In tribute to John MacArthur

June 17, 2011

A chance encounter on the Ohio Turnpike changed my life. I was a student at an Independent Fundamental Baptist (hereafter referred to as IFB) college. I was raised in an IFB King James Only church. The sermons I grew up with were sermons of the “pick any verse to prove your point” variety. The sermons usually ended up at the same destination. Don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t chew or go with girls who do. Witness more, give more, dress more (modestly). Women shouldn’t wear pants; men should cut their hair. We believed we were the only ones who lived right, loved God and believed the Bible (the King James Bible).

Although there was the occasional hypocrite, we sincerely did want to live right, love God and believe the Bible. Our pastor was a good man, my hero. He taught me to follow the Word of God. I am a pastor today because of him. I am the type of pastor I am today though, because of John MacArthur.

On Sunday, June 5th, 2011, John MacArthur accomplished something that is extremely rare in a preaching ministry. He finished preaching through the entire New Testament, verse by verse. A process he began in 1969. On top of this, he did it as pastor of the same congregation for all 42 years!

I will never forget that day in late 1979 or early 1980 driving back to college. Instead of listening to my CB radio (my handle was “silverfish” because I drove a silver pinto and my teenage nickname was fish, short for fish-lips), I was channel surfing. A Christian radio station came in loud and clear. A man was preaching. I had never heard of him, but more importantly I had never heard preaching like that. It was like water to a thirsty fish. He was preaching through the Bible verse by verse and wasn’t pulling any punches. He didn’t share stories, tell jokes or go off on rabbit trails. His love for the Lord and respect for His Word were evident. The half hour broadcast was over way too soon. I wanted more, needed more. I took note of the program “Word of Grace” (it later became “Grace to You”). As soon as I got back to school I wrote a letter to this radio “pastor-teacher” thanking him for his ministry.

Much to my surprise I received a thank you and a study guide. Not the slick study guides of today. They looked like the church printed them in-house. The pages were cut in half and hole punched with a simple card stock cover with one color printing. Simple in design, rich in content. Eventually I received another. Then another. To this day I have them all. Over time they became more professional looking. The Grace Community Church (“Word of Grace Communications”) was no longer the printer, now Grace to You published them and eventually Moody Press. The study guides were bound instead of stapled and the covers were printed in color. By now I was in the ministry, teaching weekly (or should I say weakly). I poured over these notes. They began to affect my teaching. I didn’t (and still don’t) preach directly from them, but they changed my approach to studying and preaching the Word. I didn’t know it, but I was becoming an expository preacher, in fact I had never heard the phrase. God in his grace began to encourage me through the appreciation of those who had to listen to me.

Over the years I have listened to hundreds of John MacArthur sermons (first preaching tapes, then CDs and now on-line). I have read dozens of his books. I have grown immensely from his teaching ministry and it has impacted the way I do many things in ministry. Thank you John MacArthur and a radio station I only heard once.

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