Northview Church in Indiana is defending its decision to hire CJ Johnson Pastor Embezzlement as their senior pastor in 2021, even though former members of the now-defunct Southland City Church in Minnesota.
He held a similar position there, have accused him of being a lousy leader and running a church where finances were not transparent.
In a report by Current, several former members and workers of both Southland City Church and Northview Church talk about what they call a troubling pattern of abuse by the megachurch pastor.
This is where the claims against Johnson first came to light.
What happened to CJ Johnson Pastor Embezzlement?
Johnson, who is 38 years old, is accused of “speaking dishonestly from the pulpit, not being open about church finances, and threatening or manipulating those who questioned his ideas or leadership,” according to Current.
Johnson’s claimed abuse is said to have caused most of Southland’s employees to quit in late 2020 without having new jobs lined up.
When The Christian Post asked Northview Church’s executive pastor Jason Pongratz about the claims in the story, he said the church’s elders had done “full due diligence” and worked hard to ensure he was the person God wanted them to hire.
Everyone worked hard to make sure that the senior pastor was someone they could stand behind as the person God has for the church for the following chapters in Northview’s history.
The Northview Church leaders didn’t take this job lightly. “Pastor CJ went through a full process of due diligence by Northview’s elders,” Pongratz said in a message to CP that was also sent to Current.
He also said that the accusations against Johnson were a “distortion of the truth” by some former Southland City Church employees.
“Recently, former members of Pastor CJ’s staff have called out to take responsibility for their part in distorting the truth and to start making up with Pastor CJ. But we think it’s best for everyone if our church gives the former staff members space to heal with Pastor CJ and respects their privacy,” Pongratz said.
Northview Church representative statement
A Northview Church representative also told CP that the church plans to discuss the accusations against Johnson “more directly” next week.
Michelle Creasman, an elder at Southland from 2018 to December 2020, told Current that Johnson ran Southland into the ground.
She is speaking out now because she wants to hold him accountable and warn the 8,800 people who worship at Northview Church’s 12 campuses weekly.
“I never want to help write a negative article about CJ. Instead, I want to hold him accountable at his new church and educate the congregation so they can make an informed choice about where to call home,”
Cressman said. “His actions hurt many people, and they are still trying to get back on their feet. whether emotionally, spiritually, or financially. I wants to make sure that was known.”
CJ Johnson Pastor Embezzlement money collection report for the sake of the church
Josh Johnson and his family went to Southland for a long time in the 2010s. In the report, he says that when the church moved into its building in 2017, members were constantly asked to give money, which made him worry about how the money was being spent.
He said, “I went direct to CJ and asked how the money donated was being split up inside and outside of Southland. CJ told me to talk to Ryan Fox, who handled the church’s money.”
He didn’t answer when I called, texted, or emailed him. I would hear nothing. When I tried to talk to them about money in person, they would change the subject or refuse to answer.
Former members of Southland remember that Johnson once wrongly said that a member had given $1 million to the church. The report says that Johnson used the story to get church members to give money, which worked.
Creasman told Current that Johnson’s claim surprised her because the $1 million wasn’t a gift but a loan from her family to the church that had to be paid back.
“CJ stood on that stage more than once and told the congregation that someone had given them a million dollars. So that were the first time we thought, “Oh, that’s not right. “Why does he say that?'” she asked him.
Bob Clatterbuck, who used to be the volunteer head of security at Southland, said he was threatened when he asked about the $1 million loan from Creasman’s family.
“The next thing I know, CJ calls me and tells me to come into the church,” Clatterbuck said. “He pretty much said he would kick me out of the church. He probably said, “I’ve asked people to leave for less.”
Creasman said that after her family gave Southland a $1 million loan, she and her husband were asked to join the elder board.
This allowed them to see what was happening behind the scenes at the church, like when many workers quit in late 2020.
She said that she and her husband contacted the Minnesota District Council of the Assemblies of God, which oversees Southland’s denomination in the area.
What happened during the Assemblies of God review?
During a review of the church’s operations by the Assemblies of God, she stepped down because denomination officials wouldn’t let Johnson take a leave of absence.
Creasman said, “I quit because I saw that the Assemblies of God only cared about their name. They are behind CJ. They don’t even have any type of rules to follow.”
She said her husband stayed on the board to ensure the church did an audit and was willing to pay for it. However, another Assemblies of God church, Emmanuel Christian Center, did it as part of a church takeover when it became too much for Johnson and his team to handle.
Southland was kicked out of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability in 2020 because it didn’t meet the organization’s requirements.
The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability accredits Christian nonprofits that meet accountability, transparency, fundraising, and board administration standards.
Several former Northview workers and event attendees told Current that they think Johnson is leading Northview in the same direction as Southland.
One former worker who asked to remain anonymous said Northview was like the Titanic.
“We’re on, that feels comfortable, but people in the ship’s belly knows we’ve hit something, and water is poured in, but no one is talking about it,” the former worker said.
“Northview is an important to me, and I did not want it to go down. But I think it’s going down, and if there isn’t enough humility, grace, and willingness to have this talk, it will go down.”