Posts Tagged ‘Believers Chapel’

List of Good Expository Book Sermon Series

February 1, 2012 1 comment

Almost two years ago I posted a list of Bible Books and Sermon Series.  Now it’s time to update the list with a few more names and sermon series.

Since the last post I have listened to all of S. Lewis Johnson’s Old Testament book series (except for his second series in 1984 on Zechariah), and a few more of his New Testament series. Along the way I’ve enjoyed a few other books and series as well, such as Dan Duncan’s church history, and Librivox’s audio recording of “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  Ahead, after finishing the John Bunyan Conference lectures, I hope to go through SLJ’s “Romans” series.

The updated list includes a few additional recent series from Believers Chapel, as well as teachings from two additional church sites:  Twin City Fellowship (pastors Bob DeWaay and Eric Douma), and Richard Mayhue’s sermon series available at his website.

Twin City Fellowship and Richard Mayhue’s material fill in some of the NT book gaps, such as coverage of 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 Peter, books not taught by SLJ.  The Twin City Fellowship series are all fairly recent ones, and listed together on a page titled “Bible Studies.”  Richard Mayhue is more known for the several books he has published in recent years, and his work on the staff of The Masters Seminary since 1989.  His available online sermons come from earlier preaching years at Grace Brethren Church of Long Beach, California (1984 to 1989).  After listening to a sampling of these, including introductory messages for 1 Thessalonians, I think I prefer Bob DeWaay’s teaching: fewer overall messages than Mayhue’s, but more in-depth “Bible Study” with PowerPoint presentations to accompany the teachings and the overall study outlines.

Here is the updated list.

Ecclesiology: Going Beyond Popular Ideas to the Biblical Model

September 8, 2011 Comments off

In popular terminology among evangelicals, ecclesiology conveys general ideas about how the church is independent of state government, and the general activities of the local church and its outreach.  John MacArthur, in this recent interview with, contrasted these common characteristics — including a serious attitude in one’s dress and overall worship service, plus shepherding, caring for people, and specific activities such as hospital visits and praying with a grieving widow — with what he termed “an event” where the gospel is preached along with rock and roll music and trying to be more like the entertainment-focused world.

But true biblical ecclesiology goes far beyond what MacArthur described in that interview, of the conventional model for modern-day evangelical churches that care for and truly shepherding their people.  Biblical ecclesiology closely adheres in both belief and practice to what scripture says concerning the structure and practice of the church (the New Testament era church).  This may indeed be a dying concept, increasingly rare in a world gone to the even further extremes of 21st century Christian “contextualization.”  Yet it is still practiced in a few churches, such as Believers Chapel in Dallas (where the late S. Lewis Johnson taught for many years).

Two articles written by William MacRae at Believers Chapel (1974) outline the points of true New Testament ecclesiology.  The second one lists nine distinctives for Believers Chapel’s practice in accordance with this model.
The Meeting of the Church      and  The Principles of the New Testament Church

Consider this excerpt, which addresses something I see as missing the mark when it comes to the overall leadership and “Senior Pastor” emphasis on John MacArthur and his leadership ministry:

I am often appalled by Christians who are meticulous about their Christology (the doctrine of Christ), and very careful about their pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit), and are able to cross their “t’s” and dot their “i’s” in their eschatology (the doctrine of future things); but when it comes to ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church), they are very careless. This, to me, is an amazing inconsistency. Perhaps it indicates the value or lack of value we place upon the church.

True New Testament ecclesiology, as pointed out in these nine distinctives, does not include members classes or offical church membership.  It does not include any liturgy, or any set format with time limitation.  It is not something led by one “Senior Pastor” overseeing a group of pastors and/or elders, but is led by a plurality of elders.  The NT church does not have a recognized office of pastor/teacher; rather, such are considered “gifted men” but not the church leaders.  The church meeting, which was held on Sunday evening, does allow for any men among those in the congregation to participate and share something with everyone else, as opposed to the modern-day structured church format in which only certain individuals contribute to the meeting.

Here are a few excerpts concerning distinctives #3 and 4.  Distinctive #3 concerns church offices.  See also this recent blog, Is the Position of Senior Pastor Biblical?

It may surprise some of you who have been coming to Believers Chapel for just a short period of time to discover that I am not the pastor of Believers Chapel. I have never been ordained. I do not have any official title. I am not the head of Believers Chapel.

We do not have any individual who occupies such an office in the New Testament. Pastoring is a gift (Eph. 4:11) and a work (I Pet. 5:2). But it is no more an office than “showing mercy” or “giving” or “exhorting.” Thus we do not have anyone in Believers Chapel who occupies the office of Pastor. The organizational structure of a New Testament local church has been diagrammed by Dr. S. L. Johnson, Jr. as follows:

The New Testament speaks of only four offices in the local church: The Head (Col. 1:18, Eph. 1:22). Elders (I Tim. 3). Deacons (I Tim. 3) and Priests (I Peter 5:9). Christ alone is Head. Several may be elders and deacons. All believers are priests.

The government of Believers Chapel is under the rule of a group of elders who function under Christ the Head. They are the decision-making body.

I am offended when you refer to this as Bill McRae’s church. You do a great disservice to Dr. Johnson to refer to it as Dr. Johnson’s church. It is a great affront to the Lord to refer to it as Dr. Blum’s Church. Why? In each case, you are putting a man in the position that Christ alone can and does assume in his church. He is the Head and we recognize only Him in His position of Headship.

Distinctive #4 puts into practice the idea of a NT church meeting:

Every Sunday evening, following the pattern of the New Testament church, we gather together for the meeting of the church in which we give the Holy Spirit freedom to superintend the meeting of the church. There is no officialism, no liturgy, no rituals, no stereotyped program, no man made rules, no time limitations.

The Holy Spirit is free to exercise one to stand and give a hymn, then another to read a passage of the Word of God, another to pray, or to give a word of exhortation, to give thanks for the bread, or to give thanks for the wine, or to pray for the president and for those in authority over us, or to pray for that unsaved neighbor down the street, or to share a particular prayer request or to praise God for something He has done in his life last week. It is a meeting with a three-fold purpose:

1. Edification of believers -I Cor. 14:26 This may be achieved through hymns (Eph. 5:19, I Cor. 14:26), ministry of the Word (I Cor. 14:26), and personal testimonies (Acts 14:27, 15:4, 12).
2. Worship of the Lord. This may be expressed in hymns, prayer, ministry of the Word, the observance of the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11:23-34), and the offering of our gifts to the Lord (I Cor. 16:1-2).
3. Evangelism of the Unsaved. Those unbelievers present may be evangelized by the proclamation of the Lord’s death in the observance of the Lord’s supper (I Cor. 11:26). For those unbelievers who are absent we are instructed to intercede for their salvation (I Tim. 2:1-8).

Early Church History (Pre-Reformation): A Believers Chapel Series

April 14, 2011 1 comment

I recently listened to the first half of Dan Duncan’s (Believers Chapel Dallas) Church History series:  15 messages for the pre-Reformation period.  He started this series in 2009, and is still teaching the second part, forward from the Reformation.  (At this writing, 14 more messages are available, up through Calvin part 4.)

Over the years I’ve picked up different aspects of Church history, from evening classes at local churches, as well as assorted articles on different topics, but this is the first church-class series I’ve seen that goes into fairly good depth especially concerning pre-1500, and that presents history from the evangelical, Calvinist premillennial viewpoint.  The lessons generally center on topics, such as the canon of scripture, martyrs, the heretics, bishops and popes (beginning of that system), and pastors and teachers (highlighted four men from the 4th and 5th centuries).  Additional sessions discuss Arius, Athanasius, and Augustine (three sessions).  Unlike most church history series, this one included two messages for the “Dark Ages.”  While I tend to disagree with his broad brush labeling of the full thousand year period as the “Dark Ages,” Dan Duncan did point out that it wasn’t all dark, and brought out several highlights from the period, including Anselm (11th century), a German monk from the 9th century, and Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century), as well as a brief history and proper perspective of the Crusades.

What standard Augustinian Reformed churches won’t address, this series points out:  the replacement theology inherent in the Crusades (the Holy Land is now for us Christians who have replaced the Jews), specifics of what Augustine taught both good and bad, and that Catholicism formed from Augustine’s ideas.  Other past series I’ve experienced would teach a great deal concerning the Jerusalem war of A.D. 70 and the subsequent Bar-Kokhba revolt ( A.D. 130), but omit many of the early church history characters, only briefly discuss Augustine, and primarily teach the Reformation.  This series really doesn’t say a lot about the destruction of Jerusalem (a topic well known in many church history series but really not part of that history), except in passing comments about the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles in the Roman Empire.  Typical Reformed church history series will not mention Augustine’s connection to amillennialism and Catholicism — or if they do, uphold Augustine as on a par with inspired scripture.  In this series Dan Duncan devotes a full message to Augustine’s later years, the formation of his amillennialism, and a (brief) discussion of Augustine’s exegetical errors with reference to Revelation 20.

Even this series is a general overview, of course, and books always provide more details than can realistically be taught within a weekly church class.  Even two lessons to cover the whole Medieval period omits much —  though I expect the series will cover a little more, since one of the later messages (in the Reformation section) is titled “Forerunners.”  The lesson on the martyrs only discussed the majors among “the ten” persecutions, omitting the particular incident I personally appreciate: the martyrdom of Perpetua, Felicitas and a few others in Carthage in 202. Yet Duncan does teach about the Montanists (early Pentecostals) and Tertullian’s joining them, pointing out both their good and weak points; Perpetua and Felicitas were “almost certainly” Montanists as well.  Through this series I also learned about the modalists (original version of today’s oneness Pentecostals, who deny the trinity and say that God changed modes, from Father to Son to Spirit), and reviewed other important early theological battles concerning Christ’s human and divine natures as well as Arianism and Pelagianism. I also appreciated the additional information concerning Anselm and Bernard of Clairvaux, men I had a little familiarity with.

Is the Position of Senior Pastor Biblical?

March 28, 2011 6 comments

While listening to the live stream from the 2011 Shepherd’s Conference — General Session 5, Phil Johnson’s interview with John MacArthur — I was struck by the great variety of different gifts and emphases among different churches and preachers.  For John MacArthur’s overall thrust is church leadership and church structure.  The interview focused a lot on his great accomplishments in over 40 years as the senior pastor at Grace Community Church, including his leadership work in the early years, along with discussion about his future plans and what’s ahead for that church and its leader, now that MacArthur is in his seventies.

Amongst all the talk about leadership and senior pastor stuff, though, I kept thinking about Believer’s Chapel (Dallas) and the biblical teaching concerning church offices.  Believer’s Chapel is one of a very few churches that uphold the model of the early church: a plurality of elders, but no pastors or senior pastors, etc. Based on teaching in the book of Acts, and the New Testament epistles, they maintain that there is no such “office” of pastor.  Instead the church has elders, some of whom teach.  So Believer’s Chapel has “gifted men” who minister the word of God (including current teachers Dan Duncan, Matt Heidelbaugh, Mike Black, Geoff Brown and others).  Generally it’s Dan Duncan that does the main Sunday morning service (with some exceptions), but no hierarchy of “senior pastor,” “pastor,” “associate pastor” or similar titles exists.

From what I’ve considered, the Believer’s Chapel idea is more biblical.  The early church never had “pastors” and were not led by a single man at the top of a hierarchy.  Yet most evangelical churches, including Grace Community Church, hold to this tradition of having a church pastor as leader.  From brief googling on the Internet I could only find a handful of other churches, such as this one that do not have pastors as church leaders.  See also this article and related articles at that site, for further information.

Looking into the matter a little further, I’ve learned that the only scriptural justification given for the idea of a pastor leader is the reference to angels (messengers) in Revelation 2 and 3.  Sure enough, one’s particular view on church leadership will often determine the “interpretation” given to the word “angel” there, as evidenced by these two excerpts:  the standard answer from John MacArthur, versus a more detailed explanation from S. Lewis Johnson at Believer’s Chapel.


This letter is sent to the angel of the church in Ephesus. Just to note, the angel refers to the leader of the church. We have no reason to assume that it refers to an actual angel, although that it is a possibility. The weight of evidence for that viewpoint is that every other mention of angels in the book of Revelation refers to actual angels. The word angelos can also mean messenger. So there are some who would say that this is a letter given to a certain angel who is associated with each of these churches. The problem with that is we have no such teaching about angels being associated with churches and we have no word of Scripture ever given to angels…they are always given to men and the word can mean leader. And since we don’t get to the futuristic part of the book until the third chapter, there is every reason to assume that the word angelos here means simply messenger which would be a representative from the Ephesian church, one of its leaders who had come to be with John perhaps on the Isle of Patmos and was bearing this very letter back on behalf of John and the Lord Himself to the church in Ephesus.

S. Lewis Johnson:

It would seem that the most obvious meaning is that since the term ungalas, translated “angel”, is found numerous times in the Book of Revelation, that we would take it that way.  But then most of us have certain agendas that we like to impose upon Scripture.  We have to avoid that, of course, at all times.

And so if you have in your mind the organization of the local church as being an organization of elders, or deacons, or trustees, or deacons, various ways in which churches are organized. And if you have in your mind that these churches would be ruled by a pastor, a minister who has authority by virtue of his office, then it would be very tempting for you to read this, “Unto the pastor of the church,” and think of the angel as a pastor of the church.    …

Now, the term occurs in the book numerous times. It always means an angel, that is a heavenly being created by God.   Why we should not rather take this to be an angel rather than the pastor, well that’s never been explained to me satisfactorily. If this is a reference to an individual, a human individual, it would be much more likely that he should be a man with a gift of prophecy or at least a prophet. And prophets did exist at this time in the Christian church. A prophet is an individual who receives messages from the Lord and who conveyed them to the church.  So it’s conceivable that one might have the gift of prophecy and be called a messenger, for that’s the essential meaning of the term ungalas in that sense.

But modern scholarship has generally taken the idea, taken this expression to mean, either the prevailing spirit of the church (for after all remember we are talking about a book that has many many symbols in it),  the angel being the prevailing spirit of the church — or an angelic guardian of a church of which we know very little, but of which our Lord knows everything; and perhaps even the apostle knew things that we don’t know.  So we are going to take it as an angel and we are going to take it as being an angel who acted in such a way as to be related to particular churches.

Here are a few more pages that specifically address this matter:  “Plurality of Elders” and “Is The One Pastor System Scriptural?” in more depth, coming down on the side of Believer’s Chapel:  One objection to the plurality of elders comes from an odd interpretation of the first chapters of the book of Revelation.  … This can only be seen by reading something into the text that is not there.  Nowhere in the entire New Testament is there any mention of a senior pastor having authority over a local congregation.

I also find it an interesting observation (again from an admittedly small sample of just two churches, both larger and non-denominational) that among these large churches, the church without a pastor-leader also happens to place more emphasis on Bible teaching itself, along with less discussion about church government, leadership and personality-leaders.  The senior-pastor-led church gets involved in semi-ecumenical organizations such as T4G and the Gospel Coalition, deemphasizing the “secondary” doctrines, and tends toward the briefer “standard” evangelical explanations (in contrast to more theological depth and explanation) for several specific texts.

In the long run, though, it is obviously part of God’s decretive will that most churches choose the pastor-leader model, a shortfall of human nature.  The elder-system churches may do a better job of taking all of God’s word seriously, even to the form of church government — and given the option I would attend such a church. Yet, in spite of ourselves, God has allowed many pastor-led churches to have effective and fruitful ministry.

S. Lewis Johnson: Video Sermons

February 23, 2011 1 comment

A new feature on the web, courtesy of Will Pherigo at Believer’s Chapel:  messages from S. Lewis Johnson that were videotaped, available at:

So far this site has six videos, three from Dr. Johnson and three from other speakers at Believer’s Chapel.  The three S. Lewis Johnson sermons are from Acts 1 and Revelation 2.  Look for more to be posted over time — they videotaped close to 1000 of his sermons, from 1984 forward (to as late as 1996).

Enjoy!  Viewing the sermons adds to the communication, to get more of a feel of actually being there and seeing the speaker and his mannerisms.

Good Uses for an MP3 Player: Free Audio Resources

February 5, 2011 Comments off

I finally have one of modern technology’s more recent tools:  an MP3 player.  (Not the popular iPod, but a good second brand — Sandisk Sansa Clip+.)  I’ve never seen such a tiny device before, but it works and does its purpose:  to hook-up to a large stereo system and play books and sermon files while I’m exercising at home.  Since I’m already listening to two other series throughout regular days (one during commute time, and another half-message during the workday), and exercise sessions are at the end of the workday or on weekends and varied from week to week, I’m now trying this third area as a catch-all time for various independent material.  Here I can listen to current series at Believers Chapel, various audio recordings of J.C. Ryle or Spurgeon material, or free audio-recordings of classics such as “Pilgrim’s Progress” (available from

So far I’ve listened to a few of the free recordings of J.C. Ryle material, some available here at, others from this British website,  The readings from GraceAndTruth feature a good British speaker, whereas the quality of readers for the sermonindex material varies.  One two-part series from there features a rather monotonous voice that lacks excitement and overall pitch and tone variation;  but that is to be expected, with free material you don’t always get good audio-readers.

I’ve also begun Geoff Brown’s in-progress series through the OT Kings, something being done as a Sunday School series at Believers Chapel.  Only six parts are available so far on the website, so I hope he continues the series — and I look forward to the updates.  Some of Dan Duncan’s series, through Jeremiah and Ezekiel, are also loaded on my Sansa Clip+, along with the first two parts of Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”  (which I discussed further in this blog).  The next several weeks of work-out time on the elliptical can thus become the more interesting with edifying reading.

The Three Falls of Satan: A Look at Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28

September 29, 2010 Comments off

Isaiah 14 (see these message from S. Lewis Johnson, Isaiah 14 and Systematic Theology) is one of the key passages that gives us information regarding Satan. Ezekiel 28:12-16 tells us the origin of sin in the fall of Satan, and Isaiah 14 tells us of the nature of that fall, in his five “I wills.”

Some Bible teachers believe that Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 are actually talking about the human characters — the king of Tyre and the king of Babylon. However, it is important to note that often in the Bible God addresses Satan “through” another person. Obvious examples include Genesis 3, in which God addressed Satan through the serpent, and the case of Jesus’ rebuke of Peter with the words “Get thee behind me, Satan.” As Believer’s Chapel teacher Dan Duncan also noted in reference to Ezekiel 28, the first part of that chapter is directed towards “the prince of Tyre” (the human ruler) whereas the next section is spoken to “the king of Tyre.” As I previously noted in my readings through Ezekiel, the word prince is used many times there to denote human leaders — as also in 2 Samuel David is called “the prince.”

S. Lewis Johnson states that Satan’s fall occurred before Genesis 3, pointing to what Paul says (Romans 5:12), that “sin entered the world” — it already existed with Satan, and “entered” our creation. Scripture doesn’t give us the details concerning the time interval between Satan’s fall and man’s fall, and so SLJ does not comment any further. The Ezekiel text says that Satan was in the garden of Eden when he fell, but it does appear to be a different act of rebellion that came before man’s sin in Genesis 3.

Scripture tells us of three falls of Satan, one past and two yet future:

  • From the third heaven (God’s throne) to the second heaven (our atmosphere), while still retaining access to the third heaven as mentioned in Job
  • From the Second Heaven to the Earth (Revelation 12)
  • and finally, from Earth into the abyss and then to the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20)

Isaiah 14 looks specifically at the future event of Satan’s third fall. Isaiah so often travels into the future and describes events in the far-future, as though they have already occurred — what a mighty and awesome God we serve, a God we can trust because He not only knows the future but has planned it according to His purposes. Like Martin Luther, we can confidently assert the final victory over Satan — “for lo, his doom is sure.”

Add to DeliciousAdd to DiggAdd to FaceBookAdd to Google BookmarkAdd to RedditAdd to StumbleUponAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Twitter

List of Bible Books and Sermon Series

June 29, 2010 5 comments

Since I enjoy book-by-book and verse-by-verse Bible teaching, especially in MP3 sermon format, I have created an Excel file to help organize the available resources, for future Bible study.  My list includes each book of the Bible and associated Bible teachers who taught through part or all of that Bible book.  For each teacher I list the number of messages in the series, and note if the series covered only part of the book.  For my purposes I looked at several preachers that I’m familiar with.  The list includes John MacArthur and S. Lewis Johnson, as well as the other teachers at Believers Chapel, plus material from preachers affiliated with John MacArthur (Don Green, Steve Lawson, Bruce Blakey, Lance Quinn), and a few other recommended names including Mark Hitchcock, Thomas Constable, and Ray Stedman.

A few observations from the complete list:

  • John MacArthur has the greatest number of messages, and the most complete coverage of the New Testament.  He actually has preached through all of the New Testament books (gospel of Mark still in progress), yet I did not include his sermons for books covered early in his ministry, especially since better series exist for those books, from more mature (better delivery style) preachers.
  • S. Lewis Johnson has the most coverage for the minor prophets — and when you include Dan Duncan, Believers Chapel has the most extensive coverage for all the Prophets:  all books except Lamentations, Nahum and Zephaniah.  Believers Chapel also generally has the most coverage for all the Old Testament: most of the history through the time of King David, plus most of the prophets, and decent coverage for Proverbs and even some Psalms.
  • Thomas Constable has audio sermons available for several Old Testament books, but in many cases the complete series are only available with payment for audio CDs.  Yet Constable also has a complete 66 book commentary of the whole Bible, in PDF format.
  • Thomas Constable, plus Ray Stedman and Mark Hitchcock nicely fill in some of the spots neglected by others, such as Ruth, Esther, 1 Samuel 1-15 (pre-David),  Nehemiah, Job and Ecclesiastes.  Yet a few gaps exist, books I could not find audio sermons for, including the Kings and Chronicles and some of the smaller Old Testament books.  Further study of those books can always be done with material from J. Vernon McGee, or through print resources such as commentaries from Thomas Constable and Alexander MacLaren.

Click the following link to see the actual list:

Bible Teaching Series List

Bible Reading: Judges and 2 Chronicles

January 13, 2010 Comments off

I’m now reading from 8 different lists of Bible books:  Gospels (currently Mark 5), Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 9-10), Epistles (Ephesians 1-2), Wisdom (Proverbs 11-13), History (two lists: Judges and 2 Chronicles), Prophets (Isaiah 33-34), and Revelation 16.

In the current readings, one thing that strongly sticks out is the similarities between the times of the Judges and 2 Chronicles.  Both were less than honorable times in Israel’s history, the one before and the other after the great monarchy age.  The tendency to do whatever they wanted, their apostasy and idolatry, is plain throughout both books.  Another obvious similarity:  good rulers and the associated benefits to the people, followed by wicked rulers (in the Kings) or no clear rulers (in the Judges) and the resulting apostasy and evil consequences.  Both books describe great military exploits under godly rulers, and great failures when the people stray and/or have wicked rulers.  In Judges 9 (day 299), Gideon’s son Abimelech gets himself into enough power among his mother’s family, and then slays his 70 brothers.  In 2 Chroncles 21 (reading day 300), good king Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, establishes his power and then kills all his brothers.  Both men later receive their just recompense for their wicked deeds.

My various bible readings have prompted further interest in bible study.  Of course, the studies (in the form of sermon series from good preachers such as S. Lewis Johnson) continue far after I’ve completed reading the book, at least until the next time through that particular list. Yet the study material is never too far away from where I am in the lists.  I’m now reading in Deuteronomy, but the “From Exodus to Canaan” series is now discussing Baalam’s prophecies in Numbers — not too far back in the readings.  I’m also listening to Johnson’s study through Acts, now up to Acts 12 — and soon enough I’ll be reading through Acts again.

I’m now considering a study through Judges, and after looking at a few possibilities, have settled on one from Believers Chapel (the church where S. Lewis Johnson preached), a series done by Dan Duncan.  He did 25 messages through the first 16 chapters of Judges.  I only wish he had completed the book, but if he did they do not have the recordings on the web site.  I’ve listened to the first one, an excellent introduction.