On this episode of Open Book, Stephen Nichols and John MacArthur discuss ministry role models, including a man so faithful to his pulpit that not even a Nazi air strike could prevent him from preaching.
STEPHEN NICHOLS: Welcome back to another episode of Open Book. Once again, we’re in the church office of Dr. John MacArthur. Iain Murray wrote so many biographies. The Edwards one we all love. And then, of course, he did the Pink one we already mentioned. But he’s your biographer, so we’ll get to that in a moment. But let’s just start with this one, The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
JOHN MACARTHUR: Yes. I think I needed a full life model. When people ask me who’s my model of ministry, I always go immediately to my dad as a faithful man. He was everything in his personal life that he was in the pulpit. So much integrity, so much love for the truth. But when I think about who my ministry model has always been, it’s been the Apostle Paul. He just fills my mind because of everything he’s written, and I’ve studied it all through the years. But the guy who sort of fleshed out ministry and preaching —uncompromising preaching and courageous preaching—for me was Lloyd-Jones. His theology was right. It was biblical. He had a passion for the Word of God. He was sacrificial and there was a humility about him. There was a kind of demeanor that he got lost in the truth that he was proclaiming.
NICHOLS: Derek Thomas mentioned a story that sometimes he would preach during the bombing of London and dust would literally fall on him, and his secretary would come up and dust him off and dust off the pulpit.
MACARTHUR: That’s my kind of guy.
NICHOLS: And he would just keep preaching. So I can see why you’re drawn to him as a model.
MACARTHUR: It came down to a couple of things for me. It came down to the fact that he was so faithful to the Word of God, that the apex of his entire career was a crisis moment. It potentially could have made him a worldwide phenomenon when Billy Graham wanted to elevate him, and he absolutely refused because he saw that entire operation as a compromise. He had nothing personal about Billy. And Billy came back to him and said, “I want you to lead this pastor’s conferences. I want you to be a part of this.” And he said, “Stop the invitations. Stop cooperating with the apostates and the liberals, and I will do that.”
NICHOLS: That’s conviction.
MACARTHUR: Because he had no thought for what it would mean to him. All he could think about was what was right. And the other thing that was so powerful to me, and I’ve run into this through the years when I go to England, people still ask me, “Do you think Lloyd-Jones was right to take the position he did against Anglicanism?” I mean, that’s what separated him from Packer and Stott and Dick, the other guy that was part of that triumvirate, and Michael Green.
MACARTHUR: Dick Lucas and Michael Green. And it was all because he couldn’t tolerate cooperating with Anglicanism, with the Episcopalian church or the Church of England. I mean this was his domain. He could have literally risen to the pinnacle— in a worldly sense—with Graham and in his own kingdom, the U.K. But he just had disdain for both of those things because he saw that there were compromises.
And a third thing that struck me about him was that people told him he needed to travel more, that he needed to get out and preach because he was so gifted. He came to the United States a few times. But they told him he needed to leave the church and he needed to go and preach here, and preach there, and get around the world. And he said, “No, I’m going to stay in the same place.” And the result of that is that now, he is heard more around the world than he ever was when he was alive. Because all those recordings are now just circling the globe.
NICHOLS: They’re all digitized. The Lloyd-Jones library is out there. It’s great.
MACARTHUR: Look and I’ve said this through the years. He showed me that you stay in one pulpit, stand behind that pulpit, pour your entire life into that pulpit. Take care of the depth and let God worry about the breadth. Let him take it where he wants.
NICHOLS: And be faithful to the Word. So let’s talk about the author. Iain Murray is the author of that biography. He’s written a biography of you.
MACARTHUR: Yes. I don’t understand why, but he did.
NICHOLS: He writes, as you said, all about dead people.
MACARTHUR: He writes about dead people, and I’m not dead yet. I thought they might not release it till I died.
NICHOLS: He’s a dear friend. Everyone knows you have him every year to your Shepherds’ Conference, and I’ve seen you with him, the respect that you have for him, and I know you hold him very dearly.
MACARTHUR: Patricia and I have been in his home, and they’ve been in our home. And it’s a very rich providence for us how this ever happened because we are worlds apart, and I don’t know why he was interested in me, or us, or this place. And that would have been another book if we could talk about it.
But building on the Lloyd-Jones narratives, which helped me understand an uncompromising preacher of the Word of God, was Murray’s Evangelicalism Divided. He picked up the narrative from the Graham issue and showed what had happened subsequently to evangelicalism. And I wanted him to come to the Shepherds’ Conference and basically share that history.
NICHOLS: That was the first time he was invited?
MACARTHUR: That was the first time.
NICHOLS: And it was the book, Evangelicalism Divided?
MACARTHUR: Yes, okay. Among a lot of other things, he’s my favorite biographer. I honestly will tell you, I have a very hard time reading a biography by a religious writer who will not reveal his theology. This is why I don’t like to read George Marsden. I don’t know what he believes about anything.
NICHOLS: He’s a little detached.
MACARTHUR: It’s totally detached. I read Murray and Murray can’t even write about me without taking an issue. He takes issues with me and he’s writing about me, and he loves me.
NICHOLS: And he’s going to see you face to face.
MACARTHUR: He’s my friend, he has to see me. And I’m not dead. He says things like, “One could wish that MacArthur would have addressed this or that.” No, he’s so endeared. I called him the other day and we actually cherish the times we’re together. The last time I was with him, he said, “I want to take you and Patricia on a tour of all the locations of Samuel Rutherford.”
NICHOLS: Oh, wow. Iain Murray as your personal tour guide.
MACARTHUR: Personal tour guide. So I have to know what I’m doing. I read two biographies on Samuel Rutherford so I didn’t act like an ignorant guy. And for a week we go on this personal tutorial on Samuel Rutherford. We’re standing in the rain in the church where he preached. We have so many wonderful memories. But his interest in me, I don’t really know what drove that interest. Then he wrote another little book called Seven Leaders, and at the back of that he threw me in again. I’m not sure why. But there’s something about the way he sees the hand of God. I think that’s the explanation. I’m not the explanation for what’s happening.
NICHOLS: No, I totally think you’re right. I think he is drawn to faithful ministers.
MACARTHUR: Yes, yes.
NICHOLS: And that’s a lot of what he does.
MACARTHUR: Then he asked my wife to write the introduction to his book that he did on Amy Carmichael. And she said to me, “I’ve never written an introduction to anything.” So I said, “Well, I’ll work with you on that.”
NICHOLS: You have. You can throw her a few pointers. Well, that’s great. That was Iain Murray’s The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. And we threw in a little bit of Iain Murray’s on your own life as a bonus. Thank you, I appreciate it.
MACARTHUR: It’s not really a life. It’s kind of a brief book. But he’s saying more than he should have
NICHOLS: And there’s more to the life. The book is done, but the life keeps going.
MACARTHUR: So far.
NICHOLS: Well thank you, I really appreciate that.
Transcript lightly edited for readability.