Recently, Julie Roys wrote an article exposing just how much prosperity Pastor John MacArthur has experienced as a direct result of his ministry. As I've pointed out in the past, as well, the MacArthur-associated ministries rake in tens of millions of dollars every single year, virtually all of it being tax-free.
Now, the fact that people are giving that much money to his ministry is not wrong, per se. However, it is also surprising and seemingly not in the Spirit of the Biblical model for ministry to have a pastor bringing in close to a million dollars a year simply from his various "ministries."
It's one thing to make good money in ministry. When you are making a hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars from "doing ministry," it rubs people the wrong way and gives off the impression that you are in it for the money, not honoring God. Technically speaking, this would make the wealthy pastor potentially not "above reproach." (1 Timothy 3:2) A lot of it comes down to how the pastor is making his money. If he is independently wealthy, there's virtually no concern within this context. When his wealth is created through ministry, that's where the red flags are raised.
When I shared Julie's article breaking down JMac's "Ministry Empire," a MacArthur supporter responded saying, "I don’t recall the scriptures demanding a vow of poverty. JMac has never used his pulpit to demand money to pretend that is the way to get God’s blessing."
Initially, I thought that this was a valid point. Over the years, Pastor MacArthur and his teaching ministry, Grace to You, has railed against the Charismatic Prosperity Preachers, such as Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen and Kenneth Copeland, condemning them for fleecing the flock for funds. They would use one of two tactics, either guilt-tripping their following for funds, saying that not giving to their ministry is showing a lack of faith in God... or they would promise blessings upon those who donated to their multi-million dollar "ministries."
On the Grace To You blog, Cameron Buettel confirmed that these types of tactics are wrong, writing:
To be clear, I wouldn’t consider it automatically wrong for a pastor to encourage you to tithe, or if you decided that ten percent is what you want to regularly give to your local church. But both Floyd and MacDonald went well beyond that in the above quotes. By making tithing (giving ten percent) mandatory and using their pulpits to strong-arm their congregations, they crossed the line between error and extortion. Telling people that they’re in unrepentant sin by not tithing, or demanding that people tithe under threat of being severed from God’s blessing, is straight out of the Tetzel textbook.
Pastor John MacArthur took this criticism even further, saying:
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, clearly, Grace to You and Pastor John MacArthur are teaching that it is wrong for pastors to tie God's blessings to tithes. Cameron Buettel stated that this would be "extortion." So as I was reading through some of Pastor MacArthur's sermons and articles on giving, I came across this blog post:
But let me suggest something to you: If we really understand Scripture—particularly some specific promises from Jesus—the thing you should look forward to the most is the offering. God’s Word clearly teaches that our giving is actually a direct pipeline to His blessings. In fact, two simple statements from the Lord ought to make every Christian eager and thrilled for opportunities to give. If Scripture had nothing else to say about giving—if it was only these two promises from Christ—it should still be enough to compel us to line up and give generously, abundantly, and sacrificially. (emphasis added)
He continued on later in the post by stating:
As abundant as God’s blessings are in our lives, what we give away results in even greater blessing.
This sounds more out of the classic textbook of the Prosperity preachers that John MacArthur and his supporters constantly rail against.
Matthew 7:16 says that "You will recognize them by their fruits." What are Pastor MacArthur's fruits? On one hand, he condemns Prosperity Preachers for fleecing the flock and tying their giving to blessings. Then, on the other hand, he uses the same tactic, which has led to a multi-million dollar empire, as described in Julie Roys article The Prosperous Lifestyle of America’s Anti-Prosperity Gospel Preacher.
The primary of this article is not to "expose" Pastor MacArthur for more hypocrisy or double-speak, although clarification from Grace To You and JMac himself should be shared. Our focus, however, should be on what God's Word actually states regarding issues like this and making sure that we are not misled by manipulative techniques to fleece the flock.
When we see how the Apostle Paul conducted himself, he was willing to sacrifice his own financial situation for the purpose of preaching the Gospel and keeping his credibility intact.
In 2 Corinthians 11:7-15, Paul explained to the Corinthian Church that he was refusing to take their money in order to better serve them and make it all about the Gospel:
"I preached God's gospel to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
I've been quite critical of mega-churches, primarily because they focus on building up the celebrity-mentality of Christians, making the central focus on the "amazing preaching" by the pastor.
The other aspect is the building up of earthly possession. Almost all mega-churches have multi-million dollar budgets. Grace Community Church is no exception. On top of that, ministry is not supposed to be profit-driven, yet it appears that John MacArthur is pulling six-figure incomes from multiple "ministries."
Remember, being critical of Pastor MacArthur, or anyone for that matter, is not a criticism of their entire ministry or every single thing that someone says. It's a critique of that specific issue. JMac has said many good things. I've commended him repeatedly for taking a stand against California's unConstitutional restrictions on our right to freely worship God as we see fit. Sitting under his teaching has greatly impacted my theological belief system.
However, all the good that he's done does not excuse error or unbiblical behavior. As I always say, past good behavior does not justify current error, just like past bad behavior does not invalidate something good be taught. We take each issue on a case-by-case basis. A critique is not a condemnation of their entire ministry. It's simply a condemnation of that specific issue. Where we get into discrediting the entire ministry is if there's a lack of repentance, per Matthew 18.
Let's stay focused on God's Word. There are so many pastors doing ministry the right way, walking through life with their congregations, not profiting off of their ministry for God. Let's help support them instead of pad the bank accounts of multi-millionaire Evangelical Elites.