MacArthur Grace Community Church
A Sunday morning service at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, July 26, 2020. Video screengrab via Vimeo/Grace Community Church

John MacArthur’s Church Postpones Shepherd’s Conference Due to “Threats” from County & State

By Julie Roys

John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church today announced it is postponing its Shepherd’s Conference due to “ongoing litigation and recent threats” from Los Angeles County and the state of California.

The annual event was expected to draw at least 3,000 people from around the world to the megachurch’s  Los Angeles area campus March 3-5. However, this afternoon, the church posted a series of tweets, stating that it believes postponing the conference is “the most prudent course of action.”

The action comes on the same day that the Los Angeles Times published an article announcing the church’s intention to hold the conference, which officials feared could become a superspreader event. The article noted that the  conference doesn’t qualify as a worship service and therefore is prohibited by the county’s public health order.

Since July, Grace Community Church and MacArthur have been locked in a legal battle over the church’s decision to hold indoor worship services, despite county and state prohibitions. The county has since rescinded its ban on indoor worship. But it still requires churches in areas like Los Angeles, where COVID is most prevalent, to limit attendance to 25% of capacity.

According to the Times, conference attenders were slated to either stay in area hotels or with local church families.

Last year, two older men who attended the Shepherd’s Conference contracted COVID-19 shortly afterwards and died. 

In subsequent tweets, Grace stated that it will be deposing “key health officers and county officials and requiring them to answer for their oppressive actions under oath.” Grace called the county’s actions “arbitrary attempts” to restrict its “religious liberty as a church.”

John MacArthur has stated that complying with government restrictions on religious observance is disobedience to God. Despite the church’s latest action, Grace reiterated it’s commitment to meeting.

“We will not yield to government’s infringement upon the biblical command to worship and gather together,” Grace said. “We intend to steadfastly defend this truth and obtain appropriate constitutional and legal protections and further relief from the Court.”

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61 thoughts on “John MacArthur’s Church Postpones Shepherd’s Conference Due to “Threats” from County & State”

  1. This is NOT government “infringement.” I call it WISDOM. I futher believe Dr MacArthur’s “period of rest” may have been COVID-19 related because of the veil of secrecy that surrounded it?

      1. All this time and I thought he had an earned PhD. Who gave him one? A former Pastor had “Dr.” on a big billboard outside his church. My Pastor, with 2 earned Doctorates, stated, “I know the non-credited school where he got that from.” It is unethical and a slap in the face for those who do have earned one legit.

        1. BigMac also has 2 doctorates. Both honorary – 1 from Talbot Theological Seminary & the other from Grace Graduate School – lol Go Figure!

  2. I’m sorry but this is not persecution but rather attempts to hold them accountable. I hope they don’t continue with the persecution complex to build their narrative while mocking everyone else as if they were never wrong. This was a horrible idea to begin with, packing 3,000+ middle-aged and elderly men from across the country indoors, with the vast majority likely not wearing masks and not social distancing during a pandemic for several days. At least 2 men died last year from the event and they still don’t see an issue with it.

    It’s clear that they only changed their mind because the health officials and their lawyers had to warn them about the legal ramifications from it as they don’t have a legal leg to stand on. It’s unfortunate that they face additional issues but they continue to bring it on themselves.

  3. I am sad to see continued ignorance of so many around the world regarding pandemics, viruses, and the crazy amount of money to be made with NO accountability whatsoever by huge transnational pharmaceutical companies.
    I believe Grace is right in standing up to aggressive and oppressive governments.
    The government is not responsible for our health. The federal government should never have gotten involved in health care and health policy.
    This whole covid mess is a spiritual attack on humanity. I’m grieved to see so much effort spent in people fighting one another over dealing with a virus that has not been deadly to most people. The plans of those elitists who want a one-world system they can sit over are coming along quite well.
    Can’t people see that this is all about greed and control by self-serving billionaires and CEOS on a global level?
    And spiritual forces of evil…the prince of the power of the air is using the systems we ourselves made to spread fear and splinter our society.
    Come quickly, Lord Jesus! And help us…we’ve surely made an awful mess of things.

    1. You know the pharma companies are really hero’s in this fight, right? The church has done literally nothing, as has the government. Pharma has worked round the clock. In the time the schools have closed, pharma created a vaccine, manufactured 100’s of millions of doses and started shipping to the states. In the end, pharma will charge you $25 to keep you from getting COVID. Get some perspective.

  4. JMac and his crowd, including his church, have been flouting reasonable public health restrictions almost since the start of this pandemic. The church certainly hasn’t been keeping to 25% capacity, hasn’t been distancing, and hasn’t required masks.

    They can posture and whine and claim persecution all they want, but the county’s concerns are absolutely legitimate and about public health and safety. The ban on conferences and large gatherings applies to everyone; no one is singling out the church. Taking precautions and obeying public health orders is both common sense and part of loving your neighbor as a believer. You’ll see precious little of either from JMac and his cult.

    1. I don’t think GCC is occult, in the classic sense of the word, so much as it is a bunch of people who refuse to think for themselves led by a man who believes he’s the only one who has a hard wire connection to God.

      1. Uh, the occult is a very different thing than a cult or cultic tendencies. At the very least the behavior you describe in the last part of your comment is certainly cult-like in nature.

        1. If u allow another person to become your conduit to God then u got problems. If not a cult, then certainly in the same zip code – Sheeple!

  5. Per Koch’s Postulates, and many doctors, no one has yet proved the existence of any C virus. So, claiming the 2 older men got it, is a leap of faith. There are no tests for any C virus as no one has isolated it. So all the tests and numbers are bogus. Many doctors are saying the same thing, but the mainstream media says different. Who are you going to believe?

    1. Koch’s Postulates really aren’t the only criteria to confirm very real pandemic that HAS been proven. Besides, which (prominent) doctors have publicly stated that the “C virus” doesn’t exist – groups like World Doctors Alliance and AMerica’s Frontline Doctors? And what is it about “bogus” tests and numbers? Where is your specific evidence on the data? On the contrary, hundreds of thousands of health care workers worldwide have treated numerous patients who’ve contracted (and died from) COVID complications – and have personally grappled with the virus. Data is constantly changing, but that doesn’t mean that every number is fake. And it doesn’t mean that the media only reports false stories.

      There’s far more to the GCC/TMS/TMU COVID saga than has been published.

      1. What more is there to this “saga”? I’m not challenging you in any way. I’d just like to be informed. Where can I find out the full story. We can all see that the leadership at GCC etc is not forthcoming and transparent.

    1. Like many fundamentalists, MacArthur is very selective about which parts of Leviticus he listens to and which he ignores.
      It is harder to understand how he ignores “Love your neighbor” by continuing to encourage his flock to endanger the health of their neighbors.

    2. John Macarthur is not pressing a gun against the temples of each church member to attend. If you’re sick or vulnerable, you stay home. Cherry picking a verse doesnt help with your position. We take everyday risks that could endanger the lives of other and ours. Our decisions are measured based on costs and benefits to the situation.

      1. The point about Covid is that the healthy can carry it unbeknownst to them (i.e. they are asymptomatic); transmit it to neighbours seated next to them for a long period of time without a mask (e.g. in Church); after which point those neighbours can pass it on to an unconnected person outside the fellowship who may become seriously ill or die.

        The reason that the LORD gave us Leviticus 19:16b is to alert us to our responsibilities towards both those we do know, and those we do not.

        MacArthur’s parishioners may attend church of their own free will and derive a benefit from it, but any person outside the church that they infect with Covid derives harm, not good, from the parishioners’ church attendance. That is the material point.

        The allegation that I am ‘cherry-picking’ verses is unwise: firstly, because Lord Jesus calls every word we speak to account, so it is foolish for you to accuse a Christian you do not know of poor judgment with regard to selecting Bible verses to share with others. What leads you to think that this is not direct guidance from the Holy Spirit Himself – at this time – to GCC?

        [Let me answer my own question: cessationism!]

        Leaving that point to one side, my second point is that Leviticus chapters 18 and 19 are filled with short, pithy, to-the-point verses dealing with how best we can love and honour God and our neighbours. It would make more sense for you to accuse the compiler of Leviticus – the P Source, if you prefer – of cherry-picking, than me!

        The Leviticus 19:16 verse is part of the flow of teaching throughout both covenants about our need for deep love towards others, as well as deep love towards God.

        This can lead us to accept the need to defer the pleasure of communing closely with other believers inside a building, in favour of distanced meetings outside, or online.

        One of the ways we show deep love towards Christ is by submitting to our governments FOR HIS SAKE. Please read 1 Peter 2 for more on this topic. It is deeply problematic for any Christian to believe that the counsel of Hebrews 10:25 out-ranks that of 1 Pet 2 and Romans 13.

        Strife-filled, contumacious, obnoxious and quarrelsome behaviour is a breach of New Testament standards of Christian conduct.

        Woe betide any church which gives a poor testimony in this area.

        1. Let me clarify my antepenultimate paragraph.

          It is deeply problematic for any Christian to think that Hebrews 10:25 outranks the 1 Pet 2 and Romans 13 scriptures in a public health crisis such as this one.

          Responsible governments all around the world are taking the strong action, with regard to the Covid-19 crisis. They are simply trying to preserve the lives of their citizens. As public officials, they will be called to account by Lord Jesus – when they die – for their stewardship of the lives in their care – whether they are His disciples or not.

          I challenge Christians in opposition to these public health measures to believe the best of these governments (1 Cor 13), not the worst.

  6. This seems like the first reasonable move that JM and the GCC crew have made in this whole Covid mess in quite some time. However, the tone used on the Shepherds Conference site reflects a lack of humility and a lack of concern for the health and wellbeing of others. Certainly there’s little sense of the kind of submission to government commanded by Peter’s and Paul’s epistles. I find this to be heartbreaking. And I speak as a long-time follower of JM and TMU alumna, someone who has benefited from and feels attached to the GCC ministry.

    1. I agree with your assessment. I also have to wonder if this move isn’t out of fear of the potential legal liability they would face if they went ahead with it (and of course the associated monetary downside associated with legal vulnerability). It would be a violation of the public health rules, and not one they could likely challenge successfully in court since it applies to all such gatherings. Also, the L.A. Times article put them in the public spotlight a little, which does not work in their favor since their gatherings so far have not been socially distanced and masks have been a rare sight. There’s a lot of evidence there for anyone who might be inclined to sue or otherwise challenge them legally.

      1. I had not considered the potential for legal liability. But what you say makes sense to me. Thank you for pointing this out.

        The statement on the Shepherds Conf site certainly points out their own eagerness to “depose” representatives of LA County. Clearly, not only is litigation on their mind but there is a willingness, even an eagerness to pursue litigation, not just avoid it. I think this speaks to the general attitude here, one that does not seem to fit with New Testament admonitions to submit to those in authority, including state and local governments.

    2. Drennan, I too, have been a long time follower of JM and GTY. That is what makes this so sad. I would have expected much better from people who claim to hold God’s word in such high esteem. Yet it seems like they are just contentious and looking for a reason to fight. This has been a real turning point for me. I was even pondering whether I should still keep all of my commentaries and other books from JM. I am almost ashamed to say that I have them.

      1. Darren- I am going through the same thing as you. A non-publicized incident with JM a few years ago was the beginning of my turning point where I realized what we were dealing with. His recent defiance of the law, arrogance, and lies have only confirmed it for me. This man is a modern-day Balaam in my opinion. As far as his books – I recommend you keep them if they have useful information in them (Balaam said useful, true things too). If their existence upsets you, box them up and see if you feel the same way a year from now. Remember that ravens (unclean birds) fed Elijah.

      2. Thank you, Darren, for this comment. It is somehow reassuring to know that I’m not the only one. In the past year, I’ve really had my eyes opened, and it makes me wonder what else I’ve missed in the previous 25+ years.

        At the same time, I know there have been many occasions I’ve heard Dr MacArthur preach truth, and my soul has been fed. I remain grateful for this.

        1. Hello, Drennan. Yes, I think it is important for voices like ours to be heard. We are not JM/GTY haters; just disappointed at what we are seeing. My family has certainly been blessed in numerous ways through JM’s preaching as well.

    1. Sickening in what way? Care to explain? Sickening individuals in a very literal sense is what many of us would like to see avoided here.

      1. People have become paranoid with this covid19. We should take reasonable precautions, but so many have lost common sense. Many of these commenters lack critical thinking skills and believe whatever is reported by this website. People, do your due diligence and don’t blindly believe everything you read. There is no absolute objectivity in journalism.

        1. Some of us are directly tied to hospitals and can see the reality firsthand. People using their “common sense” rather than following the guidance of professionals is why our Covid mortality rate is literally 10+ times worse than societies like Japan or South Korea.

        2. Alicia, comments like this are a big part of the problem. Instead of respecting the legitimate concerns and the conscience of others (Romans 14), countless Christians like yourselves have instead decided that those who have real fears are somehow ignorant or lacking in faith. Maybe COVID has revealed some fear in people, but it has also revealed a tremendous lack of love within the church. You should read that verse above from Leviticus 19:16 and ponder what the apostle John says in 1 John 4:20.

          Your concern should not be about people who have fears over COVID; you should be concerned for the state of the church that has become filled with unloving, judgmental people who then want to tell the lost world that Jesus loves them and came to save them.

          As I have stated numerous times on this blog, I am not a JM/GTY hater, but it is unconscionable that any pastor, even more so one as influential as John MacArthur, would tell people there is no pandemic and then engage in a very bitter, public argument with the government over a perceived wrong. Would all those government officials and all the unbelievers watching this want to hear about the gospel and how much Jesus loves them? If they did not before, they certainly would not now.

          Our job as believers is tell people about Jesus, not tell them that are wrong about pandemics and government intrusion and how the left is taking over our country. Whether or not those things are true, they are not part of the dialogue that the Bible has mandated for believers.

    1. Dr Lisle the astrophysicist? I’d prefer to take medical advice from a medical doctor or a public health expert. He may be an actual scientist but that does not make him an expert in this particular field of infectious disease.

      1. He knows how to read and discern scientific papers…do you? You could read the research papers done by many qualified scientists yourself as it’s not too hard even for common folk. BTW, the size of microscopic viruses being small enough to penetrate though cloth masks exists in the realm of physics and not limited to micro-biology.

        1. And he is not giving any medical advice. That was your assumption. He simply shows the ample scientific evidence proved by many scientific studies performed by many qualified researchers in years past that undeniably prove that cloth and even surgical paper masks do not stop human beings from being infected by microscopic viruses…(bacteria yes, viruses which are much smaller, no).

          1. The virus particles are CARRIED in droplets during exhalation speaking or coughing. That is what is inhaled, not the virus itself. The purpose of the mask is to stop and mitigate the exhaled droplets which carry the virus.

        2. Once again you miss the point. The virus particles are in droplets which are expelled during breathing which the masks can mitigate that. I can point to many papers in aerosol science, computational fluid dynamics, and particle science that show the benefits of masks in reducing the effect of these droplets.
          And yes I can read and discern scientific papers too.

          1. CM, the viruses are smaller than th droplets…in fact they are microscopic and cloth and paper masks don’t stop them effectively at all. It is akin to a chain link fence stopping a mosquito. Please do list some of the studies done prior to 2020 before the government and technocrats became involved in this issue for their own ends. The video pasted above goes through about a dozen studies and reputable sources that run counter to many of the supposed scientific truths that are forced by the majority narrative in the current mask hysteria.

    2. KOBA, let us suppose for a moment that I am wrong about wearing masks and social distancing. If it turns out that I am wrong, then there is no harm done, right? We all just wore masks for nothing and looked like fools doing it.

      Now let us suppose that you are wrong and none of us wear masks or social distance. If so, then you could be infected with a deadly disease or end up infecting others and being the cause of other people’s death. All of us could end up spreading COVID exponentially. That is a lot more harmful than just looking like a fool.

      Out of love for your neighbor (Matthew 22:39) respect for his conscience (Romans 14), you should be more sensitive and compassionate. Furthermore, as a believer, your primary concern should be with spreading the gospel and reaching the lost, especially during a time when so many people are filled with fear of death. As I have stated previously here, these types of comments are not part of the dialogue that the Bible commands for believers as it does nothing to edify others within the church or evangelize those outside of it.

  7. KOBA,

    That is a poor analogy. For starters, the virus particles are carried by droplets and aerosols which are then inhaled. Sufficient viral load causes an infection. You stop the droplets from traveling and dispersing as much, you reduce the risk of transmission.

    That mosquito is not flying by itself but is rather attached to a water balloon which hits the chain link fence.

    And NONE of the studies you present address any of the computational fluid dynamics studies of the effect of masks on aerosols. Here is but ONE paper on this topic:

    https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/5.0035414

    1. CM,

      let’s pretend what you say about viruses are the cause (not the effect) of infection is true, then you still have to face the music that pressure seeks the path of least resistance, therefore, the overwhelming majority of the exhaust stroke of one’s breath will blow not through the mask material, but around it (between the user’s face and the mask).

      Very little of the air is filtered via the mask. Doctor’s that aren’t mesmerized and controlled by the medical cabal have proved this over and over by vaping with a mask, or using one out in very cold weather.

      1. Let us pretend you actually know what CFD actually is for a moment. Those studies confirm the following:

        1. Proper mask fitting and use is essential (NSS, ask anyone who wears any PPE).
        2. That exhaust from exhaled from the person between the face and the mask is still quite turbulent and thus the distance and dispersion of the droplets are lessened.

        But since these are engineers who deal in fluid mechanics, aerosol and particle science and NOT medical doctors, naturally you would know nothing about it.

        Filtration is only ONE aspect of mask wearing. Which is something you and your ilk conveniently ignore. Reducing the distance and dispersion of the droplets while maintaining sufficient distancing between people reduces the chances of people being exposed.

        1. Past OSHA studies and trainees actually prove the point the doctors utilizing vaping are making. Sorry, It doesn’t take an engineer to figure this out.

          Masks prevent particles on the inhale stroke from going to the lungs, but are the last resort for PPE since they cause other issues on the exhaust stroke (moisture saturation even further prevents filtering the exhaust, wear two or three like Dr. Falsi suggest and the path of least resistance increases and blows out the sides even more…further hypothetically “endangering” those who stand laterally to the user). Also they create an elevated CO2 environment (higher acidity in blood within a short period of time of use) and higher bacterial count from the high humidity the longer they are used.

          https://sorendreier.com/study-long-term-mask-use-may-contribute-to-advanced-stage-lung-cancer/

          Arguing with a someone who has bought into the medical cabal’s interpretation of what actually causes illness ends up being futile – do you know how many times over the past 150 years they have insisted (and caught red handed) an illness has been caused by contagion, when in fact, it has been proven years/decades later that a simple vitamin deficiency was the underlying cause?

          History repeats itself.

          1. And you complete ignore the CFD calculations presented. Again they study particles and aerosols (doesn’t matter what they are). In fact such studies are extensively in mask design and improvement.

            And you completely ignore the exhale/sneeze.cough exhale stroke which the main reason to wear masks to reduce respiratory disease transmission. If everyone assumes they are a carrier and wears a mask, it will mitigate the transmission to others. This is why in asian countries like Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea _everyone_ masks ups during the flu and have done so in COVID.

            To make it painfully obvious to you, the mask is not meant to protect YOU but to protect your neighbor. But like most fake Christians like yourself, you don’t really give a sh*t about your neighbor (read the Parable of the Good Samaritan on who is your neighbor), because your FREEDUMB is more important for your effing self.

      2. “Doctor’s that aren’t mesmerized and controlled by the medical cabal have proved this over and over by vaping with a mask, or using one out in very cold weather.”

        Hill Bill Lee, you must be referring to one of the doctors I saw last year about a problem I had who spent the first fifteen minutes of our time together telling me why masks do not work, and then failed to diagnose my cancer.

  8. I’ve supported Macarthur’s church having services during this time. However, they created a bad culture where anyone who doesn’t go full non-mask/non-social distancing is shamed. You are viewed as having weak faith or even being a leftist if you want to be careful. This has happened in the seminary too. Those who did get Covid felt unable to share as it would prove the church’s narrative that “Covid is a hoax” was wrong. They will say this isn’t true, that they understand how some would want to be careful, but it’s not how it truly plays out in behaviors.

    I know because I attended a “Macarthur-following” church for a Christmas event. We wore masks but no one else did and some asked “are you ok?” as a way to make us feel like we were being silly. We were even laughed at at one point.

    The brochure for the Shepard’s Conference said masks were not required but “encouraged”. But the truth is no pastor would want dare wear a mask for fear of appearing as someone who didn’t believe Grace Church’s narrative on Covid.

    It’s a shame that the church couldn’t have presented a more balanced approach.

  9. The Bible says we should gather together. It doesn’t say in a building. Outside was good enough for Jesus, so why not for us now? Or online? I think pastors should care for their flock. Gathering indoors without masks or distancing is asking for someone to be sick or dead. I wear a mask and distance. I don’t have a death wish. I don’t want to even sicken or kill others. My neighbor showed me doctors & scientists saying masks did nothing. I told him I could show him just as many who said they did. Since no one can agree, I do whatever I can to maybe help. It won’t kill me to wear a mask and distance. It might kill me & many others if I don’t. I’m old. My whole life we were told to cover our mouths when coughing or sneezing. Also, to wash our hands & not get close to others. If we had a cold, the flu, chicken pox, measles, mumps, etc., we were told to stay home, from school or a job. So for ME, it sounds like a mask & distancing. I’d rather wear one for years & find out it was unnecessary than to not wear one & sicken and/or kill many. I’ve read reports where the people got over it but have less heart function, limb removal & other things. For ME, it’s too big of a risk to not mask/distance. I also wouldn’t walk into a room knowing a tiger who hasn’t eaten for 2 wks. is in there. Yes, God can protect us, but He never said he would protect us from everything. He also gave us a brain & common sense. Mine tells me not to flirt with danger. Even ‘called’ missionaries die from the sick people they were called to help.If someone thinks they are called to go to church, school, or work then that is between them & God. I don’t feel called at all. I don’t think the government is picking on Christians/religion either. They tell everyone to do the same. I don’t know a lot in the Bible, but I thought I read where the lepers called out or had a bell (?) to let people know to stay away from them because they were sick. If so, even they didn’t want to sicken others. I’d rather be like that. Even moreso because some say you can have it & not know it. Better safe than sorry. Death is final (on Earth).
    I don’t mind pastors having a lot of money, but not ridiculous money, houses, cars. I think whomever has a lot of money is supposed to help others. I thought that was in the Bible, too. I don’t think that means giving it to other rich pastors like some give to. Polite corrections are welcomed!

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