Archives For John MacArthur


There always seems to be some sort of news of a scandal or shameful practices concerning professing Christians. Somewhere a pastor or professing Christian’s secret life of rampant sin gets revealed. As a result, we all (rightly) lose our collective breaths and our stomaches turn.

Then questions come. Why? How did this happen?

I remember hearing John MacArthur say,

“Nobody just falls out of a tree. They climb up in it, move around a bit, and then fall out.”

His point is obvious: this doesn’t happen overnight.

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I witnessed something today that I consider a remarkable privilege. It was as if I travelled back in time to colonial New England. And it happened here in the middle of the epicenter if technological development and advancement.

I’m in Los Angeles at Grace Church for the Shepherds’ Conference along with 3,000-plus other pastors, and mid sermon the power went out. The place went black with only emergency lights dimly shining in the cavernous brick auditorium that is Grace Church.

What did John MacArthur do? He grabbed a flashlight and just kept on preaching. He didn’t flinch. He was unflappable.  He literally just kept going. His voice grew with intensity as he unpacked the covenant of redemption. Soon his voice was traveling powerfully to every corner of the room.

Without being trite, let me just say, it was awesome. I felt like I was in an auditorium in Geneva with men leaning in to hear each word Calvin spoke or out in a field in western Massachusettes to hear Whitfield. Dr MacArthur just went on preaching Christ. In Spurgeon fashion he powerfully pleaded with pastors to preach Christ or stop preaching.

Since the power outage prevents access to his words, I’ll give you snippet here:

I just wish that the church would lift up Christ. If anyone would tag your church let it be this, “They were ever and always exalting Christ” you and your church should be known for robust Christology. Do you want to know the secret to Grace Church? These people keep be holding the glory of Christ and they have been and are being transformed! That’s the answer. When I watch TV preachers I yell at the TV. “Stop!! Give them Christ!” A truncated Christology does not help anyone. Men, you need to care less about what people want to hear and more about what they need to hear. Give them Christ.

This power outage served as an illustration for us. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you from preaching Christ! What a surprising blessing and timely lesson this was. I’m thankful for the providential feeling of going back in time, while being  greatly encouraged to keep plodding along in faithfulness.

Update: in talking with Phil Johnson today he let me know that the quick thinking pastor Mark Dever grabbed his iPhone and captured the scene described above. Take a listen below:

Just a quick note of follow up from yesterday’s post.

1) I was pleased to read the Grace to You Blog’s response. I appreciate the tone that was struck in that article and the attempt to highlight the maturity, experience, and care of Dr MacArthur along with the initial concerns.

2) I wrote my post because I thought the original GTY post was an unfair and overly broad characterization of a large, undefined group of people. I was individually linked among this group as a bad example or at least an example to make the author’s point. In my view this needed to be addressed and corrected.

3) As I had hoped to make clear in the post, I am still a beneficiary of Dr MacArthur’s ministry. His books litter my desk as I write at this moment and his sermons jam my iPhone. I recognize the body of his work is nearly unmatched. Please don’t get the wrong idea from me on this. I think you can disagree without discarding someone–especially someone I have benefited from so greatly.

4) I also recognize that there are young Reformed guys who are doing and saying things that not only would Dr MacArthur be not comfortable with but neither would I (because of how it intersects with Scripture). I think this is valid and timely point to make. However, it should be made in clear, specific terms. In short, I think there may be reason to point out some of these issues but it should be done in a far more nuanced and charitable way.

5) From my perspective the issue is done. I responded to an article and am done. Thanks for the comments, tweets, and messages–whether affirmative or negative they serve to make me think and evaluate. I apologize that I can’t get to all of them, but things are actually quite busy on my end. I will try in the near future to do so. But in the meantime, please know that I appreciate the way in which the Lord uses these things.

Sometimes unwritten rules are good, other times they are bad.

I recall an important meeting with my pastor several years ago. I was younger, more restless, and, of course Calvinistic. As a former Roman Catholic who had been converted they (along with Arminians) seemed to always be in my cross-hairs. My pastor lovingly took me to task. He talked to me about the danger of creating straw-men and then blowing them over with persuasive arguments. He was pointing out that my treatment of Catholics was a straw-man attack. He introduced me to James White’s books and ministry. As I read and listened to Dr White debate people outside of the tent of orthodox Christianity, I was impressed and instructed by his approach.

Similarly, I think it was Tim Keller who said once, “If your opponent wouldn’t agree with the accuracy of your statement about their beliefs then you should not say it.” This is difficult because, well, it’s hard work. Sometimes you have to tone down the rhetoric in order to be accurate. After all, as a Chrsitian the goal of our instruction is love that issues from a pure heart, and a sincere faith. (1 Tim. 1.5) We want to see people impacted by the Scriptures. We want to see people drawn and conformed to Christ.

WHY I AM WRITING THIS POST

This is why I was so disappointed last Wednesday. After an early morning meeting with our leaders in our church plant, I was driving home. My phone began erupting with messages about a certain article written by one of my living heroes in the faith where he referenced me unfavorably.

As I read the article my heart sunk. The article, now pretty much famous in the blogosphere, was a scolding by John MacArthur on the Young, Restless, and Reformed (YRR) folks.

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I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have quite a few jobs in my relatively young life. The experiences are truly life-shaping. However, there really is nothing like pastoral ministry. One aspect of its uniqueness is the amount of talk from within the camp of what we as pastors are to be doing. This is interesting because the job description is pretty simple: lead, feed, and protect the sheep. Pastors are to give themselves to the word and to prayer.

This is simple. This is hard.

Therefore, as a pastor, I really appreciate when quality books come my way and add to the discussion of the subject of preaching. They are oftentimes my favorite books to read. In particular, I love reading of how other preachers do what they do. I love reading how they expound the priority and practice of preaching. It is refreshing and instructive.

I have been both refreshed and instructed by Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching. The book has contributions from Mohler, Sproul, Piper, and MacArthur (among others). As you might expect, it is a very helpful reminder and instruction into the priority of preaching.

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‘Slave’ Book Winners

Erik Raymond —  December 17, 2010

A big thanks to all who participated in the ‘Slave’ book giveaway by John MacArthur. We had a great response here on the blog and on Twitter.  Also, props to Thomas Nelson for supplying the books.

Here are the winners as picked by the admin staff here at Ordinary Pastor…

Congratulations to:
Steve Gardner
Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

I will email or DM you to get address details.

As I mentioned in my review yesterday I have a couple of copies of Slave by John MacArthur available for giveaway. The contest will run this week and I will plan to announce the winners and get the copies out in the mail by Friday afternoon.

Here is how you can get enter:

1. Subscribe to Ordinary Pastor’s Feed & leave a comment below stating that you want the book.

2. Follow the Ordinary Pastor blog on Twitter

3. Retweet this post on Twitter

If you do all 3 then you obviously have a better chance to win.

(note: due to a low budget operation here, I have to limit this to ‘contest’ to readers in the US or international folks with an APO.)

Here is the promotional video from MacArthur…

Book Review-Slave

Erik Raymond —  December 13, 2010

John MacArthur believes he has ‘uncovered’ something of a cover up. This cover up is by the English Bible translators. Now you may be wrongly tempted to think that in his later years of ministry he has gone off the deep end to join someone like Dan Brown. He hasn’t. He believes “the cover-up was not intentional–at least not initially. Yet its results have been dramatically serious.”

What is the cover-up? It is the translation of the Greek word doulos. The word is most often translated ‘servant’. MacArthur contends that we should be translating it as ‘slave’.

Why? MacArhtur writes:

“While it is true that the duties of slave and servant may overlap to some degree, there is a key distinction between the two: servants are hired’ slaves are owned.”

Continue Reading…

Slave by John MacArthur

Erik Raymond —  November 2, 2010

This promotional video got my interests piqued. I am curious to see how this book is put together and how Dr MacArthur interacts with justification. The challenge, often times, is to make certain the indicative (what Christ has done) before unloading (or confusing) the imperative (what we must do). Here we have the indicative (who we are) and doubtless the imperative, (who we must be/do). I’m looking forward to it.

You can preorder it at Amazon now (here) or (Kindle here). Release date is 12 28 2010.

I have had some people asking about the ESV-Macarthur Study Bible, well I found out that it begins shipping from Amazon at the end of this week.

The initial editions are listed below and available from Amazon (hardcover & TruTone Leather)


Hardcover with Jacket


List Price: $44.99
Price: $29.69 (free shipping)
You Save: $15.30 (34%)

Blue TruTone Leather

List price: $74.99
Price: $47.24 (free shipping)
You Save: $27.75 (37%)

You can download for free a PDF of the book of Romans with Dr. MacArthur’s introduction, outlines, notes, etc.

More information can be found here.

(ht: Justin Taylor)

I recently had a terrific conversation with a fellow pastor. We talked about how much we appreciate the accessibility of so many great bible teachers today. There seems to be a larger number of helpful books, blogs, podcasts, and videos available than ever before.

For this we remain thankful.

Well, sort of.

One of the things that has disturbed me in the last few years is the way in which the public debate so galvanizes us against one another. For example: Pastor so and so (let’s just call him John) who is highly successful with a substantial following takes a public shot at another pastor (let’s just call him Mark), who also is highly successful with a substantial following. (whether the first or second pastor were right is not the point at this point)

What is the result?

Well, a fairly awkward climate for discussion among the less visible pastors and lay people.

This is real life for me. I like John MacArthur. I have ever since I first laid eyes on The Gospel According to Jesus. In so many ways I want to emulate his pastoral & preaching ministry. At the same time I like Mark Driscoll. I have ever since I read Radical Reformission. I am thankful to God for Driscoll’s personal devotion to Christ, love for his flock and desire to reach those outside of Christ. You may recall that last year there were a series of blog posts that lit up the blogosphere, twittersphere and any other reformed sphere out there. This resulted in a lot of defending and accusing by a lot of different people (again, who is ‘right’ is beyond my scope here, it is the result that I’m after). The tension got so thick that I remember getting the stink eye from folks because I would speak favorably about either Driscoll or MacArthur. It got old. It is frustrating.

The weight of the issue/problem really came to light sometime last year for me. On a few occassions (either verbally or in writing) I would note that one of these guys made a great point or preached a particularly helpful sermon. The responses were often, “You know that guy is dangerous.” Or, “You know that guy is a…whatever.”

I would often attempt to defend the individual point and then have to give several qualifications letting people know that I am in fact aware of all the prevailing issues, while apologizing for all of their life shortcomings except their iPod playlists.

It gets exhausting.

The reason I am pointing to them is because they are exalting Christ. However, all of the little clones are running around trying to blow up the other guy all the time. And if you are taking ‘his’ side then maybe you are to be implicated in his shortcomings. (Believe me, I got the unpublished blog comments & emails to prove it)

Here is the issue: I was just wanting to point to Christ. That’s it. That was the point. However, all of the ground forces for the respective militia parties were grabbing their shoulder-launched missiles to take you out for suggesting something of value coming from such a source. And this is when it hit me: they can’t see the value of what is being said about the Savior because their Savior is in front of him. If you cannot find value in what one guy is saying when it truly exalts Jesus then you probably have an idolatry problem.  I think this is what Paul was getting at with those wing-nuts in Corinth:

For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1.11-13)

Paul goes on to remind them that their idenity is bound up not in men but in the God-man:

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1.30-31)

This would be really helpful for us to remember today. In an age where we can get instant updates from all of our respective ‘heros’ we should remember that they are men. And their value is in their giftedness in leading us to love and serve Christ. We as idol-craving people can quickly make the jump from leader-to hero-to savior.

The issue goes beyond and deeper than John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll, it really does. It is with us. It is with the followers. We have issues. This is why I am now committed more than ever to not being all about defending everybody. And with that, I am not all about qualifying everyone. After all, not everyone can be D.A. Carson, right? (just kidding).

But seriously, it does cause us to step back, take another swig of the 1 Corinthians reality and labor to be more dutiful in prayer for the leaders God has blessed and our own hearts as well. We don’t have to get a Johnny Mac tat or wear a tie with Driscoll’s grill on it. Let our lives be about the gospel; the promotion and defense of Jesus.

In the mid 90′s pastor and author John MacArthur grabbed his pen and took the confident pragmatists out back behind the proverbial woodshed in his book entitled Ashamed of the Gospel. MacArthur dissected and dismantled the ever popular and unbiblical evangelical preoccupation with gimmicks, pragmatism, and man-centeredness that undermines the power of God in and through the gospel (Rom. 1.16).

The folks at Crossway have teamed up with MacArthur to update the popular work. In the preface MacArthur laments that a number of things compelled him to this second edition. Not the least of which is the speedy fulfillment of what he had outlined in the original work. The shallow gospel leaves shallow Christians. Furthermore, MacArthur notes that there are some further challenges that seek to undermine the clarity and power of the gospel in our age. He lists the rise of postmodernism as a major issue that needs to be confronted.

In the original edition MacArthur uses the battle setting that C.H. Spurgeon found himself in during the late 1800′s in Europe. Spurgeon fought amid those who were downgrading the importance and clarity of the gospel. MacArthur continues to use Spurgeon as both a faithful mouthpiece for articulating the issues as well as a stake in history showing the continuity of the problem and solution. In this addition there is an additional appendix with material related to this topic from Spurgeon’s sermons and writings. Further, MacArthur has added two new chapters in this addition, Carried by Every Wind and Spiritual Adultery.  These chapters essentially take another shot at contemporary church growth culture and then popular (though fragmenting) Emerging Church movement.

I was a little disappointed with a section in the final chapter. MacArthur, who never seems to shrink from the role of evangelical jeremiad (even though he is admittedly uncomfortable with it), brings up the resurgence of ‘The New Calvinists’. Even noting that in 2009 Time Magazine called the movement one of the top 10 big ideas changing the world right now. I thought this would have been a great time to acknowledge some refreshing gospel air among the smog filled evangelical skyline. However, instead of this MacArthur quickly noted that these Young, Restless, & Reformed guys (particularly the restless group) are very susceptible to the emergent influences (p. 231). This could have been a moment to keep the balloon floating instead of sticking a pin in it.

Overall, the message of the book needs to be repeated over and over again. So this book is welcomed. Faithful guys like Spurgeon & MacArthur need to have their passionate and biblical gospel-centeredness laid before the church’s feet that we might again be reminded to not be ashamed of the gospel.

The audio is now available from the 2009 Nashville Conference on the Church and Theology.

The speakers were John MacArthur and Bruce Ware.  The theme is compelling: “Above Every Name: Recovering the Transcendence of God in the Church.”

There are several good messages available for download.  Here is the link.

I enjoy listening to John MacArthur preach and hearing John MacArthur talk about preaching.  After preaching 40 years in the same place he remains passionate about proclaiming the Word of God week in and week out.

Apparently on one such Sunday night, after a sermon, MacArthur began talking about preaching.  Specifically he was talking about application in preaching.  His tone was both defensive and offensive.  On the one hand he was clearly defending his preaching methodology from some, no doubt, reoccurring criticism.  But on the other hand he was just unpacking what he believes faithful preaching for application looks like.

The audio is just about 5 minutes and well worth your time to listen.

MacArthur on Sermon Application

Props to Joey of TALIA who pointed me to the audio.

John MacArthur Q&A

Erik Raymond —  April 19, 2008

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John MacArthur audio is always valuable and encouraging. Awhile back he visited Omaha Bible Church and conducted a pastoral seminar, a radio interview and an evening message. The theme for the conference was “Standing for the Truth”.

I have provided the links below for listening or download. Enjoy!

Download A Seminar for Pastors

Download Question & Answer Session

Download Evening Sermon on The Gospel According to John

In addition, my friend Travis has quite an online reservoir of MacArthur audio on his website.

macarthur-a-tale-of-two-sons.jpgIt is doubtful that many would argue that a large emphasis within the mission of disciples of Christ is to put the truth of Scripture before ourselves and others that God would be glorified. This is fundamental to who we are as Christians. However, within this lifelong mission, we too often become familiar with the narratives and have a functional understanding of the text and so we move on without true life transformation. John MacArthur endeavors to change that. In his newest book, A Tale of Two Sons, MacArthur unpacks the parable of the prodigal son in the pattern of clear, biblical, convicting teaching that many of us have come to love from his ministry.

I appreciate the ‘angle’ that they took in writing and publishing this book. The whole feel of the book comes across as a story. Everything from the font on the cover, the image of a burly figure, to the subtitle of (The inside story of a Father, His Sons, and a Shocking Murder), all reflect the type of drama we would expect in a masterful story. And it is helpful to remember that this is, after all, a story told by Jesus himself, to communicate spiritual truth.

The book is broken neatly into four main parts:

The Parable, which provides a wide-angeled preview;

The Prodigal, which deals with the rebellious son

The Father, which obviously deals with the gracious and forgiving father

The Elder Brother, which identifies his own rebellious heart

The basic summary of the book and the parable is that the prodigal son is the rebellious sinner who has squandered the good gifts of God and in his own heart truly wished death upon God. The elder brother is identified as the Pharisees who, while staying close to the Father outwardly, were actually inwardly themselves in a distant land. The Father, of course, is God. Who loves his children and rejoices in their salvation. Nowhere is this more picturesque than in the description of the Father, with his robe hiked up, ankles exposed, without regard for shame, is seen pursuing and welcoming his estranged son.

“The Prodigal had come home prepared to kiss his Father’s feet. Instead, the father was kissing the Prodigal’s pig-stinking head. Such an embrace with repeated kisses was a gesture that signified not only the Father’s delirious joy but also his full acceptance, friendship, love, forgiveness, restoration, and total reconciliation.”

One of the strengths of this book is its historical and cultural detail. MacArthur blends many hours in the study reading with what appears to be many hours in the text meditating upon its truth. What results is really the aim of expository preaching, a wonderful blend of historical, cultural understanding, armed with the powerful truth of the Scripture, through the medium of a man of God who has been utterly transformed by it. From this perspective, A Tale of Two Sons is a gem.

I would love to comment about the way the book ended, however, it is not the typical way in which a teaching on this verses is punctuated. Instead, I’ll save the ending for you and commend the book to you. This book is heart-stirring, pride-humbling, Pharisee-exposing, and Christ-exalting. You will no doubt be blessed in reading it.

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As I mentioned in earlier posts over 20 men from Omaha Bible Church made the trek west out to Southern California to enjoy a week of great preaching, fellowship and food. I have received several questions via email or text message asking for details, so I think a post is in order.

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Grace Church

What can you say about a church like this? There are people everywhere eager to serve. This service ranges from a desire to fill your cup up with juice, direct you in the right direction, explain the history and beauty of an Asian Pear (deliciously pictured below), and engage in such encouraging conversation. This church puts on a clinic in how to serve. If beleaguered pastors just came and saw the service for an hour they would receive the much needed shot in the arm to encourage them to go home and preach the word, for truly, their service is produced through the equipping that goes on week in and week out in the pulpit.

 

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Preaching

This was my fourth Shepherds’ Conference and this was by far the best display of preaching that I have ever seen. Every single guy had us in a text and kept us there. As you looked around the auditorium you would see the wonderful blessing of men’s heads coming up from their Bibles to look at the preacher. Furthermore, the preachers spoke to the attendees directly, in the second person, many times calling us “pastors!” or “men!” or something distinct. This is to say that application was pointed and biblical. I love when guys wear out the 2nd personal plural…

The audio will be available shortly, but I want to provide a quick synopsis (you can also read the live-blogging here)

John MacArthur preached three times and did a Q&A. In the first sermon he preached on why churches who affirm election should abandon pragmatic church growth theory and practices. The sum of this is if God has ordained the ends and the means of the church growing then we should humbly get in step with the biblical pattern and eschew the all too popular methods employed by many today that seem to promote creativity at the expense of clarity. (I will talk about contextualization in another post…)

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John then preached on Luke 21, The Widow’s Mite. His interpretation of the message was different than many have said in the past. His goal was to preserve the context of judgment upon the false religious systems and demonstrate the horrific repercussions of this system. It is definitely worth the listen.

In the final session John preached out of John 15 and specifically outlined the problems that have arisen out of translating doulos as “servant” or “bondservant” instead of “slave” (cf. 2 Cor. 4.5). This is similar to what he did at the Desiring God Conference, but it was further elaborated here. John mentioned that this will be a chapter in the upcoming release of the 20th year anniversary edition of The Gospel According to Jesus. MacArthur’s point is that if we would get the ‘master-slave’ concept down, that the slave is purchased and his life is not his own, rather than the less emphatic and semi-sovereign ‘servant’ then we might have avoided much of the confusion that has come from the Lordship controversy. This message and the upcoming book will both be worth our time.

Tom Pennington preached on Psalm 1. To grab this text and preach it to and for pastors seems like a challenge at first. But, Tom did a great job. He had some great exhortational points, particularly about expository preaching. I believe he said something like, “If you are not preaching expositionally it is because you are not delighting in the Law of God. If you are, then you can’t help but preach the word!” He also quoted a well-known evangelical who said the reason why the church is having the issues it is having is because a lot of guys think they are preaching expositionally but in reality are not. This was a good and pointed sermon.

Al Mohler preached out of Deuteronomy 4. His message dealt with the clarity of God’s revelation and the unparrelled privelige it is to have a God who speaks to and cares for us rather than the idols whom pagans speak to and care for. His thoughtfully pastoral time in Deuteronomy was refreshing and encouraging. He made you want to preach the Old Testament. We also learned that Dr Mohler has another book coming out, this one will be in the fall, on preaching.

Rick Holland preached out of Leviticus 9 & 10. His point was that it is deadly to become familiar with God. The text that displays the sons of Aaron getting torched by God for botching their duties was a good choice; any text that has the spiritual leaders dying for sin is a good one for a pastors’ conference. Rick did a terrific job and the Holy Spirit was faithful to bring hearty conviction to myself and many with me.

Steve Lawson preached on Hebrews 4. Steve is the only guy I know who can start out on level 10 volume and carry it on to the end. I cannot imagine that he got any sleep the night before, he definitely had something to say. He methodically and faithfully worked through the text and made the men more confident in our Bibles and the power of God to use the Word. When he was done I wanted to preach. Pastors: Listen to this sermon!

Phil Johnson preached on Acts 17. I was thankful for Phil’s treatment of the text. He focused on the passage in light of the contemporary buzzwords of culture, conversation, charity and contextualization. This is always difficult, I feel, because the buzzwords don’t always exist in the text, but, in my view Phil did a good job at explaining and applying the text without imposing his beefs with contemporary practices upon the text. This type of message is, in my view, Phil Johnson at his best: clear, passionate, biblical, while also being an astute observer of what is going on in the evangelical movement.

Gifts

As always we were given generous gifts. We received several books from various publishers and then got a $50 gift card to be spent on campus. In addition to a few books I picked up a couple of Moleskins for my boys. (btw, props to the bookstore for carrying Moleskins and for marking them down). The book pictured below was a give away. It is written by a friend of the ministry here, Mike Abendroth. I am currently reading it and am blessed so far. (More info here)

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Fellowship

The fellowship with our guys was great. We have some amazing Gospel-centered, sermon-loving, fellowship-enjoying, food-eating, guys here at OBC. So the times in the car or later on at night were rich.

I also got to meet many folks who read Irish Calvinist. In addition I got to meet many of the publishers who provide so many of the good books that get reviewed on blogs like this. It was good to make new friends and to talk with folks from other parts of the country and in some cases, world.

Suggestions for Change:

Please don’t schedule next year’s conference on Daylight Savings Time weekend. This made the time adjustment a little more difficult than normal. I came back a day early to preach and the extra hour did not help.

I have always thought that a theme for the conference would be better than having isolated messages by guys. This year the tone was very pastoral so it worked out, but I think an overall theme would be great.

Tom Pennington did a great session on preparing sermons. I think it would be great to have John MacArthur do something like this in a more generalized session. Just having him take us through a typical week, what he does and how he does it. (this takes nothing away from Tom, he did a fantastic job, and I learned a lot).

Overall it was an awesome time. The Shepherds’ Conference continues to be an annual highlight for me and the men from the church.

 

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(photo credit and more photos here)

Last year John MacArtur delivered a shot heard round the blog (it almost spells globe) with his first message of the Shepherds’ Conference. Its title is self explanatory: Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinists is a Premillenialist. This, as many of you recall, did get people talking about eschatology. This year MacArthur opened up with a similar phrase but shifted from eschatology to ecclesiology, or the study of things to come to the study of the church. Furthermore, his emphasis was upon the current trends of church growth and why self respecting Calvinists should reject these methods.

He anchored this in the fact that the Trinity has already decided who will make up the church, Christ has accomplished redemption for us, and is now applying it through the building up of the church. This, however, is not apart from means (enter you and me). So, MacArthur asks, what are the means?

He walked through the book of Acts and observed certain realities that were tied to growth. His five points (like any good Calvinist would use) unfolded successively:

/1/ A Transcendent Message

/2/ A Regenerate Congregation

/3/ A Valiant Perseverance

/4/ An Evident Purity

/5/ Qualified Leadership

There were several great statements of encouragement to the countless pastors who are here to maintain fidelity to the time-tested and divinely given means of growing the church. At the end of the day it is the faithful proclamation of the word of God and the attendance of the Holy Spirit that produces conversion and growth. And this, after all, is what we are after.

There were also some statements that were made that seemed to be zeroed in on those in the reformed wing of the emerging movement. In his first point, concerning the message, MacArthur said that “contextualization is a curse.” The sermons we preach and the messages we proclaim should transcend “zip-codes.” MacArthur said, referring to Peter in Acts 2, “Not only did he not identify with the generation, but he said you have to be saved from it.” Furthermore, MacArthur warned against any appeal to the flesh, for it is result of our fallen nature.

He went on to unpack how and why “persecution does not retard the church. The people do not come because it is a soft way; they come because they have been drawn by the Father.”

He went on to unpack the evolution of the effort to ‘connect with unbelievers’. Here are the steps as he unpacked them:

/1/ Meet people at their social level (socially)

/2/ Meet people at their level of felt needs (psychologically)

/3/ Meet people at their visceral, gut level, (sensually)

MacArthur warned against and chided those (without naming names) who plant sexual or sensual images in folks’ minds and then try to recover them and use them for a spiritual (even orthodox) end. Worldliness, MacArthur said, “is anything said or done that appeals to the flesh.”

There is no question that there was a bull’s eye on some of the contemporary methodologies for reaching people. MacArthur aimed to reel folks in, caution them about the dangers of growing the “First Church of Tares” instead of the church of Christ. At the base level Christ’s church is one that the Trinity ordained, Christ died for, and whom God will build. Our job is to make sure that we are proclaiming the transcendent message, have a regenerate and holy congregation, a valiant perseverance, and are led by qualified leadership.

Honestly, I am still chewing on what he said. There were some things that he said, concerning subjective ministry methodologies that made me uncomfortable and others that cause me to say Amen (under my breath, I’m a non-Baptist Yankee). However, it really doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what God thinks. I am interested to see how the rest of the conference shakes out. As a reminder you can watch it for free here.

By the way, if you are in Nebraska, or some other cold place, the weather here is 70+ and sunny. I went running this am and it was 45, I drank tea outside at Peet’s and it was awesome. Thanks for asking.

<update> I just noticed that Nathan over at Pulpit seems to be live blogging the conference. You should take advantage of this for a number of reasons, 1) Nathan is smarter than me, 2) He works here at Grace Church, 3) He will probably live blog the whole thing. </update>

Tuesday morning at 0-dark-30, about 25 men from Omaha Bible Church will be headed out to LA to attend the annual Shepherds’ Conference at Grace Church in Sun Valley, CA.

This will be my third Shepherds’ Conference and I just want to share a few reasons as to why I think it is the best conference out there.

.1. This is a conference geared specifically for pastors. To see well over 3,000 men crowded into Grace Church to be charged to be faithful stewards of Scripture is an emotional sight at the least.

.2. Grace Church gets it. They understand that this is not about them but the attenders. They do everything they can to make sure that those who come are well served.

.3. The preaching in the General Sessions is outstanding. The scene of watching/hearing John MacArthur preach on the joy of God in redemption through the prodigal son passage last year was heavenly. As I sat with watered eyes among my friends, who likewise were moved with affection for the Savior, I sat and saw C.J. Maheney (who was seated in front of us) likewise moved, it was just awesome. This type of preaching has come to characterize this conference.

.4. The breakout sessions are geared to encouraging and warning leaders. Men like Phil Johnson, Nathan Busenitz, Bill Shannon, Rick Holland, and others serve other leaders well through their teaching.

.5. The time with our church leaders is priceless. So much ministry planning gets done. Whether talking in a Peete’s Coffee or walking in Santa Monica or riding to the conference, ministry is discussed. This is so refreshing.

.6. You get a ton of books. I think I have averaged 23 new books (free) each year. What a service.

.7. The food in CA is great. In and Out, Killer Shrimp, Todai Sushi, The Fisherman’s Wharf, it is all good. I can almost become an ammillennialist with such good eating and drinking, somehow thinking the kingdom is now. But we understand the kingdom is more than eating and drinking (Rom. 14.7) :/

.8. I am healthily brought to the end of what I can bear in evangelicalism. My good friend and pastor feels it is healthy to our souls to make us trek down to Saddleback Church and witness Rick Warren’s molestation of the Bible. Each year we have visited Robert Shuler’s Crystal Cathedral on the way. This is like having a stomach ache and being nauseous, it is not comfortable. I am brought to disgust and tears as I hear Tricky Ricky deflate the cross of all of its power while his people nod with acceptance of such things. This trip is dreaded but necessary. I just keep remembering that the Phinehas account is a narrative and not to be normative for life today (Num. 25).

.9. The encouragement that we as a church receive from the Shepherds’ Conference is immeasurable. I am so thankful for the grace of God in John MacArthur’s life, the life of Grace Church, The Master’s Seminary, and so many others who contribute. This conference is flat out good.

.10. The conference is committed to modeling faithful expository preaching. This year the General Sessions include John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, Al Mohler, Rick Holland, Tom Pennington, and Phil Johnson. Frankly, I am glad to see Rick Holland finally get on the docket. He is, in my view, one of the best preachers alive. I am truly looking forward to this week.

 

If you are going I’d love to meet you, so drop a comment and let me know.

Book Review- The Truth War

Erik Raymond —  February 26, 2008

I received a copy of The Truth War last March while attending The Shepherds’ Conference. I had heard some of MacArthur’s sermons on Jude and really enjoyed them. However, I did not get to the book right away, and before I knew it I was hearing all kinds of rumblings about how imbalanced the book was and how MacArthur is overreacting. And I must confess, I am a big John MacArthur guy, I am solidly in his corner. So, as a result of the chatter and my loyalty, I shelved the book with the intention of reading it at a later date. Honestly, part of my motivation was that I did not want to read a book by John that could have been out of balance.

Well last week I was to preach on a passage in the book of Jude. So I picked up the book and jammed through it to help encourage my thinking as I interact with the passage. My overall appraisal is that it is a good book. I enjoyed reading it. MacArthur interacts with both the contemporary challenges (of doctrine) facing the church as well as the historical. In both cases he is faithful to name names and quote primary sources. Some folks have balked at MacArthur’s quotes from Brian McLaren or Rob Bell, but at the end of the day, they did say (or write) these things. So while these statements may be ‘red meat’ for fundamentalist Calvinists they are none the less the sentiment and practice that MacArthur is going after in his book.

In this vein, I was disappointed that he went after Mark Driscoll in his chapter on apostasy. MacArthur quotes from Blue Like Jazz where the author references “Mark the cussing pastor.” MacArthur rails against this type of conduct in the life of a Christian in general and a pastor in particular. The only issue is that Mark Driscoll would seem to agree. He has said publicly that foul language is inappropriate. Furthermore, it would seem that in the past few years Driscoll has demonstrated that he is sensitive towards pursuing humility and doctrinal faithfulness. In my view, these two items at least should have warranted his exclusion from a chapter dealing with apostates.

The books strong points are MacArthur’s interaction with the book of Jude and his discussion of heresy’s in the early church. What we have come to appreciate about MacArthur is his steady, faithful interaction with the text; he makes the Scriptures clear to us. He does this repeatedly in The Truth War. Furthermore, in reading the book you find yourself convicted and compelled. You are convicted because of apathy in contending for the faith and compelled to do so more fervently.

I recommend the book as required reading for pastors and elders (or would be pastors and elders), but also would encourage it for others as well.

(note: the book is not a verse by verse study of Jude, though he does set his anchor down there. He has written a helpful commentary on Jude, which is available separately)