If I were John MacArthur, for one thing, I’d be able to throw a football further than anyone reading this post. But I would also be faced with a conundrum of existential proportions: What’s next?
Last Sunday night [June 5, 2011], to the sound of thunderous ovation, Dr. MacArthur completed the expository preacher’s equivalent of landing on the moon. They say the space craft carrying Armstrong employed less technology than a modern coffee machine. By finishing the Gospel of Mark, MacArthur has preached on every verse of the New Testament, using less technology than a typewriter (a rollerball was his instrument of choice to handwrite every one of his thousands of sermons).
For 43 years John tunneled his way with a worm’s-eye-view of the Greek grammar and syntax each week in his tiny home study, so that he could share the mined wealth of insight with a hungry congregation of 6000 members, and a waiting planet of innumerable Grace To You listeners. He set out to achieve this goal early in his ministry. It must have been the confidence of youth, bolstered by pro football and baseball scouts desperately wooing him, which fueled his “dream big” mentality.
A lesson learned: If your checklist for success is as mundane as “Big house, small wife, two cars parked outside a two-car garage full of junk, and a couple of kids” you set yourself up for midlife crisis. Either you attain your underwhelming goal and think, like the preacher in Ecclesiastes, “Is this it?” resulting in the purchase of a Harley Davidson, hair transplants, or home renovation. Or you fail to attain your dream of mainstream mediocrity and…
find solace in the company of new friends like Prozac or Jack Daniels. But when your dream is to produce a commentary-level exposition of every text in the NT, and you achieve it in your mid-seventies, you are beyond motorbike shopping. If I were John MacArthur, my next challenge would be as herculean as the one just accomplished: deciding what to do next.
If MacArthur were most people, he would simply retire to a golf estate, buy a yacht, and begin the mental and physical decline which accompanies the departure lounge of retirement.
But John is not “most people.” He has too much Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas in him. Though he may feel like the answer to his conundrum is blowing in the wind for now, I am pretty sure he will “not go gentle into that good night” of uselessness which plagues retirees past their sell-by date.
No, John will rage against the dying of the light, and endeavor some other impossible task. If for no other reason because there is no church he could attend. I mean imagine John MacArthur relocated to your suburban church plant and became a member, perhaps occasionally leading one of your home cell groups. Would you enjoy preaching? And would John survive listening to you, while patiently taking notes in his study Bible margins with a new rollerball? Exactly.
If I were John MacArthur, I’d keep doing the only thing I know how: dream big and preach the word. And I would start in the Old Testament. I’m not kidding. I don’t mean I’d ask God for 130 more years of life to go wormy again. I’d go bird’s-eye-view, chapter by chapter til the Rapture. And that’s what Iain Murray would call the 2nd volume of my biography (assuming he too inherited genes from Methuselah).
On the other hand, if I were John MacArthur I wouldn’t be typing this post, I’d be preparing for my next mission, perhaps brushing up on my Hebrew. What would be the expositor’s equivalent of colonizing Mars? We’ll see soon enough. His scheduled six week vacation time has dawned, and his return is already being awaited with Thessalonian anticipation.
Keep it up Dr MacArthur, there’s a new generation of big dreamers for the Kingdom treading in your footsteps, though we’re not gaining on you. We’re just curious: What’s next?