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Darrin Patrick: A Reply to Dr. John MacArthur

Ever since I surrendered to God’s call on my life for ministry in 1989, Dr. John MacArthur has played a significant role in my life through his careful, straightforward preaching of the Bible and his willingness to address false teaching.  I have listened to hundreds of his sermons, read many of his books, and own the majority of his commentaries.  Dr. MacArthur’s ministry has profoundly influenced my love for Scripture.  I am forever in his debt. 

I am honored that Dr. MacArthur has not only thoroughly read my book, Church Planter, but that he has taken time to voice his concerns about it.  I thought it might promote gospel unity to respond to what he said in his podcast and then clarified on his blog.

Here is the section of Church Planter that Dr. MacArthur critiques, from page 37:

“One of the common errors of young men who surrender to ministry is to simply adopt the model of a church that they have experienced or idolized.  A similar mistake is to blindly accept the ministry philosophy and practice of a ministry hero.  The man who is experiencing head confirmation is thoughtful about his own philosophy of ministry, his own ministry style, his own theological beliefs, his own unique gifts, abilities, and desires.  In short, there is uniqueness to the way he wants to do ministry.”

Regarding this passage, he writes:

“Notice that Darrin Patrick himself summarizes and restates the point he is making, and it is about ‘uniqueness’ in ‘the way he wants to do ministry.’  He seems to suggest that everything about one’s ministry (Patrick expressly includes ‘his own theological beliefs’) needs to be self-styled and individualistic.”

My point in this passage is not to encourage a radical individualism, but rather to suggest that pastors must possess a burning desire to understand Biblical theology, doctrine, and pastoral ministry for themselves, rather than carelessly adopting the theology or methodology of others or blindly idolizing their ministry heroes.

As I go on to say in the paragraph in question, “Unlike many young men who know much about what they are against rather than what they are for, the man who is experiencing head confirmation thinks through very carefully and deliberately, What am I for with my life and ministry?”  My specific language was that one’s theology and philosophy of ministry should be developed “thoughtfully”, “carefully,” and “deliberately,” not that one should “develop [his] own theology,” as Dr. MacArthur mentioned in his podcast. 

My point is that young pastors should search the Scriptures and fight for truth with regard to their theology.  In the same way, Dr. MacArthur might instruct an Amillennialist, a continuist, or a covenant theologian to not blindly accept and receive what they’ve been taught.  He might then challenge them to carefully think through their eschatology, pneumatology, and systematic theology.

Dr. MacArthur suggests that “Good ecclesiology demands that there exist an awareness of, appreciation for, and deliberate connection to the flow of redemptive history.”  I completely agree with this, which is why Church Planter includes a chapter entitled “The Historical Message” as well as almost 500 footnotes, many of which refer to the theology and example of faithful men who have gone before.  I do contend that good pastoral leadership requires that individual pastors develop their theology by searching the Scriptures for themselves, as the Bereans did in Acts 17:11, which is why I started the chapter in question with Jeremiah’s call and examined various Scriptures throughout, in addition to examining several callings from church history.  I also believe we can learn from the church in the present through books, podcasts, and attending conferences like the Shepherd’s Conference.  

Finally, Dr. MacArthur writes:

Indeed, the entire book treats church planting as an entrepreneurial business, with almost no word of caution against the many dangers of bringing an entrepreneur’s mindset into ministry.  Scripture, by contrast, consistently uses pastoral language rather than terms borrowed from financial enterprise.  Church leaders are to be shepherds, not tycoons.  Our people are sheep, not consumers.

I would have appreciated it if Dr. MacArthur had pointed to specific examples in the book that led to this conclusion.  I believe the chapters on the dependant man and the shepherding man do challenge a pure entrepreneurial mindset.  Anyone who is familiar with my ministry knows that I frequently caution against the pragmatic nature of business approaches in church leadership. 

I do use the language of “King” to refer to a certain sort of leadership, but that’s not what I understand to be business language (though I do mention a parallel to the executive functions of a leader—see page 73).  Two footnotes out of almost 500 hundred are taken from business books (on pages 40 and 74).  And I wrote a full chapter entitled “A Shepherding Man” where I address what it means to shepherd the people of God.

My intention was certainly not to advocate the CEO pastor persona that is far too prevalent in the 21st century church.  So I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. MacArthur that “Church leaders are to be shepherds, not tycoons.  Our people are sheep, not consumers.”  Amen.

It is my hope that those who have not read the book might not be confused about what I believe.  I believe in gospel ministry, theologically driven practice, and biblical fidelity.  This is what Church Planter is about.  This is what The Journey is about.  This is what my life and ministry are about. 

Sometimes, I fail at this focus.  When I misunderstand or am misunderstood, I want to quickly ask, “What is God teaching me?”  And He is teaching me through Dr. MacArthur’s critique.  For that, I am very thankful!  For those of you who have been quick to be critical of Dr. MacArthur, please remember that we all need to be corrected from time to time.  Also, ALL of us who are younger need to give a careful listen to the concerns of seasoned pastors, many of whom have forgotten more than we might ever know.

Whatever our disagreements, I want to underscore that we should strive as leaders within the church to dwell together in unity and work together to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Unto that end, I am looking forward to meeting Dr. MacArthur face-to-face in the near future.  We share a common publisher, a common calling and, most importantly, a common faith.  I look forward to deepening our unity as we both seek to obey Jesus and participate in His mission in the world. 

For more information, please visit The Journey’s Doctrinal Statement, sermon audio from The Journey, or The Gospel Coalition, in which we participate.  


A statement from the Elders:

We wanted to write and say that Pastor Darrin Patrick is accountable to and in community with our team of elders.  We have asked him to respond to Dr. MacArthur’s concerns on page 37 of Church Planter and to then meet with Dr. MacArthur privately to resolve any outstanding concerns.  We as an elder team do not feel that Pastor Darrin’s words in the questioned section need to be reworded or recanted.  We believe the context of the paragraph, chapter, and the entire book challenges the notion that he encourages radical individualism for Christians in general or pastors in specific.

Jim Beckemier

Chairman of the Board of Elders