For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God…
1 Peter 4:17
When it comes to reformation, be careful what you pray for. You just might get it.
Praying for God to bring hidden evils to light so that they might be exposed, confronted, and overcome in order to see our homes, churches, and culture restored isn’t something we should do lightly. The rot and darkness that has come to define every area of life here in the U.S.S.A. is the kind that could never have taken deep root without our having enabled it. This is why when we pray for God to expose the deeds and systems of darkness that have brought us so low, we should do so with mirror in hand expecting that we have some serious things to answer for and repent of.
While it’s easy – and often quite fun – to point “over there” at “those people” in whichever community or group we enjoy railing against the most (there are so many easy targets to choose from), the first place we should be looking for trouble is in ourselves. We should beginwith our homes, our families, and our church communities. These should be the starting points for our “searching out evil” and bringing it into the light…ideally before God drags it there for us.
Maybe we should preach lessabout the abuses of overtly non-Christian predators while we empower and enable abuse to flow freely from power positions in man-made systems and organizations that we call “churches”. Maybe we should complain less about how Hollywood objectifies women and Disney corrupts children while we promote anti-Christian notions of rule and authority that contort women into spiritually confused accomplices in the abuse of their own children at the hands of authoritarian males who we should be confronting and correcting rather than encouraging and enabling. Maybe we should stop defending egos and organizations claiming to be “the church” when those egos and organizations are actively engaging in the systematic abuse of the actual church – God’s people, the bride of Christ.
Maybe if we don’t tackle these in-house problems and abuses, the Bridegroom will do it for us. That would be good and just, wouldn’t it? And loving too, of course. If our own systems and favorite “leaders” are enabling or actively participating in abuse of the bride of Christ, and they’re doing these things in the name of Christ, we should want that sort of evil corrected immediately, right?
Well, once again…be careful what you wish for…
Which brings us to recent news of John MacArthur and his Grace Community Church (GCC).
In an article published on March 8, coinciding with the kickoff of the annual “Shepherds’ Conference” hosted at GCC, Julie Roys chronicled in sometimes painfully vivid detail a 20+year tale of rank abuse and the systematic enabling of that abuse. Her article, which should be read in its entirety, begins as follows:
“On August 18, 2002, prominent radio pastor and author, John MacArthur, took time during an evening service to address a grave matter at his 8,000-member Grace Community Church (GCC) in Sun Valley, California.
A woman at GCC was living in sin, MacArthur alleged. And though shaming her publicly was “sad,” MacArthur said it was necessary to maintain fidelity to God and His Word.
So, as men were distributing the elements for communion, MacArthur stated: “I want to mention a sad situation, a person who is unwilling to repent. And the church bears responsibility before God to be the instrument of discipline. . . . This is what the Lord wants. He wants discipline . . . to be put out of the church, to be publicly shamed, to be put away from fellowship. In this case it applies to Eileen Gray.”
According to MacArthur, Gray’s sin was that she had decided “to leave her husband, to grant no grace at all, to take the children, to go away, to forsake him.” This, MacArthur emphasized, meant rejecting “all the instruction and counsel of the elders, all instruction from the Word of God.”
MacArthur then encouraged the church to pray for Eileen and to “treat her as an unbeliever—for all we know, she may be.”
Today, David Gray is serving 21 years to life in a California prison for his 2005 convictions for aggravated child molestation, corporal injury to a child, and child abuse.
But at the time of Eileen’s shaming, Eileen had not yet reported her husband’s physical and mental abuse to police. (She was not yet aware of his sexual abuse.)
Instead, she had reported the abuse to elders and pastors at GCC.
Eileen also had not left her husband. In August 2002, Eileen was still living with her children in the Grays’ home about 1.5 miles from the church.
Eileen had, however, filed legal separation and restraining orders against David due to his repeated abuse of her and her children, as well as his alleged stalking and threats to kill them and himself. At the time of the shaming, Eileen had obtained a court order requiring that David’s visits with the children be monitored and restricting him from coming within 100 yards of Eileen.
As Eileen explained in an exclusive interview with The Roys Report, she went to GCC elders, hoping they would protect her and her children and get David professional help.
Instead, she says the church subjected her to spiritually abusive counseling and used church discipline to try and coerce her to take David back into the family’s home. . . ”
If you haven’t read the entire article, please stop and do so now. Seriously. Every word. (You can find it here.) This is not my way of saying that the article is perfect or infallible or that every accusation made or implied is irrefutable and true. Not even close. Part of me wants the whole thing to be flat out wrong, or at least wrong in the key areas that matter most. The point is that the article is worthy of the time and attention of anyone who is serious about the Gospel-fueled reformation of the Church (and of organizations/institutions pretending to be the Church).
This story has hit many of us hard, as it should. For me and many others, John MacArthur has been an iconic champion. I drew from his work and quoted him several times in my first book. I loved and still love the man, which is why I hope and pray that, if the article is substantially true, he will by God’s grace be convicted to acknowledge and repent of any sin that played a role in that tragic story. The same goes for others playing prominent roles in the story.
Having heard the news a day after it broke, like many others I became intensely interested in what certain people would have to say in response. I wanted to hear something from John MacArthur and many other prominent leaders on the conservative side of the spectrum, particularly those associated with conservative Reformed ministries. Of course, I knew that there would be some time needed for people to process the story – especially those on the outside looking in.
But here we are, almost two weeks after the first Roys article was published, and it’s been mostly crickets, at least from what I’ve seen.I’ve not exactly scoured the Internet, but I’ve been looking around and have yet to find even a wisely qualified expression of concern or an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the matter from any of the Big Reformed Names that I tend to follow. This is disconcerting, to put it mildly. (If anyone reading this has a link to comments that would fill the void mentioned here, please send ‘em my way.)
I should probably also make three points crystal clear at this point:
It’s not like we were likely to ever to get a report like this from inside GCC or the broader Reformed Celebrity Worship Culture, right? That’s something to keep in mind…
Making matters worse has been the particular “circle the wagons” approach taken by many “Reformed Christians” on social media, many of whom seem to becheckingall the wrong boxes in their handling of the report, including:
This is what happens when we make idols out of men, systems, or institutions. This is the sort of behavior that we can and should expect when we’ve fallen for counterfeits of biblical authority, headship, church, and even love itself, and this is how people tend to behave when they’re too deeply invested in the counterfeits to allow themselves to seriously consider whether they are in error or not.
And then there are some more obvious potential motivating factors to consider here: Money and power…
(article continues at Substack, which you can read for free here)
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