Grace to You Resources
Grace to You - Resource

AUSTIN:  We have a bunch of personal questions tonight, some biblical questions and some theological questions.  We left a bunch of questions on the table, and all week folks blamed me for that.  I’m trying to keep pace up here, but it’s like riding a wild mustang.  You can’t control this man.  He does as he will.  [Laughter]  So I’m going to try to tackle those three categories though: personal, biblical, theological questions that were submitted to us.  I know you were handed a bunch of questions on cards, lots of stuff.

JOHN:  Yeah, yeah.  A little nine-year-old boy wanted to know why Job 39:9-10 mentions a unicorn, and why would there be a fantasy animal in the Bible?  The answer to that is pretty simple.  That you find in the King James Version, but nothing after that.  It was a term that referred to a wild ox.  What Job is talking about is the difficulty of harnessing a wild ox, but I love it when nine-year-old kids are reading their Bible.

AUSTIN:  That’s a good question.

JOHN:  And they’re trying to figure out those kinds of things.  We need to get him a MacArthur Study Bible so he can check the footnotes.  [Laughter]


AUSTIN:  That would do it.  And in Bible times wild ox had only one horn, right?

JOHN:  Well, there are animals even today that have one horn.

AUSTIN:  Sure.

JOHN:  So that’s very possible. 

AUSTIN:  Okay.

JOHN:  It’s kind of hard to know when you go back into Job because you’re back in the patriarchal period, what animals might have been and are now extinct.

AUSTIN:  Yeah.  I like it.  I like it.  Good question, nine-year-old boy.  Good question.  All right, let’s shift gears.  No obvious transition from unicorn to this question, so I’m just going to shift gears.

JOHN:  Sure. 

AUSTIN:  So we were just talking about baptism.  Let’s talk about your baptism.  How’d you come to know Christ?  Where?  When?  Who were you baptized by?  Tell us about your baptism, love to hear that story. 

JOHN:  Obviously, raised in a pastor’s family.  From the time I was born, my dad was a pastor or an evangelist, raveling evangelist, and preaching all over the country.  We lived for a little while in Philadelphia and a little while in Chicago.  I think I was about five when we lived in Chicago, and he was a traveling evangelist for the Moody Bible Institute.  Then he was an evangelist on the East Coast.  I think I did first grade in Pennsylvania in the Philadelphia area, first and second grade.  So he traveled around and eventually came back to California, and I was raised under my dad’s ministry. 

If I were to single out a moment in my life, it was when I was a nine-year-old boy.  My dad had taken me to a place called Zere, Indiana, because he was doing an evangelistic campaign there, and he took me along.  We were staying in a farm, some farmhouse of somebody in the church.  I remember getting into a little bit of mischief and feeling badly about it, and wanting to talk to my dad about the fact that there was something wrong in my heart, and I knew that.  I remember our conversation sitting on the steps of that church in Zere, Indiana, where my dad talked to me about the gospel. 

I think that was the first time I saw kind of in bold relief, the sinfulness of my own heart because I’d allowed some boys to get me involved in some mischief.  When I look back, that may have been the time that the Lord awakened my heart, but certainly that’s when I began to think seriously about my spiritual condition.  Then sometime after that – I never rejected the gospel.  Never consciously rejected Christ, never disbelieved the Bible, always believed it.  I had the blessing of having parents who lived what they preached.  What my dad preached was what he believed, and didn’t see any difference there.  So it was some point I think around the age of 12 or so that my dad baptized me.

AUSTIN:  Okay.  Were you baptized in a church?  Out in a lake?  In the ocean?

JOHN:  No, no, I was baptized in a church.

AUSTIN:  Okay.

JOHN:  In my dad’s church as a pastor.  If I remember right, and it’s hard to remember things that you don’t have a picture of –

AUSTIN:  Sure. 

JOHN:  – when you go back a long way, but I think it was Fountain Avenue Baptist Church in Hollywood, which is where he was at the time a pastor, and where I was baptized.

AUSTIN:  All right.

JOHN:  I remember that church very well because they had a Christmas play, and the Christmas play was really kind of an odd play.  The innkeeper had a little boy who grew up to Barabbas.  [Laughter]  That was the story line, and guess who played the little boy?  Me.

AUSTIN:  Really?

JOHN:  Yeah.  [Laughter]  And I remember it was the only time in my life somebody put makeup on my legs. 


JOHN:  Because I had a short tunic.  You know, I mean it’s a stage thing.

AUSTIN:  Sure.

JOHN:  You understand.

AUSTIN:  To tan them up or – ?

JOHN:  Yeah.

AUSTIN:  Okay.

JOHN:  Yeah.

AUSTIN:  Because you’re Middle Eastern, you’re Barabbas, got it.

JOHN:  Yeah, yeah. I didn’t look like a Middle Eastern Jewish boy.  [Laughter]

AUSTIN:  Got it, sorry.

JOHN:  I looked like a pale Scottish boy.

AUSTIN:  Yeah, I got it, got it.  If nothing else is accomplished tonight, that just happened.  [Laughter]  Good.  So your father and your grandfather, both ministers were influential on you. What were some of the marks of their influence besides the gospel witness in your life?

JOHN:  Well, obviously, I heard them preach.  I heard my grandfather preach. I heard my father preach.  He was basically – I never heard any, I never went to another church to hear another preacher through all of my years of growing up.  The only one I ever heard was my dad and any other guest preacher who came into our church.  That was a significant influence.  But I think there was two other influences on me that came from my dad, in particular, because my grandfather died when I was really young.  He died in 1950, so I would have been 11 or 12. 

But there were two things I remember about my dad and one was eavesdropping on all of these conversations that he had with other people in ministry because our life was full of people in ministry.  All my grandfather’s friends, all my father’s friends were in ministry.  A lot of them were pastors and evangelists.  Just listening to their conversation was in itself kind of theological education.  I knew it was in their heart because the mouth speaks the preoccupations of the heart.

I was greatly blessed in being able to be around and eavesdrop on those kinds of conversations.  Life was much slower then.  The whole pace was slow.  Conversations could last a long time, and I benefited from that.  The other thing that really had a profound influence on me was my father’s reading.  I never saw him without a book in his hand or some kind of magazine.  He was just an insatiable reader.  He never could get enough.  Always by his chair, piles of books.  He had a hunger to know and to learn, which made him a really amazing conversationalist because well-read people make the best conversationalists. 

We all know what it’s like to go to a family event and hear your old uncle tell the same story he told last year and the year before and the year before, because he doesn’t know anything beyond what he knew in the past.  I never had two conversations alike with my dad because he just read and read and read widely.  So, I think listening to conversations and watching my dad read and know that he lived in the real world, the world of his own ministry.  But he lived in the world of books and theology and biographies and things that fascinated him.  He read in all kinds of fields, so that was a great gift to give to me.

I wasn’t naturally a student.  I was more naturally an athlete.  That was kind of where I would naturally gravitate, so there were some disciplines in becoming a reader.  But I think a lot of that came from the level of conversations that I listened to with people who were reading and who were growing in their understanding.  That set a pattern for me.

AUSTIN:  That’s helpful to hear because those are definitely influences that I think many of us would say about you, and we see that in you.  You’re a reader with a great appetite.  You are constantly engaged in conversations about ministry.  I think it’s a great testimony to see that mark passed on generationally in your family.

JOHN:  Yeah.  You don’t have a choice if you stay in the same place.

AUSTIN:  Yeah.

JOHN:  If you leave town, you can reset and go back and give your same stuff over again.  But if you stay in the same place from 1969 until 2014, you’ve got to move.  I don’t really have a choice.  I have to keep reading, keep developing, keep learning.  I love it.  Even if I have no reason for it, I do it because it’s my – I have curiosity about the things of the Lord.  I have curiosity beyond just theology.  I’m curious about lots of things in the world that the Lord has created and the behaviors of fallen men and all of that.  But I think it’s stimulated by the fact that I’m in the same place, and everything I’ve ever said is recorded.  I need to keep growing and keep reading. 

I remember my dad said to me one time when he was in his late 80s, he said, “Johnny, I’m still reading, but I really don’t know why.”


JOHN:  I knew that was signifying that he was turning a corner after so many, many years of reading.  “I’m still reading, but I don’t know why.”  It wasn’t long after that until he didn’t have any place to release all that he was taking in.  He began to kind of dry up and – he still was teaching the Bible until he was 90.  I don’t like to spread that around because, relax folks, I’m not going to be here until I’m 90.  [Laughter]  So have no fear. 

AUSTIN:  We’ll get to that question later.

JOHN:  Okay.

AUSTIN:  We’ve actually crafted a plan for you to stay until you’re 120.  [Laughter]  I agree with that.  [Applause]  So there’s actually some questions that relate to some of what you’ve said here.  One of the questions we ask you a lot on staff is, “What are you reading lately?”  Some people turned that question in.  Any books that you’ve been reading lately you’d like to talk about?  Something impactful or interesting in your walk with the Lord, or just maybe something that’s grabbed your attention lately?

JOHN: Well, there’s a new biography by Thomas Kidd on George Whitefield.  You gave it to me, and you’ve given me a lot of interesting things to read.  But knowing enough about George Whitefield to sort of be dangerous, to sort of not really know the full story, I couldn’t get fast enough into that book.  I’m about half way through the biography of George Whitefield who basically was the spiritual architect of America.  I mean he was the founding father on the spiritual level in America, more so than Jonathan Edwards.  Jonathan Edwards had theological brains, but Whitefield was the oratorical genius.  It’s just been fascinating to see this man and how God used him. 

He grew up with theater in his life.  He thought he wanted to be an actor, and then he turned to have disdain for the theater because it was bawdy and it was unacceptable.  So he preached against the theater.  He preached against going to the theater, but he maintained all of his acting skills as a preacher.  He just was compelling and riveting, and he would go into a field and preach 20,000 people.  Benjamin Franklin did tests to see if he could be heard from – he made friendship with Benjamin Franklin, who was a non-Christian deist.  But Franklin was so fascinated by him because he made a lot of money for Franklin because Franklin had a publishing company.  He published George Whitefield, but he never believed in the gospel.

But studying Whitefield’s just tireless, tireless preaching day after day, sometimes three, four times a day to thousands of people.  Seemingly, from what we can tell, without any notes.   

AUSTIN:  Yeah.

JOHN:  Really an amazing, amazing life.  So I like Christian biography.  I just recently wrote a chapter for a new book that’s coming out.  They asked me to do a chapter on David Martin Lloyd Jones, and so I wrote a chapter on David Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Then recently I was asked to read a biography that Ian Murray wrote on Amy Carmichael.  Do you all know who Amy Carmichael is from India, amazing ministry of caring for orphans?  At one time, 1,000 orphans.  A hospital with 5,000 inpatients and 60,000 outpatients, amazing missionary. 

Well, he asked me to read that biography, and as I was thinking about writing kind of a little forward for Murray’s book and just thinking it through – he actually asked Patricia to do it.  So we were just thinking it all through together, as she was kind of putting her thoughts together on that.  It struck me that really great biographies not only inform us, but they convict us. 

You read Whitefield and you feel like a slacker.  You feel like, what; you only preached three times this week, four times this week?  That’s a day’s work for George Whitefield.  Get on a horse and go somewhere and do it again every day.  I think there’s some power in that kind of conviction, that kind of exposure.  It isn’t just the novelty of their life.  It’s that you need to be convicted about your own – I guess your own lack of commitment.  You need to be humbled.  Just when you think you’ve done what you should do, you run across somebody like that or somebody like Amy Carmichael whose life is a staggering exhibit of sacrifice, disdain for all the comforts of life; ending up in India in a very primitive time in a very difficult life .   

So I like to read biographies.  I’ve read Amy’s and Whitefield and Tyndale, some others like that.  I told you I read the book Outliers, which is a Malcolm Gladwell book, which explains success in the way that you never think it could happen.  Really fascinating, fascinating book.  If you get – I would suggest reading that book, Outliers.  It’s sociology.  I don’t know where he is spiritually, but from my viewpoint, it shows how God providentially orders people’s lives.  So, I’ve read history books.  I’m in the middle of reading two or three history books because I get fascinated by that.

AUSTIN:  The reason I like to hear you talk about books is because they go through the MacArthur grid, which is a very biblical, theological grid.  So you can take a book, even a secular book and gain a biblical worldview’s take on a book.

JOHN:  Yeah.  I mean that’s always the way with me.  You gave me another really good book called, Homespun Gospel.

AUSTIN:  Yeah, and that was one I was confused by, and I needed an interpretation for it.

JOHN:  Well, the subtitle is How Sentimentalism has Triumphed Over the Evangelical Church.  It’s a critique.  It’s a critique of Max Lucado.  It’s a critique of Rick Warren and Joel Osteen.

AUSTIN:  Yeah.

JOHN:  It’s not a mild critique.  This is an Oxford, Ph.D. dissertation.  This is a big time book, and it shows how these guys represent a kind of sentimental approach to Christianity that has nothing to do with doctrine, nothing to do with biblical interpretation.  It’s literally taken over because they’re the dominant forces in evangelicalism.  Fascinating book.  I’m always wanting to be able to understand the times and understand the issues.

AUSTIN:  And I think that’s why we love these times of questions with you because you do give us that processes, biblical view of things.  You have the long view, I think because of your reading and because of your experience in this church.  So, we’re grateful to hear you talk about those things.  Let’s talk through some of these Bible questions.  Shall we do a Bible question or two?  We talked about baptism a minute ago.  One person submitted this question.  “Why was Jesus not baptized until the age of 30 when He started His ministry?”  And let me add onto that question – that’s a little Bible question.  Another one people ask all of the time is, “Who should do the baptizing?”  We’ve had parents or a mom say, “Is it okay if I baptize my daughter this coming Sunday night?”  It seems like that’s not how we do it here.  So maybe you could talk a little bit about Jesus’s baptism and how it relates to ours or if it relates to ours.  Then, who should baptize?

JOHN:  Well, of course, among the Jews, nobody was baptized.  There was no such thing as infant baptism, so nobody was baptized.  Nobody was baptized at any point.  Jewish people weren’t baptized.  They had ceremonial washings that had to do with some sort of a spiritual decontamination symbol.  There were washing pots and pans and rabbinical laws about washings had grown up.  Paul dismisses all of those, weariness with all of the washings and all of the things that the Jews has developed as superficial rules and laws. 

But Jews were not baptized.  There’s no Old Testament baptism as such.  So, why was Jesus baptized?  Well, amazingly, when the Jews did baptize somebody, they were baptizing a gentile who had come into Judaism.  There was a baptism of gentile proselytes to symbolize that they had been cleansed sort of of their idolatry, cleansed of their gentile infections, I guess.  So when they became part of Israel and worshipped the true and living God, they went through a ceremonial washing to cleanse them.  We all know how Jews resented the gentiles, kept them at arm’s length, didn’t go into their houses, didn’t eat meals with them, all of that.  So, it was a huge thing when they opened the court of the gentiles and gentile proselytes could come in. 

So to signify the legitimacy of their desire to come and be a part of Judaism and worship the true God, they went through a baptism.  Then John the Baptist came, and God ordained that John the Baptist preach baptism because He said this whole nation is no better than gentiles.  This whole nation is better than idolaters.  This whole nation needs to be brought to a point of repentance and cleansing symbolized by baptism. 

So it was John the Baptist who introduced baptism.  That’s when baptism started happening to the Jews and all Judea and Jerusalem were going out and being baptized by John and repenting of their sins, at least superficially, as it turns out and going through that baptism.  

AUSTIN:  A baptism that signified repentance. 

JOHN:  It signified repentance.  It had nothing to do with identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ because that hadn’t happened.

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  So it’s not Christian baptism, but it’s saying to the Jews, “You’re no better than a gentile.  You’re no better than a proselyte.  You’re in the same condition.  Just because you’re Jewish, you’re not in the kingdom of God.  Your sins haven’t been forgiven.  You need to repent.  That was very dramatic, and that was John’s message.  Then when Jesus came, John said, “Wait a minute.  I don’t need to do this for you because you’re the Son of God.  I don’t need to do this.”  Then Jesus said, “I must fulfill all righteousness,” which means that whatever the Father commands His people to do, I will do. 

AUSTIN:  Yeah.

JOHN:  I will do because I will demonstrate that I will obey every law that God has ordained for man.  So He did it to demonstrate His obedience though He didn’t need any cleansing.

AUSTIN:  Full submission to the Father –

JOHN:  Right.

AUSTIN:  – portrayed in that baptism.  It’s a good question.  That’s a question that comes in a lot, and you get asked a lot.  You’re asking the same question that John the Baptist was asking.  He was perplexed by the whole thing.

JOHN:  Yeah, why am I baptizing you?

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  Yeah, yeah.

AUSTIN:  So Jesus’s baptism is definitely in a different category than ours, except that it overlaps in obedience.   

JOHN:  Jesus didn’t need to go to the synagogue.

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  Jesus didn’t need to go hear a rabbi explain the Bible. 

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  Jesus didn’t need to go through any kind of ritual because they had no sanctifying effect on Him because He didn’t need to be sanctified, but He did them all.  He did them all.  It was His habit to go to the synagogue.  The gospels tell us that.  Did He have to get information there?  Did He have to get motivation there?  Did He have to get instruction there?  Why was He there?  Everything He did that fit into what God required was simply to be model of obedience, even though He was perfect. 

Christian baptism comes then later in Acts 2 where Peter preachers and says, “Okay, now repent and be baptized.”  Then it becomes a symbol do the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and identifying with Him. 

AUSTIN:  The command of Jesus and then the apostles to follow Christ in baptism is one that we still follow today.

JOHN:  Well, He said in the Great Commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you.”

AUSTIN:  Right, and so part of our evangelistic efforts and something we do as a church is baptize new believers or folks who have been believers for a long time, yet for some reason has not been baptized yet.  We get to hear that every Sunday night.  Let’s talk a little bit about the method and the mode of baptism.  We put people all the way under water, and I guess we covered that last time.  So let’s talk about what we’re talking about at the back.

JOHN:  That’s what the word “baptize” means.

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  If you say to someone, “Wow, I had a baptism of fire.”  You don’t mean somebody lit a match over your head.  You mean you were in it.

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  When you’re immersed – it’s the same word as “immersed.”  If you were immersed, you weren’t sprinkled.  Somebody didn’t go like that. 

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  Immersed means exactly what it means, and that’s what the word means: to place into water.  So that’s why we do it because that’s what the word means, and you remember when Philip and the eunuch – there was much water there, so the eunuch says, “Can I be baptized because there’s a lot of water here.”  Well, you don’t need a lot of water to spray somebody.

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  You need a lot of water to put them under.  That’s why we do it the way we do it.

AUSTIN:  You hear a lot of people talk about baptism maybe being something that they could do on their own or something best done in the context of the family, in the swimming pool in the backyard or maybe at the beach on a camping trip.  Is that the best way to be baptized?

JOHN:  No.

AUSTIN:  Where do we see that?

JOHN:  No, but it’s a fair question.  Let me just say in general that baptism is not a family event.  It’s not like a picnic.  It’s not like a soccer game, okay?  Baptism is not a family event.  It is a public confession before the church of Jesus Christ.  Yeah, I just got a message from a friend this week who said, “We have some mothers in our church that want to baptize their kids.  What do you think?”  Again, my response was, this isn’t a family event.  This is the ministry of the church.  So you go back to the book of Acts and does it say, “I do not permit women to baptize their kids”?  No, it doesn’t say that.  It doesn’t say, “I don’t permit fathers to baptize their kids.”  But what you have as a pattern in the book of Acts is that 3,000 people were converted and baptized on the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 people.  That had to be the work of the apostles.  There were lots of pools in Jerusalem, and getting 3,000 people dunked and getting them there and doing all that, 3,000 people baptized in one day.  I know a guy who wrote a dissertation on that.  Easily done with 12 people doing the baptizing.

AUSTIN:  What a topic for a dissertation.

JOHN:  Yeah, kind of strange, but dissertations are like that.  [Laughter]  So it was an apostolic function.  It was an apostolic function.  It continued to be an apostolic function even into the ministry of the apostle Paul.  Then there’s a change because Paul says, “I thank God that I didn’t baptize all of you, but Crispus and Gaius.”  So now he’s passed that on.  It’s not just an apostolic function.  They were the original heads of the church. 

Then, all of the sudden, there come to be others: prophets and then evangelists, teaching pastors.  But always we see that baptism is deemed at the very pinnacle of the life of the church an ordinance of the most serious kind and a public confession of Christ.  So it’s always been my conviction that it should be done by pastors and elders of the church, pastors and leaders in the church.  The reason is this: it authenticates the testimony.  It authenticates the confession if a pastor does it.  If your mother baptizes you, that might call into question the soundness of your testimony because your mother might lack a little theological acuity or might be a little biased in your favor.

AUSTIN:  Maybe.

JOHN:  Maybe.  So I think there could be situations where somebody could baptize someone else in an isolated situation.  You have Philip, the evangelist baptizing the eunuch.  So, again, you don’t have a woman anywhere in the Bible baptizing.  You don’t have a lay person baptizing that we know of.  Whenever there’s an incident of baptism, it seems to be in the hands of the leaders of the church.  I think that is because it is a function of the church as it is here, and I think because it brings authenticity to the testimony that has been validated by the leaders of the church.  That’s an affirming thing.  It’s also a point of accountability.  There’s a time in which you’re no longer accountable to your mother.  You’re accountable to the elders of the church.  I think that’s communicated when they care for your souls.  That’s sort of inaugurated at baptism. 

AUSTIN:  That’s why we don’t baptize children. 

JOHN:  No, we don’t baptize children because that’s not in the Bible.  No, little infant baptisms, not at all in Scripture. 

AUSTIN:  Okay, I’m not talking about babies.  I’m talking about children.

JOHN:  Oh, children?  No, because –

AUSTIN:  It seems like we don’t baptize very many little kids here. 

JOHN:  No.

AUSTIN:  It seems like we hold off until they’re seventh graders, eighth graders.

JOHN:  Well, until they repent and believe.

AUSTIN:  Yeah.

JOHN:  Until they repent and believe.  If you go to the Old Testament, at 12 or 13, you became bar mitzvah, son of the law.  You became accountable for obedient to the law.  It was sort of recognized that there’s a period at which a child becomes aware of his own condition and can believe or not believe.  Then when they genuinely believe, as best you can tell, and they can articulate their confession in Christ, as you heard these sweet girls do tonight.

AUSTIN:  Yeah.

JOHN:  We know that baptism should immediately follow.  You gout line up all the five year olds in the five year old department, ask how many of them want to ask Jesus into their heart.  And say, “Okay, pray this prayer.  Ask Jesus into your heart.”  The roomful would do it, and you could all rush them in the water, but you know that those little kids have affection for the name Jesus.  They have affections for the picture of Jesus.  They have affection for the songs about Jesus, but they have no idea of what sin, repentance, justification, salvation really is. 

So you want to encourage those steps toward God.  You always want to encourage them.  When they want to pray, “I want to ask Jesus into my heart.  I want Jesus to forgive me,” you encourage that.  You don’t know at what point that becomes saving faith.  But when they get to the age of 10, 11, 12, it starts – and it could be different.  There’s no single age.

AUSTIN:  Sure.

JOHN:  You see that evidence is in the life of the working of the Spirit of God.  There are some bizarre ideas on this infant baptism.  There’s a thing in infant baptism theology called presumptive regeneration, that if your child has been sprinkled as an infant, you can presume his regeneration.  Very minority view, but it’s a very bold view among many reformed people that believe that you should presume your children are converted because they were baptized.

That is in the language of reformed theology.  That is in the language of Lutheranism.  That is in the language of Catholicism.  Even the baptism right language is bent that way.  No, I believe your children are reprobate until they come to faith in Christ, so they need to be old enough to know what they’re doing.

AUSTIN:  That’s really helpful and practical advice for parents because you want to be able to encourage the child-like faith, yet be discerning in what’s really going on there.

JOHN:  Right.

AUSTIN:  So that’s really practical.  I know this is one of the great joys of your life is you minister to your grandkids. 

JOHN:  Yeah.

AUSTIN:  You kind of have a youth group of your own.

JOHN:  [Laughter]  Well, look, if your little child says, “I asked Jesus into my heart,” you don’t want to say, “Well, you’re not a Christian.  You’re too young.”  You don’t want to say that.  Why would you want to say that?

AUSTIN:  Or reprobate.

JOHN:  Yeah.  You want to affirm that.  “That’s so wonderful.  I’m so thankful.”  I remember going in the bedroom, and our oldest son was praying a prayer quietly by his bed.  I think he was five or six, and asking Jesus into his heart.  I don’t know what struck him to do that, but I was just so thankful.  Those are steps toward God.  At what point that becomes the work of God and regeneration, I don’t know, but you affirm that with everything you’ve got.  You keep them on that path. 

I think then a great way to teach them is to remind them that if they’ve made that prayer and they’ve made that kind of confession, you have a right to expect that they would behave themselves like Christians.  So you back that into the situation.

AUSTIN:  One of the questions that was turned in was, “What do you love about having grandkids?” and I bet this is close to that answer. 

JOHN:  Well, I love everything there is to love about grandkids.  I mean they’re your own flesh and blood.  I love my children more than I love anybody in the world, and their children I love the same way. 

AUSTIN:  I think it was a question from grandparents to grandparents just looking for a grandparent high five.  [Laughter]

JOHN:  Yeah.

AUSTIN:  There’s a special fellowship of the grandparents.

JOHN:  Well, I know the grandparents.

AUSTIN:  I like my kids too, but I don’t think I like them in the same way my parents like my kids.  I don’t know.

JOHN:  No, but that’s because with grandparents, the kids leave.  [Laughter]  With you, they don’t go anywhere.

AUSTIN:  No, they stay.

JOHN:  No, they stay.  So, you’re responsible for the whole deal.  But I think about this all the time.  I think with grandkids as they grow up, I’m not the disciplinarian.  I’m not the tough person in their life, and I seem to get from them a kind of unconditional love and affection that’s different.  I think that’s true probably for Patricia as well, that there’s something sweet and wonderful, especially if you know that your own children are raising them to love the Lord.  But again, there’s an awful lot at stake because these are eternal souls, and you don’t presume anything.  In fact, I’m fearful in some ways for my grandchildren because they’ve heard it all for so long, so consistently that it doesn’t stand out in their lives.  Their lives are circumscribed by their family and patterns of living that are acceptable, and they don’t know anything else other than that. 

How do you get them to appreciate this when they have nothing to compare it to?  A lot of threatening things have been written in the past about third generation, fourth generation Christians, their level of indifference.  I think you have to fight against that.  I still depend on the Lord, praying for my grandchildren that the Lord would save them, and that they wouldn’t become callous and cold and indifferent because they’ve heard it all for so long. 

AUSTIN: That reminds me of the Whitefield book that you are reading.  I mean he was preaching to third, fourth generation Christians by name in so many of those instances that he described.  He was preaching –

JOHN:  But he said to them infuriated them because he told them they weren’t converted.

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  He kept telling them from the beginning.  He’s a 22-year-old kid telling all these Anglican pastors they weren’t converted. 

AUSTIN:  Yeah.

JOHN:  They weren’t converted.  He used to say, “You have no more knowledge of God than a Mohamadan.”  They used to use that word.  “You have no more knowledge,” and he was talking to an Anglican priest.  They were infuriated by this guy.  It’s no wonder he preached in a field because they wouldn’t let him in their churches.

AUSTIN:  Right, and he would keep going back to that central message that defined his ministry.  You must be born again.

JOHN:  Yeah, and I didn’t follow George Whitefield when I started ministry, but he and I share that.  This is a thread that I see that kind of pulls me into his life.  He didn’t believe that everybody who said they were Christians were really saved.  This takes me back to when I wrote The Gospel According to Jesus.  That book kind of hit like a bomb.  That was like a terrorist bomb in the evangelical world saying all the people who profess to be Christians aren’t Christians.  But that is always – and the first sermon I ever preached at Grace Church in 1969, February 9th, as the new pastor was Matthew 7.  “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and I’ll say, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you, you workers of iniquity.’” 

I mean that was – what was I thinking?  [Laughter]  I was a 20-something year old guy like George Whitefield.  I was saying, “You’re not saved.  You’re not saved,” the first Sunday here.  But from the get-go with me, I knew the church was full of unconverted people.  That’s what Whitefield knew, and all these layered Anglicans, and these people who had come from Germanic and other European reformed backgrounds, who didn’t have a true knowledge of Christ.

It showed up pretty fast in America because these generational Anglicans and others, German Christian groups, came over here, and they went liberal really fast.

AUSTIN:  Yeah, really fast, and that’s why we pray for our kids, and that’s why prayer is such an essential part of evangelism, right?

JOHN:  Yeah.  Well, there’s two things that you don’t want to eliminate from their lives.  One is prayer and the other is the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  The same sun – I’ve said this – that melts the wax, hardens the clay.  If you resist and resist and resist and become indifferent, then hearing the Word is dangerous.  I said a few weeks ago, you’d be better off to leave.  But they’re not going to be saved without the Word doing its work, so you have to just pray that the Spirit of God will create a love for the truth that’ll draw them to Him.

AUSTIN: Really practical advice for evangelism and parenting and grand-parenting.  Thank you for answering that question.  Before I –

JOHN:  Just other thing I would say, and I don’t want to jump in, but [Laughter] one other thing is I think if you’re in the ministry, there’s a need to be consistent in your life.  As a parent, there’s a desperate need to be consistent.  But as a grandparent, there’s a need to be consistent in your priorities and your love for Christ, your faithfulness and all that because those little eyes are watching.  Those little children are watching.  I just don’t ever want to be the reason why one of my family said, “I can’t believe this because I’ve seen the reality.”  I don’t want to ever be the one pointed to as a hypocrite. 

AUSTIN:  So good.  That’s why we have to have authentic faith, authentic repentance within our homes.  SO it wasn’t that the MacArthur house was a perfect house.  It was a genuine place where Jesus was worshiped and you built your family into the church, and they heard that message, not just from you.  And they saw you live that message, but not only you, but they saw the whole community of believers with the same message, believing the same thing and so many examples of faithfulness. 

JOHN:  It’s interesting, as a preacher, I remember Mark – I don’t know how old Mark was.  He walked in and sat down and looked at me and said, “I don’t understand you.” I said, “Why?”  He said, “When you’re at the church and you’re preaching, you’re really special.  The rest of the time, you’re really not.”  [Laughter]  “ What happens?”  I took that as a positive thing that he could somehow see me as the preacher of the Word of God, even though at the same time I was his dad; and that he knew that something unique took place in that interaction with Scripture.

AUSTIN:  That’s great.

JOHN:  That way you can be the father and also pastor your kids.

AUSTIN:  Yeah.  Thank you for that, helpful.  Before there was grandkids, way before there was grandkids, and this is a question from my guess is a young man asking about – I can’t remember exactly how he worded it.  I wrote angry, single guy here on the page.  [Laughter]  Something about, “Hey, how come no girls marry me?  How do I find a girl in this church?  I need to find a wife, wah.”  [Laughter]  It was written there.  There was a tear stain on it.  [Laughter]  It was heavy.  And I can joke about this because those are my people.  Our college department is full of broken hearts.  You did find a wife successfully.

JOHN:  Yeah.

AUSTIN:  And she’s stayed with you all these years.  What was it that drew you to Mrs. MacArthur?  She wasn’t called Mrs. MacArthur back then.

JOHN:  No.

AUSTIN:  She was Patricia.  What drew you to her back then, and what are some things that you just really love about your wife?

JOHN:  Well, I love –

AUSTIN:  Is that an okay question?

JOHN:  No, yeah, yeah.

AUSTIN:  It might help the dudes.  They need help.  What are they looking for?  Are they looking for a sign from heaven?  Help them out.  Give me some –

JOHN:  Yeah, okay.  All you guys line up over there.  All you single girls line up over here.  We’re going to give everybody a number, match up, get married.  [Laughter] 

AUSTIN:  It would work.

JOHN:  I mean, we’ve got to get this thing moving.  You’re paralyzed.  It’s just not right. 

AUSTIN:  Eventually, you’ll really like each other.

JOHN:  Yeah.  [Laughter]  Patricia was a friend of my sister, so she was hanging around all the time at our home.  She was, at that time, engaged to be married to another guy, which I just accepted at face value.  It got to the point where she had the wedding invitations in the trunk of the car addressed and was supposed to take them to the post office, mail them, and marry the guy.

So, I knew I was an outside, but everything about her fascinated me, everything.  She was just fun, just the most fun person.  Loved the Lord, came from a great family, wonderful family.  Wonderful mom and dad, served the Lord their whole lives.  She loved the church.  She loved the things that I loved.  I was a college teacher when I was a college student.  I taught the college department, so she was there, and I was teaching her the Bible Sunday after Sunday. 

Yeah, everything about her drew me to her, and that was all in God’s plan.  I just had to figure out what was going to happen when she was supposed to marry another guy.  The Lord took care of all that.  She never married him.  That’s a long story.  You can ask her her version of it.  [Laughter] 

AUSTIN:  The way you just told it sounds like he got hit by lighting.  [Laughter]  That’s not the way the Lord took care of that, just for the record.

JOHN:  I think he thought he got hit by lighting, but he didn’t. 

AUSTIN:  Yeah.  So it was that she was fun.  It was that you loved the same things.  It was common interests.

JOHN:  Well, look, she was a Christian girl who loved the Lord.  She loved her family.  She had a solid family.  Her family loved each other.  They were wholesome, healthy.  She loved the church.  She was part of the church.  There was a sweetness and a humility about her.  I don’t know.  How do I know?  I’m just a kid, and I’m picking out the cutest one in the crowd who can also cook and has a great family, and is fun.  I’m saying, “This is the one for me.”  She’s beautiful and all this.  So that was it.  I had no idea where my life was going, and neither did she.

AUSTIN:  Sure, sure. 

JOHN:  We’ve just been hanging on this roller coaster for 51 years.

AUSTIN:  And 51 years later – I love what you’re saying there.  He’s joking about the line-up, but there’s so much truth there because that is a decision you make when you’re near the dumbest end of your life. 

JOHN:  Yeah, this is the worst time in your life to make that decision.

AUSTIN:  Right.  That’s why, and so I’m just providing a little bit of color and interpretation here.  That’s why 51 years later you see the hand of God in it in such an extraordinary way because how has she enriched your ministry?  How could you have done what the Lord has done in and through you without her?

JOHN:  No, it couldn’t have done – but let me just tell you this.

AUSTIN:  Tell.

JOHN:  It was a whole lot easier to pick a wife then because families were cohesive.  You married a family.  You married a family.  The family is gone.  Now, you’ve got free floating human beings wandering out there, disconnected from any group of people.  That is a very risky business.  I knew the family.  I knew her sisters.  I knew her brother.  I knew her mother.  I knew her father.  I knew the character of the family.  You marry family.  You marry history.  You don’t just get a girl or a guy.  You get history.  You get all that input.  If you don’t know that, you’re in a high-risk operation.  That’s why dating online kind of stuff is really Russian roulette.  You’re putting a gun to your head and hoping there’s not a bullet in the chamber.

AUSTIN:  Yeah.

JOHN:  Okay.  You need to find somebody in the church, somebody.  If they don’t have a nuclear family, a normal family, you need to find somebody that has a circle of friends that demonstrate to you who this person is because you’ve got to have history.  You’re going to marry history.  It’s challenging.  From my standpoint, I never had one hesitation.  She did because she had to get rid of that other guy.  [Laughter]  I saved her from a fate worse than death.  You have to understand that.  [Laughter] 

But I’m just saying what makes it so hard today is you’ve got all these free-floating people all over the map that have no history.  You don’t know what their history is, where they’ve come from.  They’re disconnected.  They don’t have family.  On the other hand, when you do find something that you’re interested in, and you do know their family, and it scares you, you have a reason to be scared.  Because, again, you’re marrying history.  The church is the place to find somebody, and the church becomes a family.  You lower the risk immensely if you’re in a fellowship group in the church, college group, singles group, and you have a family, and you have people who are friends with this person and vouch for this person, and demonstrate the values of that person.  You lower the risk significantly.

The idea of going online, chasing around with pictures of people who look a certain way and fabricate some kind of deceptive profile top attract.  That, as I said, is very dangerous stuff.  That’s why there’s so many people living together because that just doesn’t make a marriage and doesn’t make a life. 

AUSTIN:  Yeah.

JOHN:  So when I knew her family, and when I knew her because she was a friend of my sister and she was around the house all the time.  Her previous beau was away at medical school, so she was around a lot.  I just –

AUSTIN:  Medical school?

JOHN:  Yeah.  So I just saw in her everything.  Everything I wanted, I saw in her.

AUSTIN:  Yeah.

JOHN:  Eventually, the Lord kind of changed her heart and the rest is history.

AUSTIN:  Yeah, it is.

JOHN:  And it wouldn’t be what it is without her.  I mean this is a – she doesn’t preach, sing, play the piano.

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  She doesn’t lead things, but her influence on my life is greater than anybody else, any other human being.  So the Lord uses her in my life, and it’s always been that way.  I am in many ways what I am, and this ministry is what it is because of her influence. 

AUSTIN:  What a faithful testimony to how essential it is for a minister to have a godly wife and for anyone to have a godly wife because she is the one who is there with you through every difficulty, and who is the one that you come home to after all the storms and trials and sweet times and joys.  So that’s a great testimony to that.  One person asked that question.  “What were some of the greatest challenges you faced as a leader, and what did you learn through those challenges?” 

You look back over those 51 years of marriage and almost 50 years of ministry in this church.  Are there a few highlights of challenges?  I don’t think that’s necessarily a negative word, but moments in the history of this church that you just remember you saw the faithfulness of God through it?

JOHN:  It’s a constant explosion of supernatural working, constant, never stops.  Every day that I’ve gotten up and started into what God’s called me to do has been full of joy and adventure.  I have lived the kind of life that most people in the ministry would never even imagine.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know why the Lord has chosen that, but it is just one long joy, this ministry.  We have problems.  You know that.  Everybody does. 

There have been some very difficult times here.  I remember when essentially the entire pastoral staff announced to me that there was a mutiny working early.  Many years ago, many, many years ago.  They all kind of rose up against me, and they all left.  I remember I was in the middle of preaching through 1 John, and I connected it.  I connect me life with those kind of books because, so do you.  You connect yourself coming here at a certain point on a preaching schedule. 

But anyway, I just didn’t understand it.  I remember saying to them one morning that, “I’m so grateful you’re my friends.  I’m just so thankful to be able to work with you.”  One of them said, “If you think we’re your friends, you’ve got another thing coming.” 


JOHN:  And then the mutiny kind of elevated and I was shocked.  They all left.  Most of them left the ministry altogether.  It was a strange thing.  Nobody really ever knew why, but each of them independently came back to me and asked forgiveness over the years.


JOHN:  Then there was a time about 18 or 20 years into this deal when about 200 to 250 people left the church.  And the elders had a big meeting to decide what to do with me because my preaching irrelevant, impractical, too long.  I wasn’t engaged enough as a leader, and some thought I was too engaged and overbearing.  That whole thing was a bizarre thing.  There were some staff issues through the years that were very challenging, some deceptive things.  But all in all, you expect that.  And there’s a lot of criticism, obviously.  I think I’ve sort of outlived the critics.  They’ve either died or left because I’m on the back side of all those kinds of early challenges.

AUSTIN:  Yeah.  It’s so foreign to hear you talk about that kind of a world because the elder board is not like that.

JOHN:  No.

AUSTIN:  The church staff isn’t anything like that.

JOHN:  No, no.  It’s just amazingly unified.  It’s just a joyful experience.  We just have a great time, staff, the elders are 100 percent supportive.  I don’t lead the elders meetings.  I’m there.  I just watch that leadership, that unity unfold.  But sure, there have been those kinds of challenges.  There have been times when I struggled with interpreting a certain passage, and I had to be ready by Sunday.  I was still fighting to get it right.  You have those normal things.

There have been disappointments with people.  The biggest challenge in leadership is to pick the right people because when you pick the wrong people, the problems really multiply because people get attached to those people.  Then when you try to make changes, it’s like cutting out cancer.  You’ve got to take some good flesh to get it all.  So, getting the right people in the right places is a challenge. 


JOHN:  Yeah, but let me just say one thing.  The way I view leadership is it’s based around convictions.  People with strong convictions – if we have the same convictions, we can find a path to see them fulfilled.  Our convictions are so basically regulated by the Word of God, so we’re all on the same page and we share the same convictions.  That’s where our unity comes from.  When you somebody who is sideways with those convictions, it’s very difficult.

AUSTIN:  Yeah.  So your life has been dominated by the teaching of the Word of God, and by opportunities to take that teaching and give it to a wider audience by way of radio ministry, the books, and those things were secondary to what you were primarily focused on here.  You have taught through the whole New Testament.  You turned in the final copy.  You described that to the church Sunday morning, not too long ago, what that was like to be done with really the work that you’ve been about all these decades.  What is it that you’re doing now?  What’s your focus?  What are you working on?  What’s the big project that’s on the horizon? 

JOHN:  Well, there are a few more books.  We’re going to do a book on Isaiah 53.  So that’s out there, and there are some projects likethat, some other things.  But the big project is The Master’s Seminary, as you know. 

AUSTIN:  Yeah.

JOHN:  Looking ahead, Dr. Mayhue has retired and is going to be writing a theology over the next year.  So that’s going to be a wonderful treasure for the seminary to have.  Looking ahead at the seminary, I’ve always kind of been an absent figure there, but I’ve jumped in with both feet.  My energies are in the direction of the seminary for a lot of reasons.  Number one, it supplies everything.  All the preachers and teachers and missionaries come out of The Master’s Seminary.  I don’t know how many seminary grads are on our church staff, but there are dozens and dozens of them, and all of our interns.

So Grace Church is made up of guys that like you have graduated from The Master’s Seminary.  All the TMAI, the 18 training centers all over the globe with their teams of guys, all graduates from The Master’s Seminary.  We have faculty members coming along at the college and the seminary trained at the seminary.  We have guys out of the seminary now, nine of them are getting their Ph.D.  Ten, 11, 12, maybe 15 of them are getting a Ph.D. somewhere else that are going to go on to teach, but they are products of the seminary.

So the seminary fuels, feeds teachers and preachers and missionaries into the future, so we have to secure it.  I’ve come up with some new things in the seminary, as you know.  You’re one of them, to put you over a new approach to the expository preaching department and pastoral ministries department so we can really get our hands on that, that practical outworking of ministry.  You’ve done a phenomenal job on that.

AUSTIN:  Thanks for your encouragement. 

JOHN:  No, you’re the man.

AUSTIN:  No, no, stop.  [Laugher]

JOHN:  No, you’re the man.

AUSTIN:  You’re making me blush.

JOHN:  Not only are you fun to work with, but you know exactly what needs to happen, and you’re doing it just powerfully, just effectively.

AUSTIN:  Hey, just learned from the best.

JOHN:  Just don’t try to leave.  [Laughter]  Because the conversation could change.

AUSTIN:  So you’re working on seminary stuff?

JOHN:  I’m working on seminary stuff.  We’ve brought people in, brought Carl Hargrove back.  I’m so excited to work on placement.

AUSTIN:  We love Carl.

JOHN:  Because we train guys, and we had no way to place them.  They just said, “Okay, go find a church.  Go find a mission field, go.”  There’s too much invested in these guys not to put them where they need to be and to help them.  I brought Scott Basolo after his pastoral ministry to ramp up recruitment and admissions, and it’s all working.  We’re way ahead for next year of guys signed up and ready to roll.  We could have the biggest second semester group ever coming in in January.  So all of these things are – we need more men.  We need to train more men.  We need to bring in more faculty.  We need to strengthen our public profile.  That’s why we’re doing The Shepherds’ Conference on Inerrancy sponsored by the seminary to raise the profile of the seminary. 

AUSTIN:  An absolutely massive Shepherds’ Conference this year.

JOHN:  Yeah, 4,500 people.  If you’re asking where we’re going to put them, Mark Sakovich says we’ve got places.  We can put 900 of them in the gym, 300 of them in the chapel, 3,000 of them here.  Then we’ve got some other large spaces, the basement where we can do video. We’re going to give them color coded tags so that the reds come in here one time, and then the greens come in here the next time.  So, we’ll circle them around.  Everybody gets into every different venue. 

What’s thrilling about it is this is the most important issue of all.  If this is true, then this is everything.  If this has errors, we’ve lost everything.  So to see the whole evangelical world rally, and we’re going to have 16 different speakers coming from other seminaries and other places around the world who want to stand with us on this inerrancy issue.  We want to be known as the place in all the world that is the most faithful to the inerrancy of Scripture, the integrity of Scripture.

AUSTIN:  And we’re clarifying that message because we’re building on the strength of the past.  The Master’s Seminary has always been the place to go if you want to be a preacher, if you want to be an expositor.  That’s what we’re about, and I think that’s what draws guys here.  I think that message is being clarified.  That’s what you’ve been focused on these past few years, and increasingly so this year, working on the seminary, making changes, modifications, making sure we’re doing things well and with excellence. 

No one in this room is nervous about me leaving.  Everyone in this room wants to know what your plan is.  We don’t want you to fix the seminary and then be raptured.  We’re concerned about that.  [Laughter] So much so that many of the questions were like this.  Here’s a dear question from someone named Elaine.  Thanks, Elaine.  “How long will you continue to serve as our pastor?”  Then she wrote, “I hope forever.  Smiley face, Elaine.”  [Laughter]  Or she was drawing a picture of you.  I couldn’t tell.

JOHN:  Yeah.

AUSTIN:  Then other people asked, “Do you have a plan for retirement?  What will happen to Grace Church?”  I get this question a lot.  What’s MacArthur going to do?  What’s his plan?  Is he going to throw the keys on the desk one day and get in his truck and drive off into the sunset?  [Laughter]  It makes people nervous.  I always tell people, “I don’t know why you’re even talking this.  This is a problem we’re going to deal with in 40 years.”  [Laughter]

JOHN:  No, no, really, no.

AUSTIN:  That’s my answer, and I’m sticking to it.

JOHN:  Look, you know what I’ve always said to you guys.

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  I have no plan to retire.  I can’t even imagine what that means.  [Applause}  I do not want to wake up one Monday morning and discuss whether I’m going to Target or Walmart.  [Laughter]  Not a chance, and then have that be the question of every day.  I’m not going there. 

AUSTIN:  Okay.

JOHN:  I can’t be domesticated.  [Laughter]

AUSTIN:  That’s my other favorite part, just for the record.

JOHN:  I’m out on the point of the spear still in my own mind, and as long as I can – and I’ve told you guys this before.  When I don’t make sense, when I can’t put my thoughts together, get me out of there.  But you’ll probably have to convince me because if I can’t make sense, then I won’t understand when you tell me.  [Laughter]  

AUSTIN:  That’s the catch-22.

JOHN:  Yeah.  So you’re going to have to put a rope around me and haul me away.  Look, I’ve been doing this long enough to know the Word of God, and I love doing what I’m doing.  I feel this is a life calling from the Lord.  When He limits my ability to do it, physically or mentally, then that’s fine.  I have the same energy of – I don’t notice any difference in my energy level.  I don’t know.  Someone else will have to evaluate the preaching and the work, and I’m ready.  If the Lord would say, “Step aside,” in a year – fine.  That’s fine with me.  I’m not trying to hold on for my own sake.  I just -

AUSTIN:  The Lord doesn’t say things outside of the Bible, so - [Laughter]

JOHN:  No, I know, yeah.  But I mean if – [Laughter and applause]  Well, why do so many people give me so much advice I wonder?  But I’m –

AUSTIN:  You mean providentially.  I know what you mean.

JOHN:  But I’m simply saying – yeah providentially.  I’m simply saying, look, if the Lord wanted to send me off somewhere to a mission field for the final years, I’d be willing to do that.  I’d do anything that became evident as the Lord’s will.  It’s not for my sake.  It’s just that I’m here and the Lord has built this wonderful team around me.  I think we’re going down the right path and doing the right things.  You precious people are supporting this church and loving us and praying for us and giving.  These are wonderful, wonderful days in our church.

AUSTIN:  Yes, they are.

JOHN:  So I don’t know, but I do know this, and when people say, well, what happens if you get ill, you get cancer, or you have a heart attack or whatever, or you can’t function anymore?  My answer to that is I don’t think anything would need to happen.  I really don’t.  I think there are people like you and many others who occupy this pulpit that everybody knows and everybody loves and everybody trusts.  The less change, the better.  I think it would be very hard to say to some guy, “Okay, you go take John MacArthur’s place.”

AUSTIN:  You think?  [Laughter]

JOHN:  That would be – well, it would just put a burden on that person. 

AUSTIN:  Oh yeah.  [Laugher]

JOHN:  So, I think maybe it’s a slow down for me.  Maybe I stop preaching Sunday nights and let others preach Sunday nights, and I can see that coming maybe sooner rather than later.  But I think there are so many gifted preachers like yourself and others, so many gifted men that this church would go on with the same strength.  The elders are so solid.  The staff is solid.  The people are committed.  Grace Church would continue to be what it is.  Then it would become apparent down the road, maybe in a few years where the direction would come.  But I don’t think there would be – you couldn’t put this church in the hands of some outsider.

AUSTIN:  Right.

JOHN:  Why would you want to do that?  Why would you want to experiment when you have people that are loved and trusted, who have ministered so effectively?  In fact, it might be a blessing, truthfully, because it would throw a little variety into the pulpit, a lot more than there is now.

AUSTIN:  Well, no, I think the reason people are asking that question isn’t because they long for variety.  It’s because we love you and cherish these years here at Grace Church.  It is such a sweet time to be at Grace, and we love your leadership.  The things that are happening at the seminary are one thing, but this church is just a continual blessing in the lives of so many of these people, and a continual gospel witness in this community.  We just love what’s happening here, and I think you’re dearly loved by these people.  That’s why they ask that.  [Applause]

JOHN:  Well, thank you.  It is a very, very strange phenomenon to have somebody preach at you for half a century.  There was this English orator who said he couldn’t imagine having to speak to the same audience three times.  Preaching is a very strange phenomenon.  It goes on nowhere.  No other religion does it.  It goes on nowhere, except in the Christian church.  Even in aberrant forms of Christianity like Roman Catholicism or any other kind of thing and maybe a little short kind of homily of some idea.  But the idea of just the same person talking hours and hours and hours is such a strange thing that anybody who does it has a sort of nagging fear that this is – I need to get out of here.  I need to give these people relief and a break.  But I think the saving grace of it is exposition of Scripture because I don’t think people necessarily connect with me. I think they connect with the Scripture.  That’s why I’ve said to you and to other groups, we don’t have video screens here because you don’t need to see me 18 feet high.  You need to hear what I say and look at your Bible.  You don’t need to look at me. 

It is a strange, strange thing, but the Lord has ordained the foolishness of preaching, and it’s unique to the church.  There have been through history, when you go back through history, you find men like a Spurgeon or like a W.A. Criswell or people who were in the same pulpit for decades and decades and decades.  It’s a very strange phenomenon, but those who were able to be successful at it connected their people to the Scripture.  It wasn’t theatrical in any sense.  It was barely personal, barely personal.

AUSTIN:  Well, and your ministry has touched so many lives here, and this church isn’t just some kind of mega-gathering.  This is a family, and your life and your –

JOHN:  See, I don’t like that.  I don’t like it when people say we’re a mega church.


JOHN:  We’re not a mega – we’re just a church, ordinary church.

AUSTIN:  It is.  It’s people who love each other and who love the simplicity of what the church is called to be.  That’s what’s so sweet about Grace.  There’s lots of churches in this city, lots of good, gospel-preaching and believing churches, but they wouldn’t be classified as simple.  That’s what you thought to clarify even lately, as you talk about why we don’t do a thousand things here, why we have a focus on the sustained exposition of God’s Word; the ordinances that Christ left for us, and winning the lost to Christ through the ministry of all these dear people in their work places and families. 

That’s exactly what this church has done for all these decades, and what we pray by God’s grace will continue to do.  So, thank you, sir, for your faithful leadership of this church.  We appreciate you beyond our ability to describe that and the cards all said things like that.  So I’m speaking from my heart and from their hearts.  We dearly love our pastor.

JOHN:  Thank you.  Thank you, Austin.

AUSTIN:  Absolutely. 

JOHN:  Thank you, thank you all.  [Applause]

AUSTIN:  All right.  We conquered a whole bunch of questions. 

JOHN:  Well, you kind of summed them up into gang –

AUSTIN:  I did.  Those were people’s questions though.  I didn’t make those up.  Yeah, they were the real deal.  So, thank you.  It’s great to be able to spend this kind of time with you.  I know that we cherish it.  Will you pray for us? 

JOHN:  Sure.

AUSTIN:  We’ll wrap it up.

JOHN:  Lord, thank you for a wonderful time of fellowship.  We have no words to express gratitude for Grace Community Church.  We love this church, not in an abstract sense, but we love all that it is, the people, the truth, the worship, the ministry, fellowship, baptism, Communion, our missionaries, the seminary, the college, even the outreach of Grace to You around the world.  We love all that you’re doing here.  We’re so thrilled and blessed to be a part of it.  Lord, I thank you that these people even love to give, and so they give generously, sacrificially, enabling us to do all the things that we do. 

We thank you for the delights of just being on this beautiful campus and enjoying it with our friends and family and children.  Thank you for all that this church is to us.  Thank you, Lord, for blessing us in spite of ourselves and sustaining our ministry.  But, Lord, we just don’t want to be a monument to a great history.  We want to be on the cutting edge of the future.  We want to be penetrating the city of Los Angeles and the state of California and our country and the world. 

We want the future to be even greater than the past.  We want to always feel like we’re just coming out of the prologue.  We’re just coming out of the forward, and we’re about to enter the great, great history that awaits us.  So, Lord, be gracious to us.  Show yourself mighty and powerful in our church in every way.  Make us faithful so that we will be in the place to be blessed.  Bless now even our fellowship.  We thank you for it.  In Christ’s name, amen.

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