Controversy is a brewin’!
Why do I say that? Because it’s recently been announced that Pastor John MacArthur has been invited to preach at the NRB International Christian Media Convention coming up in Anaheim, CA, in the end of March.
Why is this a problem, you may ask? Because also speaking at this conference is Rick Warren, as well as Catholic Mystics Mark Burnett & Roma Downey, among others. Now, Rick Warren is clearly a false teacher, compromising the Gospel in many different ways, including his claims that the Catholic Church is saved and refers to the Pope as “Our Father.” The Catholic Church preaches a false Gospel, worship a false Jesus and are leading people to hell.
Phil Johnson, the Executive Director of John MacArthur’s teaching ministry Grace To You, posted an explanation/defense of JMac’s decision to speak at the NRB Convention:
The annual NRB convention is a trade show for religious broadcasters, not a Bible conference. NRB provides broadcasters like "Grace To You" with essential information about pending legislation, government regulations, technological advances, and similar matters important to religious media providers. The organization is a guild of broadcasters with similar legal and practical concerns, not a spiritual fraternity pushing a doctrinal agenda. GTY has benefitted from membership in NRB for decades.
The 2019 NRB convention is scheduled for Southern California next March. That's one month after John MacArthur's 50th anniversary as pastor of Grace Community Church. It is also the 50th anniversary of GTY - a rare milestone for Christian broadcasters.
John was asked to preach the sermon in a special midweek worship service at NRB. He will not be "sharing the platform" or "partnering" with the other broadcasters featured in NRB's advertising. He will, however, use the opportunity to bring the Word of God to bear against popular brands of evangelical excess and heresy that undermine gospel truth - as he has done every time he's spoken at NRB.
Now, there are a few important points to address. And make sure that you read all the way to the end, as the final point is vitally important to the concerns that many of us have with this apparent partnership.
First off, is this a trade show? Yes it is. Is it also a conference type setting? Yes it is. You see, there are two separate parts of this convention: the trade show and the conference. If you were to register to attend, there’s an option to just attend the trade show, and then a second option to attend the biblical training sessions by the speakers listed above.
Now, another point of concern that shows that this is a sharing of the stage is the mission of the NRB.
“At NRB’s very core is the Bible; evangelical communicators committed to the Word of God for the spread of the Gospel. NRB is first and foremost about advancing Biblical truths.”
Now, this statement is in stark contrast w/ Phil Johnson’s explanation that the NRB is NOT “a spiritual fraternity pushing a doctrinal agenda.” But clearly, the NRB believes otherwise, as their primary focus is “advancing Biblical truths.”
Now, let me ask you a question: Are Rick Warren, Mark Burnett, Roma Downey, TBN or any of the other participants advancing Biblical truths?
Now check this out. This is a screenshot from the membership page on the NRB website.
“The unity that NRB members enjoy is founded in the bond we share in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.” Do Christians have this bond with Catholic mystics like Mark Burnett and Roma Downey? Or with a pastor like Rick Warren who sees the Catholic Church (which is a blend of Christianity and Paganism and teaches a false gospel) as our brothers and sisters in Christ?
According to Pastor John MacArthur, “Because the Roman Catholic Church has refused to submit itself to the authority of God's Word and to embrace the gospel of justification taught in Scripture, it has set itself apart from the true body of Christ. It is a false and deceptive form of Christianity.”
So if the Catholic church is a “false and deceptive form of Christianity,” why are the “good guys” participating in an event where the premise is that everyone involved in this event share a bond “in the Person and work of Jesus Christ”?
2 John is an applicable passage in regards to this type of issue. Verse 9 states clearly, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” So, according to John, those that do not abide in the teaching of Christ, such as the Catholic Church, do not have God. What does John say we should do with those who do not abide in the teaching of Christ? “Do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” (Verse 10)
What is this passage speaking of when it says not to “receive him into your house or give him any greeting”? They are saying not to lend him your credibility. What was happening in the early church is that false teachers would take advantage of the hospitality of the true church. The Biblical Christians were extending their homes to false teachers in the name of hospitality. During that time, this was seen as an endorsement of that teacher, thus giving him credibility within the church and allowing him to lead those within the local body of believers astray.
So now, here we are, with the NRB welcoming in false teachers into its fold under the premise of sharing a bond “in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.” “Good guys,” like Pastor MacArthur, are entering into this event with speaking engagements, lending their name as credibility to the understanding that they are speaking to, and with, those who share this special bond that is only reserved for truth brothers and sisters in Christ.
Now, if this were a trade show where everyone was coming together under the premise of unifying around freedom of speech, shared legal needs, or broadcasting information, that would be one thing. That is actually how Phil Johnson is portraying it. But, according to the NRB, this is not the unifying factor of this event. It’s the shared relationship that we have with God. Since that is the case, this is an ecumenical event, being that both Evangelical Christians and Catholics will be speaking.
Now, you might say, “Pastor MacArthur was invited to speak here. It’s not like this is the Shepherds Conference where he is inviting the speakers. He’s not the one making decisions. His ministry isn’t involved, except that they receive the benefits of being a member of the NRB.” I mean, seriously, Phil Johnson just explained that JMac would not be “partnering with the other broadcasters featured in NRB’s advertising.”
As Todd Friel would says, “WHOAH, Cowboy!”
I seem to remember a conversation that Todd Friel had with Phil Johnson on Wretched Radio. During this conversation, they were discussing Michael Brown speaking at events with the extreme Charismatics & WOF “preachers”. Todd explained his perspective: “Look, if I do a conference I know who’s in the green room. I know what’s going on out there. I know what these folks are about…. When you do things like this it’s because you group them together because they’re in the same vein.”
We’ve clearly established that not only are there false teachers involved with the NRB Convention, but this is also an ecumenical event, giving credibility to the belief that the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church have a spiritual bond in salvation. This is heresy. However, it’s not like John MacArthur or Grace To You are involved in the leadership of this type of organization, right?
On the NRB website, they list the Board of Directors. On this Board of Directors we see none other than the Chief Operating Officer of Grace To You, Jay Flowers. Wait a second! You mean to tell me that the COO of Grace To You is on the Board of Directors of an organization promoting the ecumenical belief that the Catholic Church are our brothers and sisters in Christ? The same organization that is having Rick Warren speak?
So when Phil Johnson states that John MacArthur is not “partnering with the other broadcasters,” is he not counting the fact that his COO for GTY is on the Board of Directors… a part of the leadership team for NRB? According to the website of NRB, Jay Flowers is involved in the leadership of the organization that is hosting an event that invited Rick Warren, Mark Burnett, Roma Downey, all while claiming that they are promoting Biblical truth and unity. Do we not have reason to be concerned?
Now where does this leave us? We are seeing a shift in the Evangelical landscape. We are seeing the good guys partnering with the bad guys. We are seeing less and less of a separation between truth and error. Why is this happening? It was just a few short years ago that the Strange Fire Conference was telling all the “clear-minded Charismatics” to stop sharing the stage and lending their credibility to the Word of Faith movement. But now it’s ok to share the stage with Catholics and Rick Warren under the premise that you share a spiritual bond? And no longer can it be claimed that Pastor MacArthur was unaware of this, as his own COO is on the Board of Directors!
In closing, truth matters. We are seeing the church crumble under the weight of its compromise. The one-time group of “good guys” have seen so many instances of compromise that it’s no longer recognizable. John Piper endorses Rick Warren as a solid Bible Teacher. Al Mohler repents from the view that sexual orientation isn’t a choice. Mark Dever is participating in the Living Out audit. And now we have John MacArthur not only speaking alongside the likes of Rick Warren and Catholic Mystics under the guise of a shared unity in Christ, but his own teaching ministry is involved in the leadership of the organization putting this event together.
Why do I bring all of this up? Do I want to destroy John MacArthur? No. It’s because of my life-long respect for him and his ministry that I want to see him do the right thing. I don’t want to see him continue down this road of compromise like we’ve seen many of his friends do. I want to see him repent and change course, just as he did in regards to The Gospel Coalition Conference, where he and his church withdrew hosting the conference at their church. In this instance, Grace To You should have no participation in a spiritual partnership that is promoting ecumenical events and false teachers like Rick Warren. I pray that we see a renewed defense of truth. I pray that this error we’ve seen infiltrating the church comes to an end.