I hesitate to begin this essay by saying “In these times of apostasy” because the times have always been apostasizing. The moment that the truth is declared, someone falls away from it (Eve, Cain, Judas, Demas, Simon Magus…). The truth is always opposed by those who hate God.
Of late, however, it seems that some men we have always been able to count on are falling. The Bible is clear that even leaders who have been seemingly faithful over decades are not immune from the ravages of apostasy. Length of time in the faith is no guarantor of continued faithfulness. Ending well is just as important as beginning well. (2 Timothy 4:7).
In addition, the Spirit is always revealing the wolf in sheep’s clothing. John Piper has been displaying zero discernment. I wrote about Ravi Zacharias’ questionable credentials, heretical associations, and leaky theology here. Billy Graham said that anyone who is sincere and really believes something is up there will be in heaven with the saints. I think those are the three best recent examples of how sin works in the heart and how the Holy Spirit works in the Body to reveal it.
Just as the truth is always opposed, the truth is always upheld. The Lord raises up good men to speak His Gospel. In Romans 10:14 Apostle Paul asked the following questions
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
The questions are not rhetorical. They are actual. The mechanism through which God has said He will use as the catalyst for conversion is His Gospel, preached by truthful men, to hearts He will release from the bondage of sin. (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). Therefore it makes sense God will always have good men preaching it, does it not? Because if He didn’t, who could hear?
Therefore in every generation God raises up men who will stand for truth and speak God’s word. In Isaiah 55:11 God told prophet Isaiah
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
So though it seems today like there are no trustworthy pastors and preachers and teachers, there are. There has to be, for where else will God speak His Word and souls be claimed?
So who are these good or solid preachers? Well, first, do not overlook your own pastors and teachers. I know that many of you are grieved deeply that there seems not to be a good church in your area. With apostasy rising fast it is true that a solid church is a gem these days. Remember, this has always been the case. Throughout every age, even in America, there have always been large, geographical dead spots where the Bible is being proclaimed in perverted or twisted manner, or there isn’t any truth being proclaimed from a set body of gathered believers at all. Miles and miles might separate one good church from another, neither of them reachable for many people.
But laboring quietly in some corner of a church might be a good Sunday School Teacher. You could go to his class. Quietly knitting together some women under a ministry in a church there might be a woman with a heart for theology and the Bible. Maybe your church has a good music minister who sings hymns. Though the church in its entirety may not be great food perhaps there is one hook onto which you can hang your hat- and support and pray for the others who are not as solid. Come alongside them and help with encouragement and pointing to solid doctrine. Sometimes all it takes is one, strong, praying, persevering person to turn things around in a church. You don’t know what the Holy Spirit has in mind the next week, day, year.
Meanwhile, here are some men who are currently pastoring churches and speaking the truth as unmixed by man’s contamination as it’s possible to do. These are men we hear on the radio but are actually pastors of actual churches many people actually go to. You could, as well. A friend of mine is moving out to CA to attend The Master’s College and will attend this church and will be present at the 47th anniversary of MacArthur’s installation as pastor-teacher at GCC.
Alistair Begg, pastor of Parkside Church, 4520 S Arlington Road, Uniontown, OH. Radio program where sermons can be heard,Truth for Life.
Phil Johnson, pastor GraceLife Pulpit, one of the ministries at Grace Community Church, 13248 Roscoe Blvd, Sun Valley, CA 91352. Sermons here
Dan Duncan, Believers Chapel, 6420 Churchill Way, Dallas, TX 75230. Mr Duncan is BC’s current pastor, sermons here. S. Lewis Johnson was formerly pastor of Beleiver’s Chapel. Vast sermon archive here. Both men are featured on the sermon schedule at Expositor.fm
John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church, 13248 Roscoe Blvd, Sun Valley, CA 91352. Since February 1969, John MacArthur has been preaching verse-by-verse at that location. I’ve listened to him since 2007 or ’08. He is my favorite pastor.
Oftentimes I’ve heard people say that John MacArthur is the Spurgeon of this generation. Well, is he? I decided to check. I am familiar with Charles Spurgeon, loving his sermons and reading them online quite often. I’ve also read his biography. Spurgeon’s output was prodigious, and his nickname “The Prince of Preachers” is well-earned. Is John MacArthur’s output even close to the beloved Spurgeon’s? Does he earn the privilege of being compared to the Prince of Preachers? I decided to do a comparison.
Now, comparing is difficult because of the time gap between the two men’s preaching eras. But as a quick draft, I put together the following information:
So that will give you an idea as to why I am blessed to have been led by the Spirit to John MacArthur’s radio program and then to the rest of his output, his associations, and his ministries.
Readers might be familiar with the fact that I write some discernment essays. One indicator of the first steps of drifting away from the truth is who a person associates with. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 Paul said,
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
In Proverbs 22:25 we read that we should not be hanging around angry people “or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.“
Associating or worse, partnering with, immoral or sinful people engenders deception and ensnarement, so saith the LORD. So when we read of Ravi Zacharias praising heretic Joyce Meyer on her television show or joining with New Apostolic Reformation conferences, or Beth Moore teaching alongside Christine Caine and Roma Downey, or John Piper with Louis Giglio or Christine Caine, or Ronnie Floyd embedded in IHOP or partnering at Synergize Conference with John Bevere or Leonard Sweet…you know that even if someone has the best of intentions their good character will be corrupted. “Do not be deceived.” At the very least, such decisions betray an astonishing lack of discernment and disregard for the holy nature of the faith these teachers are supposed to be upholding. (2 Corinthians 6:14)
But the opposite is true too. In discernment, if you are not as strong on discernment as you’d like to be yet, and you have found one good bible teacher to listen to either in real life or online, draw a circle around that man and then widen the circle. Who is in that pastor’s circle? Who does that pastor praise and recommend? Who does he quote favorably? Who does he partner with in spiritual endeavors such as book collaborations or conference speaking? I learned of most of the above men after having listened to John MacArthur’s conference sessions and in that way, was introduced to more men of faith I could trust.
Magnets have a north pole and a south pole. Though the iron filings at first are mixed, the nearer they draw to the magnet, the more the magnet will pick up and attract the filings that match that pole. I say these things to remind us that in days of apostasy (which is every day) the world will constantly be trying to pry open your tolerance. But the way is narrow. It bears repeating, the way is narrow, AND there are only two roads, narrow and broad. There is no middle ground. So it is the same with true doctrine and false. Eventually, a person will be attracted to one pole or another, as this experiment demonstrates.
Other men who I recommend who either are currently pastoring a church or who have gone on to glory or are in another teaching position, are,
Mike Riccardi, RC Sproul Sr, James Montgomery Boice, Steven J. Lawson, Ligon Duncan, Paul Washer, any teacher from The Master’s Seminary.
Don’t despair. There ARE good churches. If there isn’t one in your immediate area, pray and perhaps the Spirit will lay on your heart to either plant one or move closer to one. If your church seems to be struggling, don’t despair then, either. Maybe the Spirit is preparing you to take on a role there which will swing things upward. Sometimes the Spirit allows a person to be the lone beacon of light at a church in order the strengthen them for something ahead, or to teach endurance. In that case it would be for Jesus’ glory and your good that you remained. (Romans 8:28).
I hope this list and the encouragement has helped you.