Phil Johnson
Phil Johnson appears in a YouTube video to discuss The Roys Report's article on John MacArthur's and his ministries' finances. (Video screengrab)

OPINION: My Response to Phil Johnson of Grace to You, Part One

By Julie Roys

Grace to You Executive Director Phil Johnson this week appeared in a video with Justin Peters ostensibly to set the record straight, following my February 3rd article revealing John MacArthur’s expensive lifestyle, multiple large salaries, lack of transparency, and nepotism.

The video was what I’ve come to learn is classic Phil Johnson—replete with character assassination, half-truths, and red herrings, but woefully lacking in facts.

The first words from Johnson were telling, referring to me as someone “pretending to be an investigative reporter who already had a long track record of trying to torpedo John MacArthur’s reputation.”

Johnson doesn’t establish this alleged “track record” with evidence. Nor does he mention that of the two dozen articles I’ve published about MacArthur, a dozen were straight news articles, reporting on legal battles MacArthur has faced with government authorities.

One article was extremely positive, showing how MacArthur was one of very few Christian leaders who years ago warned the Moody Bible Institute about its unwise association with now-disgraced celebrity preacher, James MacDonald.

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Johnson also doesn’t mention that of my many investigations, none has been proven false, but instead have exposed wolves like James MacDonald, Ravi Zacharias, and Bryan Loritts.

Throughout the video, Johnson accuses me of cherry-picking facts to fit my narrative, but ironically, that’s precisely what Johnson does throughout. Yet he doesn’t just omit important details; Johnson also makes assertions that are false.

In part one of my response, I’ll address Johnson’s personal allegations against me. In part two, I’ll explain why his responses to the financial issues raised in my Feb. 3 article fail to resolve them.

“Blackmail” Allegation

Johnson admits in his video that I repeatedly sought answers from him and his ministry to the financial issues I examined in my recent article. However, Johnson says he didn’t respond to me because I demanded answers the next day and he “doesn’t respond well to blackmail.”

The truth is that the first time I reached out to Johnson was in February 2020. I noticed Johnson was active on Facebook, so I sent him a private message, asking if he’d speak with me about some financial questions I had.

 

 

At the same time, I also reached out to David Fisk, CFO of Grace to You (GTY), and Grace Community Church (GCC).

Weeks later, neither GCC nor Johnson had responded. However, Fisk had sent me GTY’s financial statements, and on March 20, I replied with a list of questions.

In the video, Johnson says Fisk forwarded the questions to him and Johnson intended to respond. Then he states:

And then she sent another sort of accusatory—one of her hallmarks is she’ll send a list of questions and say, “I need your answers by, you know, noon tomorrow because I’m going to go to print with this, with this story,” which I don’t respond well to blackmail. And that’s when I wrote back to her and said, “Look, I had prepared an answer to all your questions. But now I’ve looked you up online I see that all you’ve ever written about John MacArthur has been an attempt to discredit him. And so, I’m not going to answer your questions, and furthermore, nobody else from our ministry is ever going to answer any questions you have.”

Johnson’s narrative is puzzling because I never sent a second email, demanding an answer the next day. However, in the original email, which was sent on a Friday, I asked for an answer by the end of the following Tuesday—so within four days.

David Fisk Grace to You

However, during those four days, I published an article on a different topic: I reported that a pastor who had attended the 2020 Shepherds’ Conference, Alexey A. Kolomiytsev, had died of COVID-19.

That article unleashed a torrent of negative tweets by Johnson and his followers. Johnson accused me of “purposefully” going out of my way to “stir Twitter mobs.” Others called me a “hack” reporter.

I was assailed for not giving Johnson enough time to respond to the inquiry I had sent through Facebook messenger. Then, I was pummeled for sending an inquiry through Facebook, instead of email. (I had called the church and sent an email to MacArthur, as well.)

As soon as I got Johnson’s comment on the story, which admittedly was after a few hours because I was in a meeting, I updated the article and posted the update on Twitter. But that didn’t stem the vitriol.

On Monday, March 23, Johnson sent me an email, full of nasty characterizations and informing me that neither he, nor anyone from his ministry, will ever answer my questions.

I responded with a conciliatory email, apologizing for not giving Johnson more time to respond to the initial story, but Johnson didn’t reply.

I’ve now learned that personal attack is Johnson’s modus operandi.

Rusty Leonard, the founder of MinistryWatch, told me that in the early 2000s, he received a “vicious” email from Johnson simply because MinistryWatch gave GTY a three-star rating.

Brannon Howse, founder of Worldview Weekend Radio, claims in a 2017 blog post that Johnson bullied him mercilessly merely because Howse criticized Johnson’s friend, apologist James White.

In 2019, Paige Rogers became Johnson’s target after she wrote a piece for the NOQ Report, exposing major contradictions between MacArthur’s account of the night Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated and the account of Charles Evers. In predictable fashion, Johnson pummeled Rogers, calling her article a “hit piece” and comparing Rogers to “gossip rag scandal reporters” and “rancor monsters.”

Now I realize Johnson is a bully and I need to ignore his insults. But at the time, the experience was extremely unnerving. It caused me to pull back temporarily from investigating GTY and MacArthur, which I’m sure was Johnson’s intent.

For the record, a second person who attended the 2020 Shepherds’ Conference also contracted COVID-19 and died shortly after Kolomiytsev died.

I informed Johnson and GCC of the second person’s death on April 4. Yet on April 23, MacArthur and Johnson published a video in which MacArthur states that Kolomiytsev is “the only person that we know of that came out of the Shepherds’ Conference and had that virus and ultimately died.”

Johnson’s Doxing

That scathing email Johnson sent me on March 23, 2020, appeared online in letter form two weeks ago. The only difference between the email and the letter posted online was that the letter redacted David Fisk’s name, but added my home address, GTY letterhead, and Johnson’s signature. (My home address is now blurred in the online letter.)

In his interview with Peters, Johnson admits he doxed me when he published the letter. He then furthers the injury by encouraging people to look up my address online and alleging that  I’m milking the situation for “victimhood.”

Johnson also accuses me of doxing MacArthur, which is untrue. Every document I’ve posted online has redacted MacArthur’s address, and posting aerial pictures does not identify someone’s location the way an address does. 

Johnson’s behavior is a stunning example of how not to treat someone after you’ve wronged them. But his bad behavior is much more serious than that. 

Johnson never deals with the overwhelming evidence that he fabricated the letter with my address. This would make Johnson’s doxing of me not mere oversight, but a calculated cyberattack.

As I noted in an earlier article, Johnson never mailed me the letter he posted online, which Johnson admits.

In the video, and on Twitter, Johnson claims he printed a copy of the letter last March. Then two weeks ago, he scanned the months-old letter to PDF so he could publish it online.

Yet the original PDF Johnson published is not simply a scanned image of a hard copy, as Johnson claimed. Metadata reveals the letter was digitally created the same day I published my article about MacArthur’s finances.

Johnson now has modified his story, saying on Twitter that he scanned the email to PDF and then made a “clean copy” in Microsoft Word. Johnson claims he deleted the Word copy, so there’s no way to prove or disprove his story.

Phil Johnson Tweet

Yet what’s especially telling about the online letter is that the GTY logo is an embedded image that was inserted into the PDF. Similarly, Johnson’s signature is not a scanned image either, but a “wet” digital signature, as David West noted recently on Twitter.

So even if you accept Johnson’s story, it’s clear Johnson went to a lot of trouble to “recreate” a letter with my address on it so he could post the letter online. In addition to allegedly scanning the letter to PDF and converting it to Word, he also added GTY letterhead and his electronic signature, then redacted Fisk’s name, but not my address.

However, if Johnson created a letter from my email, which seems likely, he not only made all these modifications, but also added my personal address, which he apparently scoured the internet to find.

At this point, it defies logic to think Johnson doxed me by accident.

Cherry-picked Information?

Johnson also assails me in his interview with Peters because I allegedly ignored a document in which Johnson allegedly “answered many of the questions” I had sent to GTY.

Johnson also tweeted a similar claim, accusing me of not linking to “full versions of the documents I cherry-picked quotes from.”

These claims lack credibility for several reasons. First, there’s no evidence that the “full” document Johnson posted on February 5, 2021, was available online before I published my article. I tweeted Johnson two weeks ago, asking him to provide evidence that it was, but he has not responded.

Second, the document I linked to in my article, which was a statement Johnson posted in 2014, is very similar to the “full” version Johnson posted online

Below is a side-by-side comparison of the two documents. (The documents are long, so including the documents in full is not practical. Follow the links above to read the full versions.)

Johnson Statement

Lastly, the comments Johnson says I ignored are practically verbatim what I quoted in my article.

In the video, Johnson states:

And what are the facts that absolutely doesn’t help (Roys) narrative that I’ve made over and over again: You don’t evaluate a person’s stewardship, based on how much money they make, what size their salary is. You evaluate whether they’re a lover of money or not by looking at their lifestyle. And I dare anybody look at john MacArthur’s lifestyle and accuse him of extravagant living.

Here’s what I printed in my article:

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.” . . .

“(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.

Rather than proving that I cherry-picked only quotes that furthered my narrative, Johnson actually proves the opposite—that I fairly represented his position in my original article.

Also included in my original article is Johnson’s explanation of MacArthur’s $400K+ salary from GTY in 2012 because the ministry gave MacArthur a rare King James Bible. However, I’ve uncovered new details about that gift, which I’ll reveal in part two of my response to Johnson.

I’ll also respond to Johnson’s defense of the millions of dollars GTY has paid to companies owned by Kory Welch. And I’ll present new information to help evaluate Johnson’s argument that MacArthur deserves royalties for his sermons, which MacArthur allegedly has waived.

I hope Johnson’s audience proves “noble” like the Bereans and fact-checks everything both Johnson and I have presented. I am confident if they do, they will see exactly what I’ve seen—that Johnson deflects, attacks, and bends the truth. Given his position at Grace to You and Grace Community Church, this is extremely concerning.

*One mistake that was noted by Johnson in the video was the aerial picture of MacArthur’s Colorado home in my original article. The correct photo is now posted. However, Johnson’s claim that MacArthur’s Colorado home is on two acres as opposed to five does not match the information provided by El Paso County nor TMUS Trustee David Wismer, Sr. 

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138 thoughts on “OPINION: My Response to Phil Johnson of Grace to You, Part One”

  1. If John’s hero is Paul, then he should also have chosen to forego the rights due him. Like Paul did not enriched himself, and chose not to be like the false teachers of his time profiting from the gospel. Paul chose to be distinctly clear that he wasn’t in for the money. He worked to support his needs and gave the support due him to others in need. He chose to be not a hindrance to the gospel. If Paul is JM’s hero then let him show it.

    1. James, you need to read all of Paul. Those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel! MacArthur is and has been a giving servant of the Lord. Shameful that Roys personal issues with MacArrhur’s theology maniacally drive her “investigative reporting”. Curious as to why she isn’t looking into Beth Moore and all the money associated with her ministry.

      1. Julie hasn’t said anything about Macarthur’s theology, except that he doesn’t seem to practice what he preaches about money and nepotism. When she asks about it, instead of getting answers to questions, she gets called names and personally attacked. Sounds to me like she might be right.

      2. no argument on those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel, but three houses at last count and millions of dollars in royalties and compensation ? and you don’t call that love of money ? isn’t that really living it up ? why all the secrecy if its an honest living ?

  2. JM is the cult leader of the Macarthurites. His followers would give their wealth, sell their houses together with their wives just to follow him. His cultic followers will defend that its no one’s business what they want to reward him and they would be right. They don’t have to answer to us since we are not members and it is none of our business.

    However, the issue is all about hypocrisy. Since JM presents himself in his sermons as one who does not love money, doesn’t even care about it which is a lie because he does care a lot about it. He calls out others for enriching themselves while teaching a false gospel. But since he teaches the true gospel, its alright for him to accumulate much wealth from it.

    Johnson, just found his ticket to wealth writing and making books out of JM’s sermons. Why is he fronting for Jm and the institutions when he is not the chairman ?

    Elders are chosen by JM and rubber stamped by the board then presented to the congregation. A show of affirmation is done by the congregation. Everyone stands and those who agree sits down, Those who don’t agree with the candidates must remain standing in full view of the entire congregation and give a reason why they disagree. Thats how they elect. Congregation has no voice.

    its a modern kool-aid cult

  3. ……“now-disgraced celebrity preacher”…”of my many investigations, none has been proven false”……….Someone hasn’t finished their homework. Maybe that’s acceptable since it’s just an opinion piece.

  4. Robert Tuttle

    If you are trying to say John MacArthur is not a Christian, is unsaved, then just say it and don’t beat about the bush. The provide biblical evidence that he is not saved. If, on the other hand, you do believe he is saved, and you yourself are saved, then shame on you for gossiping about a brother they way you are. If what you say about Phil Johnson is true, and I have no reason to believe it isn’t, then you should have dropped the matter and not responded to his interview with Justin Peters, and left it in the Lord’s hands. Unless, of course, you don’t think He is capable of dealing with Phil Johnson, and you can do a better job. Or unless, of course, you have an problem with pride, in which case that is something else you should be repenting of. Regardless of any guilt John MacArthur and Phil Johnson may or may not bear, you owe them both an apology for gossiping about them, and you should be repenting of that.

    1. I believe that Julie stated in an interview that she is not trying to examine JM’s heart. What she is doing is highlighting various issue that she deems questionable surrounding multiple salaries, independence of the board and various other issues. What you seem to be suggesting is that she gives him the benefit of the doubt and turns a blind eye to perceived ‘red flags’. Although it may be biblical to state that the lord laid it on JM’s heart to pay his son in law $8m for video work. It could also be seen as an overpayment for whatever reason. I sincerely hope that you have no objection in seeing the truth emerge, whatever it may be.

      Of course I won’t question if you are saved I will leave that in the Lord’s hands. However I will say that you seem to be employing double standards in accusing Julie of Pride. There also seems to be a hint of bias in you comment. As a fellow believer I’m just highlighting some warning signs. But maybe I’m just reading between the lines.

      NB: I will declare that I believed that JM was a sound bible teacher from the material I have heard. But his response to Covid-19, his reaction to the presidential election result and now these issues amongst other things. Have all led me to sense that there’s something not quite right. However it may just be that all have sinned and none are righteous.

  5. A worker is worth his wages, no issues here. Ministry is intrinsically free, the giving away of one’s faith, to be freely given away as it was freely received. However, when one wants to accumulate wealth from doing ministry, that changes it from wages to riches (a worker is not worth his riches). Had the boards of GCC/TMUS/GTY/TMS “MINISTRIES” disclosed to its givers, members, students, listeners that they had decided to reward John with those 6 digit royalties and salaries etc. then I’m sure it wouldn’t have caused such an uproar today. I think no one will question that he should be well cared for for the work he had done but three houses and millions in royalties is just a little bit opulent. . That said, perhaps those who have given sacrificially and generously over the years may not have continued to do so and these MINISTRIES would have a very different financial standing or even exist today. The public’s reaction is one of surprise because they had not expected that the one who had presented himself as one who is indifferent about salaries and had so passionately call out others for amassing wealth teaching a false gospel would fall for the same albeit teaching the true gospel. The end goal is nevertheless the same…WEALTH on earth.

    This report is nothing more than just about reporting hypocrisy. It doesn’t condemn why John has three houses and make the 6 digit figures. If the boards choose to give him an 8 figure salary tomorrow then its no one’s business. What is troubling the christian and non christian community alike is why the veil of secrecy to this compensation issue when its money honestly earned and well deserve, why the web of institutions and foundations set just to channel the funds to him as if it was hiding something when integrity should guide them, why the NDA’s to gagged the directors when they leave, what are they afraid of when truth matters ?.

    Those who love and respect John like I once did should not be offended by this revelation. Perhaps, they only think they are defending John, instead deep down they can’t reconcile it to themselves and the pain of admitting that they too were deceived is just too painful.

  6. I find it ironic when journalists inject themselves and their emotions into their own news articles, making themselves the center of their own story. But I guess as long as you slap the word Opinion, you can’t be held accountable. I’m not sure why as a journalist who has wanted to use their platform to inform the world of wrong doing by the church gets so defensive when the microscope is put on them. Don’t swing a punch unless you expect one to come back. One could easily ask why you should afford you and your family with a 400k home. Why do you deserve a 400k home? Isn’t that excessive? Is that what people’s donations are going to? Your upscale lifestyle? The truth is that Phil did answer your accusations. This is people’s lives your going after. This is people’s character you are going after. The leaders of our faith that are in your cross hairs. You don’t know their charitable givings. You don’t know the good financial deeds they’ve done in private to move the kingdom forward. You don’t get to take a swing and say “oops guess I was wrong.” Tread carefully as though the Father above is taking account of what you are doing to the body of His church. Ask yourself if your method of dissension is what Gal 5:20 warn us about.

    1. I told the truth about Phil and MacArthur. They told lies about me. I’m simply setting the record straight.

      Phil Johnson made $240K/year in 2015 working for Grace to You. Since then, GTY has hid its salaries, so donors have no idea how much of their hard-earned money is going to fund the lifestyles of Johnson and MacArthur.

      I worked for Moody Radio for 10 years. Moody’s annual budget is $152 million, which makes GTY’s budget of $13 million seem tiny. Yet at Moody, no radio executive made anywhere near Johnson’s salary. In 2015, Collin Lambert was the top Moody Radio executive and made $161K/year.

      As for me and my house… That’s kind of irrelevant. My house wasn’t bought with donor funds. We bought it before I started taking a salary from The Roys Report. Also, if you’d like to know exactly how much I make, take a look at The Roys Report financial statement, which is posted online. As you can see, I made less than $59K working full time last year. https://julieroys.com/2019-2020-financial-statement/

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