Grace Community Church Held Revival Outdoors: 3,000 Souls Added
What is painfully obvious when I read blogs, articles, and especially tweets regarding John MacArthur and Grace Community Church is that few really know him. The ones who do know him are always shocked when I tell them stories, anecdotes of various indiscretions, financial allegations…you know, “pastor stuff”. It is extraordinary the amount of infighting there is regarding not who John is, but what he has said. Just the effort that goes into the theological, eschatological, soteriological, Christological scrutiny of old sermons, books, commentaries is quite frankly telling of the caliber of today’s young pastor. It doesn’t instill confidence, I can tell you that.
The reason I so rarely “attack” MacArthur’s theology is that I simply don’t trust the source. Why would you trust and respect the opinion of someone, anyone, trust your spiritual growth and relationship with the Lord with someone you don’t know? Where is that in the Bible? Reading a commentary or a Study Bible undercuts the power of God’s Word and supplants it with man’s opinion. When 3/4 of a page is commentary, there’s something painfully wrong here.
So, for those who have never been to Grace, let’s paint the picture for you. There are 4, maybe 5 types that attend. Which one are you?
- The future pastor: You went to the Master’s College (I won’t call it a University and if they don’t get their act together with the accreditation, neither will anyone else), got your degree in Biblical Studies, two years of Greek, one-year Hebrew and you’re off to the races. Your home church wants you to one day go back and be their pastor.
- The Seminary student: After TMC, you enroll and did not realize how hard it was going to be. Greek class is the bane of your existence and Homiletics-what? You arrive on campus every morning preparing a sermon in the sing-song manner of Steve Lawson, remembering to put…the EMPHASIS on certain words so the POWER of the Word of God will be HEARD. You survive on cheap coffee and wonder when it will start to get easier.
- The Future Pastor’s Wife: Graduate of the Master’s College, possible Home Economics or Music major. You have a list of the attributes you are looking for in a “godly husband” on your desk somewhere. You know that somewhere at church is the godly man for you to “submit” to and who will be an amazing father to your 5 children, which of course, you will also raise at Grace because the “pastor” thing isn’t going to work out.
- The Out-of-Towner: It’s a big church. You come for 10am service, greet the usher, listen to John, speak to no one, and leave. You’ve been doing this for over 15 years and that’s alright by you.
- The Core: A relatively small group who keep the machine running. They volunteer for every Shepherd’s Conference, Strange Fire, Truth Matters, Sunday School, services, ushers. The worker bees. They are kind, industrious and would be the only ones who would greet you if you came.
- Finally, the Chief Priests and Scribes: Quite Honestly, the Elders and a few others in leadership. A ragtag band of not-so-merry men, young upstarts. Think…the Elders of Emperorland in Happy Feet.
Seminary Student 1: I’m going to Grace on Sunday.
Seminary Student 2: Oh, good luck to you. It should be “in tents”.
The typical sermon goes exactly like this.
First 15 minutes: a recapitulation of the last sermon
30 minutes of “exposition”, a story from the past that bears little relevance to the subject at hand, a quote from a Reformer, a short “in the Septuagint, the word here means” (he cannot read the Septuagint, but finds a transliteration like every other pastor out there), and then camps on a word or phrase, runs out of time and closes with a prayer. Lather, rinse and repeat. I have notes and bulletins from ’93, ’94 to the present with notes that say, “where is he going with this?” and in 2011, “look up Bishop Lawrence of South Carolina — he had a conference with nuns?”
“It’s Nothing More than a Golden Calf”: There’s Always a Happy Face at Grace
I remember some years back, I’m thinking around 2004 and coming in from the rain I heard John asking for money for the construction of the Chapel. That first building on Roscoe which was the place where it all started. The audacious, sorry auspicious, start of His ministry. He was angry. The donations had not been what it should be and with the delays, they were going to need more money. Week after week, every service began with a scolding and an update on this Chapel which is now basically used for tacky weddings, funerals and the Spanish ministries (sabes que). He didn’t seem to care that his audience was basically a large group of working families and struggling students, but there we were somehow sharing the blame that this wretched building needed work. A lot of work.
During this time, I remember a man, a rather large man mumbling that the Chapel was “John’s idol” and “it will cost the church over $2 million dollars”. I couldn’t believe it. The next time I saw him, I asked him about the progress of the project. Many seminary students also asked about it wanting to know if they could lend their services and expertise. He said that it was not worth restoring. Have you ever seen a Classic car show where the owner takes it in and wants a “full restoration”? Then, the shop owner evaluates the damage and see a significant amount of rust, but it looks workable. So, as months go by, the shop has it stripped down to the chassis and has to tell the owner that the bill is going to be quadruple of what was originally assessed and that he could just pick up a resto-mod at an auction expecting the owner to thank him for his candor. Nope, instead, the owner tells him, “spend whatever it takes. Money is no object”. That’s exactly how it was described to me. There was nothing to salvage on this building. Every piece of wood was rotted.
It was literally like paying $250,000 for a $22,000 ’56 Chevy. He stated that in the end, that little building cost the church $2 million dollars.
For the TL;DR fans, John MacArthur is only preaching one service a week which is in “opposition to Caesar” (actually, in this instance Trump would be Caesar, and Newsom and Garcetti would be your local rulers, Herod Agrippas so to speak). All he has to do is walk 60 yards to the parking lot, resurrect a bit of that Old Time Tent Revivalness and you’re following Romans 13. I’m sure Corey Welch could get the old band back together and get his brothers to sing some Southern Gospel for everyone. Maybe they could sing Elvis’ “Crying in the Chapel” or better yet, “Peace in the Valley”. Sun Valley.