John MacArthur – Church Should Be Different From World

Baptist Press has an article about John MacArthur’s address at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

MacArthur also was adamant that the church should not be influenced by the world or take its cues from culture. Stating that the church should be a reflection of heaven, he said it is a travesty to make sinful people comfortable in a church.

“I’m not trying to make the church as much like the world as I can,” MacArthur said. “I’m trying to make the church as much like heaven as I can. People should walk into church, and it should be nothing like the world.”

I took some flack for earlier posting something by A.W. Tozer insisting that we should “plant ourselves on the hill of Zion and invite the world to come over to us, but never under any circumstances will we go over to them.” Lo and behold, here’s John MacArthur saying almost the same thing!

MacArthur also had this to say about “seeker-friendly” churches

Throughout his messages, MacArthur took a stance against the modern seeker-friendly movement, which he said is often guilty of exchanging biblical exposition for cleverly crafted yet shallow messages, omitting potentially offending truths and conforming itself to resemble a lost world.

MacArthur noted that this kind of failure to exposit the Word usurps the Lordship of Christ over His church and hinders the work of the Holy Spirit.

“At the beginning is the question of authority,” MacArthur said. “Who is sovereign? Who has the right to be heard? I have no authority in my church unless I say, ‘Thus says the Lord.’ I’m there to be the voice of God, nothing less.

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20 Responses to John MacArthur – Church Should Be Different From World

  1. Bill says:

    Robert

    I think making a church look as much like heaven as possible is a good thing. But what does that mean? Does it mean singing 200 year old hymns? Wearing robes? What?

    This is one area of discussion that never seems to reach a conclusion, because I think people have a different idea of what a church that “looks like heaven” really looks like.

    I think a church that has deep worship (even if the style of music is “new”), annointed preaching and a spirit of deep love and welcome looks like heaven. Even if everyone’s wearing jeans.

    I also think a church where teenagers who have pierced tongues and blue hair don’t feel ostracized or rejected for what they look like looks like heaven.

    Just wondering what you think (because I really don’t know).

  2. Jared says:

    Wow, two posts in a row that are strikingly reminiscent of things I’ve posted in the last two days.

    he said it is a travesty to make sinful people comfortable in a church.

    I like MacArthur’s theology for the most part, but this is just dumb. One might as well tell Jesus He shouldn’t have comforted anyone.
    The point of real seeker sensitivity is not to water down the Gospel, as all the critics assume we do. It is to remove all the man-made barriers to the Gospel.
    The only thing that should offend a seeker’s sensibilities (and our own) is the scandal of the cross — our sin in the light of God’s sacrifice and holiness.

    Lo and behold, here’s John MacArthur saying almost the same thing!

    Wow, you found two people who agree with each other!

    MacArthur took a stance against the modern seeker-friendly movement, which he said is often guilty of exchanging biblical exposition for cleverly crafted yet shallow messages, omitting potentially offending truths and conforming itself to resemble a lost world.

    This is a blanket characterization based on the abuses of a few. I don’t doubt some “modern” churches do this, but I’ve never personally enountered any. It’s bad form to ascribe the sins of a few to the movement as a whole. I may as well impugn the traditional church for the hypocrisy, arrogance, and other sins found in many.

    People should walk into church, and it should be nothing like the world

    He must have the most sinless church in the world. The very place for sinners is the church. Maybe in his church you can’t get in until your life is all nice and neat and put together, but in mine, we are very much like “the world” — full of hurting and imperfect people hopeful and desperately needing the love and grace of God.

    The truth, I think, is not that these critics really think seeker churches are compromising, but that they have a distaste for anything “different.” But these folks are just as devoted to “churchy” traditions as seeker churches are to reaching the lost.
    On both sides, some churches are guilty of asking people to come to Christ on man’s terms — seeker churches sometimes on the sinner’s terms, traditional churches sometimes on the church’s terms.
    Both could benefit from adopting God’s terms, which have little to nothing to do with what kind of music you play, what style of sermon the preacher preaches, whether you stand or sit during certain songs or prayers, whether you have pews or chairs or steeples or stained glass.

    I can’t get beyond how horrible it seems to some people for a church to make evangelism a priority, rather than some side ministry some do on Monday nights or something.

  3. Wow, two posts in a row that are strikingly reminiscent of things I’ve posted in the last two days.

    I’m not sure if you’re implying anything here, but for the record I planned my 9/11 post the evening of 9/10. I even talked to my wife about it.

    I did notice that you wrote something similar. Perhaps this is because we are both young fathers with similar priorities?

    And the John MacArthur thing – I just got that in an email this morning and was motivated to write about it.

    Wow, you found two people who agree with each other!

    And not just anybody – AW Tozer and John MacArthur! These are two pretty significant guys, don’t you think?

    The very place for sinners is the church.

    I view a church (Sunday morning, anyway) as primarily for believers, not the unregenerate. It’s not a “country club” for saints, but a training ground and place to recuperate. Ministry, including evangelism, is what you do the rest of the time.

  4. Bill,

    But what does that mean?

    I actually started on a blog entry about that, but got sidetracked into a discussion of our church’s new mission statement and decided to write about that first.

    I fully agree that we all run around insisting that we be “salt and light” but we don’t usually have the faintest idea what it means. Some of us think we should “hug people up close to Jesus” (Jude 22). Others think we should preach hellfire and brimstone in order to bring people to repentance (Jude 23). Some want to imitate and engage the world. Others want to be set apart.

    IMO, how I am salt and light in my personal life and how the church is salt and light corporately is strikingly similar.

    Briefly, I think we function by:
    * Living righteously and thus letting our light shine before men so they will glorify our Father
    * Treating one another so well that the world is jealous by bearing one another’s burdens (spiritual, physical, financial, emotional, etc) and gently restoring those who stumble into sin
    * Proclaiming the whole counsel of God without apology or compromise
    * Ministering to those outside the church who need it and as appropriate
    * Preaching hellfire and brimstone to those outside the church who need it and as appropriate
    * Refusing to wink at error or sin within the church
    * Exposing sin as such whether inside or outside the church

  5. Jared says:

    It’s not a “country club” for saints, but a training ground and place to recuperate.

    Actually, a place to train and recuperate sounds a lot like a country club to me.

    I view a church (Sunday morning, anyway) as primarily for believers, not the unregenerate . . . Ministry, including evangelism, is what you do the rest of the time.

    What would be the point of preaching the Gospel in a church like this? If evangelism is what you do only outside the church and the church is primarily (only?) for believers, why ever preach Christ crucified? Why ever give an invitation?
    Just in case someone slipped in and wanted to join the team?

    I personally have no problem with anyone going to churches like this, or even with these churches existing period. I don’t think they’re wrong or anything.
    But I get my dander up when folks from these churches begin criticizing anyone who doesn’t do things their way. Can there not be a place for both kinds of churches? Churches who focus on believer’s growth and churches who think believers grow by focusing on bringing all to redemption?

    I wonder what would happen if church on Sunday mornings was not primarily for believers or “the unregenerate” but was for God. What might such a church look like?
    I happen to take the body of Christ’s call to seek and save that which is lost — the Great Commandment expressed through the Great Commission — literally enough to think the Body of Christ ought to be about it.
    Just me.

  6. John says:

    I have to agree with Bill. I think some people who criticize seeker sensitive churches forget that their traditions are cultural as well, and once were “new” and criticized by others in the church. There is good new music and good old music; there is good topical preaching and good expository preaching.

  7. a place to train and recuperate sounds a lot like a country club to me.

    Never having been to a country club myself, I always envisioned it as a place to play and be pampered and spoiled. I think of church more like a military base – a place for Christians to train, get their wounds tended to, reload, and so on.

    Why ever give an invitation?

    Our church does not usually give a traditional Baptist invitation. I don’t think I’ve sung even one verse of “Just As I Am” in the past couple of years! :-)

    We preach the gospel as we encounter it in the expository preaching.

    If someone is interested in our church, we regularly have an “Illumination” seminar that includes a clear gospel presentation. We ask all who want to become members to give their testimonies to one of the elders.

    We also try to engage all members in small groups for instruction, fellowship, and ministry. The instruction contains multiple clear presentations of the gospel.

    I suspect it’s more difficult to “slip through the cracks” at our church than at others.

    not primarily for believers or “the unregenerate” but was for God.

    Every scriptural passage that deals with corporate “church” that I’m familiar with tells us that the purpose is to build up the saints. What can be more “for God” than to obey His revealed will in this area?

    Can you show me any scripture that indicates the purpose of a New Testament church is not primarily to build up the saints in our walk with the Lord? I don’t know of any, but if you can show them to me I’ll certainly change my mind and thank you for pointing out my error.

    to seek and save that which is lost — the Great Commandment expressed through the Great Commission

    The Great Commission is to make _disciples_, not win converts. It’s a personal and corporate responsibility. But the purpose of us getting together, as far as I’m aware of Scriptural instruction in this area, is to train us to do it.

    I was talking to our pastor last night, and he put it this way: “Church is not about coming to listen to me talk because I’m the minister. Church is about coming to be trained so that YOU can be the minister.”

  8. Jared says:

    Can you show me any scripture that indicates the purpose of a New Testament church is not primarily to build up the saints in our walk with the Lord?

    No, but that’s not my point anyway.
    My point is on “how” the saints are built up. What you have in mind, I think, takes place in my church in small groups and midweek services to some extent. And it is designed to equip us for personal witness (which I don’t necessarily equate with evangelism, although they are inseparable).
    But I define discipleship differently than most modern Christians, too. For many it means “learning” or “knowing more about God.” Those are well and good — anyone who’s familiar with my writing or life know I’m VERY into learning — but I believe discipleship is “following Jesus.” And I only have to look at the Bible to see what He did as His disciples followed Him.
    Jesus made it very clear to the religious leaders and others — he came not for the healthy, but for the sick.

    The Great Commission is to make _disciples_, not win converts.

    I agree. And I certainly hope that none of my words ever implied my church just wants to get people to sign on the dotted line and then fend for themselves.
    We are in a constant journey together, seeking God and sharing the Good News of redemption through Christ.
    Seekers hear the Gospel, see it lived out in our lives, witness the majesty and sincerity in our worship, and may eventually come to Christ. Then their growth is aided by exploring deeper areas of ministry and study in the church. Eventually, they use their own spiritual gifts in the church to help us all let seekers hear the Gospel, who then go deeper . . . Etc etc.
    We do not forsake deep teaching or the “building up” of saints. I myself am teaching basic theology to a myriad group of people. But our “building up” has a purpose and it is to equip folks to serve, not just privately by corporately, God in bringing the lost to Him.

    I was talking to our pastor last night, and he put it this way . . .

    This is very similar to something my pastor said at a recent orientation meeting for small group leaders. He said that when people ask how many ministers he has at his church, he says, “Around three-thousand.” He went on to say that he’s just the talking head, the leader, the shepherd. But all of us are the real ministers of the church.
    It’s a very Protestant concept — every member a minister; the priesthood of the believer — and many churches, traditional and non-, espouse it.
    But there are just as many traditional churches who expect their pastors to do all the work as there are modern churches who expect “Christ Concerts Featuring Reverend So-and-So” every Sunday.

  9. Jared says:

    Oh, btw, my church does not give the traditional invitation either, and I apologize for assuming yours did.
    But you’d be surprised how scandalous this seems to some, Baptists or not.

  10. No, but that’s not my point anyway.
    My point is on “how” the saints are built up. … For many it means “learning” or “knowing more about God.” … I believe discipleship is “following Jesus…. to see what He did as His disciples followed Him… he came not for the healthy, but for the sick.

    I guess I need a lot more detail to properly respond to what you are saying, since I’m not sure I understand you.

    But there are just as many traditional churches who expect their pastors to do all the work as there are modern churches who expect “Christ Concerts Featuring Reverend So-and-So” every Sunday.

    Which is one reason I’m not in a “traditional church”.

  11. Bill says:

    Me neither :-)

    Robert, if you think of it this way – what better way to equip the saints than to give them a place every Sunday, Wednesday, etc. where they can minister to lost people? It’s OJT! :-)

    But in all seriousness – and I think Jared would agree although I can’t speak for him – I believe churches need to be welcoming to lost people and I doubt you would disagree, at least I hope not. You don’t check people at the door and turn away the unregenerate, do you?

    Churches also need to speak the truth to the lost and Christian both. I really think we’re all on the same page here, although I won’t try to convince you of that if you’re unconvinced.

    I believe a healthy church will be feeding both Christians and the lost, because if God is moving some (hopefully many) of the lost will be drawn in. Just like in the early church, where thousands could get saved in a day.

    I also think it’s important for churches to have times that are just “for the family” – in our student ministry we have these times; just not on Sunday morning. But there are times of worship and teaching that are just for the Christians. Again – just not on Sunday morning. Our student minister is very clear that Sunday morning is not the time that a Christian kid should be hanging out with his/her Christian friends. Instead they should be welcoming visitors, making them feel at home, preparing for the service, striving for excellence. The Christian kid ministers on Sunday morning, then comes back Sunday night for our deep discipleship time. He/she also has a more intimate small-group time on Wednesday nights at our Area Bible Studies (although plenty of lost people attend those too).

    I guess my point: if I described my church this way you probably would think it was right on:

    “Sunday morning is for Christians, to equip them for ministry. Sunday night we do outreach. Wednesday night we have small group Bible Studies/Fellowship times”

    Where we might differ is when I describe it as it really is:

    “Sunday NIGHT is for Christians, to equip them for ministry. Sunday MORNING we do outreach. Wednesday night we have small group Bible Studies/Fellowship times”

    I think sometimes we’re just quibbling over the time of day.

  12. Jared says:

    Bill, I think you’re right, but that’s not always true.
    I don’t know anything about Robert’s church, so the following isn’t about it or him:
    But a lot of churches don’t put “outreach” or evangelism in any service or time of the day. Sunday morning and Sunday evening and Wednesday evening and whenever they meet at the church, it’s for Christians only. This is obvious from the churchy language foreign to anyone but “insiders” to the churchy actions ingrained in the tradition for many years.
    If a church does think evangelism should be part of its corporate mission, it is usually relegated to visitation or some type of occasional program.

    My beef always is with evangelism treated as just one of the many programs or ministries a church does, rather than as a comprehensive corporate philosophy of the church itself.

  13. what better way to equip the saints than to give them a place every Sunday, Wednesday, etc. where they can minister to lost people? It’s OJT! :-)

    As I understand the Bible, in Ephesians 4 the emphasis is not on OJT but on being taught. It’s like military or athletic training.

    churches need to be welcoming to lost people

    Almost everyone should be welcome at the church’s corporate gatherings. But the unregenerate, and backslidden Christians, probably won’t be too comfortable unless the message is being compromised. They’ll either repent or leave.

    But a lot of churches don’t put “outreach” or evangelism in any service or time of the day.

    I believe that the purpose of corporate worship is to strenghten the body and is not a time for evangelism. Evangelism is what you do the other 167 hours a week. Church meetings are for believers.

    That being said, we should absolutely be welcoming to visitors and sensitive to them. We should go out of our way to welcome them, get them oriented, follow up with them, and so on. It’s not something that I’m particularly good at, but something that has to happen, so I stumble through it the best I can.

    We cannot sacrifice what’s primary for what’s secondary. Church is primarily for helping believers know Christ so they can then make Him known as they go throughout their daily lives and as they work in whatever ministries they might have. To the extent that we can do things to make visitors (who may or may not be Christians) feel welcome, without negatively impacting the worship, fellowship, and learning that is the primary purpose, we should do those things.

    But we can’t let a concern for visitors keep us from doing what we need to be doing. We use whatever forms of worship are best suited to magnifying God. We preach and teach on whatever is needed, even if we use churcy terms like “propitiation” and “dispensation”. We hold to the traditions that best serve the purpose of God’s people worshipping Him.

    I don’t think evangelism is what happens within a church’s walls.

  14. My beef always is with evangelism treated as just one of the many programs or ministries a church does, rather than as a comprehensive corporate philosophy of the church itself.

    I agree. If the church is truly about “knowing Christ”, then it will also be about “making Him known” because you can’t really do one without the other. If a church isn’t, then it’s lost its saltiness and/or is hiding its light.

  15. Jared says:

    I’m tempted to respond at length, but I won’t. I think it would be pointless. We apparently agree on enough points to make the debate meaningless anyway.
    I think our difference (don’t know about yours and Bill’s difference — he’ll have to respond to that) is our fundamentally different ways of viewing what the church is for. You tend to think it is primarily for training. I tend to think it is primarily for mission.

    I agree with this statement of yours: We cannot sacrifice what’s primary for what’s secondary.
    It’s just obvious that what we individually think are primary and secondary are not the same.

  16. Bill says:

    Well, I agree with Jared that perhaps there’s not much more to debate.

    So I’ll manufacture something! (heh – j/k) – Seriously, though, one item that I don’t understand is your contention that A.W. Tozer and MacArthur were “saying the same thing”. Tozer talked of the church remaining distant from the lost, letting it’s light shine. On a side note: if his quote wasn’t taken out of context, I think he was really missing the context by missing out on the much more intimate and close “salt” portion of Jesus’ statement. But that’s another bucket of beans . . .

    MacArthur said our churches should “look like heaven”, not like the world. I completely agree, and also don’t think that his words, taken at face value, have anything to do with what Tozer said.

    I also don’t think that God looks at things the way man looks at them. Man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart (I Samuel 16:7). I think “looks like heaven” has a lot more to do with the heart of a church and a lot less to do with it’s external trappings and styles.

  17. I came across this page while doing a search on the web.

    Does anyone know John MacArthur’s take on the cultural commission and/or apologetics.

    I like a lot of what Johnny Mac says, and I certainly appreciate his commitment to Scripture. However, I must admit that I am more than a little opposed to what appears to me to be his “I’ve got all the answers” attitude.

    I heard him speak not long ago at a nearby seminary. The topic of his three-day “sermon” was “20 Very Bad Things That Will Happen If You Don’t Preach Expository Sermons” (or something to that effect). The “funny” thing is that in the process he used a series of topical sermons to warn of the danger of topical sermons!

    A Century 21 Disciple of Jesus,
    Greg Williamson
    website: http://shakinandshinin.org

  18. Anonymous says:

    check this site out—concernedmembers.com

  19. bryan christopher says:

    As to the seeker friendly, Macarthur is never talking about, as much, with clothes and modern styles, but is more talking about compromising the message as not to offend the modern wave of so called tolerance. Ya know, don’t tell people they are sinners and going to judgement until we make friends or make them comfortable, that is directly opposed to what Jesus did. With the rich young ruler Jesus made it as hard as possible as to allow hanger-ons who were not sincere! Jesus knew that all that would come to Him would be drawn by the Father therefore it is an act of God not our slick way of making people comfortable. Remember Christ said DENY YOURSELF and let your individuality reign or be notice. Nothing wrong with having your own thing but if you are wearing something that is not appropriate for a holy gathering, and we all know what meets those guidlines, then maybe we should submit to elders and not rebel. Rebellion is what started this whole thing remember.
    later

  20. This is too weird. I’ve just been discussing this issue with Jared on my blog, and in a totally unrelated subject, I Googled a bunch of search words and ended up here (this link was at the top of a list of a 200 results). I love it when God connects the dots!

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