One of my favorite John MacArthur lines is his reminder that “every church is a collision of sinners.” This is true and very important to remember, especially in light of recent disturbing reports bringing serious light and heat to MacArthur and his Grace Community Church.
A couple weeks back in my first Substack post, I wrote what I assumed at the time would be part one of a two-part deal addressing the John MacArthur/Eileen Gray story that has recently come out from the shadows and into the light primarily due to God choosing a non-Reformed woman reporter to help make that happen. If you haven’t read through the Part 1 post, I recommend doing so in order to understand much of what will be shared here. I also highly recommend checking out the first and second reports released last month by Julie Roys, and three videos (#1 here, #2 here, and #3 here) recently produced by Ruslan KD.
If you haven’t read these articles and watched these videos, please pause and do so now or dive into them as soon as you can. They’re important – important enough for us to listen to them with serious, attentive ears no matter how prejudiced we might be against the politics or presentation style of their authors.
Remember: Truth matters.
That’s what we’re supposed to be about as Christians, right?
The Truth, personified by Christ Himself, and reverberating throughout His creation in every area of life.
We have to be about the Truth even when we are pitched “good reasons” to go another way.
We aren’t supposed to protect the church from the truth. We’re supposed to build the church on the truth.
We aren’t supposed to shield our favorite teachers, leaders, or “visionaries” from the truth. We’re supposed to shine it on them, holding them to the higher – not lower – standard that Scripture demands, especially of those who would claim the title of elder.
As I’ve been reading, researching, and contemplating this MacArthur/GCC/Eileen Gray story and coming to grips with how many important reference points are being highlighted in this still-unfolding drama, I have become convinced that this story represents something of a touchstone for things that God is in the process of revealing about the church in general and its Reformed celebrity/visionary-focused Christian subculture in particular. There seems to be a lot about this story that we need to focus on and work through. We can’t allow this one to come and go. We have to stop, pay close attention to what’s going on here, and work it through in our minds over time. Put another way, we need to stop having the focus and attention span of a retarded fruit fly and start taking serious things seriously as if we were actually men and women made in the image of God.
It is in this context that I’ve become committed to not letting this one go. It’s conviction over what I have learned and am continuing to learn that has me determined to work these things through in detail while so many “Reformed leaders” seem to be just as committed to going in the opposite direction.
While, like many others, I have been waiting (and waiting and waiting) to see these “leaders” seriously engage core components of the Eileen Gray story, I’ve become increasingly disappointed and, I believe, properly and even necessarily angry (yes, these are thoroughly biblical concepts, however much religious hucksters might have you believe otherwise as a way of shielding themselves from the consequences they should face from God’s people). The days and weeks roll on and on with no direct, serious engagement of important matters related to the MacArthur/Gray story while many of the same “leaders” and their followers make vague, dismissive, and sometimes disdainful attempts to shoot the messenger or rely on naked appeals to fandom of MacArthur specifically and/or the Reformed celebrity culture in general. The dismissal of key facts, minimizing of what sure looks like serious sin, and attacking of anyone bringing any of it up as an ignorant (at best) tool of church-hating leftists has been enough to make me want to…well…dive a lot deeper into all of this.
There are many reasons for this, not the least of which are specific and very troubling areas of overlap between things I have personally witnessed firsthand in recent years and things that seem to be present in the MacArthur situation. And by “the MacArthur situation”, I mean to tie together the (still not fully settled in my mind) accusations made in recent reports and the ongoing response/non-response from the “Reformed” community.
I want to share these thoughts and explore these subjects because I sense that something big is happening. Much bigger than MacArthur and much bigger than his Grace Community Church. I believe that for all of the dismissive dittos and wagon-circling going on publicly in the “Reformed” community where MacArthur is concerned, there are actually quite a lot of us who are very concerned about what’s going on here. We don’t like what we’re seeing and smelling, and we’re coming to realize two important things:
- We have been part of the problem, and…
- We can be part of the solution…but only if we first fully own and repent of our part in creating the sad “church” situation under which we currently labor.
This used to be Reformed worldview 101 kind of stuff, but we haven’t been applying or willing to apply that Spirit to the way we “do church” or the way we treat celebrity “leaders” (even in smaller settings) for quite a while now. This, I believe, is what God is in the process of changing through, among other things, the MacArthur/Gray story.
The goal here is to share what I’m seeing and thinking in this area of growing concern, all with an open hand and an open invitation to correction. We’re all works in progress and we’re all learning as we go here, but one essential component of serious learning and growth is a willingness to listen, share, and hash ideas out together.
The first thing I am striving to do even more carefully is listen – listen to people with whom I might disagree on many things, listen to people who come from different perspectives or traditions, and listen for truthful or factual details in any stories or presentations that might come my way. Just…listen…
Listen for facts. Identify facts. Cherish facts as components of truth, no matter their source. All truth is God’s truth, after all.
This requires a good bit of discernment, of course, and will result in a lot of filtering out bones and poisons that sometimes come attached to truth and facts, but that’s what mature adult Reformers do, right?
We can’t let a fact go unacknowledged when it’s spoken by someone we don’t like or is sandwiched between two objectively absurd contentions. We must be better than that. We must value truth more than that.
Because we claim to love, adore, and seek to model the very personification of truth, that’s why. Sometimes He chooses unexpected and downright disturbing means by which to bring certain truths our way. He does this for many perfect reasons, including the occasional need to humble and humiliate us by having important facts delivered by people or groups that we have arrogantly categorized as being practically incapable of being helpful in our education and growth. When we imagine ourselves as being so far beyond “those people”, we can expect that the Lord might just use one of “those people” to put us in our place by shining light onto our idols and idolatry.
If we dismiss uncomfortable facts or revelations because they challenge or compromise a pet cause, a favorite organization, or a favored teacher, the problem isn’t that we’ve been made uncomfortable. The problem is that we’ve allowed our idolatry of a cause, organization, or leader so warp our approach to reality that we actively seek to shield that idol from truth. The problem isn’t that our idols and idolatry are being exposed. The problem is that we want to prevent that from happening. The problem is us.
It’s important here to note again that I ‘m not yet clear on exactly how much of what’s been said in recent reports on John MacArthur is actually true. So far, after weeks of time digging deeper and trying to digest things, I have only grown more concerned and more convinced of serious problems being real, but I am still reading, researching, and trying to learn more.
As that story continues to develop, I’d like to help move things in a more broadly productive direction by noting several key components of a very troubling M.O. that is becoming clear to me the more I compare the MacArthur scandal with other things I’ve witnessed and heard first-hand accounts of occurring on much smaller “Reformed church” stages.
I hope that by sharing these observations some might be inspired to think more about these things and others might be encouraged to hear and pay closer attention to someone else giving voice to concerns that they have. If we are committed to biblical Reformation both individually and together as the true Church, we can benefit greatly from trying to work through these details and connect dots together, even when the process is awkward, uncomfortable, and convicting.
In that Spirit, I’d like to share the following 10 signs of “Reformed” rot highlighted by the John MacArthur/Eileen Gray story:
- Shooting the Messenger – This one was covered in some detail in my earlier post. It is also something that I’ve personally witnessed in particularly vile forms within small “Reformed church” settings.
When a cult’s Dear Leader is called out or openly challenged, the response of a devoted cultist is often to defend their Dear Leader by slandering, undermining, and generally going scorched earth on the character of the one bringing the unwelcome report, no matter how many facts are contained in said report. The more hard-hitting truth is contained in the unwelcome report, the more vicious the personal attacks will tend to be from those desperate to prevent the critique from being taken seriously. That’s just how devoted cultists roll.
While we generally have no trouble agreeing and attributing such activities to cultists, we’re not so keen on acknowledging that this Dear Leader-worshipping cultist vibe has taken root in many authoritarian (or authoritarian-ish) “Reformed” settings. And just to be clear: This approach is wildly unbiblical, which is means it should have no place in any legitimate church setting, Reformed or otherwise.
- Circling the Wagons – It’s one thing to circle the wagons around Truth, which is Christ. This is obviously a very good thing and would inherently involve our seeking, sharing, and standing on truth no matter where it may lead us, even (and especially) when it inspires us to confront our own idolatry and the sins of those we’ve idolized. It’s quite another thing to circle the wagons around an idol in an effort to “protect” it from painful, unwelcome truth that will make both the idol and its idolators (us) look bad. Unfortunately, the latter approach has become standard operating procedure in much of the authoritarian ruled “Reformed Christian” subculture.
- Ignoring Abuse of the Bride of Christ – When we forget that the Church is God’s people – people maybe even like Eileen Gray – and that the Church is not a building, business, or “visionary”-led organization, we then also forget that when a Christian woman like Eileen Gray is being abused, the bride of Christ is being abused. When we’re that far gone we are not only willing allow this sort of conduct to occur, we actively enable and encourage it by choosing the abusive system or leader over the sheep being slaughtered passively via neglect and then actively by way of slander and other forms of character assassination once the sheep dares to speak up about earlier stage abuses.
This is a Big Deal, and we need to start treating it that way.
When an organization or a “visionary leader” of an organization claiming to represent Jesus will not stand for truth wherever it leads and instead seems to be more than willing to sacrifice sheep who’ve become a threat to their Dear Leader-centered program, well…we shouldn’t be surprised when the Chief Shepherd steps in and takes care of His bride by exposing and humiliating any “church” that would enable or defend that sort of behavior. However much this may or may not apply to John MacArthur and GCC, it certainly applies to many abuse factories masquerading as churches in the land, many of which claim to be Reformed.
(article continues at Substack, which you can read for free here)
This is the first half of the second article posted at my new Substack. For censorship-avoidance and other security reasons, I am moving all full blog posts to Substack.
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