June 13, 2011

If I were John MacArthur…

by Clint Archer

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?

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Stan

    John who?
    Only kidding!
    Praise God for this dear faithful saint! Countless numbers have benefitted from his tireless ministry.

  • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

    John MacArthur’s flame for truth will never dim, only get brighter and brighter. He has carried this torch with great passion, and served God well. I know I have learned so much from him, and will continue to read his books and listen to his sermons.

    I do want to add that I am so excited for this new blog. It will be a nice compliment to The Gospel Coalition, Pyromaniacs, and the GTY blog. I learned about this blog from Mike Riccardi’s blog, who, btw, is an excellent writer. Whoever decided to bring him on board made the right decision.

    I look forward to all the rest of the writer’s thoughts and Biblical musings, here. I have already told as many people as I can about this blog. That is how excited I really am!!!

    Nice article, Clint!

    God bless all of you,

  • Elaine

    Yes, we are curious! I know I am! I am hoping he’d would do The Gospel of John again.

    Love your article Clint!
    Grace and Peace,

  • Anonymous

    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.

    Fantastic post, Clint. The above paragraph is worth the price of admission. As we seek to “remember those who led [us], who spoke the word of God to [us], and considering the result of their conduct, [to] imitate their faith” (Heb 13:7), we are effectively cautioned against setting our gaze too low.

    Mainstream mediocrity is the holy grail of secular society, and, too often, of the Church as well. If we could only see how that is dwarfed by the reward to be had for laboring for the kingdom until He calls us home, we’d be sure not to waste our lives on what’s passing away.

    Thanks brother.

    • Thanks Mike. It sounds like you read my book…or the NT 😉

  • shane williamson

    “chapter by chapter til the Rapture.” I love it haha. Great post Clint. We thank our Father for blessing us with such a great teacher, leader, preacher and faithful servant.

    • Dream big, Shane. I’m no prophet nor son of a prophet, but save your shekels, I predict seminary is in your future.

  • Clyde Silla

    Heh heh. Nice one Clint. I’m curious as to what’s next as well.

  • Dalene Reyburn

    Clint, what an awesome account of one of God’s faithful… Inspires me also to keep on dreaming big, and keep on doing the next right thing. Wow. Thanks, bud! Much love to you and yours, d

  • Chapter by chapter til rapture – I like that

    • Joe Fisher

      How about “Verse by Verse until the Hearse”

  • Jason

    Great article. I pray for more men who set there hearts on preaching the Word week after week, month after month, year after year. And in this case decade after decade.

  • Shauna

    Excellent article. And since so many have mentioned their favorite line, I’m going to have to go with ‘chapter by chapter til the rapture’. I’ll probably say that throughout the day in my head now.
    John MacArthur’s ministry has been of immense value to me and to many people I know and I thank God that He has so gifted him in teaching/preaching the Word of God – The Full Counsel of God. You also know, when you listen, that the congregation there, with the ministries they have and this great man of God in the pulpit, do it all…. not for their own glory, ego or fame – but it is evident that it is all done for the glory of God. That is so rare in today’s ‘Christian World’ where too many preen like peacocks waving feathered banners of personal accolades. All you have to do is listen to John MacArthur once to see where His credentials hail from. God.
    Sometimes I have been irritated at false teachers for ‘leading their flock astray’, yet I am reminded by scripture that this flock has gathered to itself a false teacher/leader so their itching ears can be scratched. This works in reverse too I realize – for the congregation at Grace Church must have such a desire for the Truth of God, that God has blessed them with a man who truly follows after Christ.

  • Gary

    I agree that the best thing JM could do is to keep preaching the Word. And I can’t imagine him doing anything else. However, having preached every verse of the New Testament simply means he has done more with the NT than most pastors, not that he has even begun to exhaust its treasures for himself or his congregation. I’m sure he realizes that he could repeat his research, writing, and preaching a thousand times over and still be scraping the surface of who God is and what he has graciously revealed to us in his Word. The “what next” question is answered by his entire ministry: Preach the Word. Thanks for the article.

  • I would like him to go topical on major bible themes.

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  • Chris Nyland

    I think it is great that Dr. MacArthur has preach every verse of the NT. More pastors need to do so. The only crime I see here is that he has chosen to pretty much ignore the OT in his preaching ministry–so far. The church needs to hear the whole of council of God not just the NT!

    • Anonymous

      Little known fact: MacArthur has preached Gen 1-12 (in 2000-2001), Zechariah and Daniel, as well as some Psalms. In fact, perhaps his three most memorable messages (to me anyway) are Psalm 19, Psalm 51, and 1 Sam 15. If you have not heard him do those passages, I’d recommend tracking them down at gty.org.

      Some people, such as Rick Holland, have suggested he should do Psalm 119 now. I’m not sure he will though, but I am pretty confident we will find him in the OT soon enough.

      • Elaine

        And let’s not forget he went through Revelation twice. And those are only books of the bible, how about all the topical expository preaching he has done over the years? and conferences? books? the commentaries???

        MacArthur has not “ignored” the OT as some would see it. I think he has done a wonderful job in laying down his life to the purpose of preaching Jesus.

    • David

      Didn’t he decide that he could only master one language to the skill-level he sough, so he went for greek instead of hebrew?

      • Anonymous

        I haven’t heard him say that, but it sounds true enough. I have heard him say that if he was going to devote his life to preaching one testament, it should be the new. But he really does that in such a way that it teaches people the OT too, because he illustrates his sermons from the OT, rather than from his own life and news.

  • dan

    really enjoyed this post! macarthur is a truly inspiring man of God. i’d love for him to go through genesis, picking up from “battle for the beginning” and working his way through the tremendous first stories of the Bible. then again, anything from johnnymac is gold so i’ll just wait in eager anticipation.

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  • Tricia Johnson

    How sad to think that there is “no church he” (John MacArthur) “could attend.” Any man who lives by this Holy, Precious Word he so sincerely preaches, could attend a church that has sound doctrine and benefit greatly, serve his same Jesus and continue to grow thereby. If he is beyond the place where he can learn from ANYONE who is preaching the True Word of God, he is not qualified to speak the Name he so claims to cherish. Ah, but, he, himself is not claiming that there is no church he could attend. If he ever gets to the place where, instead of absorbing the manifestation of the Word of God through God’s own avenue – “the foolishness of preaching” – then he needs to back and read the Word, Itself – and nothing more – so that he would regain his lost first love. I’m relieved to realize that he is not making such a claim and hope that he is appalled by such a suggestion!

    Tricia Johnson

    • Anonymous

      I took Clint’s line a different way. I thought he was saying that it would be extremely intimidating as a pastor to look out into the congregation on a Sunday and see John sitting there, notebook in hand, ready to take notes. I mean, I get nervous preaching in front of him at Grace Church. I know every time you preach you are handling God’s word, and etnernal lives are stake, and so we should not fear man. But there is a healthy respect that comes from preaching in front of one of your leaders/heroes in the faith.
      And who are we kidding? John would be more prepared to preach on any given Sunday than I would be, and it would be weird to have someone with his experience sitting in the audience every Sunday. Talk about burring your treasure in the ground.

      • Tricia Johnson

        I see your point. However, my preacher/husband is just as careful if the congregation would be filled with little widow ladies or with great theologians. It’s the Word of God, It has to be handled with careful trepidation. And for my point, I took Clint literally, at his word, and that’s what he said. But, no doubt there is more than one way to look at his statement.

        John MacArthur is as prepared as the Holy Spirit allows him to be at any given moment, as with all preachers of His Holy Word. It’s the Word, not the preacher, no matter what.

        Thanks for your comment!

  • I found your website trough someone who posted this as a share on facebook. Wonderfull to know there are South Africans loving John MacArthur’s teachings !!! His teachings has by the grace of our Lord Jesus led us to the truth. We here in the charismatic movement for a little while here in Pretoria. I will look in here more often now 🙂 We also have a little blog you are most welcome to visit 🙂 God bless and take care. Elmarie

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  • Man, I’d be content just to get through 1 Timothy before next year. The entire NT… I’m going to need to leave that for the next guy :).

    • Anonymous

      You and me both, Mark.

      Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

    • Hi There Mark

      I Love the books 1 & 2 Timothy 🙂

      Grant sends his regards too he had a bad injury to his arm last weekend and it is the right arm so typing is difficult as his arm is in a full cast. Amazes me time and again how small the world is 🙂 The Lord works in the most wonderful ways. btw I had a good chuckle on facebook about your comment on my link lol.

      Hoping to attend a service at Chrystal park soon 🙂 Lord permits, Grant has mentioned it.

      Take care and blessings to you and the family


  • Sibyl

    The way I see it, the New Testament is the fruit of the Old Testament and Jesus is the Lense through which we see the Old. The two are a continuum and a whole.

    Some of John MacArthur’s sermons have come along at just the right time for me to supply encouragement and help. I’m so grateful for his faithfulness and God’s inspiration to him.

  • Pandf

    I feel conflicted a bit to nitpick like this, but it was not a “space shuttle” that took Armstrong to the moon. But I appreciate your admiration for John, and indeed his is a praiseworthy accomplishment.

    • Anonymous

      It was a “space craft with lunar module.” But I think that phrase might lose some rhetorical punch though :). I’ll change it in the text though.

  • Matthew


    What do you mean by this statement Clint; “But John is not “most people.” He has too much Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas in him” ?

    Just wondering……

    • Elaine

      I thought he meant, looking at the context, that John wouldn’t stop now and retire. If you read Dylan Thomas’ poem that Clint quotes (Do not go gentle into that good night), that’s what says. I guess you can see the same meaning on Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the wind”, but I agree with you that leaving a statement like that without much explanation can lead to all kinds of interpretation. =)

  • Fantastic post! It is wonderful seeing this community that is growing here with Cripplegate. I only recently began reading it regularly but it is so enriching already!

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