February 26th, 2010
MacArthur, John. Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009. 304 pp. $22.99.
John MacArthur needs no real introduction. His radio ministry, Grace To You, is familiar to countless thousands. Master’s College and Seminary, where he serves as President, is known for their conservative, biblical approach to teaching and training men and women to serve the Lord all over the world. He also serves as pastor-teacher at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. As far as books are concerned, he has authored numerous volumes as well as a study Bible bearing his name along with a John Calvin-esque commentary series also bearing his name.
Ashamed of the Gospel is now in its third edition which is quite remarkable given its topic—the gospel of Jesus Christ and how the modern church (generically speaking) is, in fact, ashamed of the gospel. Much has changed since this book was first written in 1993. Unfortunately, one thing has not—the church is still in bed with entertainment.
The first ten chapters have pretty much been untouched from the first edition. In these chapters, MacArthur looks back at how Charles Haddon Spurgeon handled the Down-Grade controversy in his time in order to see how we might best handle the diminishing of the gospel in our time. He looks at how we have left the preaching of the Word for more entertaining messages that Paul wrote about in 2 Tim 4:3-4. Thankfully, he offers a look at how Paul handled “modern” society in Acts 17.
Chapters eleven and twelve are the additions that bear mentioning and make this edition worth purchasing. As John looks back on the preceding fifteen years since the first publishing of the book, he notes that the “Influence of the church within our culture continues to diminish” (205). In looking at where the church is today, he writes,
The church has become a laughingstock with no moral authority to stand before the world and confront sin, declare Christ’s lordship, and speak with any credibility about sin, righteousness, or judgment (206).
Stinging words for sure, but words that are not only justified, they need to be shouted from the rooftops of every church building!
MacArthur’s greatest concern is that the Emergent and seeker-sensitive types will leave their fading “theologies” and catch on with the latest craze dubbed by Time magazine as “The New Calvinism.” His concern is valid though I think there are enough of the older, more level-headed Calvinists around that they will keep those that are younger in line.
Obviously, many in today’s church will completely disagree with John MacArthur’s assessments. However, it must be noted, that MacArthur is not alone in his critique of the modern church. Many would cite Paul Washer and John Piper and Albert Mohler as a few of many who share these concerns.
I think MacArthur’s book should be read by all pastors since we are called to preach the Word in season and, as is the case in many cities today, out of season. There are so many being led astray by many so-called pastors who merely preach a gospel-lite message that our greatest evangelistic opportunities are those whose names appear on church roles! Do yourself a favor and read this book, especially if you are a younger pastor. We would all do well to heed the warning cries of John MacArthur.