Monday, September 17, 2012
Book Review: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Preaching and Preachers. 40th Anniversary Edition.
As a general summary, this 340-page work features all of the main subject headings with which a preacher must come to terms. Lloyd-Jones has very candid and often practical advice on virtually every aspect of the sermon: from preparation in the study, to the written manuscript, to the delivery of the sermon with voice and body, to the preacher's living relationship with the congregation. But far and away, the strength of this book is the unusually high role of preaching that DMLJ assigns to the God-ordained ordinance of Gospel preaching.
He says famously, "To me the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called" (p. 17). From cover to cover, DMLJ does not back down from the statement. Those who labor in the study and pulpit as their life's work will find their strivings constantly affirmed as they seek to proclaim the glory of the Gospel to a dying world. In that sense, those who take their work of preaching with eternal regard will find their hearts strengthened to persevere in their labors.
Lloyd-Jones disdained the idea that a pastor has "more important" things to do than preach. The CEO leadership model, the professional counselor model, and the entertainment-based story teller model must all die a hard death according to Lloyd-Jones. And he slays them relentlessly throughout. The true power of Christian ministry, according to The Dr. is in the pulpit of a man with Bible open who has been ordained of God to announce the Gospel with authority. "It is preaching alone that can convey the Truth to people, and bring them to the realization of their need, and to the only satisfaction for their need" (p. 50).
If anyone has heard Lloyd-Jones preach (thank goodness 4,000 of his messages have been recorded and are now available on digital formatting; see p. 343) he will quickly realize that The Dr. himself held a pulpit ministry based seriously and zealously on proclaiming Biblical doctrine. Long can a listener wait for a joke or personal illustration in his own sermons. They will not come. Lloyd-Jones approached the sacred desk several times weekly during his pastorate at Westminster Chapel ready to declare the revealed will of God without compromise and with death-knell seriousness.
I don't think many readers today will make it through this text without disagreeing with DMLJ somewhere. More still will close the book with broken toes! Among the many practices that Lloyd-Jones would like to see piled on the trash heap of history are: the praise band (he saw entertainment-oriented worship coming a mile away), "worship leaders" which he viewed to be taking up too much of the preacher's time, lay preachers (because they are not ordained to do the work but instead are hobbyists), personal testimonies, recorded or videotaped sermons (ironic since thousands are blessed by his sermons still today), and even homiletics classes where preachers learn "techniques" to improve their delivery. The latter, he regarded as a "prostitution" of the calling and "an abomination" (p. 130). Obviously, there is much room to disagree!
Spoiler Alert: If you are Hawaiian shirt-wearing, stool-sitting, coffee-sipping preacher who weekly walks onto the platform to have a "conversation" or "dialogue" with the congregation, you will find yourself kicking against the goads in every chapter. After only a few pages, one gets the idea that Lloyd-Jones would disdain most of today's practices of video introductions, power-point presentations, movie-clips, and the endless barrage of personal anecdotes. At one point, Lloyd-Jones even tells preachers to leave their endearing stories about their children at home!
Perhaps the last chapter of the book is the best. Here, The Dr. discusses one of his hallmark doctrines, the unction (or anointing) of the preacher. Lloyd-Jones has a doctrine of the filling of the Holy Spirit that is slightly unusual for a Calvinist. He views the filling of the Spirit not as a general spirit-led life of fruit-bearing, but rather a dramatic anointing of the Holy Ghost especially available to preachers as they declare the Law and Gospel of Christ. In my reading of this work, he does not seem to strongly distinguish the "baptism" of the Spirit from the "filling" of the Spirit.
To defend this position, Lloyd-Jones does a careful study of the New Testament usage of the phrase "filled with the Spirit" and demonstrates that it does not appear to describe the daily walk of a faithful Christian (as most would have it), but rather the unusual moments of Holy Ghost fire that fall upon a man while testifying to Christ crucified and raised again.
Here, he pleads with preachers to plead for themselves in asking the Holy Spirit to endow their ministries with power. "Do you always look for and seek this unction, this anointing before preaching? Has this been your greatest concern? There is no more thorough and revealing a test to apply to a preacher" (p. 322). And again he writes, "I maintain that all of us who are preachers should be seeking this power every time we preach" (p. 339).
This 40th anniversary edition of Preaching & Preachers comes newly supplemented with six essays from some of today's most well-known preachers. Among them are Kevin DeYoung (editor), John Piper, and Ligon Duncan. These are short 3-page essays, mostly laudatory, which generally showed an appreciation for Lloyd-Jones' legacy. The contribution of the inclusion of these essays was minimal in my view, other than to give the reader a mental break from The Dr's relentless attack on wimpy preachers!
Some Minor Criticisms
Personally, this reviewer finds little fault with this work and generally appreciates the tenor and tone of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' up-building of the work of the anointed pulpiteer, as well as his excoriation of the "professional."
The only concern that I had with this book is that Lloyd-Jones found very little room to compliment or affirm hardly one of his own contemporaries. Although he shares a number of interesting anecdotes related to his observations of preachers (many of these quite amusing) I did notice that most of his positive examples were of his own ministry. I found the tendency to use his own ministry as the north-star example of good preaching a bit tiring. On the other hand, he did compliment many ministers such as Whitefield and Spurgeon--it is just that all whom he seemed to appreciate are long dead!
Any time Lloyd-Jones begins an anecdote, "One time I heard a preacher..." you can be sure a counter-example is forthcoming. To listen to Lloyd-Jones discuss his contemporaries, one gets the idea that no one else was doing what he was doing in his own day and age.
All told, this reader (himself an ordained man of the Book) found this work to be one of the most affirming works on the nature and worth of expository preaching. Preaching is "logic on fire....preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire!" he shouts. "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" (p. 110).
The average preacher who often wonders if he is making any difference in this world--a question that we all struggle with from time to time--will find himself greatly affirmed by hearing the now-gone voice of a man who believed Gospel preaching is the most important work in the world.
Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. Please consider following on Twitter @matt_everhard