Posted in theology

The John MacArthur cult?

By Elizabeth Prata

Recently, it was shared that Pastor-Teacher John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA became short of breath while ascending to the pulpit during a Sunday sermon, and appeared for several moments to struggle for breath. He later asked the elders if he could rest instead of preach the second service, and these two facts sparked a worldwide concern and prayers for the 83 year old.

Grace Community Church (GCC) elder Tom Patton said at the second service: “Just so you know, Pastor John had a bug this week and preached our first hour but asked if he might be able to take a break for the second hour. So Mike Riccardi is going to be answering the call.

Since the Pastor usually preaches 2 services and is quite active elsewhere and everywhere, and since MacArthur said he plans to preach and not retire, and is committed to preaching if at all possible, the news that he requested absence from the pulpit that morning sent shock waves around the world.

The incident was reported by news organizations from Fox News, Black Christian news, Christian Post, and many others. The news was tweeted and retweeted, shared on Facebook, and posted on many other social media outlets. It was a big deal.


GCC sanctuary worship in 2007. Photo By Lukasinla at English Wikipedia – Own work by the original uploader, Public Domain

Most of the commotion was centered on the fact that MacArthur, or JMac as he is affectionately known, is beloved and/or respected. He has preached through the entire New Testament verse by verse, a feat only completed by John Gill in the 1700s. He has led GCC as its main pastor-teacher faithfully since 1969 – 54 years! He has stood firm on the scriptures without wavering or compromise for 5 decades. He has had a global impact with his study Bibles, his complete New Testament commentary, and ~4000 sermons. His material has been absorbed from north of the Faroes at the Arctic Circle, to rural Nigeria, to the south at Patagonia, and from China in the east to Europe in the west.

His other main commitment after preaching, is to raise up men to preach, and in this, he has led The Master’s Seminary for decades. These are just a few of his accomplishments, ones he’d be the first to attribute to the Holy Spirit’s feeding and sustenance.

In other words, many see him as the Spurgeon of this century and the last, and rightfully so. His positive impact for the kingdom has been tremendous.

Thus the deep concern and prayers for this faithful elder statesman of the faith when people heard he was ill. Fortunately the Grace Church Elders issued a statement to their church members:

Dear Grace Church, Many of you are praying for Pastor John’s health as he felt lightheaded on Sunday morning in the pulpit. We are pleased to report that he is doing well. He was under the weather last week but after seeing a doctor on Sunday and getting much needed rest from a busy holiday week, he is now much improved and feeling fine. We are grateful for your continued prayers for our pastor. The Grace Church Elders.

And another statement was posted for the general public. A great sigh of relief went up along with more prayers in thanks to the Lord for gifting us this solid pastor a while longer.

Yet I’d said at the top that most of the commotion was centered on concern for his health due to this positive contributions to the faith. But not ALL the attention stemmed from that. There are JMac detractors. Vocal ones. Vicious ones. They too flooded social media with their unified scornful chorus: “John MacArthur leads a cult!” “Just look at all the idolatry!” These folks believe that the folks who love JMac are deluded idol worshipers, and they say so at every opportunity. They seized on his absence from the pulpit and subsequent concern, flocked to social media to callously push an agenda so obviously laid upon a foundation of hate.

Due to JMac’s age, one is always concerned that an illness might be the last illness and the man may depart from the earth. Of the detractors, their attitude betrayed a barely veiled glee that this might indeed be the case. They charged his pastorate as a cult, claimed the elders were making up lies, and accused the people praying for him and the church as deceived cultists.

Indeed when the elders did publish the “He’s OK!” post later in the day, they refused to believe it, publicly calling them liars.

During the hubbub, I was asked by a reader if I believed the people spewing such venom against a godly pastor were saved or not. I said probably not, but I can’t be sure of course. Here is why I believe it. Let’s unpack this.

The lesson here when interacting with people who hold a view that seems angry or ‘off somehow’ is to ask one’s self some questions. Listen not only to their words but look at the way they behave- and whether their behavior contradicts their profession of faith.

If they say the church is a cult, and in fact it is NOT a cult, then they are speaking against the Spirit who raised up the church and the man leading it. Would a person with the Spirit in them speak against the Spirit’s work?

  • Cults usually tend to isolate their members from society by employing polarizing views, such as ‘us vs them, and become myopic, looking inward,
  • Cults tend to have a leader who lies and manipulates so as to attract and retain members,
  • Questioning and doubt is punished,
  • The group claims exalted status for itself,
  • The leader is not accountable to anyone.
  • More here on The Characteristics of a Cult.

I was also asked, “Is it a cult of personality?

Answer: No. The outpouring of love & respect for JMac is what double honor looks like-1 Timothy 5:17.

The elders who lead well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor at preaching the word and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17).

The honour due to those who were not idle, but laborious in this work; they were worthy of double honour, esteem, and maintenance.” Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2357). Hendrickson.

Double honor exists in many churches, of course, not solely GCC. But not many churches have such a public presence as GCC. So we see it more there. Was Paul nurturing a cult of personality when he prepared to leave Ephesus? Look at the scene when he left and they knew they would likely never see Paul again:

Paul was beloved this way: Acts 20:36-38When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again.”

Cults of personality is defined asthe result of an effort which is made to create an idealized and heroic image of a leader by a government, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.”

Shepherds are supposed to be humble, teachable, and respond to constructive criticism in a godly way. Cult leaders do not. Are you able to speak with your pastor or deacon or elder genuinely and naturally? Or do you have to pick your words and couch everything in a flattering manner? Is doubt or criticism punished?

Cults do happen in religion, even ones that start out as a normal church or para-church organization. The Pharisees were a cult. They twisted the word, forced people out of the synagogue, made people afraid, punished criticism, centered around one man (Annas), and their views caused them to become twice the sons of hell they themselves were.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Cults of personality occurred too. The Church at Thyatira hosted a woman who prophesied falsely, taught deception, and lured the church members into sexual immorality, and she was tolerated! She must have been a powerful personality to have formed such a cult around her that the church in cowardly manner tolerated all her sins. So ask, is the person being honored luring people into dark sin, or is his/her teaching bringing people to the light of the true Gospel?

People who claim to be Christian yet chortle with glee at a brethren’s potential demise, or who discredit a good church and its people, who call brethren liars in the face of facts, are fighting against the Spirit of Christ. No, these people are aligned with the spirit of the age, and thus most likely, are not saved. Their words betray the darkness of their heart. Anyone who chooses to publicly deride an aged Christian in ill health and wish for their death, instead of praying for their good, betrays the evilness of their heart. If they truly believed GCC was a cult and were truly Christians, would they not instead pray for their deliverance? That is the difference between a heart of light and a sinful heart.

Further Reading

Below are some links to true cults and their leaders. These men were very dangerous. If you believe you are in a cult, please refer to these articles:

Qualities and Characteristics Associated with Cults“, and

How to Leave a Cult“.

Focus on the Family has an article aimed at family members who have joined a cult: “My Child Has Joined a Cult

Recent Cults: (Personally, I’ll never forget the shock at the first images emerging on the news from Guyana of the 909 dead in the Peoples’ Temple. They drank cyanide laced Kool-Aid, parents gave it to their children. Heartbreaking. It’s where we get the phrase ‘Don’t drink the Kool-Aid’)

Jim Jones Peoples’ Temple cult (909 died in mass suicide)

David Koresh and the Branch Davidians (ended in FBI siege, suicides, and fire)

Charles Manson and the Manson Family (ended in murder, law enforcement capture, and jail)

Bonnie Nettles and Heaven’s Gate (ended in mass suicide)

Posted in theology

Grace Community Church response to recent journalism muckraking

By Elizabeth Prata

In reference to the issue of Julie Roys fomenting the current scandal against John MacArthur and Grace Community Church, the GCC elders have written a template reply which is sent out to emailed questioners. Fred Butler (an employee of GCC) confirmed it is from the church. Further, he said that if anyone emails with questions they will receive the same reply. Numerous people have already received this response.

I liked GCC’s response. Not surprising, it is well-written, biblical, and to the point.

I trust the public witness of the elders at GCC and of John MacArthur. Anyone who has spent 52 years week in and week out rightly dividing the truth is someone to trust. This is not my church anyway, and not my personal business. Let profane tongues run to their own pit, while true believers speak of holy and edifying things.

Posted in theology

My Statement on John MacArthur

By Elizabeth Prata

I have benefited from the work of John MacArthur on behalf of Jesus Christ for 20 years. I’ve listened to his sermons going back 50 years. I’ve taken classes from the Institute for Church Leadership arm of The Master’s Seminary, and & members of our church have personally attended the seminary as well. His work is of the Lord, solid, and biblical.

So, my support of John MacArthur isn’t blind. It isn’t worship. It’s support, for a man who’s done more in this century and last for the Christ’s name than any other man I can think of. I’m not throwing that away cuz some God-hating feminist comes along waving papers, no.

If properly interpreted evidence arises from a reliable source I will say ‘there but for the grace of God go I’, pray for him and examine any evidence fairly. Till then, I’m not throwing away my appreciation for John MacArthur. I praise God that Jesus raised him up to do God’s work.

Posted in theology

Why I love The Shepherds’ Conference

By Elizabeth Prata

The Shepherds’ Conference is a conference held at California’s Grace Community Church hosted by its pastor-teacher John MacArthur. It has been going for 20 years, annually, with 2021 the lone exception. For two decades it has hosted thousands of pastors, teachers, leaders from around the world who travel there to be encouraged with like minded laborers, to learn more of Jesus (being preached TO is something these men don’t receive often, being the ones who preach), and to be served by eager volunteers who want to host these weary ministers of the word, rejuvenating them before returning them to the battles they face.

The men who come enjoy it, the servers who serve enjoy serving, and I, as a watcher on the sidelines, am also encouraged by this conference. Ever since I began watching it in 2007, I am mightily moved by scenes from the conference. I don’t know why THIS particular conference moves me so, but it does. Maybe because I have been edified over the years by John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Paul Twiss, Don Green, and many other teachers at Grace Community Church. Maybe because I rejoice in the word of God being preached so well and to so many.

Seeing this photo moved me to tears today:

Photo posted by Grace Community Church

The earnest pastor hunched over the place where truth winds from Bibles from mouths to ears…the eager listeners with pens in hand and open Bibles, receiving the pure word, reviving their hearts and minds. I’m moved because there are SO MANY pastors in that audience- a sea of heads and hearts inclined to Jesus. Because they represent SO MANY churches where people have been saved and are being saved. How great is God.

I’m also moved in the other direction when I see that photo, sadness, because while we have the joy of hearing the word and exalting Jesus because of it, SO MANY don’t know Him! There are myriads of lost, their hearts gleefully exulting in sin and darkness as they go about stumbling toward death. They do not know the wrath of God hangs above them like a heavy storm cloud about to break over their heads.

Amid all the Twitter hoo-hah from detractors arguing about ShepCon, I think the grumps and crankies mainly forget that this conference, as with others like Ligonier, G3, Truth Matters, etc, that for attendees hearing the word, returning with a strong resolve, a better walk, a higher grasp of the Word, we multiply the sheep. Ultimately we are about our father’s business. Most days, we can’t see it. We gather in our local churches once a week, see our friends, hear the sermon, and scatter back to work on Monday, doing our best to live the Christian life.

When we’re lifted out of our small sphere to see all those men gathered at the Shepherds’ Conference, men who are husbands, pastors, grandfathers…making the huge effort in time and money to attend a conference with such superlative preachers…it’s moving. It’s a reminder that we are out there in force, pleading with souls to repent. It makes me feel joy to see visibly the pastors who otherwise I’d not know about. They are all trophies of grace the Lord has given the world. Rejoice in that!

MacArthur is a man who has preached steadily for 53 years. Nary a blot on his name. He has given the gospel to thousands, millions even, if you count the radio ministry. His MacArthur Study Bible is seen in the hands of an African preacher walking barefoot down a rural dusty path amid the elephants. It is seen in the hands of a pastor preaching truth in the Arctic circle on a tiny rock of an island in the Faroes, and everywhere in between. Thousands of men have been trained up by MacArthur, his men, and the seminary and sent as milkweed seeds into the rare places and the busy places and the common places, with the sole intent of bringing Jesus to the lost.

Who wouldn’t be excited for a ministry like that, and conference coming out a ministry like that? I am. The Lord always leaves a remnant. He is great and His promises are sure.

Posted in theology

John MacArthur on the coming totalitarianism and antichrist

By Elizabeth Prata

2022: The Covid Crisis, Totalitarianism, Antichrist | John MacArthur Interview

I listened to a Q & A between Phil Johnson and John MacArthur recently. They discussed COVID and the mitigation efforts that were placed on their church, the Legacy Standard Bible, its beginnings and why we need this particular translation, the upcoming John MacArthur Old Testament Study Bible (YAY!), and interestingly, this question:

PHIL asked: “Do you ever think we will get back to normal? Post-Covid?”

Continue reading “John MacArthur on the coming totalitarianism and antichrist”
Posted in theology

Satan roaming, MacArthur standing

By Elizabeth Prata

The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” (Job 1:7)

God knows where satan has been, of course. God is omniscient. This means He knows all there is to know. When we see that question in the Bible asked by God we know it’s a way of drawing out information from the one who is being asked, as God did with Adam in the garden, (Genesis 3:9), or when God asked Cain where his brother is (Genesis 4:9).

When God asks satan where have you been, and satan replies that he had been walking up and down upon the earth, we might picture satan stomping around causing trouble. But we rarely stop to consider what kind of trouble, what does that trouble look like? We also might not consider how satan has cohorts, conspirators who fell with him, and how they might be acting as an army in unified and precise formations to carry out that evil trouble.

We often hear the angels referred to as “heavenly host.” This is a military term. We can picture squadrons of unholy angels dispersing under orders from their leader satan, the adversary. So what does that ‘trouble’ from the unholy angels look like?

There are myriad varieties of their unified battle against God these long centuries. Wars, genocides, mobs, chaos… Since the unholy angels influence the ungodly and even sway the godly from the path and blind them briefly, when we see a unified action suddenly erupt, we can intuit that a spiritual adversary is behind it. It does not take much for satan to light a fire under sinful people, who are already opposed to God and whose flesh is willing. Here is what I believe is an example of what satan is doing as he roams the earth:

Last week Pastor John MacArthur took a stand for biblical morality. He has a wide influence and a large platform. His call for preachers to preach on biblical morality this Sunday was in response to a Canadian legislative bill banning any conversion therapy for transgender or homosexual people. Even mentioning biblical morality to them would be considered ‘conversion therapy’ and the offender would be arrested as a felon and jailed. Any online content would be removed by the government.

The bill banning conversion therapy in Canada received royal assent on Wednesday, making it into law. Bill C-4 makes providing, promoting or advertising conversion therapy a criminal offence. The bill defines conversion therapy as the “practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, or to change a person’s gender identity to cisgender.” (Source).

Our Canadian preaching brothers appealed to us, their neighbors on the south, and MacArthur took up the call.

"MacArthur, who is known for his syndicated broadcast program "Grace to You," published an open letter on the Grace Community Church website Tuesday calling on "ministers of the Gospel" to join him on the third Sunday of the new year in preaching about "a biblical view of sexual morality." (Source)

The Canadian law takes effect January 8, so MacArthur’s call for faithful men of the Gospel everywhere to preach on biblical morality is for Sunday January 16.

As the wave of push-back against satan’s wiles rose higher, received attention, and garnered public commitments, suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere a huge wave of negative publicity against MacArthur rose up. It muddied the waters, it sidetracked discussions, it was evil and sly.

A video clip of MacArthur allegedly preaching against religious liberty was circulated. I say it was evil and sly because the clip was edited. It was edited in such a way that it made MacArthur seem like he was saying the opposite of what he actually said.

A twitter friend noted, “So John MacArthur is calling on pastors and churches to take a firm stand on Biblical sexuality and against all sexual immorality. Then, SUDDENLY and TOTALLY UNRELATEDLY, there is an outcry over something John MacArthur said from the pulpit, taken out of context, over a year ago?” (@ShinarSquirrel).

Right. See my shocked face…

This article explains in detail what happened if you care to delve. “Clip Of Pastor John MacArthur Had Critics Pouncing…Turns Out It Was Edited.”

Roman soldiers were known for their commitment to formation, operating under orders to the strictest degree, and for their success. They were also known to be terrifying. Would the unholy angel legions be any less committed, less precisely operational, or less terrifying? No. (The unholy angels, AKA demons, are only as successful as God allows them to be. But for now, they are allowed to operate according to His plan).

Not only the unsaved but even strong Christians can be drawn into the fray.

–We can forget that the opposition is actually the mission field,
–We can forget our manners and issue harsh words that are not edifying,
–We can become confused ourselves as we spend time in the fray, or have our point of view slyly shifted,
–And more

When we see sudden eruptions against a strong biblical stand, and when we see a lock-step reaction online, in print, or in real life to something biblical, we can heavily suspect satan and his legions behind it. THIS is what spiritual warfare looks like. Satan is roaming around, but what is he doing exactly, and what does that look like in my life and within my spheres? Think on this.

We don’t look for satan or his demon cohort under every rock, but we do have to be mindful that we are soldiers and earth is God’s battlefield. We don’t fight in the usual ways like the Roman soldiers did, but we are in a battle.

1 Peter 4:12 reminds us that the fiery trials are nothing surprising. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though something strange were happening to you;

Ephesians 6:12 reminds us of who and how we fight, for it IS a battle, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

God wins. Someday the adversary and his evil companions will be locked up and then thrown into the Lake of Fire. What a day that will be!

EPrata photo
Posted in theology

Dis/Contentment in your life and how to overcome it

By Elizabeth Prata

Are you discontent? Discontent because you’re single? Discontent because you’re married? Didn’t get the job you wanted? Lost the job you loved? Hate where you live? Didn’t make the grade? Your boss hates you? You hate your boss?

Life is hard, it always has been. “In this world you will have trouble” Jesus said. (John 16:33). But lately it seems that the trouble is increasing, and coming from directions we had not expected. It’s a lot to keep up with.

We’ve always been a people to attach our happiness to comfortable or satisfactory circumstances, even though the Bible warns us to keep our eyes on Jesus and remain heavenly minded. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us, said Paul in Romans 8:18. But us puny humans forget, and we weep, we complain, we grumble. I know I do, before I have to metaphorically slap myself and say ‘Snap out of it!’

I listened to two podcasts yesterday that were on opposite ends of this spectrum, one was about severe and deep suffering, the kind that no husband or parent should ever have to deal with. But we do deal with it because, I refer again to John 16:33.

“The Cellar of Affliction” was episode 7 in Season 1 of The MacArthur Center for Expository Preaching, “The Expositor: The Story of How John MacArthur Became the World’s Premier Expository Preacher.”

L-R-Austin Duncan, Narrator, and John MacArthur, interviewee. Source: MacArthur Center for Expository Preaching
The episode is described thus: John Donne called them Job's sick days. They are days of unexpected, and often unimaginable, suffering. They are part of life in a fallen world, both for believers and nonbelievers. And they are a constant reality in the life of a preacher. John MacArthur is certainly no stranger to suffering. This episode describes a dark day in the MacArthur family, and how that suffering shaped his life and ministry. And it looks at how John's life and preaching have cared for those in what Samuel Rutherford called "the cellar of affliction." 

The episode also shared about other parents and families going through a trial and suffering. What they went through and how they came to the other side without complaint, or grumbling, clinging to joy in the darkest of days, is inspiring.

I also listened to The Women’s Hope podcast with Dr. Shelbi Cullen and Kimberly Cummings discuss “Contentment in the Midst of Chaos

Episode Description - Episode 125, Oct 14, 2021- Shelbi and Kim open up about times when they’ve battled discontentment. What passages of Scripture helped them navigate life's most challenging moments? What did God teach them through trials? Listen to find out.

In addition to discussing the issue that brought discontentment into their lives and the realizations they discovered as they walked through it to the other side, the two women offer practical advice at the end as well.

I found these two discussions helpful. I tend to tie my happiness to my circumstances. Last week, my car broke down. That is one area I have a hard time accepting disruptions. It may not be a huge issue to others but it is to me. I worked hard to focus on Jesus during that week and not complain, even under the guise of ‘asking for prayer’. It all got resolved in providential ways and the Lord even took care of me financially afterward. I need to do more of that for when the next circumstance changes, and it will. Whether it’s a minor disruption like the car issue or something major like the sufferings discussed in the MacArthur Expositor podcast, the advice remains the same.

Listen to these two podcasts and see if you think so too. 🙂

Posted in theology

Pastor John MacArthur on the Grace Community Church lawsuit victory

By Elizabeth Prata


Grace Community Church in Sun Valley CA has been harassed and sued by both Los Angeles County and the State of California for about 18 months- ever since the initial COVID 3-week ban on worship gatherings expired and the county and State tyrannically continued it- while allowing riots and other gatherings to continue to occur with no restrictions. That’s when worship at GCC resumed, and the trouble began.

Continue reading “Pastor John MacArthur on the Grace Community Church lawsuit victory”
Posted in theology

Gospel-Prophecy Week #3: They banned the video but here are the words

By Elizabeth Prata

John MacArthur has been making statements in his sermons that when the sermons or the clips of them are posted to Youtube, it results in a deletion by ‘fact-checkers’ and warnings and strikes to the Youtube channel host. When MacArthur makes truthful (albeit negative) statements about the Center for Disease Control, government agencies, or the certain flu we’re all incessantly hearing about, the clip or video will be deleted.

Prophecy is important. We are in the end time. It has been the end of times since Jesus ascended and will end when He returns. The end of the end of days will be horrific because Jesus will pour judgment onto the world. That period will be 7 years. (Daniel 9:24-27)

I knew that a recent 11-minute clip would be banned so I downloaded the transcript of it and edited it with the correct punctuation, took out all the time stamps, and cleaned it up so that I could post it and then read it myself for the podcast.

Continue reading “Gospel-Prophecy Week #3: They banned the video but here are the words”
Posted in theology

Phil Johnson factually debunks recent negative assertions against John MacArthur. Interview with Justin Peters

By Elizabeth Prata

Two of my favorite people in the faith, Justin Peters and Phil Johnson, speak about the recent criticisms against another of my favorite man of the faith, John MacArthur. These criticisms have been asserted by self-professed reporter Julie Roys and others, (some anonymously) who persistently try to damage the reputation of the church of which MacArthur is leading and the people who work and minister there. In a particular case with one detractor, he crafts his vague accusations in the worst way possible and intimates darkly there may be more, without offering evidence. This is the downside of the internet. A craven underbelly of which we should all beware of/

For the people who have questioned this situation and wondered of the character of John MacArthur is really all that it seems, please refer to this interview which sheds light on and offers facts from a person knowledgeable of the situation. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

I am grateful for these three men, standing for the faith with such grace and patience and for such a long time.

The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)

John MacArthur’s Lavish Lifestyle? An Interview With Phil Johnson,