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Monday, February 3, 2014 | Comments (12)

by John MacArthur

You wouldn’t expect to hear a pastor tell his church, “I know better than God.” And yet that’s what many preachers and leaders today communicate when they focus their ministry strategies on market research and consumer response. Chasing popular trends and whims is a sure recipe for tickled ears, stunted spiritual growth, and congregations full of false converts.

By contrast, a ministry that centers on the preaching of God’s Word is a ministry that is, by definition, wholly dependent on God. Rather than relying on gimmicks or ploys, it relies on God Himself for both its content and direction.

Early in my ministry I committed, before the Lord, that I would simply worry about the depth of my ministry, and I would let Him take care of the breadth of it. Needless to say, He has extended it far beyond what I could have ever even thought possible. But the market appeal of this ministry was not something I ever strategized about, trying to think of schemes for how to be popular or how to energize church growth. Instead, the focus was on teaching the Bible—deeply, consistently, and accurately. Beyond that, I simply decided to depend on the Lord.

When pastors preach God’s message rather than one of their own invention, they demonstrate that they are fully depending on God for results. It is His Word that is taught; it is His Spirit who works; it is His power that convicts and transforms. We simply convey the message faithfully, and when people respond, God receives all of the glory.

And that, ultimately, is why I continue to preach the Word after more than four decades of ministry. The goal of my life, from the outset, has been ministry faithfulness for the glory of Christ. That should be the aim of every pastor. And what could be more glorifying to Him than to exalt His message, bringing it to bear on the lives of His people, and depending fully on Him for the results. As Timothy was charged by Paul, so every pastor—if he is to be found faithful—must embrace his sacred calling:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. . . . I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. . . . The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:1–5, 7–8, 18)

Paul’s exhortation is directed at preachers, but its application isn’t limited to them. The men and women in the pews must place an equally high priority on submitting themselves to the preaching of the Word, and faithfully testing the teaching they receive against Scripture. Like we saw last time, all believers need to be Bereans. It’s vital that the pastor teaches Scripture with clarity and accuracy, and it’s vital that his congregation stay hungry for that kind of Bible teaching and the spiritual fruit it produces.

It’s been a privilege to serve the Lord at Grace Community Church for nearly forty-five years. Throughout that time, my prayer has always been to be subject to God’s biblical agenda, rather than subjecting God’s Word to my personal agenda. It is the difference between biblical preaching and motivational speaking, between shepherding and manipulating, and between understanding what God has already said in Scripture and putting new words in His mouth.

It’s no coincidence that we kicked off the new year with a series on the importance of biblical preaching. Preach the Word sets the tone for everything else you’ll read on the GTY blog in 2014 and beyond. The subject matter may vary, but the underlying theme will always be the same: Scripture rightly handled, faithfully taught, and properly applied.

(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church.)


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#1  Posted by Simone Goyeneche  |  Monday, February 3, 2014 at 9:10 AM

I have spent 67 years either being told what to say, not to think about it or having my ears tickled. Since my daughter steered me to your sight, I found my answers and learned what the church is supposed to be. Thank you. You are so appreciated.

#3  Posted by David Smith  |  Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Here's a thought:

It's not just preaching the word that matters, it's preaching it correctly and putting it into practice in the preacher's life and in the church.


You could have a church with a good preacher, but he's the only one who speaks during the services. People will tend to migrate to churches where other people take part, as suggested in 1 Cor 14:26.

Someone may be good at expositional preaching, but hopeless at counselling and supporting members personally. People will prefer a church where the minister has pastoral as well as teaching gifts.

There are also good preachers who do not present a faithful model of christian maturity - the fruit of the spirit is absent from their life. Again, people will be drawn to churches whose leaders are more christlike in their character.

All these are not matters of market research or worldly gimmicks, but they are barriers to the growth of the church.

#4  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:02 PM


A man who did not present a faithful model of Christian maturity, whose life does not evidence the fruit of the spirit, cannot be considered a good teacher, no matter how gifted or knowledgeable a speaker he might be. He's a hypocrite, and he's disqualified from ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).

Likewise, a man who is gifted at expository preaching but hopeless in the other aspects of the pastoral role might not be called to the pastorate in the first place. Certainly there are other teaching roles he could fulfill without letting down his congregation.

Your first example seems more like a matter of preference than anything else. Or at least that's a conversation about the order and design of the worship service; not the content of the teaching, which has been the focus of John's blog series.

What matters most is the growth of the people in the church, not the growth of the church itself. John MacArthur has recently started teaching through Acts on Sunday nights--it's been an invigorating reminder that it's the Lord who grows His church, not us.

#5  Posted by Karen Fischer  |  Monday, February 3, 2014 at 3:00 PM

I just wanted to finally say "thank you" for preaching the Word rather than filling your sermons with funny stories or "life application." I am tired of pastors/churches trying to draw a crowd rather than preach the Word. Your clear exposition of the Bible has helped to change my life and my walk with God. My personal Bible study is richer now, also. I wish I could put into words how thankful I am for this website and all the free resources available.

#6  Posted by Steve Nuhn  |  Monday, February 3, 2014 at 7:31 PM

Pastor MacArthur,

Thank you again for the reminder not only to pastors but also to those of us in the pews to "place an equally high priority on submitting themselves to the preaching of the Word". I wish more people in the pews would follow your next statement of..."faithfully testing the teaching they receive against Scripture." It reminds me of your comments from Strange Fire implying that if all scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit illuminates our understanding, and the scriptures teach us to test everything then a faithful pastor would not only welcome his flock to search the scripture but also TEACH them to. Unfortunately that's viewed as confrontational. Having said that, we must bare in mind not to violate other passages honoring those in positions of leadership over us in the church.

We have recently begun what our pastor calls "Storying". He described it as a way of taking bible stories and telling them in a better way. We set around in a circle and the pastor tells a bible story from memory, usually in a sort of some what animated, narrative technique. Then he asks us who we relate to in the story. You can imagine the answers. There is certainly some truth but worse is the amount of allegory. This technique is now being brought into the pulpit, but stops short of the input from the congregation. This appears to violate 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. We never really get to the meaning intended in the passages. Are you or is anyone one on the GTY staff familiar with this style? It seems to be gaining momentum in my area and I would like further biblical decrement on this technique.

Thank you to all at GTY for your faithfulness to God and His word.

#7  Posted by Mike Wood  |  Monday, February 3, 2014 at 9:17 PM

Wow, what a wonderful message!

Many preachers are good at motivational speaking, which ironically I find very disheartening. I wish more would get back to the hard-core Biblical preaching.

We live in incredible times, times in which I believe are fast approaching the coming of Yeshua our Messiah. Luke 9:62 says "But Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand on the plow and looks behind is fit for the kingdom of God."

To plow, one must concentrate all his attention on the line being plowed. Being distracted just a little, to say nothing of looking back, may lead the plower off the straight line. To follow the Savior, we must forget everything else and press straight ahead for the kingdom of God. Personally, I think motivational messages fall into the same category as "looking behind" in Luke 9:62, it surely isn't moving ahead in Christ.

Amen, to an enlightening message.

#8  Posted by Randy Hartley  |  Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 10:02 AM

Thank you, John, by means of your recorded sermons, teaching and books, have been my mentor since 1987. I am now 60 years old, and because of what I have learned from you, I have had the privilege of teaching and preaching in a small home church that I started in 2000. You have taught me how to study the Bible properly, how to preach and how to teach the scriptures word by word and verse by verse. Because of what you have so adequately taught me, I have been able to teach my own parents and children and many of my friends how to do the same thing that I do, namely, be like the Bereans, studying in order to be approved before God, being a workman who does not need to be ashamed before Him. I dearly love the man you are - a passionate servant of God and a faithful steward of His Word.

#9  Posted by Astrea Jones  |  Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 10:28 AM

The trend toward felt needs, relevancy, gaining market shares (!) or whatever it is called is a cancer in the church. Our old pastor has taken as his plan for church growth the teaching of a man who is a theistic evolutionist, preaches a social justice gospel and includes contemplative meditation in his church's "how to pray" classes and yet our old pastor insists that this man is "sound." It seems to me that any one of these disqualifies him from that designation. God has led us to a wonderful new church where the Word is faithfully proclaimed every Sunday. Sometimes we go away limping from the smashing of our toes but praising God for the faithfulness of our new pastor to teach God's Word without compromise and the goodness of the Lord to convict and grow us into Christ-likeness. It's painful, sobering, humbling and a joy. It is harder and harder to find a church that is actually sound. All of us who have found one should first praise God continually and then be diligent to support and submit to the leadership so that they may keep watch over our souls with joy while like the Bereans "receiving the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things are so."

God bless Pastor MacArthur and GTY they are like a stronghold in a world (and church) at war.

#10  Posted by Manuel Jr. Reyes  |  Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 12:13 AM

Thanks to God and thanks also to you Ptr. John!

I pray that many would be like you. Only a few, I guess, gets an antenna to tune-in to the same frequency you are sending. Multitudes does not get what you intend to say. Like the mystery over the Gospel or Isaiah 6 (ears that don't hear). Our Bible Study group is thankful enough to God for providing us the means to understand your teachings! Soli Deo Gloria! In Christ 'till the end.

#12  Posted by Charles Newsome  |  Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:49 PM

Thank You Dr. MacArthur for your sound biblical teaching and your unrelenting passion for Gods word and His people. I have been a student of your teaching for about ten years and have grown to love and admire you as a brother and a true man of God.

I am a minister of the gospel and I consider myself to be one of your sons in the faith. I met you in Orlando a few years back and you signed a book for me. In that you referenced I Cor. 2:2, " I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." That resonated with me and I am committed to preaching only the truth of His word!

Again I can't thank you enough for being a warrior for the Kingdom!

#13  Posted by Chuck Shanks  |  Friday, February 7, 2014 at 12:50 AM

G0ds Word must be first, I personally know Christian counselors ,who people trust and admire just to see them fall. divorce ect. People swallow the good things they want to hear too many times. Gods Word prepares us for life which cannot always be made soft or easy. The truth of Gods word is Always the Best.

#14  Posted by Chuck Shanks  |  Friday, February 7, 2014 at 12:57 AM

Can anyone tell me why churches do not worship and pray mid-week.and sunday night as well as sunday morning with enthusiasm like they did when I was saved in the 70s? Is it soccer ,football Reply