Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Preaching and Preachers: A Review

Preaching and Preachers, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971. Pp. 325.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is known as one of the greatest expository preachers of the twentieth century. He preached at Westminster Chapel for 30 years, often preaching three different sermons each weekend. In addition to being a student of preaching, Lloyd-Jones said that preaching was his life’s work (9). Lloyd-Jones’ love for preaching and experience in preaching uniquely qualified him to write this classic book on preaching. Preaching and Preachers was originally a series of lectures to the students at Westminster Theological Seminary in the spring of 1969. It was published as a book a few years later.

In arguing for the primacy of preaching, Lloyd-Jones uses various methods and arguments. While he certainly utilizes the Scriptures to describe and defend preaching, he also argues from history, experience, and common wisdom. He learned much about preaching in his thirty years of pulpit ministry, and he wrote as a man full of the Spirit of God and full of practical wisdom. Lloyd-Jones writes to help seasoned and aspiring preachers, but is also sure to speak to the current cultural misunderstandings about preaching.

It seems as if Preaching and Preachers presents two main goals. Lloyd-Jones’ purpose is to declare the centrality of preaching for the church and to offer practical help for the preacher. However, these two goals cannot be completely separated. Lloyd-Jones argues that one’s view of preaching will affect how he actually preaches.

The first three chapters discuss the importance of preaching in the life of the church. Lloyd-Jones says, “The work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called” (9). He goes on to assert, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching…it is obviously the greatest need of the world also” (9). After dealing with some of the reasons for the decline in preaching, Lloyd-Jones says, “The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God” (19). He develops this point by referring to Jesus, the apostles, and the history of the Church.

In exalting the importance of preaching, Lloyd-Jones also deals with the arguments against the primacy of preaching. He argues that the ultimate justification for asserting the primacy of preaching is theological. Lloyd-Jones says that since man’s real need is reconciliation with God, the primary task of the Church is to preach and proclaim the only remedy (26). He asserts that a low view of preaching comes from a low view of man’s depravity. He says, “If his ultimate need is something that arises out of this ignorance of his which, in turn, is the result of rebellion against God, well then, what he needs first and foremost is to be told about this, to be told the truth about himself, and to be told of the only way in which this can be dealt with” (28). Lloyd-Jones proclaims, “The business of the Church, and the business of preaching—and she alone can do this—is to isolate the radical problems and to deal with them in a radical manner” (32).

After arguing for the priority of preaching, the majority of Preaching and Preachers is devoted to discussing the nature of preaching, the preacher, the sermon, the congregation, and practical implications for each of these aspects. Lloyd-Jones’ experience and wisdom in these area are invaluable for anyone who cares about preaching. It is important to note that Lloyd-Jones does not believe preaching can be taught. The purpose of this book is not to prescribe a particular method which, if followed, would result in powerful sermons. Rather, the purpose of the practical section of this book is to help the preacher become a more faithful expositor.

The main practical point of Preaching and Preachers is that all true preaching is expository. Sermons should be based on a text of Scripture and should adequately reflect the main point of that particular text. Lloyd-Jones says, “You must be expository; and in any case my whole argument is that it should be clear to people that what we are saying is something that comes out of the Bible” (75). God calls preachers not to preach their own ideas, but to preach the Spirit-inspired Word. Lloyd-Jones powerfully argues that preachers must be honest with the text of Scripture, and not twist God’s Word to say something that the preacher really wants to say. He says, “You must take your text in its context, and you must be honest with it” (201).

Of the many practical issues discussed in Preaching and Preachers, the section on the preparation of the preacher is among the most helpful. Lloyd-Jones declares, “The preacher’s first and most important task is to prepare himself, not his sermon” (166). Lloyd-Jones suggests about five specific areas of the preacher’s preparation. First, he says the preacher must maintain a general discipline in his life. The preacher is not to float along; rather, the preacher must utilize his time, energy, and effort wisely. Second, the preacher must safeguard his mornings. The preacher must fight to maintain consistent and undistracted study times in the mornings. However, Lloyd-Jones does have a word about the importance of knowing oneself and knowing the best times to study, which may vary from person to person. Third, the preacher must maintain a life of prayer, which is vital to his successes in preaching. Fourth, preachers should read and study the Bible daily and systematically. The preacher should not just read the Bible in order to get sermons; he should read to feed his own soul. Finally, Lloyd-Jones discusses other types of reading the preacher should be engaged in. The preacher should be reading devotional literature, other sermons, and a balance of history, theology, and biography.

Of the dozens of specific pieces of advice given in Preaching and Preachers, several rise to the top as true gems. For example, Lloyd-Jones is extremely helpful and convicting when he says, “To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach is quite another. The trouble with some of us is that we love preaching, but we are not always careful to make sure that we love the people to whom we are actually preaching” (92). Also, Lloyd-Jones has a very helpful section on the call of the preacher in which he describes the relationship between the call and the church. A personal call to preaching must be confirmed by the church. Also, Lloyd-Jones urges preachers to resist the temptation to assume that all church members are Christians. He says this is the “most fatal blunder of all” (146). Finally, the entire fourteenth chapter is given to explain ten reasons why the modern practice of altar calls is unbiblical and unhelpful.

One concern with Preaching and Preachers lies in Lloyd-Jones’ understanding of the distinction between evangelistic sermons and sermons which edify the saints. Lloyd-Jones recommends that a preacher deliver at least one evangelistic sermon each week. He means that at least in one of the weekly sermons, sinners should be told the gospel and called to repent and believe in Christ. Why should every sermon not include gospel truth and pleading with sinners to leave their life of sin and cling to Christ? Although Lloyd-Jones clarifies this distinction in several places, he nevertheless leaves this as “a major division which we must always draw, and this must always be a controlling factor in our preparation” (62). It may be more helpful to realize that both Christians and non-Christians need the gospel, and each and every sermon should include the gospel message.

Preaching and Preachers contributes greatly to the modern discussion on preaching, to the preacher himself, and to the entire church. Lloyd-Jones’ key contribution lies in his view of the heart or essence of preaching. He is not content to just describe preaching and offer practical wisdom; he confronts low views of preaching. He writes, “What is the chief end of preaching? I like to think it is this. It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence” (97). Preaching should be, “Logic on fire! Eloquent reason!” Reflecting on D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ preaching, J.I. Packer wrote that it came to him “with the force of electric shock, bringing to at least one of his listeners more of a sense of God than any other man he had known”(Christopher Catherwood, Five Evangelical Leaders, [Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1985], p. 170.). To put this high view of preaching in perspective, Lloyd-Jones said, “Any man who has had some glimpse of what it is to preach will inevitably feel that he has never preached. But he will go on trying, hoping that by the grace of God one day he may truly preach” (99).

Buy it HERE.


Clif Cummings said...

Thanks Justin! Great review and synopsis of the book. Now, I would naturally think that I wouldn't need to read it -- but your words have encouraged my Spirit to do so!! Just as soon as I finish Thomas Brooks Precious Remedies against Satan's devices.

If I don't talk (or reply to a blog) soon -- enjoy the Shepherd's Conference!!


Anonymous said...

Very convicting stuff here, Justin. Lloyd-Jones' comments on loving the people to whom we preach instead of merely preaching is especially penetrating. I am guilty of that very thing. Pray for me.

Mark Redfern

Mirrilee Back said...

thanks for your thoughts on the book.
I am doing a review of the book also - it was interesting to see what you took from it.