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john macarthur

July 05, 2011

One of the many gifts my parents bequeathed to me is a love of history. I have not seen my parents read many Christian living or spiritual growth books, but I have seen them read countless biographies and histories. One of my great joys is to buy them books for birthdays and Christmas (and any other occasion I can think of) and then to talk with them about what they’ve read. My mother recently read the new biography of John MacArthur and during our subsequent discussion I asked if she would consider writing down a few of her major takeaways. She was kind enough to do so. So what follows is written by my mother, Barbara Challies. Enjoy!

John MacArthur BiographyI read Iain Murray’s recent biography of John MacArthur after my husband received it as a gift. As my reading tends to be mostly about, and by, “dead white men,” I had little direct knowledge of MacArthur, who is still very much alive. I did, however, know him by reputation and held him in the highest regard for the wonderful consistency and forthrightness I heard of from others. So, when Tim asked me to write a brief response to Murray’s book, I did it gladly, but as a MacArthur neophyte.

I had expected to read of a man who loves God’s word with his whole heart and is determined to serve him with all biblical faithfulness. That is exactly what I did find. What I did not expect to find, and I am speaking with all honesty, is someone so very interesting. Why was I surprised? To be honest, I think it is because he is a nice-looking man with a nice-looking wife and children from a big church in California. I thought “they” were mass-marketed, with little appeal to this serious (ex-patriate) Canadian.

So what have I found interesting about this man? If you don’t mind, that is what I will deal with in a few brief paragraphs. I take for granted you are familiar with his excellent, biblically-based theology.

Insight = Bible + History

The first thing is the level of his insight. Love of the Bible and a love of church history—MacArthur has both—always make people insightful. They enable a bottom-line, “essence of the essence” judgment of issues that seems prophetic. In reality, it is the weighing of alternatives on a very finely balanced biblical-historical set of scales. What seems effortless is really the product of much reading and contemplation. MacArthur, as a very young man, was able to see and articulate the problem with the modern American church—easy believism and lack of holiness. When the charismatic movement began to become mainstream, he spoke out against it on the basis of the bedrock of “Scripture Alone,” and his knowledge of similar movements in the past which had harmed the church. He saw immediately that Scripture and experience could not stand as fellow conduits to knowing God. One must engulf the other. Similarly, with Evangelicals and Catholics Together, MacArthur quickly grasped that the essential question—What is a Christian in the first place?—was left unaddressed. The essence of his understanding of each of these issues is so simple that it is easy to underestimate the complete clarity needed to reach them. Again, I will say it is the cumulative effect of immersion in biblical study and church history.


June 24, 2011

This is an interesting little excerpt from Iain Murray’s recent biography of John MacArthur. In his Introduction Murray seeks to show what makes a man a leader among evangelicals. He offers a five-point answer:

In brief, an evangelical is a person who believes the ‘three rs’: ruin by the Fall, redemption through Jesus Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit. It follows that an ‘evangelical leader’ is a person who stands out in the advancement and defence of those truths. The title does not necessarily imply success judged by numbers and immediate results. on that basis neither Paul nor Tyndale might qualify.

February 10, 2011

Yesterday I shared the first part of a two-part interview with John MacArthur. Yesterday’s questions revolved around Dr. MacArthur’s new book Slave, the best Bible translations, avoiding scandal, the challenges he has faced in ministry, and the advice he would give himself if he could go back to the early days of his ministry.

Today the interview continues…

You are obviously a busy man. What advice would you give to pastors on loving their wives and children amidst the many demands of the pastoral ministry?

John MacArthurIt is critically important that the pastor give priority to his family. As Paul told Timothy regarding the qualification of an elder, “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” So, this is a priority that comes to us directly from the Scriptures.

The most important things a Christian father can do for his children are to love their mother in a Christ-like way (Ephesians 5) and to train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6). And the most important thing he can do for his wife is to pursue Christ, and then to love and lead her out of the overflow of his devotion for the Savior. Thus, the fundamental key for being both a good husband and father is to be a godly man—one who fervently loves the Lord and is shepherding his own heart and mind with the Word of God. And that is intensely practical. To be an effective parent and a model husband, you must be faithful in your walk with Christ. Everything else in life flows out of that. Then your leadership in the home will be marked by an attitude of humble sacrifice and selfless service. As the Spirit uses His Word to sanctify your heart, you will be able to shepherd and care for your family.

There are other important things that fathers must do, of course—such as praying for their children, correcting them with patience and gentleness, instilling within them a love for the church, spending time with them, encouraging them, befriending them, and helping them make wise friendships of their own. But the heart of Christian parenting is being a faithful Christian.

That kind of genuine Christianity, daily lived out before those who know him best, brings great credibility to the pastor’s preaching and leadership in the church.

How can we best critique people who are “in our camp” and yet believe things different from us? Or behave in ways we do not appreciate? How can we know where to draw those lines?

September 28, 2009

There are a vast number of ministries serving the church today. Though I am familiar with many of them (by name at least) I have often wondered what each of them offer to us, and what we can offer to them. I thought it might be useful to offer a series of interviews with some prominent ministries to ask just this kind of question—who are you?, what do you do?, why do you exist?, and so on. It is useful, I think, even to know the size of the budgets of these organizations and the number of people they employ. You may be surprised at how big (or how small) some of these organizations really are. So over the next few weeks I will be interviewing representatives from many of these ministries. I trust you will find the interviews interesting and hope they will show you how different organizations are seeking to serve the Lord in such different ways.

First up in the series is Grace to You, a ministry that I am sure is familiar to most of us as the teaching ministry of John MacArthur. In this interview Grace to You is represented by Phil Johnson, the original Pyromaniac. Kudos to Phil who (remarkably) typed this whole interview on his iPhone while flying from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Those thumbs must be throbbing.

How and when did GTY begin?
This year marks the ministry’s 40th anniversary. We technically started with a handful of volunteers on John MacArthur’s first Sunday as pastor of Grace Community Church. There was a man in the church who coordinated the recording of those earliest sermons on reel-to-reel tape. His plan was to make a few copies to send to missionaries. He would make the copies by daisy-chaining tape recorders together in his living room and duplicating tapes in real time. He was doing this on the first Sunday John began pastoring the church, and that first Sunday’s sermon is still in the GTY catalog. It’s titled “How to Play Church.”

Right away, people began to request copies to send to friends and relatives. The guy who was doing the recordings kept having to recruit volunteers to meet the demand for tapes. That was the genesis of Grace to You (known as the Word of Grace Tape ministry in those days).

John’s first Sunday at Grace was in February of 1969. By the end of ‘69 the ministry had outgrown that living room and was moved to the church and placed under the oversight of the elders.

Cassette tapes were fairly new and unknown in 1969, but the need for a more efficient way to duplicate and distribute recordings drove the elders to the new technology. The cassette format made it possible for tapes to be duplicated at high speed and distributed by the thousands.

Tapes were cheap: $1 apiece. And within 5 years the ministry was distributing a million tapes a year. (We get that many downloads in a typical month today.)

In 1978, because of the persistence of one volunteer (named Norm Sper), a daily radio broadcast featuring John MacArthur’s teaching began airing in three cities (Baltimore, Tampa, and Tulsa). Known as “Grace to You,” the program was 30 minutes long, meaning only half a sermon could air each day. Industry experts insisted the format would not work; sermons should be aired on weekends in an hour-long format. Daily programs needed to be live talk or studio-based teaching, they said. Sermons were too impersonal.

John Macarthur himself was skeptical of the format and wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the prospects of radio at first. But Norm and a staff of enthusiastic recruits worked tirelessly to get the broadcast on the air, and it was immediately successful.

I was living in the Tampa Bay area when “Grace to You” debuted in the autumn of ‘78, and I was a devoted listener from day one.

I came to work for the ministry in 1983, and in 1985 we formally merged the Word of Grace tape ministry with “Grace to You” radio. The resulting organization became a standalone, nonprofit parachurch ministry under an independent board, and we soon adopted “Grace to You” as the name of the consolidated ministry.

Why does GTY exist? What are its chief goals and key emphases?
Our purpose statement speaks to that very point:

As believers committed to God and walking in obedience to Him, we affirm the purpose of Grace to You, which is to teach biblical truth with clarity, taking advantage of various means of mass communications to expand the sphere of John MacArthur’s teaching ministry.

We use mass communications media to expose John’s teaching to as wide an audience as possible “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).

One of our principal tasks is to protect believers from being “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (v. 14). We accept the God-given responsibility of “speaking the truth in love” (v. 15) and strive for the growth of the church and glory of the Lord, rather than the praise and honor of men.

Our role is not to supplant the local church’s ministry, but to support it by providing additional resources for those hungering for the truth of God’s Word. Media ministries can never substitute for involvement in a biblical church, group Bible study, or interaction with a teacher. Yet we sense the need for more in-depth resources, evidenced by the many Christians and Christian leaders worldwide who depend on our ministry to supplement their own study.

Our desire is that God be glorified through Grace to You’s resources. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of this ministry, and we desire to perform our work as unto Him, to reflect Him to all those we encounter, and to operate not in our own strength but through His power (Philippians 4:13).

How can GTY serve the readers of this web site?
We aim to supplement, not supplant, the ministries of local churches by providing resources for in-depth Bible teaching. Our most important ministries have pastors and church leaders in view. We also have a vital ministry to lay people who (for various reasons) aren’t finding adequate spiritual nourishment from the weekly teaching in whatever church they attend.

Who are the key leaders within the ministry?
John MacArthur, of course, and our board of directors. We also have a 6-man management team who oversee our staff on a day-to-day basis, I lead them, and Don Green (managing director) handles most of the hands-on administration. All our staff, starting with the management team, are supremely gifted. The second-newest guy on the management team has been there more than 10 years, so it’s a very stable ministry.

How many employees does GTY have?
Around 50 full time plus 175 volunteers who donate time and energy every week.

What is GTY’s annual budget? How is the ministry financed and how do you ensure financial integrity?
Our annual budget today is about $17.9 million. GTY is funded about 85 percent by donations from our listeners; 15 percent by sales of materials. We manage costs and expenditures carefully. We have been members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountavility (ECFA) since its inception. We follow standard accounting and reporting procedures, and we are audited annually by a large, independent accounting firm.

How do you expect GTY will be different in ten years? Twenty years?
I expect we’ll have some younger staff members and lots of new media. But we want to be faithful to our purpose statement, and to our doctrinal position. Both of those have remained unchanged for 40+ years.

J. Vernon McGee’s ministry is the model for our future plans. We intend to keep broadcasting John MacArthur’s timeless Bible teaching as long as people will listen—hopefully my successors will still be doing that even long after we’re all gone.

How does GTY work with other Christian ministries?
We obviously maintain an ongoing, informal partnership with our sister ministries, The Master’s College & Seminary and Grace Community Church. That’s a fairly close relationship, even though we are not organizationally connected in any way. It’s based on common ministry goals and strengthened by the fact that we affirm the same doctrinal statement.

We also enjoy friendly relations with a host of other ministries, such as T4G, ACE, Ligonier, Desiring God, etc. Our involvement with these other ministries ranges from conferences in which we are joint participants to staff relationships in which we often compare notes, share ideas, discuss common goals, and seek solutions to common problems.

Speaking personally, what are some of the things you’ve learned from John MacArthur while working closely with him in this ministry?
I’ve learned to appreciate the importance of diligent study, courage in the face of opposition to the truth, and various helps for better discernment. Also, I was pretty much an Arminian until I heard John MacArthur’s teaching on Ephesians 1-2, and that series convinced me that God is sovereign in election.

What are some of the ways GTY has seen evidence of God’s hand of blessing?
The long-term, steady growth of the ministry has been remarkable. No matter what crisis or financial collapse threatens the national economy, it seems God always supplies our needs. The only significant downturn our ministry has ever experienced was owing to bad decisions involving subtle compromises in our development philosophy. We have seen God supply our needs again and again, in miraculous ways, and as long as we have kept our focus on doing ministry rather than getting diverted by fundraising campaigns, every need we have is always abundantly supplied.

How can the readers of this web site serve and support GTY?
Pray for us, partner with us, and use the resources we provide to help spread God’s Word in an increasingly ungodly culture.

January 06, 2009
Why Are there Never Enough Parking Spaces at the Prostate Clinic?
Carl Trueman offers more than a great (and original) title in this article about the Christian obsession with culture. “Plenty of talk about Christian approaches to art, music, literature, sex, even international politics. All very interesting subjects, I’m sure, and the topics of many a chardonnay-fuelled discussion after a hearty dinner party. But what about subjects that aren’t quite so interesting? Take street sweepers, for example; or hotel lavatory attendants; or workers on an umbrella manufacturing line. Why no conference on the Christian philosophy underlying these vital callings and trades?”
Mohler on Carson
Some valuable advice from Dr. Mohler: “Here is a simple rule to keep in mind: When D. A. Carson writes a book, buy it.”
Calvin on Knowing the Truth
Kevin Boling’s “Knowing the Truth” radio program will be featuring many Calvin experts in the coming days. Check the site for a schedule.
Calvin Audio Links
Martin Downes is collecting calvin-related audio links for those interested in hearing instead of reading about him.
Blake Hicks
Blake Hicks has an album (available on Noisetrade) called Songs of a Pious Heart. It is a tribute to Augustine’s confessions. You can read a review of it here.
December 24, 2008

A couple of days ago I was a guest on a radio program, discussing my favorite books from 2008. At one point the host asked what books I am looking forward to reading next year. I thought I’d share just a short list here. This is based only on books that have been announced or that I’ve somehow discovered in my online wanderings.

As you probably know, 2009 marks the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth. Hence we are going to see several Calvin biographies. It is actually surprising how few there are today; I’ve little doubt that this will be remedied next year. So for those of us who are indebted to Calvin but who know little about him, next year should offer a bounty of good resources. I hope to read at least two or three of those biographies.

2009 also marks Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday. The New York Times says “Throw in the fact that the next president of the United States, like Lincoln, is a former state legislator from Illinois, and an African-American who says he has been reading the writings of the man who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and you have, well, Lincoln-mania.” Because his birthday is in February, we can expect several biographies and other resources in the early months of the year. It’s not like we are suffering from a lack of top-notch biographies on Lincoln, but I expect to see the field grow even more crowded. Ronald C. White’s A. Lincoln: A Biography looks as if it may be the best of the bunch.

There are two books releasing on almost the same day (and for almost the same price—only $0.01 separates them) titled Finding God in The Shack. I’ll probably read them.

We will undoubtedly see a deluge of good Christian books next year. Some of the ones I am looking forward to are:

  • The Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington (disclosure: I’ve already read it and written an endorsement for it. It’s a very good book)
  • Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will or How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random … Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. by Kevin DeYoung. Of the writing of books dealing with God’s will there is no end; but this one looks both interesting and unique.
  • Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Bruce Ware.
  • The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness by Albert Mohler.
  • This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence by John Piper. He waited many years to write this book and I’m looking forward to reading it.

How about you? What books are you looking forward to reading next year?