve Davis's picture

I really don't care how much MacArthur makes. He's not my pastor although I have great respect for his faithfulness. I don't contribute to the ministry. I have some of his books from which he might have received royalties. The more the better. And for people whose ministry is to dig up dirt on other believers--not much of a ministry. 

Bert Perry's picture

The question here is, again, not how much MacArthur earns.  It's whether his real earnings are obscured by distributing his income between GCC, GTY, TMC, book royalties, and other enterprises, and (again) whether GCC, GTY, TMC, and such have sound controls in place to prevent embezzlement, graft, and the like. 

If you don't have adequate controls in place, you start to develop a culture where serious sins and crimes flourish.  For example, Liberty University with Falwell's self-immolation and RZIM's failure to see and police the sins of Ravi Zacharias.  Or, closer to LA, TMC's accreditation probation and allegations of a badly botched Title IX investigation.

Like it or not, this kind of thing does damage the reputation of the Church and appeal of Christ--as it was said in Scripture, "God's name is blasphemed because of you".  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Steve Davis's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

The question here is, again, not how much MacArthur earns.  It's whether his real earnings are obscured by distributing his income between GCC, GTY, TMC, book royalties, and other enterprises, and (again) whether GCC, GTY, TMC, and such have sound controls in place to prevent embezzlement, graft, and the like. 

If you don't have adequate controls in place, you start to develop a culture where serious sins and crimes flourish.  For example, Liberty University with Falwell's self-immolation and RZIM's failure to see and police the sins of Ravi Zacharias.  Or, closer to LA, TMC's accreditation probation and allegations of a badly botched Title IX investigation.

Like it or not, this kind of thing does damage the reputation of the Church and appeal of Christ--as it was said in Scripture, "God's name is blasphemed because of you".  

I guess I don't understand the interest in following what Liberty, TMC, RZIM, etc. do or how people have time to follow all the real or supposed scandals. Exposing real or imaginary problems doesn't create change if one's not a change agent. Christ will take care of his reputation and his church. In most of these cases it's to know just to know. 

So again, I not only don't care how much Mac earns nor even how he earns it. He rises or falls before his own Master and if his church/ministry doesn't hold him accountable not much is accomplished by outsider investigations. 

Not really sure how Romans 2:24 fits here. 

 

Mark_Smith's picture

GCC- as a church does not have to reveal salaries. In fact, MOST CHURCHES do not disclose pastor salaries.

GTY- does release salary info. That is what Julie Roys reported. For GTY she picked the one year MacArthur reported $402,000 because he was given an expensive historic bible. If you want the other years, pay for a Guidestar subscription and you too Bert can know the amount.

TMS/TMU- Once again, they report MacArthur's salary each year. Roys reported his max as $103,000 per year. Not an unreasonable amount by the way.

Books- this is private business and I doubt you'll find this amount. It is private.

There is nothing hidden or nefarious here.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Our church has always disclosed salaries in the budget, approved annually by the congregation, and in the year-end financial report, disbursed to every church member.  I have always thought it inappropriate to withhold this information from those who pay the bills.  Yes, there is always the likelihood that someone will criticize salaries as being too high, but in my experience, it has more often gone the other way.  I have declined salary increases several times over the years because I thought mine was getting too high.  Our deacons, who recommend salaries to the congregation, have usually wanted to go with larger annual raises than I thought prudent.  I finally stopped declining, realizing that I was, in effect, interfering with a responsibility given to the deacons, and was not really my call to make.  Over the years, my salary has gone from very small, in the early years, to what I now consider to be very generous.  However, others do not seem to believe it is overly generous.  I am convinced that full disclosure is always the right way to go.

I remember hearing a well-known pastor of a large church report that a lady, who was a member of his church, asked him how much the church paid him, since his church did not disclose this information.  He told her, since he believed she had a right to know, but expecting she would be shocked at the generous amount.  Her reply, "I don't think that's high enough."  It's impossible to know what people are thinking, but its always better to render full financial information.  Our church is convinced that people give more generously when they know that every penny will be fully reported in detail.

G. N. Barkman

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Regarding our church's staff salaries, I agree in some ways with both Mark and Greg.  At our church, we have a congregational government, and anything in the budget is available to any church member, and that includes staff salaries.  The members can request a copy of the budget, or they can attend the quarterly and annual member's meetings and see the info with every other member.

However, we do NOT make any of this information public outside the membership.  That wouldn't stop a member from sharing the budget with those outside the church, but we consider our church's budget to be information for our church -- not for those outside of it.  We wouldn't respond to questions from an outside organization about our finances, except to those institutions of government that are entitled to it, like the IRS or our state DoR.

Dave Barnhart

G. N. Barkman's picture

Dave, I fully agree with your post.

G. N. Barkman

Mark_Smith's picture

Dave Ramsey is reportedly selling his house for $15 million. He calls himself Christian. He models his ideas and business as Christian. Thousands of churches run his program in their churches. Is this ok? Or is it merely pastors who can't make any money?

 

Bert Perry's picture

....but it appears that Ramsey and his wife are selling their current home to build another, which I assume will be of similar size or perhaps bigger.  I don't think it's wrong to be prosperous, but at a certain point, there is a question of whether one has enough at some point, whether the hassle of a ginormous home is worth it, and at what point the legitimate enjoyment of God's good gifts becomes covetousness and being stingy with God.

There is also the question of "wouldn't you want to enjoy things you've worked hard to create for a while?"  I don't begrudge Ramsey his money, but there's a drive to "have" on his part that I don't understand totally.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

....but it appears that Ramsey and his wife are selling their current home to build another, which I assume will be of similar size or perhaps bigger.  I don't think it's wrong to be prosperous, but at a certain point, there is a question of whether one has enough at some point, whether the hassle of a ginormous home is worth it, and at what point the legitimate enjoyment of God's good gifts becomes covetousness and being stingy with God.

There is also the question of "wouldn't you want to enjoy things you've worked hard to create for a while?"  I don't begrudge Ramsey his money, but there's a drive to "have" on his part that I don't understand totally.

I agree with you but I do wonder what to do when wealth begins to accumulate very quickly. I believe he has over 100 pieces of paid for real estate. That's some serious wealth generation.

I honestly wouldn't know where to give it all away responsibly. 

Bert Perry's picture

Seriously.  If you've got enough to support yourself in grand style for your whole life, but you're still healthy and have a lot to add, just take a pay cut.  Lots of ways to do that--cut the prices for your products, give your workers a raise or profit sharing, stock options for the workers, whatever.  

No doubt that figuring out what to do with a pile of cash can be hugely problematic--I've run through the thought myself, and I came to the conclusion that it could actually destroy some ministries if I gave them too much.  Accountability matters.  But at a certain point, what we ought to do ought to have something to do with how much we can manage effectively.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Seriously.  If you've got enough to support yourself in grand style for your whole life, but you're still healthy and have a lot to add, just take a pay cut.  Lots of ways to do that--cut the prices for your products, give your workers a raise or profit sharing, stock options for the workers, whatever.  

No doubt that figuring out what to do with a pile of cash can be hugely problematic--I've run through the thought myself, and I came to the conclusion that it could actually destroy some ministries if I gave them too much.  Accountability matters.  But at a certain point, what we ought to do ought to have something to do with how much we can manage effectively.  

Unknown ... how much he gives away

As an aside. I have a nice house (I consider it moderate) in Plymouth MN. If it could be picked up and planted in some California locations, it could be a million-dollar home.

I'm giving John Mac a pass on the salary issue.

josh p's picture

If anyone thinks Dave Ramsey’s company is a ministry that’s pretty misguided IMO. I don’t really care how much he earns because I consider it a business. JMac is a pastor so the situation is different. I agree with Jim though that some of the shock comes from seeing inflated income to match a very HCOL area. It may be too much but I can’t say. It’s seems like a lot.

Bert Perry's picture

Ramsey runs a business.  No doubt about that.  At the same time, his business is to sell what he deems to be Biblical principles for stewardship, which means Ramsey is presenting himself as a Christian leader, at which point we are fair to say "well, does Ramsey's own stewardship conform to the Bible's requirement that an elder should not be a lover of money?"  Moreover, even if we see Ramsey as not an elder at all, but rather a fellow believer, we have the question of when his enjoyment of prosperity falls into the category of the man who builds new barns, per Luke 12.  No?

Back to MacArthur, I'd agree that his status seems far less problematic than Ramsey's, let alone that of many prosperity Gospel preachers whose wealth and ostentation is quite frankly grotesque.  Even so, however, it's a place where it's fair to ask him why he's messing with three homes, and why the corporate governance of the entities he leads is so opaque.  It could be entirely benign, but the way his organizations are going about things makes it look really, really gross.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

Personal finance is so EZ .... it's much easier when debt is harder to obtain.

When I was in college (67-71), the extent of my credit line (a Gulf Oil CC) was $ 200. That was enough for a small 'emergency'. There was NO credit available for college (people either had their parents pay or paygo quarter by quarter or semester by semester).

Want to know why college was much less expensive back then ... no (or rare) student loans.

Personal finance was EZ because one put $$ into a saving account and balanced a checkbook. (How hard is that?!)

By the way, there's a free (absolutely FREE) personal finance series on S/I. Here: https://sharperiron.org/tags/series-wise-finances

OR you could buy a book on Amazon for under $ 12 bucks

https://www.amazon.com/Personal-Finance-Dummies-Eric-Tyson/dp/1119517893...

OR you could pay Ramsey hundreds of dollars. FOOL!

https://www.daveramsey.com/store/education?snid=store_nav.classes.founda...

 

josh p's picture

"Moreover, even if we see Ramsey as not an elder at all, but rather a fellow believer, we have the question of when his enjoyment of prosperity falls into the category of the man who builds new barns, per Luke 12.  No?"

I really don't know how I could have that conversation personally. I wouldn't have anything to go on. There is no clear sin there. I don't really see wealth as necessarily evil. Abraham for instance, as well as Solomon. The principles he espouses include generous giving as a step in financial life. Whether he actually does so or not isn't clear. Maybe if I was even borderline wealthy I'd be concerned about falling into that sin but I'll never have to worry about that! 

 

Bert Perry's picture

The SNL skit really illustrates to a great degree how Ramsey makes his money; notice that the guy saying "don't spend money you don't have" really isn't cluing in to how the psychology of debt works.  It's totally obvious to him, but the couple just doesn't see their way there. 

For whatever other faults or virtues Ramsey has, that's what he gets.  Instead of "just don't spend money you don't have", Ramsey (and Crown Financial to a degree) tells people what their options are, and his seven step plan (which is free) acknowledges this by putting a few natural "endorphin hits" in for people who are struggling financially--little successes that will encourage people to get to the next step.  That's the same basic principle behind his "debt snowball", and his encouraging people that it's time to drive a beater, eat beans and rice, and the like. 

Not everyone needs that, but a lot of people do. 

Side note here; a lot of the hard work in helping brothers at church grow this way is in teaching and modeling these things.  If you live in a smaller house than typical, drive an older or less luxury vehicle, eat a little bit lower on the food chain, shine your shoes, mend your clothes, ignore fashion, and the like, you just might have the qualities you need to help someone in this regard.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I don't care how much money JMac makes. The only thing I find personally troubling about Roys' series on JMac are the composition of the various boards. I suspect JMac has been at the "too big to fail" level for quite some time. But, none of this impacts me personally so my concern is merely abstract. I will say that my eldest son is not going to TMU next year because the place is virtually synonymous with JMac to an unhealthy degree. He is TMU. He is the untouchable man; witness the ongoing issues with TMU/TMS' accreditation agency and the allegations of implicit nepotism. 

I'd prefer my son get an education at a place that's a bit less intertwined with one single individual. So, he's going to Boyce.

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?

Mark_Smith's picture

Jim wrote:

Want to know why college was much less expensive back then ... no (or rare) student loans.

And heavy state investment with tax dollars to support it. And private schools got funds from donors. The school I earned my PhD at used to be 85% state funded as of 1995. This year it is 31% state funded.

Mark_Smith's picture

And your finance plan doesn't have a place for your first child being born with a birth defect issue and the Republican Christian hero governor of your state just canceled the Medicaid plan for such situations and as a graduate student making $1500 a month was too much for the regular medicaid plan... so you owe a ton, and that debt snowballs to more debt as you have to pay $400 a month more than you make for medical supplies for your daughter!

Jim's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

And your finance plan doesn't have a place for your first child being born with a birth defect issue and the Republican Christian hero governor of your state just canceled the Medicaid plan for such situations and as a graduate student making $1500 a month was too much for the regular medicaid plan... so you owe a ton, and that debt snowballs to more debt as you have to pay $400 a month more than you make for medical supplies for your daughter!

Sorry about your situation. Point I intended to make is ...

  • No one needs Dave Ramsey solution!
Larry's picture

Moderator

And heavy state investment with tax dollars to support it.

Many have pointed out that the rise in college costs coincides with the increase in availability of student loans. Since there was more money available, schools were able to charge more. And so they did. There has also been a large increase in the number of administrators, particularly in "compliance" positions. 

And your finance plan doesn't have a place for ...

But the principles of sound finance aren't changed by relatively rare and extenuating circumstances. Most of the debt people have and Ramsey is targeting it stupid debt -- like buying TVs on credit cards and buying new cars on long term loans (or on any loans), etc. 

Isn't it true that most consumer debt is stupid debt and the principles to get out and stay out are live lean, live on a budget, and discipline yourself to pay down debt?

And even if you have these problems that are out of your control, the principles for getting out of them is still the same.

Ramsey is a businessman and he offers people a valuable service that people willingly (and often wisely) pay for. I say "wisely" because some people don't have the knowledge to do it themselves. The price of FPU is small compared to the cost of debt. 

While in one sense Jim's comment that no one needs Ramsey is true, in a larger sense, it simply isn't true. People don't know how to get out of debt. They have no plan. And Ramsey gives them a cheap and workable plan to get out. 

Bert Perry's picture

josh p wrote:

"Moreover, even if we see Ramsey as not an elder at all, but rather a fellow believer, we have the question of when his enjoyment of prosperity falls into the category of the man who builds new barns, per Luke 12.  No?"

I really don't know how I could have that conversation personally. I wouldn't have anything to go on. There is no clear sin there. I don't really see wealth as necessarily evil. Abraham for instance, as well as Solomon. The principles he espouses include generous giving as a step in financial life. Whether he actually does so or not isn't clear. Maybe if I was even borderline wealthy I'd be concerned about falling into that sin but I'll never have to worry about that! 

Josh, I think you illustrate something that I've been wondering is a blind spot for a lot of us fundagelicals.  There is some sin that the man building barns is accused of.  Is it cheating God on his tithes?  Is it taking it easy because he thinks he has enough?  Is it storing up his wealth in barns when he ought to be using it for God's glory?  Does this have something to do with James 5:3?  

Going from Luke 12 and James 5:3 to today, do our full storage areas full of rotting and corroding items really testify against us?  Do we need to consider whether we simply have enough, and then choose to stop accumulating--all while contributing to God's service that way?  And then there is the question of whether some of our business practices would be cheating those with whom we do business--just because someone agreed to it does not seem to be sufficient justification for doing it that way.

To this discussion specifically, what would we say about a home that doesn't really get used?  Not that having something nice is wrong, but if we have half our home that isn't ever used, or if we have vacation homes that are used one weekend per year, what does that say about us?  Is God pleased?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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