Pastor and author John MacArthur warned thousands of church leaders this week against compromising with the world, suggesting that churches that compromise on biblical principles to be more popular in society “cross over into the devil’s work.”
On the first day of the Shepherds’ Conference Wednesday, the pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and chancellor of The Master’s University, preached about the need for churches to be separate from the world or risk becoming corrupt.
MacArthur read from Matthew 16, the passage where Jesus predicts His suffering and death. After getting rebuked by Peter, Jesus tells his disciple to “get behind me, Satan!”
“If you think there is a way to accomplish redemption without suffering and death, you’re offering what the devil offered,” said MacArthur, who leads the syndicated Christian radio and television program “Grace to You.” “If you can make an alliance with the devil, you can skip all the suffering.”
“Men are always interested in finding the easy way, right? That’s why they compromise. That’s why they find a way to be popular and to avoid hostility and to avoid opposition and to avoid persecution and to avoid offense,” he continued.
MacArthur said that Peter’s mistaken view has been “repeated incessantly through all of Church history.” He argued that “Christians have been trying to help Jesus build His Kingdom by striking a deal with the devil.”
“Every effort to advance the Kingdom by means of the world’s schemes is a stumbling block to Christ and His cause,” the 82-year-old added. “Pragmatism wants to find a way around any kind of pain or difficulty.”
While saying “good intentions may be behind it,” MacArthur felt that efforts “to advance the Gospel by political lobbying, by any form of pragmatism, shallow Gospel entertainment, emotional manipulation, acceptance of sin and sinners, is to cross over into the devil’s work.”
“Evangelicalism has become like Peter, offering a ‘better way’ than bold, faithful, compassionate, loving proclamation of the full Gospel that offends the sinner, terrifies the sinner, terrorizes the sinner,” MacArthur maintained.
He claimed that churches that make such compromises exchange the Gospel for “popularity, acceptance and money.”
“The apostles, by the way, turned the world upside down. They did that with no help from it. The evil kingdom of darkness hates all that God loves, and loves all that God hates.”
MacArthur warned that “you can’t link Satan to God in any kind of spiritual enterprise,” contending that doing so turns the church into a “feminist, homosexual welcoming club.”
He declared that “partnering with the world” is “unacceptable,” though he clarified that joining in a “common cause” such as helping with a charity or philanthropy “is fine.”
“But to assume that any alliance with the world is a part of the Gospel is to pollute the Gospel,” said MacArthur.
MacArthur’s comments came on the first day of the Shepherds’ Conference, a gathering of around 3,500 church leaders at Grace Community Church. The conference will run until Friday.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Unashamed.” The conference’s website notes that “God calls leaders in His church to be unashamed—a call for courage, fortitude, boldness, and humility.”
In addition to MacArthur, other scheduled speakers include Voddie Baucham, dean of theology at African Christian University; Steve Lawson, president of OnePassion Ministries; Abner Chou, professor and John F. MacArthur Endowed Fellow at The Master’s University; and Alex Montoya, senior pastor at First Fundamental Bible Church; among others.
GCC’s Shepherd’s Conference kicked off a day after journalist Julie Roys published a report stating that MacArthur shamed and excommunicated a mother in 2002 for filing for separation from her husband, David Gray, a former music and Bible teacher at GCC who was accused and later convicted of child abuse and molestation.
When she reported Gray’s behavior to GCC, the mother told the church about allegations of physical and mental abuse, and she had not yet known about the sexual abuse.
Despite being mandated by state law to report allegations of child abuse, the report states that GCC officials never reported the allegations against Gray to authorities and harassed the mother to change her mind about separation. The mother, identified in the report only as “Eileen,” reported Gray’s actions to police in 2003, which led to his 2005 conviction.
The Christian Post reached out to Grace Community Church for comment on Roys’ report. A response was not immediately received.
In 2018, MacArthur garnered controversy when he championed a public statement claiming that the concept of “social justice” was compromising the Gospel.
“Specifically, we are deeply concerned that values borrowed from secular culture are currently undermining Scripture in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality,” read the statement in part.
“The Bible’s teaching on each of these subjects is being challenged under the broad and somewhat nebulous rubric of concern for ‘social justice.’… If the doctrines of God’s Word are not uncompromisingly reasserted and defended at these points, there is every reason to anticipate that these dangerous ideas and corrupted moral values will spread their influence into other realms of biblical doctrines and principles.”
Critics, among them Russell Moore, who at the time was president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, countered by saying that social concerns and the Gospel are often intertwined.
“We don’t simply say Jesus can forgive people for abortion, therefore, let’s not worry about whether or not the law recognizes an unborn child as a person,” said Moore at the time.
“The Bible doesn’t make these artificial distinctions between what we are doing privately and personally and then what we are gathering together and doing.”