I work at GTY and in a strange twist of irony, I have only listened to maybe a little handful of the Grace to You radio broadcast since I learned of John MacArthur in the summer of 1988. My first and biggest exposure to John MacArthur was the tape lending library. A friend of mine in Arkansas had been saved at Grace Church in the early 80s and spent a couple of years there before moving back to my home state. He brought with him a trunk load of John MacArthur tapes, bought a duplicator, and began making tapes to hand out to people. He gave Lance Quinn, the long time senior associate pastor of Grace, his first John MacArthur tape.
When God saved me, I was introduced to this fellow and he handed me my first John MacArthur tape, a sermon from Matthew 7 called, Empty Words. The preaching was profound. What I liked about John was the fact that he went through the Bible verse by verse, used the Bible to explain the Bible, exposed his listeners to Church history during the sermon, and of course, he was rock solid theologically.
I called the 800 number of GTY and ordered a catalog, and I was thrilled to learn when I received it that they had a lending library program to which I could pay a yearly, nominal fee to check out 6 or so cassette messages at a time and listen to as many of them as I could pass back and forth through the US mail system. I immediately signed up and began listening to tapes via mail. I listened to John’s series on God, Satan, and angels; selected chapters in 1 Corinthians, particularly chapters 12-14; 1, 2, and 3 John and Jude; a lot of the gospel of Matthew; portions of Romans; many special series; and a bunch of question and answer sessions John gave at his church.
At one time, as I understand it, there were as many as 5,000 members participating in the tape lending library program. When I began working for GTY, one of my duties was to drive the ministry van down to the Panorama City post office in the morning and pick up the lending library mail. Usually there would be 5 to 10 giant mail bags filled with packages for the lending library I had to lug out to the van. That was in the early to mid-90s.
Over the last 10 years or so, the lending library has dwindled down to about 200 participants. Earlier this fall, a couple of guys at GTY called each and every one of them to inform them of our decision to close the library because it was becoming more of a burden for us to maintain, especially financially. It is bitter-sweet to think of the library closing. I know I probably speak for thousands of people when I say how it was used by God in a big way with my spiritual life.