Former Members of John MacArthur’s Church Tell of ‘Whacker’ & Culture of Abuse

By Sarah Einselen
grace community church macarthur whacker
Author and radio evangelist John MacArthur is senior pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. (Video screengrab / Courtesy Photo)

For decades, John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church (GCC) not only promoted corporal punishment of children, but also encouraged the use of a “whacker”—a 6-to 12-inch leather strap for inflicting pain, sources told The Roys Report (TRR).

The whacker typified a culture of abuse at GCC, former GCC families told TRR. And in one case, the “whacker” and other instruments were used by a well-respected GCC member to brutalize his children for years, the wife of the alleged abuser told TRR.

In a police report, the woman, whom we’re calling “Krista,” stated that she and her husband “were told by their church/pastor to hit their children for misbehavior to raise them under God.” Krista added that the church “provided them an address where they can send a request to receive a formal object (described a conveyer belt looking object) to hit their children with.”

In an exclusive interview, Krista confirmed to TRR that this object was commonly known at GCC as “the whacker.”

Using the whacker and various other wood and metal objects, Krista’s husband would strike her children 20, 40, even 60 times, her children told police, according to the report. These beatings would leave “large bruises” and make “it hard to sit or walk,” the children reportedly said.

Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Wounded Faith,” edited by Rev. Dr. Neil Damgaard. To donate, click here.

We’re concealing Krista’s identity to protect her and her kids.

But other GCC families have confirmed to TRR that use of the “whacker” was widespread at GCC and that GCC taught abusive disciplinary methods.

These reports come after numerous stories by TRR documenting accounts, spanning several decades, that MacArthur and GCC covered up child abuse at the church.

This includes John MacArthur shaming and excommunicating Eileen Gray for not allowing her child-abusing husband back into her home. TRR also published corroborated accounts that MacArthur covered up a GCC pastor’s sexual abuse, and that the head of counseling at MacArthur’s school urged wives to endure abuse.

TRR reached out to MacArthur and GCC multiple times for comment on this story and others but has not received a response.

We also reached out to Rich Harasick, a GCC elder who teaches parenting classes at the church. A review of parenting sessions posted online revealed strong promotion at GCC of spanking and corporal discipline. At one point, Harasick states that “use of the rod . . . is ordained.” But he adds that discipline should never “injure your child” or be done in anger.

Trained to physically punish children—even toddlers

As reported in a previous article, Krista told police her husband abused her and her children repeatedly. But she says GCC members and leaders dismissed her husband’s signs of abuse, and in some cases encouraged it.

Krista told TRR that someone in a GCC parenting class told her family how to obtain a “whacker.” GCC didn’t explicitly promote the “whacker,” Krista said, but church members “kind of tell you where to send away for it.”

She also said GCC taught that even toddlers ought to be punished physically for their misbehavior.

Krista told police in 2018 that her husband would strike the children 10 times each time they misbehaved. “If the children cried/screamed, pulled away or failed to say ‘please forgive me’ the lashings would continue to approximately 60 ‘lashings’,” the police report states.

The police report alleges the abuse took place even before the children “could consciously misbehave and/or understand the discipline.”

Police did not charge Krista’s husband with a crime, reportedly because they did not have enough physical evidence to support a charge.

Other former GCC members who spoke with TRR didn’t describe abuse as severe as Krista described. However, they confirmed a rigid culture at GCC that emphasized “first-time obedience,” corporal punishment with the “whacker,” and pressure to have conforming children.

The former members said the abusive culture was a byproduct of a former pastor at GCC who created a very influential parenting program, which was supported by GCC for many years. They said that though the pastor resigned from GCC in 1993, his teaching has endured, as has the use of this stinging instrument of discipline.

The ‘whacker’ & the Ezzos

Cherie Baker Vann, a former, longtime GCC member, told TRR that use of the whacker was common among GCC families throughout the 1990s when she attended.

Krista said the whacker was still popular at GCC through 2015, when she stopped attending the church.

“The reason (GCC) touted it was because, supposedly, you could whack your kid in McDonald’s and it didn’t leave a mark,” Vann told TRR. “But it did.”

Krista, Vann, and other former GCC members linked the “whacker” to the teachings of Gary Ezzo, a former GCC pastor and elder from whom the church distanced itself in the 1990s.

Vann provided TRR with screenshots of texts from three other women who attended GCC in the 1990s. All three confirmed that they used the “whacker” and that the implement was associated with Ezzo’s teachings.

whacker GCC
Text and direct-message conversations that Cherie Baker Vann had with multiple contacts confirm the use of the “whacker” by the Ezzos. (Courtesy images)

Ezzo and his wife, Anne Marie Ezzo, taught a parenting class at GCC in the 1980s. Their materials on parenting and child discipline, including the book, “On Becoming Babywise,” gained a following worldwide among conservative Christians.

Experts have said for decades that the Ezzos’ parenting philosophy is harmful.

Three chapters of the Ezzos’ book “Growing Kids God’s Way” cite the Bible in support of spanking, according to Cheryl A. Tyler, who critically examined the Ezzos’ child-rearing philosophy. The book reportedly advised spanking children as young as 14 months old.

It also recommended using “a somewhat flexible instrument (that) stings without inflicting bone or muscle damage,” and stated, “if there is no pain, then the instrument is probably too light or too flexible.”

Tyler noted that the Ezzos taught that children as young as 2 years old should be expected to obey the first time—or be punished.

GCC disassociates from Ezzos, but influence reportedly continues

In June 1993, Gary Ezzo resigned from GCC, but continued to serve as a lay elder at the church.

In August 1993, Christianity Today published an article documenting how following the Ezzo’s “parent-controlled” feeding plan for infants reportedly resulted in dangerously undernourished infants. At the time, MacArthur declined to comment on the Ezzos or their program.

Gary Ezzo Grace Community Church
Gary Ezzo

Public criticism of Ezzo’s teaching continued, however. And in 1997, GCC publicly rebuked Ezzo, saying his teachings often confused “biblical standards and matters of personal preference.”

But according to Krista and Vann, Ezzo’s teaching remained influential.

“You could seek out, ‘secretly’ quote-unquote, someone who could teach you the Ezzo way,” Vann said. “Everyone still had their books.”

Krista said she learned of Ezzo’s teaching when her family attended GCC in the 2000s and 2010s.

The Ezzos’ teachings also continued to be popular in conservative churches across the country into the early 2000s and continue to be taught online.

Ginny Barker, a real estate agent in Asheville, North Carolina, recalls encountering the Ezzos’ curriculum for churches in the 1990s at multiple Presbyterian congregations around Asheville. In a blog post, she called their methods “the Ezzo reign of terror.”

“I remember people raving about it,” Barker told TRR. She said she was told at the time that the Ezzos’ methods instilled good manners.

But Barker said she reviewed the Ezzos’ materials on parenting infants after her second child was born. She then decided “there is no way I’m going to do what this infants’ program is recommending.”

Barker’s four children are now grown. She said parents she knew who espoused the Ezzos’ teachings seemed to expect their children to behave in ways Barker, as an experienced parent, thought were developmentally inappropriate.

One friend, she recalled, “had those plastic magnetic letters on the refrigerator . . . and apparently they were training their kids not to touch those.”

“I thought, that is just so weird,” she added. The colorful letters were at the children’s height, but “they were being used as a way to train them to obey the parents rather than to go for their natural curiosity to a brightly colored object within their grasp and to play with it, this thing that’s obviously a toy.”

‘I remember being terrified’

Another former GCC member, Jennifer Long, recalled that her family adopted some Ezzo practices after they moved to California in 1996 for her father to attend The Master’s Seminary. The family also started attending GCC at that time.

“It has dawned on me that after we moved . . . things in my family seemed to become unusually contentious,” said Long, who was 8 at the time of the move. “There seemed to become an increasing focus on, yes, punishment.”

She said her parents distanced themselves from “Growing Kids God’s Way.” Even so, “spanking was tool number one,” Long said, and sometimes her parents used the bottom of an old shoe to strike her or her siblings. “I remember being terrified of it,” Long said.

Physical punishment could be meted out for simply failing to comply immediately with a command, Long said. “There was a big theme of first-time obedience.”

Long said her parents would sometimes read “the Bible verse about the rod and the child” to her or her siblings, too, before spanking them three to five times.

Long said MacArthur’s teaching that fathers with rebellious children are disqualified from being elders put pressure on her parents to produce submissive children.

“We’d get a lot of pressure because my father was a seminary student and he can’t pastor a church if his kids are rebellious,” she said.

What GCC teaches today

TRR asked multiple leaders at GCC for comment about its teachings regarding child discipline. We received no response. But an examination of sermons and other material on GCC’s website shows the church elevates spanking almost to a biblical mandate.

Rich Harasick, GCC’s elder overseeing children’s ministry, teaches a regular parenting class called “Parenting for Life.” He discussed spanking at length during the second of the class’s four sessions earlier this year.

Grace Community Church Rich Harasick
GCC Elder Rich Harasick

Harasick quotes Proverbs 23: “Do not withhold discipline from a child. If you strike him with a rod, he will not die.” Then, Harasick states, “God tells us that we’re to strike our children. And that’s biblical wording.”

He states that children need discipline because they are “depraved.”

Ted Tripp, who has been a guest speaker at GCC, and whose book Harasick recommends during the parenting class, makes clear that depravity applies to all ages.

Tripp writes that even an infant “who cannot articulate or even conceptualize what he is doing shows a determination not to be ruled from without. This foolishness is bound up within his heart.”

“Unbiblical discipline withholds the use of a rod,” Harasick says, adding that a parent who refuses to use corporal punishment “will produce the same kind of child as a parent who hates his offspring.”

Harasick does not say whether he’s talking about a literal rod or using the term to refer to instruments of corporal punishment more broadly. He describes it as one tool among several that parents can use to correct their children.

He also encourages parents to take into account a child’s age and maturity, as well as the nature of their offense, in deciding on what punishment to administer.

“The strongest consequences are obviously reserved for rebellion,” Harasick says in the session. “You should spank almost always for acts of rebellion—direct disobedience with clear instruction given—and the child understands and they just choose to disobey.”

Offenses worth a spanking would include talking back, disrespect or lying, among other “significant sinful behaviors,” he teaches.

Children also ought “to expect to obey the first time when you say something,” Harasick says. “God requires that obedience be complete and without complaint.”

Harasick briefly cautions that the rod is meant to be used “on the backside with a loving, caring, disciplined hand . . . to produce pain. . . . We’re not talking about slapping or shaking or beating or whipping. Brutal acts of violence against children is wrong and is not properly administering corporal punishment.”

MacArthur similarly distinguishes between “properly administered corporal discipline” and “brutal acts of violence against children” in an article adapted from his 1998 book, “Successful Christian Parenting.”

In concluding remarks, Harasick says “the use of the rod is not a command, but it is ordained and commended by God.” He added it shouldn’t be used in some cases, including in public settings or for medical reasons. When it is used, he said, it should be “justifiable, reasonable and age-appropriate” under California law.

He also says in the session that discipline “should never injure your child. It’s never necessary to bruise them or make a mark in order to spank them hard enough to give them a clearly painful consequence.”

A parent should never spank in a fit of anger or rage, he continued. “That kind of discipline is wrong and it is abusive.”

The point of discipline, Harasick says in the session, is “to help our children become obedient disciplines of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Pastor John says, teach your child to obey, and use discipline to reinforce, because God says punishment, sometimes physical punishment, done in love is a strong corrective,” Harasick says. “That way your children learn to obey their parents. And if they learn to obey their parents, and their parents are advocating the law of God, they will learn to obey the law of God.”

This teaching echoes how the Ezzos’ methods were spiritualized, too—something that concerned Barker even years ago.

“It wasn’t just, here’s a way to get your kids to act like this,” Barker said. “It was all couched in spiritual language. This was the biblical way to raise your child.

“It left parents afraid and feeling like failures” if the Ezzos’ methods didn’t produce obedient children, she added. “If you do all the right things, your child will be a polite, godly, little obedient person. And if you don’t do it, it’s your own damn fault.”

Julie Roys contributed to this report.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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52 thoughts on “Former Members of John MacArthur’s Church Tell of ‘Whacker’ & Culture of Abuse”

  1. These are some sick people. There’s some cult in TN by some heath and diet “expert” that also encouraged punishment with hitting. One family was arrested when their child died. And they actually had a leader that many of your decisions had to be approved by him. Sadly the husband and wife and members of the immediate family died in a plane crash piloted by the unqualified husband who didn’t think FAA rules applied to him. Netflix did a story on them. Sounded just like JMs church. Still amazes me people fear walking away. People God is God not the king’s controlling these fiefdoms. God actually will talk to you if you agree to listen. These are not godly people but abusers of scripture to fit their narrative.

    1. Gary, sadly my sister is wrapped up in that cult. It’s called the Remnant Fellowship in Franklin, Tn. Gwen Shamblin was the founder and leader until her death in ‘21.

      Read up on that group and their policies on child “discipline”…makes Johnny Mac and his crew look nice.

      1. Let me guess… “Remnant Fellowship” because they and they alone are the Only True Remnant of the One True Church founded in 33 AD?

        I’m also suspicious of anything with the word “Fellowship” in the name, like they’re a church that won’t admit to being one.

  2. William Johnson

    Dear Julie and Sarah,

    It’s called spanking your children. You do it, using judgement and discretion, when children disobey. It’s not done out of anger and doesn’t hurt them physically. It teaches them obedience. Julie, have you never spanked your children to teach them obedience?

    “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Proverbs 13:24

    This is not complicated, nor extreme.

    John MacArthur and his church obviously do not promote or approve of physical abuse. You think they teach you to spank your child 60 times in a row? My goodness. Please get back in touch with reality.

      1. David Jankowski

        Julie, you seem to have a vendetta against JM. This article is filled with a lot gossip and comments that can be taken in different ways. You should have seen my “whacker” when I was a boy. It was a razor strap about an eighth of an inch deep, four inches wide, and twelve inches long. It really hurt, and it was used judiciously. Certainly some parents will take any instruction too far, but that doesn’t mean the methodology is all wrong. Forty to sixty years ago, almost everybody believed in spanking. Today, “harsh” discipline includes time-outs or the loss of your games or phone. Now look at what we’re producing in recent generations. We have way too many “snowflakes” who need a coloring room or a safe place because their feelings get hurt. I’m 78 years old, so I have a different perspective on this subject.

        1. There’s no vendetta. And there’s no gossip. We’re reporting first-hand, corroborated accounts of what happened at GCC. We absolutely not reporting “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” That is gossip.

          I understand you believe the using a “whacker,” which is different from mere spanking, is justified. We don’t tell people how to interpret the facts; we report them. I think there are also many who feel differently.

          Additionally, I think the fact that GCC distributed these “whackers” secretly, rather than out in the open, is notable–as is the private promotion of Ezzo material at the church, after the church publicly disowned the Ezzos.

          By the way, former VP at The Master’s University & Seminary Dennis Swanson left this comment on Twitter about the “whacker”: “They sold them from behind the counter at the bookstore for a short time until a few people (like me and some staff pastors and others complained).” Clearly, even at the time, there were people at GCC who felt the church was going too far.

          This, and my other stories of cover-up of child abuse and urging women to stay in abusive marriages, speak to a culture. Is that a culture you’re okay with, David?

        2. And David and William what skeletons are you hiding? Julie reports what Christians should know but are too afraid “god will get you” if you challenge these professed “godly men”. In the eighties I fell for their hubris. Not again and I’m glad more people are seeing these American evangelicals are not representing Jesus. Just business centers now.

      2. Julie,

        Anything used to spank is a “whacker.”

        Hand, wooden spoon, ruler – all whackers.

        My Mom’s preferred whacker was the paddle from the paddle ball toy (with the elastic string removed). Fortunately, she didn’t know it was so light (like balsa wood) that we could hardly feel it. We never let on and yelped in pain when she used it.

        1. Many taught parents to use their hand when they spanked because the parent would sense the pressure they were using vs using a hard object.

          Encouraging parents to use an object that would not leave marks is likely physically abusive.

          And what kind of Christian parent prides themselves on using an object called “the whacker?!”

          Really now 🥺

      3. William Johnson

        When you spanked your children (I assume you did), did you ever use a wooden spoon? Or anything other than your hand? I suppose you could call that object, or any object that aids in the process of spanking, a “whacker.” You could even call your hand a whacker.

        It appears this article uses the word “whacker” as a way to send chills down the spine of people as a cruel instrument of child abuse. That obviously isn’t the case, if you stop to think semi-critically for just a moment.

        And I agree with you, any mature Christian wouldn’t support the culture as described in this article, because the culture in this article is completely constructed by the author and sensationalized. Incredible leaps and false conclusions. Astounding really.

        Your ministry may actually benefit from, and not continue to diminish its credibility, by publishing more thoughtful, level-headed articles, not creating something out of nothing to fan the flames of your ongoing crusade against MacArthur.

        Just some friendly feedback, as I’ve noticed most of your engagement from comments has diminished down to those who rage over everything they see or hear online (regardless of the topic) and/or those who have a predisposition to and enjoy bashing the church.

        1. You make a bold accusation that “the culture as described in this article…is completely constructed by the author and sensationalized.” In addition to the first-hand accounts in the article, you should consider the following comments on social media (see my Twitter & Instagram for more):

          “Things like this were so common. I was ‘spanked’ regularly until I was 16. I remember being 14 bent over my Mom’s bed begging for her not to hit me. And because I wouldn’t concede & apologise she just kept hitting. So hard that the plastic mixing spoon broke and I bled…Grief is such a weird thing. Tied so closely to shame, and regret, and even hope. My mom is a gentle being, mostly. But she didn’t know how to handle me and she resorted to communal norms for her. I hold no resentment, only grief for us both.”

          “Yup. Family attended/attends GCC, and we had a whacker when we were kids. Hurt like hell.”

          “Can also confirm, as I was a member there…I don’t spank my kids. But in the parenting classes they pass the number out. I was told I believe false doctrine because I take a different approach to discipline.”

          “Oh wow. I think you just connected some dots. In my house growing up we had something exactly like this – a 6″ leather strap we called Mr. Blister. Dad was/is a big JMac fan. This makes too much sense.”

          “Can confirm . Had a GCC friend who mentioned this discipline device and that you had to have the secret contact to get one. They knew they could be accused of abusing their children so that’s why the address was kept so hush hush. My friend acknowledged this.”

    1. William,
      Yeah the same authors also advocated genocide and destroying infants and toddlers is that really the source of your morality my friend…

      Nice…🥺

    2. This is pure madness! Since when do proverbs get taken with mechanical literalness? If so, I guess many Americans would have a hard time with Proverbs 23:2!
      13:24 is a proverb about setting a standard: a measure against which behaviour is judged. Discipline does not connote corporal brutality. If you don’t have the wit to discipline a child without striking them, don’t be a parent.
      OTOH, few people mention Ephesians 6:4! Just too inconvenient, I’d guess.

    3. If a boss or authority figure hit your wife for disrespecting them, would you allow it? If a man raised his hand to you, what would be your response?

      But it’s okay for a grown adult to hit a helpless child?

      I know you’ve got Bible verses you can throw my way, but the Bible also commends killing disrespectful children. Unless you’re going to defend those practices, you’re going to have to come up with something other than trite prooftexting.

  3. Spanking does not equal abuse. My parents were spanked, I was spanked and my kids were spanked. Our younger kids were slapped once on the hand and they got the message. We all grew up to be fully-functioning, God-loving believers with nary a mental health issue.

    It was never a spankfest, it was rarely needed or used, because it worked.

    No one condones striking a child dozens of times which I’m certain GCC did and does not teach. In fact, every message I ever heard about spanking emphasized the need to NOT do it in anger, to explain why it was being done (words aren’t working and you insist on directly disobeying) and to then follow it up with a hug, assuring the child of your love for them, and that you want what is best for them.

    This article is a confused, unstructured mixture of biblical correction and abuse.

  4. Cultural norms change.
    Most parents no longer spank their children. My wife and I were parenting as this norm was changing. We stopped spanking our children once we realized it was a poor method of teaching them what we wanted them to learn. We tried everything from spanking to a token economy.
    The only one to learn a lesson was me- you can’t make a person change if they don’t want to. That lesson also revolutionized our marriage and my faith!
    Cultural norms change- sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse. That a fundamentalist church is behind the culture curve should not be surprising. Their whole purpose for existing is to stand in opposition to a “corrupt culture”! Ironically this leads to an equally corrupt culture within these churches.
    “[F]athers with rebellious children are disqualified from being elders put pressure on her parents to produce submissive children.
    “We’d get a lot of pressure because my father was a seminary student and he can’t pastor a church if his kids are rebellious,” she said.”
    That quote is true. It leads to abuse as you must put up a façade, control your wife and kids to maintain your professional status.
    I too have gone to seminary, but I am not in church leadership- and never will be. Instead, I do outreach ministry with the poor and homeless and addicts and hookers. No one cares how your children behave, and I can smoke cigars and drink.
    “Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand.”

  5. Julie-

    Thank you (and Sarah) for continuing to shed light on the darkness. There is so much more that I would like to say about John Mac, but it would be more than 300 characters and in full transparency, I have zero desire to be on the receiving end of hateful comments or public scrutiny. Bottom line, when Christ followers elevate a man to the status reserved for God, there are going to be problems.

    I have been wanting to say this publicly for a long time, but the Holy Spirit kept shutting it down. I am grateful that I have learned obedience and that it didn’t come from my parents beating me with a whacker. FWIW, William-you sir-are out of touch with reality.

    For such a time as this, I believe that we are going to see not just John Mac’s name, but the names of countless other pastors and Evangelical leaders across the globe, being tied to atrocities. Yes, I used that word. They are all going to be exposed. Every last one of them. May God have mercy on their souls, the reckoning is coming.

  6. Patricia MacArthur introduced me to Growing Kids God’s Way. While James Dobson and others were claiming babies would be malnourished etc…, mine were healthy – and sleeping all night!

    Their lessons were also very helpful in teaching kids to be well behaved in general. Those traits made parenting pleasant. More importantly, I believe it established a discipline in children necessary for success in every area of life, especially in their Christian walk. I personally loved the program – just not all of it.

    My favorite lesson from the Ezzo’s was The Bible and Common Sense Parenting, because the program could be a little legalistic, and somewhat harsh. For instance, you were told when a child could/should have a snack. I personally believe their ministry went off the rails when and where parents followed it rigidly without thinking or using “common sense.”

    I spanked my kids. But I too wouldn’t use something called a “whacker,” or respond in any way resembling abuse. Punishment isn’t the goal. Correction, with love, is the intention. We’ve learned that generation by generation.

    Heaven help us! We can’t have everyone right in their own eyes. We need instructors that we can trust to rightly divide the word of God. Yet, we need to earnestly know and be known by God, based on the truth, for ourselves too. We need to “test” every spirit. Otherwise, a pastor can become a Svengali instead of a servant, and like sheep, we can be lead right off a cliff.

  7. We seem to live in such an angry culture that “not sparing the rod” could lead to abusive behavior. Bill Gothard was an advocate of using the rod. Most people would rather use the term in a more “metaphorical” way. It is disastrous when there are no consequences. The church teaching during my time was that it would happen as a “last resort” when all other methods were not working and the child was a certain age. You were not to do it in anger and supposed to hug the child afterward. Ya, like that happens often! My dad tried this when I was 16 or so (He cried and gave me a hug after). He followed too closely Billy Gothard’s BS. But he meant well.

    I did have to bend over with two other compadres, grab my ankles in the principle’s office at a Christian school, and receive a good whack with a wooden plank with holes drilled in it. Ah-those were the days of good ole ‘christian education’. I don’t even remember what we did, but it hurt like he__. Whatever it was, I do not think we ever did that again.

  8. They said therefore to him, What sign doest thou then, that we may see and believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, as it is written, He gave them bread of heaven to eat, (Exodus 16:15; Psalm 78:24.) Jesus therefore said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is this which hath come down from heaven, and giveth life to the world.

  9. Who in their right mind accuses the weatherman of having a vendetta? They report the information – period.

    These ministries flood the airwaves, stock the bookshelves, and ask for donations. We deserve to know the WHOLE truth.

    Thank you Roys Report!

  10. GCC do advocate physical abuse. If you look at some John Street videos you will hear him revelling in a story about a husband who horse whipped his wife every day.

    This is the guy teaching pastors in the GCC seminary.

    The whole church seems to have a toxic culture. One to be a avoided.

    Disciplining your child should not result in repeat physical abuse,if any at all. It should only be administered as a last resort when all else has failed and probably require no more than a constrained two or three smacks at the most with the flat of the hand. There is no justification at all for more than that or use of an implement.

  11. Look at Prince William and Kate’s children at their grandmother’s funeral. Prince George is 9 years old and his sister Princess Charlotte is 7 years old. At their young ages they are well behaved and show self control in public. I think it is possible to raise children properly without hitting them and that hitting them is not a mandatory requirement for raising children. I understand that my opinion does not trump scripture but with Jesus as our example I have a hard time imagining him ever striking a child.

  12. Powerful article and comments. Jesus did not strike or punish the disciples to secure their following of him. Jesus did not take the Jewish understanding as script, but rather accessed the wisdom the script pointed to. A spiritual wisdom manifesting G_d/God to its adherents. Even the zealous Paul is not reported as striking or punishing the members of Churches he felt he must teach. Surely the NT points to a cleaving to God beyond obedience secured by violence. Surely the disciples followed Jesus because he manifested God for them.
    How does any of this lead to the understanding that knowing God and following Jesus needs violence be done to children. How does such violence advance our little children coming to Jesus.
    If children are surrounded by parents and others who are authentically following Jesus, and genuinely experiencing God, then surely it is that which will see them growing up to likewise experience God and to follow Jesus.

  13. Parents yell at their kids, jerk them, talk down, ignore, play favorites, fail to train – beforehand, compare them to others, demand they be high achievers, put careers and love lives before them, I mean the list goes on. All abusive and damaging.

    Spanking isn’t for toddlers or teenagers, but on the bottom of a defiant, rebellious child that does NOT leave a mark or bruises, not administered with an object that can strike areas other than their bottom is not abusive and is in fact biblical.

    They should know what the rules are, understand them, and have demonstrated a refusal to submit. It is not for childish, silly behavior or mistakes. It should not erupt out of anger, suddenly, without warning or acknowledgement that it was a consequence. It is the last resort. It is for the stubborn heart that you hope to correct.

    It should be administered in privacy so as to not embarrass or humiliate them. It comes from parents that they KNOW loves them and has their best interest at heart.

    When you see a teenager totally unresponsive to authority, that is a child with an angry heart either from parents that were too harsh, or too lenient.

    1. Debra, would you also agree that killing one’s child can also be biblical?

      Leviticus 20:9 “For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death”

      This isn’t rhetorical question. You justify hitting a child based on a couple of Bible verses, so surely you also support capital punishment for cursing one’s parents, right?

      1. John,

        Yeah, we no longer sacrifice lambs, have concubines, or live in tents either. So, let’s distinguish between the Old and New Testament.

        Remember “Get behind me Satan”? Let’s not rebuke God, like Peter. Just because the world has corrupted spanking, doesn’t mean we now consider it as perverted any more than we’d see marriage as obsolete because the world has tried to change its definition.

        I once didn’t know an apostle from epistle. I understand people being so desperate to please God, that they submit to the instruction of those they believe speak for God. The greater accountability is with those leading others astray.

        “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

        The attributes of God are the same in Old and New Testament. Brother, your argument is with God. It doesn’t matter what “I” think.

        1. Debra, to the extent that I am understanding your somewhat jumbled hermeneutic, I think you may be making my point for me.

          We no longer sacrifice lambs. God no longer appears to approve of his leaders having concubines. Presumably you’d also agree that the COMMAND to kill rebellious children is also something we should leave in the Old Testament.

          So why are you not guilty of “arguing with God” when you oppose killing rebellious kids, but I am when I say that hitting them is unloving? Since God’s ways are higher than our ways, how can you be scripturally authorized (using your interpretive grid) in jettisoning the former command, yet maintaining the latter?

          My point is, you’re picking and choosing arbitrarily. You want to keep hitting kids, so that’s a scripture that is still in effect. You feel kind of bad about killing them, so that’s one that isn’t.

          So I guess I’m not “arguing with God” any more than you are when I say that both are probably pretty terrible ideas, and that I can’t reliably look to the Old Testament to sanction either activities today.

          With that out of the way, I’d ask you this: do you think that hitting people is kind and loving? Is it okay for a boss or a family member or a police officer to hit you if you’re disrespectful or question their directive? I’m assuming you’d find it abusive if anyone hit you, an adult, for any reason.

          If that’s the case, why is it (without appealing to the Old Testament, which you’ve already acknowledged we can pick and choose from) okay to do so to the most helpless among us, a tiny child?

          1. John,

            Some of this is “denotation” – definition, vs. “connotation” – association. You use the word “hit,” which suggest violence. “Spanking” describes correction.

            The Bible says, “Love one another.” When the culture says, “Love is love,” well they mean something altogether different – do they not?

            Again, you have decided the culture is right on this one – not God. It seems you believe God doesn’t know how to “train up a child – He created – in the way he should go.”

            I hate to tell you, but the world believes Hell is mean too. Actually, it is simply a place for those who don’t want God telling them what to do.

  14. I generally appreciate your reporting. However, this article seems to assume that any form of corporal punishment of children is inappropriate and unacceptable. How would you support that view from Scripture? Doesn’t Hebrews 12:6 imply that the Father’s discipline and chastisement of his children is painful? I think that part of the problem of abuse is that we’ve assumed we can mass-produce mature disciples, rather than seeing discipleship as a relational, life-on-life training process, like Jesus and Paul did with their apprentices. We need to pursue wisdom in this area, but ruling out all corporal punishment is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    1. There is no such assumption. There is reporting on what some are saying is an abusive culture at GCC, and teaching that GCC itself said it repudiated, yet continued to be disseminated at the church.

    2. Dave. Where in Hebrews 12:6 is violence and striking and punishment referred to or justified. “…And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: “5 My son, do not take lightly the discipline of the Lord, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises every son He receives.” 7 Endure suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?…”
      The text appears to consist of metaphors to do with how hard the discipleship is. How hard it is to follow Jesus and cleave to God. Suffering is the suffering of the follower, not any child. Surely the disciplining of the child by the parent, involves leading and teaching, rather than punishing with violent striking.
      The discipline of 5, 6 and 7 involves showing up failing against a truth. How hard it is to follow that truth. How chastising is that showing up of failure. How great is the suffering entailed by that failing. The athlete (who wants to win to something) is disciplined by the coach (who has to point out where that aim is currently failing). The apprentice (who want to make or create) by the master (who knows how hard it is to so do). Violent punishing is nowhere demanded or justified.

  15. The bible regularly approves of and commands us to use the rod on our children. It appears that they may be obeying these teachings. So to call it all abuse is disingenuous.

  16. Proverbs 13:24
    He who withholds his rod hates his son,
    But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

    Prov 22;15
    Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
    The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

    Prov 23:13,14
    Do not withhold discipline from a child;
    if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
    If you strike him with the rod,
    you will save his soul from Sheol.
    Prov 29:15
    The rod and reproof give wisdom,
    but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

    1. Bob. “…23 Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor, but without justice it is swept away. 24 He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently. 25 A righteous man eats to his heart’s content, but the stomach of the wicked is empty.…”
      It seems to me that 24 is contextually sandwiched between 23 and 25; and in a manner which sees the meaning of 23 and 25 to be primary. It seems to me that the gist of this triad is about teaching in the truth. Where the truth is hard to grasp and communicate. Nonetheless, the parent who backs away from this difficulty, fails to love their child.
      The parent who loves their child, never ceases to communicate truth to their child, never ceases to discipline their child across this engagement and interaction. This the food in the otherwise fallow ground. Justice perhaps closer to righteousness in its connotation. With access to truth, one eats well.
      Elsewhere the Bible refers to “staff”, and perhaps rod ought to lean into that connotation. The rod then not an instrument of corrective violence yielded against another, but more a cleaving to an informing truth, where parental exemplification communciates what self disciplining is necessary to the child.

      1. That is kind of a ridiculous interpretation. Throughout Proverbs, the rod is the instrument of correction. You characterize it as ” instrument of corrective violence.” That is just pejorative. It is an incorrect description. Hebrews 12 shows us that we are to follow God’s pattern in loving correction, not angry, violent, vindictive punishment. You obviously do not understand Proverbs.

    2. For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death — Leviticus 20:9

      If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. — Deuteronomy 20:18,19

      I mean, we can do this all day.

      1. John. One thing we need, is an understanding of what these excerpts from Leviticus and Deuteronomy meant, at the time of their being written. Meant, firstly to the authors (individual and collective), and secondly to the wider collective to whom these excerpts were addressed. Did the sentiments and imperatives of the excerpts find support in that earlier time. If so was that support consensual or partisan. Were the sentiments and imperatives considered moderate or extremist to the people of that earlier time. Then we have to grapple with complexities of intervening time and translation and interpretation and contextual circumstance. Is there anything in this earlier meaning which can survive the journey to our current time. If so, just what does survive. Is what nominally survives, consensually endorsed, or alternatively contested. Then there are the complexities of the Jewish and Christian projects being chalk and cheese different; that historically so, and currently so. As you suggest, relying solely on (perhaps taken out of context) Biblical fragments, perhaps doesn’t take us to where we need to go.

        1. Oh, I understand that this is complex. And I’m objecting to people who say, “the Bible is clear that we can and should hit our children. That’s a universal that must persist until this day, because there are Bible verses that commend it.”

          You and I both probably find the command to kill a rebellious child to be “extremist.” You and I probably disagree about hitting children.

      2. John, if you had an ounce of hermeneutical ability in you, you would understand the difference between Proverb and Law. You are quoting law. Paul says “you are no longer under law, but under grace.” A Proverb is something that is a generally understood part of wisdom, but not always in the sense like a law. There are exceptions to proverbs.

        1. Cool, Bob.

          So you and I agree that there’s no lasting biblical command to either kill OR hit one’s kids that is binding on believers today?

  17. Being a Christian doesn’t make the sin nature magically disappear. That’s why Paul wrote letters to the Corinthians and Galatians talking about their bad behavior. Some of these people with their whacker are turning the home into a 50 Shades Of Grey movie. It almost sounds they’ve got a torture chamber in the basement for when the kid does something really bad such as getting kicked off the school bus for fighting. Obviously if a kid does something that’s totally out of control and would get the kid put in jail it’s time for some physical discipline. You could have them do some physical labor in the yard and have no access to games for a while. There are other ways to discipline than spanking.

  18. I’m disturbed at the comments from those failing to make the distinction between excessive corporal punishment and well reasoned discipline.

      1. True. Julie Roys is reporting on wrongs in the church. She says she is writing from a Christian perspective. Christianity is based on the Bible. And the Bible portrays wisdom as one who spanks their children. People who oppose that would then be categorized as anti-Christian, anti-Bible, and therefore anti-God, and even they are allowed to post here.

        It baffles me how people purport to understand the Bible and do not understand the difference between law and proverb.

        1. Bob, you have created a straw man argument and attributed it to me. I don’t take a position on spanking. And this article addresses hitting kids with a leather strap up to 60 times and using corporal punishment on children as young as 14 months. Do you interpret Scripture as supporting that kind of discipline?

  19. Rabindranath Ramcharan

    Let’s suppose that it is true that there are some serious issues with John MacArthur’s ministry. But let’s save some shade for the people who are making tons of money by keeping him on their radio and television platforms.

  20. I guess everyone has his/her mind made up of what constitute a healthy or unhealthy disciplines for children (spanking or non spanking). While I am sure that JM church is far from perfect, at least the report should include what kind of teaching that resembles the abuse of children. Is there a curriculum in Ezzo’s teaching where the abuse of children is encouraged? (perhaps a quote or two to support the intention of the article). To have a church member who is abusive toward one’s children and then put that person as an example of the abusive teaching of the church is unfair. Every church has abusive members and abusive parents. The question is whether that church really teach that and where? (a clip, a quote will be helpful to support that argument). As such, this article is just gossips from the complain of several members while other members are very supportive of the church. Perhaps Sarah can dig a little bit further and present what is wrong with Ezzo’s teaching.

    1. Hello Mie,
      I don’t know if this website would be useful to you. There is lots of information here, including a page linking to pastors and organizations voicing concerns about the Ezzo programs as a whole:

      http://www.ezzo.info/primary-concerns/theological/pastoral-concerns

      Although Grace Community Church did eventually put out a statement regarding the Ezzo programs, their focus seems to have been more on lack of submission by Gary Ezzo in the end.

  21. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the biblical stance on correcting a child’s misbehavior. To say this is wrong is their opinion. Many Christians would say they are wrong if they don’t punish misbehavior that way. No one is taking it to the abuse level here.

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