My report on the 2019 Truth Matters Conference, hosted by Grace Community Church

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DISCLAIMER: IPOC Ministries does not share all doctrinal views of every person mentioned here.

The Truth Matters conference was a three day conference to commemorate pastor John MacArthur’s fifty years of service and leadership at Grace Community Church, and his emphasis on practicing the Doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture. Hence, the name and theme of this conference was The Sufficiency of Scripture – Truth Matters Conference. The following is only a summary of our great experience, and we are so very thankful.

If you desire to hear nothing but positive affirmations, and warm fuzzies, then this is not the kind of conference you should attend. But if you want the truth, then by all means go; because truth matters.

I’ve been studying the trends of the professing church for two decades now. And if we loved Christ’s bride, then we would be watchmen on the wall, preventing leaven from remaining on her wedding dress, and when necessary we would apply Ephesians 5:1-21.

In Revelation chapters two and three, the Lord Jesus wrote His seven letters to those seven churches. Five of those seven letters were very critical. Therefore with that in mind, I will write objectively here.

My wife and I purchased our tickets several months in advance, and we’re glad we did, because they sold-out quickly.

Their speakers were John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Justin Peters, Voddie Bauchman, Jeff Williams, and Mike Riccardi.

The following is my summary.

Day one – Wednesday:

As always there is an abundance of food, snacks, and various refreshments.

The first speaker was John MacArthur. He preached from Romans 1:16-32. Though many pastors (perhaps a majority) are afraid to expose and oppose homosexuality, MacArthur is not. He warned that because of America’s sin, we are at the precipice of the “judgement of God.” MacArthur has become an anomaly, and I love anomalies in such a postmodern era. He also warned of the growing trend of antinomianism, and that “they will come into the church and attack obedience.” I say a big amen to that truth.

Today’s lunch was provided by a local restaurant, and as always it was excellent.

My wife and I made this interesting and consistent observation. Every attendee that we spoke to, geographically speaking, was from Judea, Samaria, or the utter parts of the earth. We did not meet one person that was local. It was obvious that the members of this church were behind the scenes accommodating and serving their guests. That was wonderful to see. Thank you brethren.

During our long lunch break we got to know one couple from Nashville Tennessee, and we were very like-minded. We spent some time examining the large number of book publishers at their tables. As expected we noted many solid conservative reformed books. But we did take note of a few authors that are great compromisers, and one that has strayed into gross err (justification by faith plus works, egalitarianism, and Lectio Divina).

But the biggest surprise was to see that Zondervan Book Publishers was present with their own stand-alone section. Zondervan is owned by a large pornography distribution company. One of their translations (the NIV) was co-translated by a known practicing homosexual. Consequently they publish a large percentage of heretical books. If you are fortunate enough to have a library at home, I’m sure we’ll all find a book or two published by Zondervan (perhaps even a Bible). But I would never endorse them, by allowing them to set up shop in the church, or place of ministry. The Elder I met from Nashville made the same observations. I’m looking forward to future communication with him.  

At the beginning of the conference the Emcee let the attendees know, that the format they will use for the ‘question and answer session,’ is for us to write our questions down onto a comment card, then place the card into the box conveniently located for us. And they will later read some of those questions. Had they allowed us to line-up to ask our questions via microphone, I would have asked this question – Why Zondervan? 

As always, the music they provided was God fearing Christ exalting worship. They had an all men’s choir, then the accredited orchestra ‘’The Masters Chorale,’ a solo violinist accompanied by a pianist, another soloist, and of course we were all led in singing hymns together as one voice. The good thing about singing hymns together in a crowd this large (thousands), is my mistakes are not as noticeable, and so I sang from the fire of my belly, and the bottom of my heart (more about that belly later). Though college degrees are not Biblically required for ministry, these musicians were well-trained, and well equipped ‘music majors’ with Bachelors, Masters, and even PhDs.

The next speaker was Justin Peters.

Peters does a great job revealing false teachers, and marking them via his prolific Power Point presentations. He spoke how they will violate the Sufficiency of Scripture, by claiming they received a “special revelation” from God. This year he included Matt Chandler in his presentation. That won’t sit well with some of the attendees, but the truth matters.

The last speaker this day was Dr. Voddie Baucham.

Keeping the theme of the ‘Sufficiency of Scripture’ in mind, Voddie spoke about how pragmatism has crept into churches, worship services, and evangelism. With an emphasis on the importance of practicing a regulative principle of worship, rather than normative principles of worship. He mentioned a Southern California evangelist that uses gimmicks and normative principles of worship to gather crowds, and to please the world, calling it a “pragmatic evangelism.” He said “pragmatism is not only bad, it is dangerous.” He said “Our goal in worship is for God, not for the lost. Our goal in evangelism is for God.” I agree because when I herald the glorious Gospel in the public, I believe it is one of the highest forms of worship that I’ve engaged in, as it is vertical, not horizontal.

Voddie hit the nail on the head, I say a big resounding amen. Pragmatism has infiltrated churches from every theological persuasion. One of the consistent battles I face in evangelism, is the many professing Christians that complain about public preaching, suggesting that I use a more pragmatic approach instead. And so yes I do believe that a regulative principle of worship should be practiced in the streets, and along the highways and hedges too, not just in the sanctuary on the Lord’s Day. That is one of the reasons I often evangelize alone.

Day two – Thursday:

We were again greeted by wonderful people, fantastic pastries, a diverse continental breakfast, coffee and orange juice. Hey we finally met one attendee from California.

As we entered their sanctuary they again began with the aforementioned singing of hymns and music.

Today’s first speaker was Astronaut Jeff Williams. This was my first time watching an Astronaut show a slide presentation displaying photos that he took while in space, while sharing the Scriptures that speak of Gods glory in creation.

As we were getting ready for the next speaker, we received the following surprise and blessing. A dear friend of mine (Paul) that had moved to Tennessee, came over to say hello. I think we cracked some ribs with those big bear hugs. More about that later.

A representative with Thomas Nelson Publishers presented John MacArthur with a special print of their new second edition of the MacArthur study Bible. This presentation also commemorated their twenty year relationship with the first edition.

MacArthur was the next speaker, and he taught from Psalm 19:7-14, and we were encouraged even more.

During lunchtime my wife and I were blessed to sit with my dear friend Paul, and another fellow from his church. Paul was with eight other men from their church. The church they attend in Tennessee has about sixty members. So for nine men from the same church to pay for their own air travel, rental car, and lodging costs is a great testimony to their church. These men were investing into their local church. While enjoying many laughs together, we engaged in true koinonia. Although I must apologize for making fun of Paul’s shoes. At least I didn’t alert security while attempting to remove one of them. I have to remember that I’m sixty years old now. So playing catch with your friends shoe might be perceived as immature. But I’m sure his friends would have enjoyed playing catch. You gotta love those boys from the South (a place I’d rather be, but my wife’s a Calif. girl).

The next speaker was Mike Riccardi. Mike is a younger man, and is now on staff at Grace Community Church. I think you’ll agree that Mikes bio is impressive. Mike is –

“Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries, which includes overseeing Fundamentals of the Faith classes, eight foreign language outreach Bible studies, and evangelism in nearby jails, rehab centers, and in the local neighborhood. Mike earned his B.A. in Italian and his M.Ed. in Foreign Language from Rutgers University, and his M.Div. and Th.M. from The Master’s Seminary, where he is currently pursuing his Ph.D. and teaching as a faculty associate in the theology department. He also has the privilege of serving alongside Phil Johnson as co-pastor of the GraceLife fellowship group at Grace Church. Mike and his wife, Janna, have two children.”

Source: https://www.gracechurch.org/leader/Riccardi/Mike

Even while considering Mike’s youth, I could not begin to fit in this man’s shoes. This was my first time sitting under his preaching and teaching. He preached from 2nd Corinthians 4:1-6. He placed an emphasis on that evangelists must use “Scripture alone” while evangelizing, and not our methodologies, nor not of ourselves. Frankly too many evangelists and apologists today are full of themselves.

Through the sermon he preached, Mike hit the ball out of the park. I know many Christians whom attend this church, that evangelize this community, and they must be well-pleased to do so under this man’s leadership. When MacArthur retires, I’m sure Mike will be considered as a candidate to fill MacArthur’s shoes. When the recording of this sermon is available (session 7), I will link it here.

This last 6 months I have been very discouraged with the open-air preaching ministry that I am engaged in. But coupled with Voddie’s message preaching against the growing trend of “pragmatic evangelism,” and Mike’s powerful message to demonstrate ‘sola Scriptura’ through our evangelism, I was encouraged to continue in this battle. Thank You Lord for these men.

“The purpose of evangelism is to call Christ’s sheep into the fold, not the goats!” – Mike Riccardi

Next they engaged in a Q&A Panel. Whereas they spent some time sorting through those comment cards submitted by others. Though I appreciated some of the questions and answers, a couple were problematic. As I’ve said before, some of the most decent teachers can get into trouble during these Q&A sessions. MacArthur still hasn’t fully recovered from his Q&A response back in 1988, in regards to the mark of the beast. 

Phil Johnson was asked if he recommended utilizing the “Romans Road to Salvation” in our evangelism. He replied “yes.” This method is widely used by the apostate ministry formally known as Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as CRU). Though you can never go wrong using Romans 6:23 as a stand-alone verse, but quoting many of the other verses out of their context, can be dangerous. America is full of unregenerate ‘believers.’ Admittedly I use to use the Romans Road, but no longer.   

The next question was whether or not a person can Biblically divorce their spouse for “verbal abuse.” Phil Johnson was not able to respond with a definitive yes or a no. Though he did wisely state that the perpetrator could be turned over to the Elders for investigation, counseling, and if necessary, an excommunication. But he left that choice wide open. Thankfully MacArthur briefly stepped-in mentioning that desertion or adultery are Biblical grounds for divorce. Nonetheless it was unwise for the moderator to read that question, as thousands of attendees were left with Johnson’s unsure response, which was not a ‘Scripture alone’ response. The Scriptures are very clear on this matter, and it should have remained there.

As I’ve said before. Though the Scriptures are clear that divorce can be Biblically justified with desertion or adultery, but God hates divorce. And even if adultery does occur, that does not mean that a divorce must follow suit. I’ve known some couples where the awful sin of adultery occurred. But the Lord restored their marriage through a true Biblical repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  

The last speaker today was Phil Johnson.

Keeping the Sufficiency of Scripture in mind, Johnson rightfully called-out many false teachers that have fallen away from the Scriptures, becoming charismatics. I was pleased to hear him warn that John Piper has become a “Reformed charismatic.” But surprisingly, I also noticed that they sell at least one of Pipers books in their book store.

Throughout this day we were continually blessed with the aforementioned songs, hymns, music, and an added instrumental.

Day three – Friday:

We began with lots of food, prayer, and more wonderful music, and the singing of hymns.

Our first speaker was Voddie Baucham. I was already aware that Voddie was born and raised here in Los Angeles (south central), but I did not know the following. He is now fifty years old. Which means he is celebrating his fifty years of life, right alongside the rest of us who are celebrating MacArthur’s fifty years of pastoral service.

I started looking back (while counting on my fingers). As a policeman, back in 1988 through 1989 I patrolled Voddie’s residential community. At that time Voddie was eighteen and nineteen years of age. And the LAPD Assistant Chief was Bob Vernon. Vernon was an Elder at Grace Community Church. Though I have crossed paths with Vernon, and my wife even once served alongside him at his book signing table. But I can only wonder if I crossed paths with Voddie back in the eighties.

Back to the conference.

Voddie spoke on racial reconciliation (and the social justice gospel), as he preached from Ephesians 2.

Since he is known to be politically incorrect, and Biblically correct, the content of his sermon did not disappoint his audience. Voddie shared something that frustrates him (I thought I was the only one). Often time’s apologists or debaters will misuse (or over use) the word “strawman.” “That’s a strawman” they will say.

Voddie said something in the effect that some “create a strawman that does not exist,” or a “strawman boogieman.” When in fact there is a “true adversary” that is much worse than a “strawman.” I hope to link that sermon here later (Session 9).

As soon as Voddie finished speaking, my wife and I decided to leave early. Yes that’s a long drive to only listen to the first speaker. But while in the area we visited the well-known Archives in Pasadena. The Archives is a large Christian book wholesaler. It’s a great place to go if you like old books. When they were in their original location, they were the size of a Target department store. Then about six years ago they relocated to a smaller building. But today we learned that two years ago they relocated again, into their existing and even smaller building. I actually like it better. Because it takes only a couple hours to rifle through all the books on their shelves, rather than a whole day. Oh yes there are some books to stay away from. But if you dig, you can find some solid gems. We left with a few of them, and they have already been added to my library (which means others were purged out).

We then enjoyed some pizza at Blaze Pizza in Pasadena. They make excellent pizza, and customize them according to your taste buds. Managing to leave at 1:30PM we ate on the way home, but it still took an additional three additional hours to get home.

Due to three wonderful days of solid teaching, and an overabundance of excellent food, we left with well-fed souls. The downside is I gained a few extra pounds, and I need to work on that (I hope).  


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