MinistryWatch founder Rusty Leonard was interviewed on ABC's 20/20 with John Stossel regarding the lack of financial transparency among some televangelists.
Articles from John MacArthur
In light of televangelist Oral Roberts' death, how much influence did Oral Roberts have on the word of faith movement and also Prosperity Doctrine? John MacArthur explains.
John MacArthur writes against the things going on with Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Christian Ministry Marketplace
A fuller list of generosity resources from around the world, compiled by Sas Conradie of the Global Generosity Initiative, is available here:
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Harvest Bible Chapel Cynically Responds to World Magazine's Article Highlighting its Financial, Leadership and Governance Problems
Following the publication of World Magazine's investigative report on Pastor James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) last week, HBC quickly issued a highly unusual response.
Based on the information contained in the Roys article, HBC's unfortunate response to it and other concerning information highlighted by the Elephant's Debt blog and others over the years, MinistryWatch encourages donors to Walk in the Word and other ministries related to HBC that extend beyond the church itself to prayerfully consider finding other ministry efforts to support.
Hard Times at Harvest
Former elders, pastors, and staffers from Chicago’s Harvest Bible Chapel accuse the church of financial mismanagement and a culture of deception and intimidation.
MinistryWatch Issues a Donor Alert for Food for the Poor Due to Deceptive Donor Solicitations and History of Misusing Donor Funds
MinistryWatch advises donors who have been, or are considering giving, to Food for the Poor to prayerfully consider donating to other similar ministries which can be identified in our MinistryWatch database. Accordingly, we are removing our financial efficiency rating on Food for the Poor and issuing this Donor Alert as a means of alerting potential donors to Food for the Poor about these concerns.
Harvest Bible Chapel Responds to Our Criticism of their Lawsuit Against The Elephant's Debt Blog and Reporter Julie Roys
Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) released a statement apparently in response to MinistryWatch’s and other press outlets questioning their motives for pursuing a lawsuit against the Elephant's Debt blog and reporter Julie Roys. HBC covered two issues in its statement but did not respond to many of the issues raised in our original article. While MinistryWatch has requested an opportunity to ask questions of HBC and perhaps thereby resolve some of our questions, HBC has thus far chosen to respond via this statement only, which unfortunately leaves many questions unanswered.
Is Pastor James MacDonald Seeking to Suppress Negative Information About Himself and Harvest Bible Chapel?
James MacDonald, and the church he pastors - Harvest Bible Chapel - are no strangers to controversy. MacDonald has been the subject of considerable criticism from former leaders in his church for a wide variety of misdeeds, some of which he has admitted were wrong, and either apologized for or changed his behavior. The criticisms, which include but are not limited to gambling, financial mismanagement and an excessive salary and lifestyle by MacDonald were carefully catalogued, and can still be found, on a website named The Elephant's Debt, a blog run by former members of Harvest Bible Chapel which began operations in 2012.
In a rather remarkable and strange twist to a largely dormant situation, MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel recently launched a defamation lawsuit against Ryan Mahoney and Scott Bryant (including their wives as well), the former members of Harvest Bible Chapel who run the Elephant’s Debt blog. The lawsuit also names ex-Moody Radio host Julie Roys, whose involvement in this situation is likely the key reason for MacDonald taking this court action at this time.
Luis Palau Reveals He's Defying the Odds, Shares Cancer Update and Future Plans for Ministry
World-renowned evangelist Luis Palau shared an update about his health on Thursday as well as information about upcoming plans for his ministry work throughout the world.
At the top of the year, the beloved minister made the unexpected announcement that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. In his Thanksgiving Day update, however, Palau testified about how he's defying the odds and doing much better than doctors had anticipated.
Joni Eareckson Tada Diagnosed With Cancer Again: 'I Know God Loves Me'
Joni Eareckson Tada, a popular evangelical speaker and advocate for people with disabilities, revealed a new cancer diagnosis three years after being declared cancer-free following a battle with stage 3 breast cancer.
"When I received the unexpected news of cancer from my oncological surgeon, I relaxed and smiled, knowing that my sovereign God loves me dearly and holds me tightly in His hands. What good is it if we only trust the Lord when we understand His ways? That only guarantees a life filled with doubts," she said.
'By God's Grace': Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraaff Says His Cancer is in Remission
Christian radio host Hank Hanegraaff announced on social media last week that his cancer is in remission.
In a Facebook video post on Nov. 8, Hanegraaff updated his followers on his health.
"The bottom line is I heard a word that I didn't think I would hear - at least this soon," Hanegraaff said in the video. "And that is the word remission. So for the first time since I started this battle with cancer 20 months ago, I am finally in remission."
Show Them the Money: Gospel for Asia Faces Class Action over Christmas Catalogs
Gospel for Asia, which focuses primarily on India, offers donors 179 gift options on its website and in its annual Christmas catalog, ranging from water buffaloes to sewing machines. But an ongoing lawsuit alleges that donor money isn't actually used for those things. The suit also claims that funds solicited for disaster relief after floods or hurricanes are similarly misused.
Two couples have separately accused GFA of sending only 13 percent of its donations to the field, not the oft-promised 100 percent. One of the cases has stalled in court. In the other, federal judge Timothy Brooks took the unusual step of appointing a "special master" to "finally get to the bottom" of the financial trail in June. In September, he green-lighted the switch to a class-action lawsuit.
The class is enormous: It covers about 180,000 donors looking to recover $376 million in donations given since 2009.
The Master's University, Headed by Pastor John MacArthur, Plans Corrective Actions After Being Placed on Probation by Accreditation Commission
On July 18, 2018, the Master's University (TMUS) received a probation letter from the WASC Senior College and University Commission, the regional accrediting agency for higher education institutions throughout California and Hawaii. This probation does not revoke the school's accreditation status, but requires them to take action to correct the identified deficiencies within two years to avoid the withdrawal of their accreditation by the Commission in keeping with U.S. Department of Education regulations.
The school has been accredited by the WASC since 1975 and have responded to their suggestions for improving the academic effectiveness of the institution in previous assessments. However, these concerns are not related to academic quality but the governance and operation of the institution as a whole, and raises questions about the relationship between the university and Grace Community Church which John MacArthur also pastors.
Anne Graham Lotz Reveals She Has Breast Cancer
Anne Graham Lotz revealed Tuesday that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Lotz asks believers everywhere to pray for her.
"Would you pray for me? Pray for God to heal me in whichever way He deems would bring Him the most glory. Healing without surgery, with surgery, with surgery and follow-up treatment, or through the greater miracle of the resurrection," she wrote.
Hybels Heir Quits Willow as New Accusations Arise Before Global Leadership Summit
Steve Carter, teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, resigned Sunday after new allegations surfaced against founding pastor Bill Hybels.
Carter, one of Hybels's two heirs at Willow, had previously apologized for the church's handling of accusations against Hybels, who resigned earlier this year after allegations of misconduct.
Prosperity Gospel Taught to 4 in 10 Evangelical Churchgoers
About a third of Protestant churchgoers say their congregation teaches that God will bless them if they donate money. Two-thirds say God wants them to prosper. One in 4 say they have to do something for God to receive material blessings in return.
Those are among the key findings of a new study on "prosperity gospel" beliefs from Nashville-based LifeWay Research, which surveyed 1,010 Americans who attend a Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month.
A Money Lesson From John Wesley
John Wesley was noted for his simple but profound financial principles. He is well known for the following famous quote:
Having, first, gained all you can, and, secondly saved all you can, then give all you can.
This simple money lesson by Wesley is summed up by that phrase, and it is how he lived his life.
Bill Hybels Resigns from Willow Creek
Bill Hybels has stepped down as senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, the Chicago-area megachurch he founded over 40 years ago, citing the controversy over recent allegations against him.
A Tribute to Billy Graham
Televangelist Benny Hinn Admits Going Too Far With Prosperity Gospel in Wake of Billy Graham's Death
In the wake of the death of renowned evangelist Billy Graham, controversial faith-healing televangelist Benny Hinn, who has often been criticized for his endorsement of the prosperity gospel, said in a stunning confession Wednesday that sometimes he has taken the erroneous gospel too far.
"We get attacked for preaching prosperity, well it's in the Bible, but I think some have gone to the extreme with it sadly, and it's not God's word what is taught and I think I'm as guilty as others. Sometimes you go a little farther than you really need to go and then God brings you back to normality and reality," Hinn, 65, said as he reflected on Graham's death with a ministry colleague in a Facebook Live broadcast.
Billy Graham (1918-2018)
"Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God." - Billy Graham
Evangelist Billy Graham has died at the age of 99.
Billy Graham was perhaps the most significant religious figure of the 20th century, and the organizations and the movement he helped spawn continue to shape the 21st.
Fallen PTL Preacher Jim Bakker Is Back With a New Message
Three decades after his PTL empire near Charlotte crumbled amid financial and sex scandals, Jim Bakker is back on TV with a different, darker message: The Apocalypse is coming and you better get ready.
However, the main mission of "The Jim Bakker Show" appears to be to sell you fuel-less generators, doomsday guidebooks and freeze-dried food with a shelf-life of up to 30 years.
World Renowned Evangelist Luis Palau Reveals He Has Stage 4 Lung Cancer
Famed evangelist Luis Palau revealed in a video this week that he has stage 4 lung cancer and that it would "literally take a miracle" for him to be healed.
Palau, 83, who is known around the globe for boldly preaching the gospel, stood next to his sons, Andrew and Keven, as he revealed that his first reaction to the news was to cry over the fact that he won't be able to hear his sons' voices anymore.
Kenneth Copeland Loves His New $36 Million Jet
Kenneth Copeland has revealed his latest acquisition: a $36-million jet.
It may be that a rich donor simply gave the plane to Copeland as a year end donation. If owned by the nonprofit, the plane is supposed to somehow provide for the public good. Since Copeland won't disclose how he spends his nonprofit funds, we may never know.
Gospel for Asia Defendants Must Produce Evidence in RICO Case or Admit They Can't
On November 21, Gospel for Asia CEO K.P. Yohannan and his fellow GFA defendants were dealt a legal setback in federal court when Judge Timothy Brooks ordered them to respond to plaintiffs' discovery requests for information.
GFA appears to be claiming two contradictory messages. First, they adamantly claim they are spending all funds as promised. But second, they are telling the judge and plaintiffs that they haven't got control of the entities spending the money and so they can't provide proof about how the money is being spent.
If GFA's defendants really can't document how the field partners spent the money, then their claims to use donated funds in accord with donor intent are unverifiable.
Gospel for Asia's Tax-Free Subdivision Under Scrutiny
Gospel for Asia in Kaufman County, Texas, says its single family homes shouldn't be taxed. But others say not so fast.
Questions raised by a local TV station have triggered a review of the group's tax-exempt status by Kaufman County tax officials. Chief Appraiser Chris Peace said in a statement that the district's lawyers had been directed to "to thoroughly review the tax-exempt status of the Gospel for Asia."
Dr. R.C. Sproul
The Sproul family has shared the sad news with us that Dr. R.C. Sproul went home to be with the Lord this afternoon. Please pray for the Sprouls. Further updates will be available soon.
Local TV Station Investigates Transparency at 12 Largest Charlotte Area Churches
In an effort to better inform local donors, Channel 9 asked 12 of Charlotte's largest churches to voluntarily provide basic information about church leadership and finances, including total revenue, total expenses and leadership compensation. None of the churches would disclose the individual compensation of their leadership or senior pastor.
Tim Burns, a certified public accountant who helps run MinistryWatch, refutes the notion that a pastor's salary is none of our business.
"I believe that donors have the ultimate responsibility of giving to a church that is financially transparent," Burns said. "They deserve to know how much their pastor makes. And if they're not given this information in our mind that's a huge red flag."
Ravi Zacharias Faces Criticism for Exaggerated Credentials and Settling a Lawsuit with an Apparent Extortionist
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), a well-respected teaching ministry in evangelical circles with a global reach, has recently been criticized by a self-proclaimed atheist who has devoted considerable time and energy to discrediting many of Ravi Zacharias' claimed academic credentials. His name is Steve Baughman and he describes why he has focused on Ravi Zacharias on his website.
Baughman focused initially on the various academic credentials Ravi Zacharias claimed. In reviewing this research and the response from the ministry about it, it is our view Baughman does reveal an unfortunate pattern of Zacharias, at a minimum, exaggerating his academic background. Recently, Baughman highlighted a court filing by Ravi Zacharias in relation to an apparent extortion attempt against himself. On November 9th, however, the case was settled without going before a judge and/or jury and therefore, we may now never get answers to the questions that naturally arise from that which we do know at this point.
Meanwhile, while quite disturbing, none of the above undermines the solid, biblically-based teaching for which RZIM and Ravi Zacharias have become well-known around the world. In MinistryWatch's view, the ministry's teaching materials are excellent and the roughly 80 RZIM staff traveling the world to share this teaching are very effective. However, both the credentials exaggeration issue and the unfortunate online relationship with the couple, which led to their seemingly successful extortion attempt of Zacharias, raise legitimate questions about Zacharias' character and judgment. In MinistryWatch's opinion, these troubling developments are significant enough to warrant making donors to RZIM aware of this situation.
Why Hasn't Gospel for Asia Told Donors about Cancellation of Charity Registration in India?
At the beginning of October, The Times of India reported that the Indian government canceled the charity registration of Believers' Church. BC is the field partner of Gospel for Asia in the United States. GFA is the second largest missionary organization in the U.S.
According to the report in The Times of India, Believers' Church acknowledged that the church was not bringing in foreign funds.
Indian Government Halts Flow of Foreign Funds to Gospel for Asia
In a surprising development, the nation of India's Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the registration of Gospel for Asia and three related organizations. According to the Times of India, Gospel for Asia (now called Ayana Charitable Trust) was the largest recipient of foreign funds in the nation during fiscal year 2016.
"Benny Hinn Is My Uncle, but Prosperity Preaching Isn't for Me"
In a recent Christianity Today article, Costi Hinn, the nephew of Benny Hinn, relates how he came to question and ultimately reject the prosperity teaching he grew up in.
Researchers' Stunning Find About the Human Brain Proves the Bible's Wisdom is Timeless
A newly released study has found that generosity isn't just beneficial to recipients of peoples' kind gestures, as it apparently has some profound benefits for those who choose to give of themselves as well.
A press release announcing the results of the study - which is titled, "A Neural Link Between Generosity and Happiness," and was published this month in the journal Nature Communications - summarizes the findings as follows: "Generosity makes people happier, even if they are only a little generous. People who act solely out of self-interest are less happy."
Christian Orgs Labeled Hate Groups on Top Charity Site
Several Christian organizations known for their advocacy on behalf of traditional marriage and families were recently labeled hate groups on one of America's top charity research sites, GuideStar.
TBN's Jan Crouch Found Liable for Covering Up Granddaughter's Alleged Rape
A California jury has found that the late Jan Crouch, the founder and popular face of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), is partly to blame for mishandling an incident when her teenage granddaughter was allegedly molested and raped at a telethon in 2006.
A Federal Judge Sets 2019 Trial Date for Fraud Case Against Gospel for Asia
A federal judge in Western Arkansas ruled that one of the fraud and racketeering cases against Gospel for Asia will go to trial in 2019. U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks set the date for a jury trial on April 15, 2019.
Hank Hanegraaff Talks 'Turbulent' Weeks; Reveals Health Issues, Looking Forward 'to Another World'
Christian radio personality Hank Hanegraaff, also known as the "Bible Answer Man," has opened up about the "turbulent" past few weeks in his life, and revealed that he has been diagnosed with unexpected health issues. Hanegraaff posted a video blog on his Facebook page on Wednesday, where he addressed all his listeners and supporters to inform them of some of the changes in his life.
"The last couple of weeks have been turbulent, to say the least. But somehow, by God's grace, I have never been in a more peaceful place in the entirety of my Christian life. I just feel surrounded by the love and goodness and grace of God," Hanegraaff said.
Trump to Ease Enforcement of Limits on Church Political Activity
President Trump is set to sign an executive order Thursday to make it easier to for churches and other religious groups to participate in politics without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. Trump plans to sign an order in the morning that attempts to overcome a provision in the federal tax code prohibiting religious organizations from directly opposing or endorsing political candidates.
Learning from Benny Hinn
by Warren Cole Smith
We can indeed learn from Benny Hinn. We can learn what not to do, of course, but we can also use what is happening to him and his ministry this week as encouragement to do what effective Christian leaders from Jesus to Augustine to Chuck Colson have done: Be transparent and vulnerable before a watching world.
J.C. Watts Sues Feed the Children
J.C. Watts is suing Feed the Children. Watts, a former U.S. congressman, was president and CEO of the Oklahoma City-based charity last year. He alleged in the lawsuit that he was fired in retaliation for reporting problems and irregularities at the charity to the state attorney general's office.
After IRS Raid, Benny Hinn Ministries Claims Full Cooperation with Governmental Entities
Via the organization's Facebook page earlier this evening, Benny Hinn Ministries issued a statement about the IRS/Postal Service raid on their headquarters.
"Bible Answer Man" Hank Hanegraaff Joins Orthodox Church
Known to millions as the "Bible Answer Man," 77-year-old Hank Hanegraaff and his wife were received into the Orthodox Church this year on the great feast of Palm Sunday, at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC.
Charity Officials Are Increasingly Receiving Million-Dollar Paydays
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story on excessive compensation for non-profit executives. While most of the article focused on secular non-profits, it also included information about two Christian ministries, one of which MinistryWatch has highlighted for abuse in the past. The two were the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and Hal Lindsey Ministries. Rabbi Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews earned $1.1 million in 2015, the third year in a row he made over $1 million from the charity. Additionally, several of the Rabbi's family members are on the ministry's payroll. Hall Lindsey's ministry brought in $8.1 million in donations in 2014 and paid Mr. Lindsey and his wife a total of $4 million or almost half of the ministry's total donations.
Sadly, the article points out that the IRS almost never challenges these salaries. The IRS audits less than 1% of non-profit tax returns. As a result, the amount of abuse of donors has increased over the years as there is very little risk of getting caught or punished. Wise donors can use services like MinistryWatch to try to help shield them from such abusive practices.