Some of America's biggest churches support a culture of corrupt, “superficial Christianity” and made a lot of money doing it but the internet is now making it harder for “phonies” to survive, Pastor John MacArthur recently said.
Speaking at the pulpit of Grace Community Church in California for the first time after a brief absence during which some speculated he may have been ill, MacArthur suggested that the pandemic combined with the technological shift in ministry has led to a “sifting and shifting.”
“We had for decades, people trying to create a cultural Christianity that would appeal to nonbelievers, that was accepting of immorality, accepting of homosexuality, accepting of racial hatred. There was a kind of superficial, shallow Christianity that watered down the Gospel, didn’t talk about sin, tried to have a positive message. And it was very successful. And I get it because I fought that battle well for almost all the time I’ve been here,” he told his congregants in a sermon just over a week ago.
He explained that one of the things he likes to do is to call the church to repentance but it was a tough call because “superficial Christianity made a lot of money” and “elevated a lot of charlatans.”
“It was successful. The biggest churches in America are part of it. It was very hard to call people to faithfulness when you could be so corrupt and so successful in Christian religion. That was the battle. Now I think there’s a sifting and a shifting,” he said before alluding to sex scandals surrounding prominent Christian figures like late apologist Ravi Zacharias and former Hillsong Church Pastor Carl Lentz without mentioning their names.
“First of all, phonies are going to have a hard time hiding with the internet. We’re seeing one after another after another. Dead ones and alive ones. This dead apologist had a deviant sex life. This cool dude rock and roll pastor was immoral with multiple women for years and years,” MacArthur said.
“I look at all that and my thoughts were I don’t think if it weren’t for Jesus Christ that I could sell anybody on Christianity. We preach Christ, right? And you’re attracted to Him, right? But if there are people out there looking at Christianity, it has to be uninviting, maybe even repulsive. Who are these people? Filthy rich, immoral, corrupt, narcissistic. If it weren’t for Jesus Christ, Christianity would have no appeal,” he said.
MacArthur also explained that despite efforts by government authorities to shutter his church during the pandemic, he has managed to defy every restriction and remain open regardless of fines and court actions against his church.
“They tried every way to close Grace Church. And I think it is true that there is no more scrutinized church in the United States of America than Grace Community Church,” he said, calling out major media organizations like ABC, CNN and the Los Angeles Times as well as “ungodly bloggers” who tried to discredit his church.
“I’m still here,” he said.
MacArthur said the decision to remain open in defiance of government restrictions has been a blessing to his church. He said even though the church had not collected an offering in the last 10 months, congregants “have given more in the last 10 months than any 10-month period in the history of this church.”
MacArthur fought for his church’s legal right to hold indoor worship services amid the pandemic and said even though his church has faced fines each Sunday for their defiance, the congregation has only continued to flourish.
“In the middle of the lawsuit, the Lord has grown our church. So this was a very small tiny local church until COVID. One thousand new members, baptisms,” he said, calling his new members “Grace refugees.”
“Did you hear the testimonies in baptism Sunday night? There’s a new evangelical term. I love it. It’s ‘Grace refugees,’” he said as his congregation laughed.
“It’s the people who had no other church to go to so they came here as church refugees,” he said to more cheers.
“And aren’t we happy about that? Aren’t we blessed? We’ll take you whoever you are even if you’re a Presbyterian refugee. People have flown in from all across America, driven in from all across the West every Sunday to be with us. Some of you only came here because it was the only church open and you found it wasn’t just a church that was open. It was a church that was presenting the Gospel and the Word of God,” he said.