Grace Community Church’s senior pastor, John MacArthur, answered questions from students at The Master’s Seminary earlier this week (May 2).
One student asked MacArthur, the chancellor of the seminary, a question on church unity and partnerships in ministry. “I was wondering from your example, specifically with pastors who would agree on the essentials, but not necessarily unimportant doctrines that aren’t essential. What are some biblical passages or references or biblical principles that have helped you navigate that issue in your ministry?”
Assuming that the person is a true believer in Jesus Christ, MacArthur said his simple answer is “the Lord allowed him into the kingdom. And if you’re in the kingdom, I have to figure out a way to work with you…I don’t want to alienate people who are in the kingdom.”
If the person is a heretic—for instance, he denies the Trinity or the deity of Christ—or he believes heresy of some kind, or his life displays ungodliness and he is unrepentant, “I don’t want to cooperate with somebody like that,” MacArthur explained, “but I basically am bound. I am already one in Christ with everybody else who’s in the King.”
The 83-year-old pastor, who has served over 50 years in the pulpit, said, “We are all ones who have to figure out, how can I minister with [and] how can I minister to the people of God?”
MacArthur gave the example of how he joined R.C. Sproul at Ligonier conferences. Both MacArthur and Sproul hold different theological viewpoints regarding infant baptism.
“I think what is most important is you establish your own fidelity to the degree that people don’t question your association,” MacArthur said. “If I’m at Ligonier, nobody thinks I abandoned what I believe.” In fact, MacArthur and Sproul held a debate regarding infant baptism at one of Ligonier’s conferences.
While answering the seminary student’s question, MacArthur, who once told Beth Moore to “Go Home,” said there is a line that neither he nor other pastors who want to be obedient to Scripture should ever cross, and that would be speaking at a conference that would include a woman who was speaking as well.
“There’s a line at which you can’t cross because someone is blatantly disobedient to Scripture. That would be—you won’t see me—on a panoply of speakers that includes women because that is a total violation of Scripture. When you have men and women preachers—I can’t do that because your reputation at that point becomes very muddy,” MacArthur said.