John MacArthur

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

By Julie Roys

For decades, John MacArthur has railed on prosperity preachers, likening them to  “greed mongerers” who led First Century cults. 

Recently, he’s also taken aim at scandal-plagued evangelical leaders, like the late apologist Ravi Zacharias and former Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz, saying these celebrities were in ministry only for the money. That’s why “liars and frauds and false teachers” are in business, MacArthur said in a recent sermon. “False teachers always do it for the same reason—filthy lucre, money.” 

Yet according to financial statements and tax forms obtained by The Roys Report, John MacArthur and his family preside over a religious media and educational empire that has over $130 million in assets and generates more than $70 million a year in tax-free revenue.

MacArthur and his family and related companies have been paid more than $12.8 million from ministry and donor funds. And MacArthur owns three luxury homes worth millions.

In one year alone, MacArthur made more than $402,000 for part-time work at his broadcast ministry, Grace to You (GTY), and another $103,000 from The Master’s University and Seminary (TMUS). This was in addition to MacArthur’s salary from the megachurch he pastors, Grace Community Church, as well as book royalties and speaking fees.

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Also, in a scenario very similar to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), the board of GTY has been stacked for decades with MacArthur family members. Like RZIM, GTY also stopped filing IRS 990 tax forms in 2015, which enabled the ministry to keep executive salaries secret.

Grace Community Church (GCC) refuses to release its financial statements in violation of a core standard of the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability (ECFA) of which Grace was a member.

When I contacted the ECFA about GCC, Compliance Team Lead Jake Lapp replied that the ECFA requires its members to provide a copy of their current financial statements upon written request. He added, “We have been in communication with the church regarding this requirement and expect you will hear a response soon.” 

That was 10 months ago.

To date, I have not heard back from GCC, even after emailing the church again to  request financial statements. However, I recently learned that GCC resigned from the ECFA less than two weeks after Lapp contacted the church about complying with ECFA standards.*

I also reached out to Grace Church elder and GTY executive director, Phil Johnson, inquiring about some of these matters. Johnson responded that some of the information I requested is “a matter of public record. A real journalist would know that.” (The composition of GTY’s board is publicly available; the answers to my other questions were not.)

Johnson further stated that his email, dated March 23, 2020, would be “the last correspondence you will receive from me. Nor will anyone who speaks for our ministry ever answer questions for you regarding any story you intend to write.” 

MacArthur’s Millions in Homes 

MacArthur first came under fire for his money in 2014, when several bloggers published MacArthur’s salaries, calling them “reprehensible” and noting that MacArthur “earns more than the president of the United States.” 

In response, Phil Johnson posted a statement at the Sharper Iron website, defending his boss’ salary (see “MacArthur’s Salary” below).

Johnson also argued that “(MacArthur’s) lifestyle, not his income, is what biblically-minded people should look at if they want to evaluate his character.”

He added that MacArthur “has lived in the same house for the past 35+ years” and owns only one car.

“(N)o one who actually sees how John lives has ever accused him of self-indulgence or even thought in their wildest dreams to describe him as a lover of money,” Johnson stated.

While it is true that MacArthur has lived in his home in Santa Clarita, California, since the 1980s, the property is worth 1.5 million, which is more than twice the median value of homes in the area.

The five-bedroom, four-bath house sits on more than two acres and includes a tennis court and a swimming pool. The home also is not John MacArthur’s only residence. 

John MacArthur House
John MacArthur’s $1.5 million Santa Clarita home

Since 1996, MacArthur has also owned a $700,000 villa about an hour west of Santa Clarita, according to a document The Roys Report obtained from the Ventura County Tax Assessor’s office. 

The three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home is located next to a world class private club with a championship golf course, tennis courts, pool, and fine dining. The home also is just 11 miles from the beach. 

John MacArthur Golf Villa
Golf Villas entrance where John MacArthur owns a second home in California

MacArthur’s third and largest home—a seven-bedroom, 7.5-bathroom ranch on five acres in Colorado Springs—was built in 2007, according to El Paso County records.  

The property was given to Circle M Ranch—a limited liability limited partnership (LLLP) owned by John and Patricia MacArthur—by David Wismer Sr.  

Wismer is a longtime member of TMUS’ Board of Directors and has also served as TMUS Board secretary.  

I spoke with Wismer and he told me that in 2007, MacArthur approached him, expressing that he wanted to build a home in Colorado Springs. Wismer said he owns a 2,600-acre ranch in Colorado Springs and was happy to give five acres to MacArthur as a gift. 

Wismer said MacArthur then built a home (valued around $800,000) on the Colorado property using his own funds. 

MacArthur’s Salary  

From 2005—2015, MacArthur made about $3.4 million in compensation from GTY and TMUS, for an average of about $320,000/year.

On top of that, MacArthur also took a salary from Grace Community Church that was “well within the upper-medium range” for California church employees, according to Johnson’s 2014 statement.

This puts MacArthur’s annual combined salary at an estimated half-million dollars most years. And in 2012, when he was paid an especially high salary and benefits from GTY, MacArthur’s salary likely pushed three-quarters of a million dollars.

In Johnson’s 2014 statement, he explained that MacArthur’s “salary and benefits” topped $400,000 in the fiscal year ending in 2012 because the GTY Board gave MacArthur a “rare 1st-edition KJB” that year. The Bible, Johnson said, was a “one-time gift capping 40 years of faithful ministry.” 

In addition, Johnson stated that “Grace to You paid John MacArthur zero salary or benefits for the first 30+ years of our ministry’s existence.” 

However, this statement does not match the facts. 

According to a GTY 990 from 2002—the earliest 990 The Roys Report was able to obtain—MacArthur made $88,336 that year. This was just 16 years after GTY was founded, not 30.  

According ECFA, GTY was founded in 1986. (The GTY website says GTY became a nonprofit in the early 1980s.)

Phil Johnson
GTY Executive Director Phil Johnson

It’s possible that Johnson was dating GTY’s beginning to the first year MacArthur was pastor of Grace Community Church (1969). That’s when a volunteer reportedly began recording MacArthur’s messages and giving them to members of the congregation who were too ill to attend. But the ministry didn’t even have a name back then and likely didn’t require any extra hours of MacArthur. 

I reached out to Johnson to explain the apparent contradiction, but he did not respond.  

Also, in his 2014 statement, Johnson stated that sometime after 2000, the GTY board “made a deliberate decision to pay (MacArthur) a full salary rather than a diminished wage that was arbitrarily curtailed based on the fact that he has other income.” 

While it’s true that MacArthur received a huge increase in his GTY salary in 2003 (72%), MacArthur never worked full-time hours at GTY. MacArthur’s GTY hours varied each year from 10 to 30 hours per week, according to the organization’s own 990s. 

Yet the hours MacArthur claimed to work each year seem to bear little relation to the salary he received. For example, in 2007, MacArthur claimed to work 20 hours per week at GTY and received $174,191. In 2008, he reportedly worked 10 hours per week and received nearly as much—$177,083.

Similarly, MacArthur’s hours at TMUS varied from 10 hours to 40 hours per week from 2005—2015 and didn’t necessarily correspond to the amount he was paid.

MacArthur logged a tremendous number of hours for GTY and TMUS, especially considering that he also worked as pastor of GCC. In one year, 2012,  MacArthur reportedly worked a combined 60 hours a week at GTY and TMUS. This was in addition to the time he spent pastoring GCC, a church with an average attendance of more than 8,000 people.

Below is a chart compiled by The Roys Report, showing both the hours MacArthur claimed and the salaries he received for the years analyzed. 

(Though it is not documented below, Phil Johnson received between $160,000 and $238,927 per year between 2005—2015 for his role at GTY. He also received a no-interest loan of $50,000 from the ministry for the purchase of a home, which was fully forgiven over a five-year period.)

John MacArthur SalaryA Family Affair

On its website, the ECFA states, “When a ministry encounters failure—or even worse, scandal—its difficulties can almost always be traced to a breakdown in governance.”

A key characteristic of good governance, according to the ECFA, is maintaining “the reality, not just the appearance of independent board governance.” The ECFA considers board members to be independent if they are not related by blood or employees of the organization. 

For decades, though, two of MacArthur’s sons have served on GTY’s board along with their father. Phil Johnson, a key GTY employee, has also served on the board for many years.

Since 2002, the GTY board has ranged in size from eight to 12 members. So at times, as many as half of the board was either a MacArthur or an employee under John MacArthur.

One of MacArthur’s sons, Matthew MacArthur, remains on the board and has been listed on every 990 since 2002 as the treasurer of GTY. 

MacArthur’s other son, Mark MacArthur, is also listed on every 990 since 2002 as a GTY board member.  

In February 2020, Mark MacArthur was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with defrauding clients in a $16 million investment scheme.  As late as August 2020, Mark MacArthur was still listed on GTY’s website as a board member. Mark MacArthur is not listed as a board member today.  

In his 2014 statement, Johnson stated that board members “with blood relationships or employment connections to John MacArthur recuse themselves from salary decisions.” 

However, it’s not just John MacArthur who is potentially benefitting from his sons’ and Johnson’s presence on the board. GTY has also paid MacArthur’s son-in-law, Kory Welch, and companies Welch owns, millions over the years, as has TMUS.

Millions to Kory Welch

In 2008, Welch was an employee of GTY, making $83,677 as director of television broadcasting. Welch, who’s married to MacArthur’s daughter, Melinda Welch, also was enjoying a $20,000 no-interest home loan with total debt forgiveness from GTY.

In 2008, there were no other contractors providing video production services for GTY, according to the organization’s 990s.

Kory Welch
John MacArthur’s son-in-law, Kory Welch

The next year, however, Welch began working for GTY as a video production contractor through a company Welch had formed two years earlier, called The Welch Group. In 2009, GTY paid The Welch Group $741,000 for “post-production services”—nearly 10 times what GTY had paid Welch the year before.

Since then, GTY has paid either The Welch Group or Dorma Productions (another small company Welch owns) between $659,000—$790,000 per year for a combined $8.3 million between 2009—2019.  

Another company owned by Welch, called WeKreative, has also received more than $1 million in contract work from TMUS. From 2016 through 2019, TMUS paid WeKreative nearly $1.1 million for “marketing, public relations, and video production services,” according to TMUS audit reports and 990s. 

During this time (in 2018 and 2019), TMUS also employed Welch as its COO, and for a time as its chief marketing officer, for which Welch received more than $138,000 in salary and benefits.

TMUS did not respond to requests for comment about Welch’s contract work or the potential conflict of interest concerning his positions at TMUS. 

In addition to these jobs and positions, Welch is the CEO of The John MacArthur Charitable Trust (formerly The Master’s Grace Fund). This is a California nonprofit created “to support various ministries of John MacArthur, according to GTY’s 2019 financial statement.”

The sole member of The John MacArthur Charitable Trust is GTY and GTY elects a majority of the trust’s board. The trust does not file 990s, so it is not known if it pays Welch a salary for his services.  

Money & Ministry

“You show me a person who preaches the money gospel, the money message, the wealth message—I’ll show you a person who has been corrupted by the love of money.”

So said John MacArthur in a 1987 sermon.

MacArthur added that he “never ever wanted to be in a position to look at ministry with a price tag.” That’s why, MacArthur said, he never asks for money when he preaches at other churches. “That is just too overwhelming a problem for my flesh to deal with.”

Yet clearly, MacArthur takes plenty of money from his own ministries. And though MacArthur may have never preached the prosperity gospel—a gospel that promises health and wealth—his income and portfolio looks an awful lot like those who do. 

MacArthur may be America’s anti-prosperity gospel preacher, but his life, and the life of his family members, appears to be quite prosperous—and he seemingly has his ministries to thank.

*UPDATE: The original version of this story did not report that GCC had resigned from ECFA. Also, the aerial picture of MacArthur’s Colorado home has been changed. The original photo was of a nearby property, but not MacArthur’s.

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473 thoughts on “The Prosperous Lifestyle of America’s Anti-Prosperity Gospel Preacher”

  1. Pastors who enrich themselves from the gospel are like bottled water salesmen. They bottle water that was meant to be free, package and label them nicely so they can claim a patent then sells it for a hefty profit. Thereafter, they claim their product is the real thing while others are ripping you off with less than pure water. They hold annual pastoral conferences which are nothing more than marketing conventions to sell more books and tapes. Free books are given as promotional samples for attendees to promote to their constituents, Radio broadcasts are advertisements to solicit donations or gain repeat customers from subscriptions to sell more water. The gospel was meant to be freely given as it was freely received. It was never meant to be a source of profit nor personal gain. Pastors for Profit have ingeniously commercialized and commoditized sound doctrine to be a profitable enterprise.

    A just pastoral compensation is distinctively different from wealth accumulation and extravagant lifestyles. God’s true servants will seek to make sound doctrine unimpeded by costs such as high salaries and royalties that hinder the spreading of the good news. Like Paul, they are characterized by self denial and often labor at great personal sacrifice.

    “Pastors for Profit” have done more damage to the cause of Christ than they care to realize or willing to admit. The world no longer sees the distinction between those who are teaching sound doctrine from those who are false teachers, they now regard them as equals. False teachers who were once criticized believe that they have been vindicated. Both are now perceived to be simply competing to get their hands into believer’s pockets to line their own. Regardless of what they are teaching, their intentions is similar: to teach for fame, money and power.

    Thank you Julie for exposing Pastors for Profit.

  2. Dan Aron West

    This is certainly an eye opener of greater proportions. I became a member in 2012 but had been a listener and of Johns morning radio broadcasts and many downloaded pod cast of many years ago and I did learn a lot from him. But as I became more knowledgeable of scriptuire things started to not add up in his sermons i.e. The Trinity doctrine. After one of his assc. pastors and He, Pastor John told us in bible study class and on Sunday service that same week that if you do not belive in the Trinity doctrine you do not have Salvation. I left and never went back, NOW THIS. I knew Grace did very well financially but THIS $$$$$$$$$, I had no idea and frankly I an not Shocked or Surprised. I had seen a change even in the few years I was there and now can see their true colors. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR EXPOSING THE TRUTH ABOUT THEM ALL..

    1. Well if you don’t believe that God is three in one (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) you’re either a new Christian or you never have been saved. You may not like it but that’s the truth. God offers his saving grace for our everything (sin, brokenness etc) which amounts to less than “dung” as Paul stated.

    2. Good for you Dan.
      It’s wise to rationalize what the religion purveyors tell you with your own intellect, which is a gift from the Lord.
      Don’t rely on people, only the Lord. He will open your mind to understand scripture.

  3. James Sanders

    Unless your church leadership fully discloses their use of church funds, your pastor doesn’t have three luxury homes, takes in more than 500 thousand dollars a year apart from receiving royalties for books, sermons, political endorsements while fully employed.

    Instead of outsourcing your charity to your leaders, give directly, intentionally, generously to the needy. Here are some giving ideas that you can do in Christ’s name:

    – pay for someone’s maintenance medicine, grocery, health insurance, child care, mortgage, rent
    – give to hospitals, feeding centers, food banks, homeless shelters,
    – buy clothes, food, medicine, supplies for the homeless,
    – extend whatever financial help to a struggling single parent, widow, elderly, student
    – help pay someone’s repair bills to enable them to live with dignity or get work.
    – prepare an extra meal for your kid’s school mate who is hungry.

    Stop basking on your knowledge of sound doctrine and start practicing them. There are so many needy, homeless, suffering from hunger, malnutrition and the cold/heat just near you. Struggling oftentimes in silence out of shame to make ends meet, just needing a break to stand again. It is reprehensible to see church leaders who feel entitled to double honor crown themselves with wealth when so many are desperately in need.

    Matthew 25:35-40
    New Living Translation
    35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

    Faithful stewardship means we stop submitting blindly to our leaders. It is not a sin to question and require your pastor and elders to disclose where and how church funds are being used. After all, they are forgiven sinners too and can still be just as guilty of greed, stealing, cheating, lying like any sinner.

  4. While Paul made it clear that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel, nevertheless he needed to make a distinction between his practice from the practice of a growing group of prosperity gospel teachers of his time. They were peddling the gospel for profit and taking advantage of believers. Because of Paul’s love for Christ, he refused his entitlements to drive home the point that he is unlike the rest and to make the gospel free of charge. It was for him his reward, payment and pleasure. Paul refused to be a hindrance, obstacle to the gospel of Christ.

    Furthermore, Paul using his own life as an example reminded those who would presume to teach the gospel that while the call is honorable it is a call to sacrifice, self-denial and suffering. It was never a road to earthly riches, rewards and recognition. Paul taught that those elders who are worthy of double honor are to be like him, work hard and help others in need and not to expect double compensation. Paul would still preach the gospel even if he is not paid at all ! Paul would rather die than be denied of this boast.

    Paul never had any luxury houses, engineered triple pay schemes, claimed royalties from sermons and books due to the church. Paul condemned not just the distortion of the word but equally the secret and shameful ways of profiteering, and the use of deception to hide one’s gain. In contrast, John has taught that pastors are entitled and deserve to be paid similar to the CEO of a corporation. His example has shifted the emphasis from how to advance the gospel to the pastor’s entitlements and financial well being first and foremost.

    There are many pastors who labor in silence, under supported, humble teachers of sound doctrine. Many work a second job to support their families so as not to be a financial burden to their congregation. They may not have books or a study bible published in their name but they preach tirelessly and faithfully. They may serve in small congregations but they serve them willingly in order to please God and not just to make money. They chose credibility instead of wealth, they value the unhindered advancement of the gospel instead of being paid to further political parties, campaigns and agenda. These are the men who we will see one day in heaven crowned.

    Those who preached for the money, have already rewarded themselves richly here with wealth and houses, they have already received their dues. They are by all accounts prosperity gospel preachers. They prospered themselves selling the gospel.

  5. Johnny Mac
    Johnny Mac
    Bakersfield Man
    From there to Pasadena
    Talks as fast as he can
    Put him on the radio
    And put him on the T
    And put him on the stage up
    With Voddie B

    Johnny Mac
    Johnny Mac
    Master’s man
    He can turn a dollar
    From an old tin can
    And if he can’t do it
    Don’t blame him too much
    Cause God did away with
    Miracles and such

    Johnny Mac
    Johnny Mac
    Catch as catch can
    Everything everything
    Goes according to plan
    It’s all been predetermined
    Even wickedness too
    If God made you do it
    There’s nothing you can do

    Johnny Mac
    Johnny Mac
    Suit and tie man
    A proper Californian
    Like a Ronald Reagan
    Lick it and
    stick it
    And mark it with a cross
    When there’s no government
    Who will be the boss?

  6. I never listened to John MacArthur until recently but I am distressed at these facts. In addition that he preaches the pretrib rapture. But his teaching on many things is outstanding.I cant figure it out.

  7. Well this is new. I was expecting a humble abode, but Pastor John is very rich! And so is Abraham, and Job, and King Solomon, and many great men in the Bible. Proverb 3 verse 16 did say, “Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor.” But Jesus also said “you cannot serve both God and Mammon.”
    We cannot judge him so easily.

    All in all, I hope Pastor John’s heart is not in his riches, but in God!

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