John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock
By Iain H. Murray
The Banner of Truth Trust, 2011, 246 pp.
When I returned to the Lord in 2014 after my long and dumb prodigal season, the Lord introduced several solid Bible teachers into my life, including Pastor John MacArthur. I’m able to listen to his daily radio broadcasts (via podcast) three or four mornings each week when I take my walks. This biography caught my eye a long time ago and I was able to purchase a used copy for my COVID-19 lockdown reading-material queue.
The writer, Iain Murray, was the ministerial assistant to Martyn Lloyd-Jones and also MLJ’s biographer. Murray makes it clear that his goal was not to produce a thorough biography, but to provide some basic details regarding J.Mac for those who have been blessed by his various ministries.
MacArthur’s father, Jack, was pastor of an independent fundamental Baptist church and young John attended Bob Jones University for two years, 1957-1959, which I was quite surprised to read. Chafing at the rigidity/legalism at BJU, J.Mac finished his studies elsewhere and was subsequently involved in various ministries until he was selected as pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California in 1969. MacArthur gradually shifted his theology from fundamental Baptist to Reformed and cites Lloyd-Jones as a major influence.
Murray describes the growth of Grace Community Church, and the creation and far-reaching impact of its media ministry, Grace to You. Also mentioned are the founding of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, California, and The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles.
Murray examines two controversies involving MacArthur; the first being the “Lordship Salvation” brouhaha that followed the publication of “The Gospel According to Jesus” in 1988 and the second one being J.Mac’s outspoken criticism of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements with his book, “The Charismatics,” in 1978, and the 1992 revision, “Charismatic Chaos.”* I was disappointed that Murray omitted any mention of MacArthur’s strong stand, along with R.C. Sproul and D. James Kennedy, against the ecumenical initiative, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” unleashed by Chuck Colson in 1994.
This is a good book for learning some background information on John MacArthur, but don’t expect a lot of detail.
- Youth in California
- The Bible Takes First Place
- The Early Ministry at Grace Community Church
- Threatening Reversals
- Scripture and Preaching
- The Rediscovery of Old Truth
- The 1980s
- Across the Pacific
- Patricia MacArthur
- A Correction and an Example from Russia
- Grace to You
- A Basket of Letters
- Objections and Questions
- The Changing Scene in the United States
- A Visit to Grace Community Church
- The Man
In our current era, when so many evangelical leaders are compromising with the world (e.g., church-growth marketing, ecumenism, experientialism), I’m grateful to the Lord for the leadership of John MacArthur.
*J.Mac wrote a third book on the topic, “Strange Fire,” in 2013.