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Devotionals

Hidden Salaries and Nepotism - Behind the John MacArthur Financial Curtain

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"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. Since 1996, MacArthur has also owned a $700,000 villa about an hour west of Santa Clarita, according to a documentThe 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. 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. The home also is just 11 miles from the beach. 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." - Roys Report

It seems clear that Phil Johnson does not entirely get it. Defending his lifestyle while he owns three homes may not have been the best tact to take. I would think many people would think that having your third property be the one with 7.5 baths might classify you into the opulent lifestyle category. Most people do not have beneficiaries giving them five acres of land as a gift. Let alone the ability to take 800,000 dollars out to build your third home from scratch. Johnson also does not get how disingenuous it is to say someone has character for living in the same house for 35 years but neglect to offer up that during those 35 years he bought/built two additional homes. By the way, the three homes is more defensible if the man was still not drawing six fugues in salary from his flock in addition to an average of 320K per year from GTY and TMUS, whose board member gave him the five acres in Colorado. Later in the Roys Report we get into the nepotism with more detail.


"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. 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. 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." - Roys Report

As mentioned earlier, nepotism is one of the most common offenses in modern day churches. We saw when James MacDonald fell from grace the abuses he had inflicted were allowed through his self-appointed board. Mark Driscoll still excuses the stealing of $250,000 in tithe monies to cheat the NY Time best seller list by simply saying that the board approved the expense. Of course he packed the board with sycophants that excused all of his behavior until it was too late. I can turn the other way to the three homes if that was all there was to this report. I can dislike the salaries but the one issue that sticks out to me is the blind, audacious nepotism at the cost of millions of dollars. To go from 83K to over 740K in one year is absurd. In ten years to then pay your daughter's husband, which means you are paying your daughter directly, eight million dollars? Grace to You may be a non-profit but it sure seems that people were profiting left and right. Again, I have no issue with the man of God getting paid but realize that GTY, TMUS and MacArthur's church are all sustained by the sheep. They are the ones that donate. They are the ones that buy products. They are the ones we need to be worried about.

"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. "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." - Roys Report

If it sounds shady that is because it is. Now, I will reiterate what I said from the beginning which is I have never heard John MacArthur preach prosperity. Preaching against the prosperity gospel does not mean you are preaching against prosperity itself. They are two different things altogether. The prosperity gospel ties financial blessings to your giving. Prosperity itself can just be the fruits of hard work and it seems that Johnny Mac has worked very hard through the years. It is time to take the blinders off though. He remains wildly wrong about Calvinism. His recent foray into the NAR needs to be watched vigilantly. I never would have guessed John MacArthur would welcome being interviewed by Charisma News! That leaves us with the revelations contained in this reporting. This is not against being paid for your labors even if Paul insisted on taking no wages to ensure that there was no obstacle to the Gospel. That is what this report is filled with. Maybe MacArthur has well thought out rationales for needing three houses. Maybe he has justified in his own heart why he needs to be drawing so much in salaries. If it ended there, I think it still smells but maybe just a whiff. The nepotism however makes this entire report a stench. This underhanded, under the table dealing that directly profits your friends and family is what we expect from the world of business or government. Not from someone once considered the premier teacher of the Gospel.

Reverend Anthony Wade - February 9, 2021

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