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Ex members of John MacArthur's church
Posted by: isitacult? ()
Date: September 20, 2009 04:26AM

Hi-

I am looking for testimonies from any ex members of the Grace Community Church in California pastored by John MacArthur. I would also like to hear from anyone who has visited the church or knows anyone who has gone there or goes there currently. What are/were your impressions?

I posted another comment in the former cult members forum as well.

I am interested in first hand accounts of what the church is like- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Some specific questions I have are whether you felt you were in full control of your own thoughts and whether it was OK to disagree with any of the teaching there. I would also like to know if there seemed to be any kind of condescending attitude toward the congregation coming from the leadership. Did they seem to regard you as less spiritual/Godly if you were not in leadership? What was their attitude toward other churches that have a different governmental structure (i.e.- congregational)? Was there a spirit of elitism there?

Did the people there seem genuine or did they seem as though they were performing?

There are several other questions in my post on the other thread, if anyone would like to share their account.

If you would like to respond but don't feel comfortable doing so publicly, please reply by personal message.

Any help will be very much appreciated.

Thank you.

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Re: Ex members of John MacArthur's church
Posted by: pastrpath2 ()
Date: October 21, 2009 10:46AM

Dear Isitacult,

In my opinion their are many cult like aspects of Grace Community. My step daughter and son in law go there. They seem to be incouraged to judge everyone else's faith and theyconview to them they are not saved because they do not live Stepford wives kind of lives. Here are some other observations.

1. Corrupt Leadership
a. Pope like devotion of His followers
b. Can not be criticized
c. Writings treated as authoritative as Scripture

2.Scripture Twisting and Redefinition of Biblical Terms
a. Faith is the power of transformation and not the Holy Spirit is the
power of transformation
b. Repentance is turning from sin to be worthy of salvation -
instead of recongition that you are helpless to save yourself and need a savior.
c. Salvation requires Lordship Submission – or works righteousness
d. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not a literal infilling but an
assumption of a person’s faith.
3. Doctrinal Deviation:
a. Lordship Salvation – Salvation by Works
b. Faith as a Substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit
c. Denies the reality of Holy Spirit experiences
4.Elitism:
a. Promotes the attitude of “We are the only true Christians and our church is
the only true church. And we have the only true Man of God.
5. Control System – Public Shaming – Small Group Shepherding
6. A False priesthood mediating to the congregation - Pastor tell people the will of God instead of encouraging a personal relationship with Christ.

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Re: Ex members of John MacArthur's church
Posted by: isitacult? ()
Date: October 22, 2009 12:19AM

Hi pastrpath2-

Thank you for your response. It is especially helpful in that you have family that currently attend there.

As you know by my inquiry, there are things about John MacArthur and his church that make me uncomfortable and I am trying to get more first hand information.


Would you be willing to elaborate on a few points?

1 a., b., and c. (all together as they seem to all feed into each other) How is that displayed? Who feeds this impression to the congregation? Is it from the other leadership, i.e. the other elders? Is MacArthur shielded from responsibility for this? In other words, is it like, MacArthur says whatever he says, which may or may not be good, and then his "team" sees to it that the congregation receives it, or else? (I am perhaps being extreme, but I hope you see what I am trying to find out about.)

Does there seem to be a sort of pecking order that is influenced by these factors? Are those who are not as "whole hog" less likely to be given positions of authority? Does receiving/keeping a position of authority seem to be contingent on not just doctrinal agreement (which I would expect) but also this exaltation of personality/MacArthur that you seem to be describing? Perhaps a better question is, what are the consequences of any degree of dissent, particularly dissent from MacArthur specifically?

I am also concerned about numbers 4, 5, and 6.

On 4- I thought perhaps an elitist mentality could exist there, but your description goes beyond what I was prepared for. It sounds a lot like something you would find in Church of Christ. How is this displayed among them? Is it more of an underlying attitude or are there actual statements made to this effect? Does this occur from the pulpit or more from behind the scenes, in small groups, etc.?

5- Public shaming. What does it look/sound like? Under what circumstances or for what infractions would such a thing be done? Does "public" mean from the pulpit or in the small groups? Can you give an account of an occurrence of this? Are these people treated as erring brothers or as though they are not saved?

6- Do you mean that people are told what they personally must do in a specific situation, as in "God wants you to..x...Therefore, if you do not, you are not disobeying me but God," where x would be something like quit your job, move to this or that town, marry/not marry this other church member, etc.?

As to what you said about your step daughter and SIL:

1) They are encouraged to judge everyone else's faith? And on what basis are they to judge the faith of others? Is it on whether these others recognize and trust in Jesus' substitutionary atoning death on the cross for their sins, or is it on whether these others are demonstrating a particular manner of living? In other words does the determination go something like, "so and so committed sin x. Therefore so and so is not saved. In order for so and so to be saved, so and so must stop committing sin x."?

2) What is the basis for determining their OWN faith? Are they to assess themselves or are they to take the assessment of others as authoritative? Are they encouraged to depend on someone else's assessment of them as more valid than their own experience? And what would others assessment be based on- again "you do not live as (we think) you would if you were saved. Therefore, you are not saved."? If they are encouraged to judge everyone else's faith, then I would assume everyone else is to judge theirs as well. (So, who then is really qualified to determine who is really saved?)

3) Concerning this statement of yours:

theyconview to them they are not saved because they do not live Stepford wives kind of lives.

Is it correct to understand from this that the reason your SD and SIL's salvation is called into question is because they do not live their lives a certain way? Like maybe (I am extrapolating a bit here) your SD is not saved because she thinks for herself and maybe has a job outside the home, and your SIL is not saved because he allows this to happen? In case I sound like I'm being critical of what you have said, am not asking this this way to take apart your words. My concern is what GCC/JM teach is the basis for salvation.

Which brings me to my next issue:

What gospel do they preach there? How do they teach that a person DOES get saved? Do they distinguish between what a person DOES to GET saved in the first place from what a saved person should look like after they have been saved?

(Moderator, I hope these questions do not cross a line here. I am not asking this for the purpose of preaching by myself, pastrpath2, or any other responders. I want first hand clarification on what is presented as the gospel in this church and how that gospel is presented. These comments/questions are not intended for the purpose of evangelization.)


And last but not least:

Have you ever been to this church yourself? If so, what was your impression?

And if you feel comfortable answering this, are your SD/SIL happy there? How long have they been attending? Are they members or just regular attenders? What effect do you see their involvement at GCC having on them? Do they seem to be changing? If so, are they easier or more difficult to be in relationship with? Does attending there seem to be producing a strain in them? In my post on another thread (where I asked many of the same questions I asked here) I described a phenomenon I called being "MacArthurized." I described it as people not being themselves, as though someone else is doing their thinking for them when they have been under the influence of MacArthur's teaching, whether listening to him or reading a book of his. Do you see anything like that happening with your SD/SIL?

I am on the east coast so I don't know anyone who has gone to GCC personally.

I hope you will be able to give me further info. I know I just asked a lot! Thank you again for what you have already said. It is much appreciated.

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Re: Ex members of John MacArthur's church
Posted by: pastrpath2 ()
Date: October 22, 2009 01:39AM

Dear Isitacult,

I have been studying dysfunctional churches for over 20 years, since I was asked to leave a church with a similar structure. All dysfunctional churches to a less or greater degree have what I call the cultic system. All problems start with the leadership. The pastor sets the tone and then the underlings impliment that tone or can inhance the tone. Since I have only been to GCC a few times, I can not know for sure who is driving the culture, but the pastor is responsible to correct it, if it is unbiblical.

What I do know is the consistent attitudes and "fruit' of the many people over the years that attend there. I personally suffered as a pastor in a church where the elders had read MacArthur's false teaching on Lordship Salvation called "The Gospel according to Jesus" This teaching promotes modern day Phariseism where the people no longer recognize their fallen nature and sins and rationalize their destructive actions as holy. These MacArthurphiles would rationalize lying, backbitting, destructive gosip, and harsh critisism of others and call it a holy attempt to protect God's kingdom.

My experience with people from GCC is that they are encouraged either directly or more often the case subliminally to be haughty and judgemental of people outside the fellowship by judging their actions and declairing them unsaved. To them your only hope is to be rebaptized in MacArthur's church while declairing you have conquered all sinful thoughts as well as deeds since you made Jesus Lord. Of course at the same time they lose all critical thinking about the people who lead them, especially MacArthur and treat him and the pastors as if they have no sin. If MacArthur is still a sinner, (yes Spiritual Pride at least) and the congregation discovered that truth the entire culture would collapes. The last thing you will see at GCC is people sharing their faults with one another - this would prove them an unbeliever at GCC.

At GCC there is a culture of worshiping John MacArthurs teaching without using any critical thinking. Just this last Sunday night I was there for a baptism. MacArthur in front of 4000 people redefined the word Faith to mean Good Works instead of trusting belief. Faith became the substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit to change the human condition. Grace is redefined as surrendered Lordship to Christ instead of unmerrited favor. The attonement is limited to the elect and salvation and hell are predestined by a malicious God who has predetermined who will not recieve that grace.

Fatalism and spiritual striving to prove yourself worthy of being called the elect is the culture at that church. So to admit that you struggle with sinful thoughts and actions like Paul did in Romans Chapture 7 is an admission of not being saved. The culture is very much like the Stepford Wives. Everyone must put on a personna of perfection and niceness (unless we are trashing some other church or unbeliever). One of the fruits of the cultic system is that eventually every one must act alike, talk alike, dress alike and think alike in order to be percieved as one of the in crowd. Everyone will take on the personallity of the leader which is seen as holy. So the culture is one of dishonesty. Lie to myself, God and others about my sinful thoughts and habits so I will not be judged as and outsider or as unsaved. Rationalize all my dysfunctional behavior and pride as part of the personality of a true believer. Everyone is pretending to be completely victorious over sin.

Here are some good articles on the error of Lordship Salvation.

[www.jesus-is-savior.com]

[www.jesus-is-savior.com]

take care - pastrpath

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Re: Ex members of John MacArthur's church
Posted by: isitacult? ()
Date: October 22, 2009 07:02AM

That's what I was afraid of.

You have confirmed pretty much everything I had heard and/or seen in the MacArthurites out my way. It would seem one does not have to actually attend GCC to be affected that way.

Would you perhaps be able to quote MacArthur on this point you mentioned:

MacArthur in front of 4000 people redefined the word Faith to mean Good Works instead of trusting belief.?


I have read some of his works and found that he almost does this repeatedly. He never quite says it outright in so many words, but comes so close it is maddening. The most notorious may be from TGACTJ where he says "Disobedience is unbelief. Real faith obeys." He does not say "real faith is obedience." or "obedience is real faith." But he doesn't NOT say it either. He just sort of leaves that point hanging. I have noticed he does not ever equate faith with trust. It is either mere words or full obedience- both external things. He does not allow for the internal, heart issue of simple trust.

I have been reading his Hard To Believe, where he got in trouble for this comment on page 93 of the first edition:

Salvation isn't the result of an intellectual exercise. It comes from a life lived in obedience and service to Christ as revealed in the Scripture; it's the fruit of actions, not intentions. There's no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile.... The life we live, not the words we speak determines our eternal destiny.

This has since been changed. However, MacArthur himself has never personally disavowed that quote, to my knowledge. Phil Johnson has said it was not MacArthur's but was put there by an editor at Thomas Nelson without MacArthur's knowledge or consent. However, what he replaced it with is very similar and does not correct the actual problem- how one does actually get saved.

He has changed it to:

Salvation isn't gained by reciting mere words. Saving faith transforms the heart, and that in turn transforms behavior. Faith's fruit is seen in actions, not intentions. There's no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile....The life we live, not the words we speak, reveals whether our faith is authentic.

Due to the similarity of wording and the failure to correct how it is that one does get saved, I am inclined to believe that the original was indeed MacArthur's and he changed it because he got in trouble not because it wasn't really his in the first place.

Further, the back cover copy calls eternal life not a gift, but a "reward" that comes "only from faithfully following Christ." This has not been changed.

And on page 16 he says:

The pearl of great price, the treasure worth everything you and I possess, is the saving grace of Jesus Christ that we are hopelessly undeserving of, but that we can claim as our own BY denying ourselves, picking up our cross daily, and following Him.

This is the message of the gospel. When you call people to Jesus, that's what you have to say.
(bold caps mine)

So I think the concern that he preaches a works salvation is justified.


My experience with people from GCC is that they are encouraged either directly or more often the case subliminally to be haughty and judgemental of people outside the fellowship by judging their actions and declairing them unsaved. To them your only hope is to be rebaptized in MacArthur's church while declairing you have conquered all sinful thoughts as well as deeds since you made Jesus Lord.

This is very similar to Church of Christ, and very disturbing. Do they really teach rebaptism in their church? I had not heard that one before.

So the people would lose their ability not only to think critically about MacArthur but also about themselves, which is a very interesting tension point since they are supposed to think critically about each other and everyone who does not attend GCC. And then what happens if someone leaves GCC? Are they then unsaved, or must they fear for their salvation?

MacArthur's church sounds like TULIP teaching on steroids.

This is reminding me of a documentary I saw once on North Korea. Even if the people there are capable of criticizing Kim Jong Il, they don't dare for fear of their lives. Of course MacArthur will not throw people in a gulag and kill them, but the dynamic seems similar. He produces fear in the people that they are helpless against. I am picturing in my mind a bunch of people scurrying about their business with a false jubilation and inflated zeal lest their sincerity be called into question.

It also explains the hostility I have encountered from MacArthurites when challenging them on his teachings.

Thank you very much for sharing your experience with me, pastrpath2.

(I have seen the articles on jesus-is-savior. Thanks for the links.)

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Re: Ex members of John MacArthur's church
Posted by: pastrpath2 ()
Date: October 22, 2009 10:47AM

I can't give an exact quote. But the gist was Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. MacArthur said substance means lordship and obedience. He also said that his faith was the power to transform his life. His faith is the power to walk in obiedience and Lordship.

Real faith is trusting in the nessesity of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to transform us. At GCC the Holy Spirit is only a concept of power and not a reality of God's pressence and power. Faith becomes the assumption and substitute of Spirit's power. In MacArthur land all spiritual experience of the indwellling Spirit of God is of the devil. Instead of judging the experience by the Word of God. All experience is seen as a lack of faith and cultic. Thus assuming faith is the power and legalism is the fruit. Lordship salvation makes perfect sence in a world where God never touches us and faith must assume to recieve the blessings of God instead of experiencing God when we are poor in spirit and desparately need divine intervention.

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Re: Ex members of John MacArthur's church
Posted by: isitacult? ()
Date: October 23, 2009 08:03AM

Quote
pastrpath2
I can't give an exact quote. But the gist was Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. MacArthur said substance means lordship and obedience. He also said that his faith was the power to transform his life. His faith is the power to walk in obiedience and Lordship.

Wow. That is a complete perversion of that text and a very confusing teaching.





Quote
pastrpath2
Real faith is trusting in the nessesity of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to transform us. At GCC the Holy Spirit is only a concept of power and not a reality of God's pressence and power. Faith becomes the assumption and substitute of Spirit's power. In MacArthur land all spiritual experience of the indwellling Spirit of God is of the devil. Instead of judging the experience by the Word of God. All experience is seen as a lack of faith and cultic. Thus assuming faith is the power and legalism is the fruit. Lordship salvation makes perfect sence in a world where God never touches us and faith must assume to recieve the blessings of God instead of experiencing God when we are poor in spirit and desparately need divine intervention.

This is also very confusing. Are you saying they don't believe that the Holy Spirit is a Person but rather a sort of force or something? I don't really understand the Holy Spirit as a concept of power. I'm not quite sure what you mean by "assuming faith" and"faith must assume". What sort of assumption does it make and on what does it base the assumption? When you say in MacArthur land all spiritual experience of the indwelling Spirit is of the devil, do you mean like a Charismatic sort of spiritual experience? Or any way at all that the Spirit would minister to us, such as that indicated in Romans 8:16 that He bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, or when He convicts us of sin, or of a truth we encounter when we read the Bible? Does he deny that sort of experience? I know MacArthur is a cessationist. Is that what you are referring to? I have to admit I have not heard this particular set of criticisms of him before so I don't quite get what you are saying.

What do they think the Holy Spirit does?

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Re: Ex members of John MacArthur's church
Posted by: pastrpath2 ()
Date: October 23, 2009 10:04AM

No - what I am saying is that MacArthur thinks that grace and Holy Spirit only works in and through our intellectual faith - ergo faith is the power to transform. They call the Holy Spirit a person, but any experience of the person of the Holy Spirit is rejected as a lack of faith because faith reckons things to be true. I get the sense that He is anti-experience on almost all levels. But even MacArthur’s hero, the non-Pentecostal C.H. Spurgeon, wrote on numerous occasions that if we have not felt the Holy Spirit working in us and upon us for ministry then we do not have him and are still lost in our sins. To the people of GCC we are not supposed to experience the Holy Spirit at all, only reckon his existence and work by faith. Thus we are not supposed to experience the new birth only reckon the new birth by faith. Also we are not supposed to sin because grace and saving faith is sufficient to keep us from sinning. Their proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit is a legalistic conformity to their church doctrine, ethics and values.

I know it is confusing, but what I think this is, is a holiness movement that teaches a kind of total sanctification at conversion. The honest person who still allows the Holy Spirit to convict them of sin as they grow in the knowledge of Christ is rejected by GCC as unregenerate unbelievers.

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Re: Ex members of John MacArthur's church
Posted by: isitacult? ()
Date: October 24, 2009 01:19AM

I have to admit that is too strange for me to do anything with. I can't even understand it. I understand the concept of reckoning by faith in absence of immediate, observable, experiential proof, but that does not last forever. God always makes Himself known eventually. I mean, what does MacArthur do with prayer and answers to prayer? Surely he expects God to answer prayer in some discernible fashion?

Do you happen to know of any of MacArthur's books or other works where he puts forth this teaching? Maybe something by him on the Holy Spirit? Maybe I can grasp what this is if I read it from him directly.

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Re: Ex members of John MacArthur's church
Posted by: pastrpath2 ()
Date: October 24, 2009 04:34AM

(here are some examples of his teachings. Note the pattern of sin - any bad habits makes you an unbelie1. What to do)


MacArthur:
Walking in the Spirit requires two things: studying the Word of God so that you can know the mind of the Spirit, and communing with God so you can know the will of the Spirit.

a. Ephesians 5:18-20--"Be filled with the Spirit, ... singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father."

Colossians 3:16--"Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly." Being filled with the Spirit is the same as letting the Word dwell in you richly because as the Word dominates your thinking, it dominates your actions. As the Word moves through your heart and mind, the Spirit of God directs your life.

(Therefore being filled with the Spirit is a mental excersice and not the experience of the Holy Spirit empowering you and directing you)

As you spend time in the Word and as you spend time in prayer, communing with the living God and building an intimate relationship with Him, you are in a position for the Spirit to move you down the path of God's choosing. (Communing with God is not experiencial but mental)

2. Why to do it

The Bible does not teach the eradication of sin in this life or a second work of grace whereby a person becomes perfect and never sins again.

(but this is not generally taught to new beleivers who are told if they continue to sin they are lost)


The spiritual walk is accomplished moment-by-moment and depends on our submissiveness. Anyone who says he has no sin makes God a liar (1 John 1:8-10). But while we can't overcome sin totally in this life, by walking in the Spirit we can overcome it as a pattern of life.

(Note - the pattern of sin - all sin is the pattern of the carnal nature and the aim of Satan to disrupt the saints.)

We must cultivate spiritual thinking by communing with the living God in constant and intense prayer, and feeding continually on the Word so that our thoughts are God's thoughts. That's why Paul said "I die daily" (1 Cor. 15:31). Every day we are to die to self and walk in the Spirit.

(Therefore the spirit works only in our mind and heart - but our mind and heart can be self decieved - )

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