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Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, is 56 years old this year.

A video from their 50th anniversary in 2006 reviews the history of the church from its early days under the pastorship of the late Revd Don Householder to its current expansion under the Revd John MacArthur.

Members of the original congregation tell the story of how, in 1956, Grace started as a small group of families worshipping in a private house which was turned into a pre-school. Then, the group were able to buy a lot on which to design and build a proper church. The lot had most recently been a chicken farm! From there, under Dr Householder, the evangelical church expanded, drawing more people in every Sunday.

Householder was committed to preaching the Word of God. And people in this area of southern California were hungry for it. When he died in the late 1960s, the congregation looked for a successor who would preach the Bible faithfully. They decided on John MacArthur, a young seminary graduate.

MacArthur told the decision-making panel that he was committed to expository teaching of the Bible. Salary didn’t concern him; as one of the original congregation members recalled, ‘He said God would take care of it’. MacArthur also said that one of his goals was to train young men for the ministry, first in church and, God willing, through a seminary. Today, the Master’s Seminary is doing just that, not only in California but in other countries around the world.

This video is 26 minutes long and is one of the best presentations about a church that you are likely to see. It is very much in keeping with the early apostolic Church in its commitment and fellowship. From the beginning, the small group of families was committed to Christ, to Scripture, to each other and to sharing the Gospel message with others. They volunteered for everything under Householder’s leadership: designing and building the church structure, holding potluck dinners to finance it, directing the choir, teaching Sunday School and attending every service.

This continued when MacArthur became pastor in 1969 and goes on today, although the congregation has expanded beyond what anyone would have originally anticipated.

MacArthur doesn’t use church growth techniques. He doesn’t have gimmicks. He doesn’t go on television to ask for money or to prophesy. John MacArthur faithfully preaches and teaches the Bible.

One of the original congregants said that his sermons continue to add new insight, even those about such well known stories as the Prodigal Son from Luke’s Gospel. MacArthur says that he has also grown in his study of the Word and hopes that his preaching reflects the depth of his years of study as a pastor.

Because of MacArthur’s deep love of Scripture, it is not unusual for two or three generations of a family to worship at Grace Community Church.

This is evidenced by the opening and closing story of a young boy who attended Grace with his family until he died, sadly, of cancer. The boy’s parents talked about the knowledge the child had of the Bible, thanks to his attendance at church and Sunday School.

Our churches need more pastors like John MacArthur. So many of us pass the Bible by because our clergy do. Yet, when you see an auditorium-sized church full of people gathering to worship, Sunday School groups which look engaged and the happy fellowship among the members of the congregation, you know that something special is at work there.

Also worth noting are the mentions MacArthur and those interviewed make to the congregation members whom ‘God brought to us’. Not ‘we’, not ‘I’, but ‘God’.  Something to remember and consider.

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