Preaching and Preachers is not a book of sermons, nor is it a how-to book on preaching. Rather it’s a lecture series on preaching by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great twentieth-century British preacher, given over a six-week period at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia in the spring of 1969. Most of Lloyd-Jones’ theological and practical thinking on the subject will resonate with any preacher of the Gospel anywhere in the world. However, some of it seems to me a bit particular to his own style, personality, period of time, and nationality.
I found that this 325-page volume could be read rather quickly, partially because of my keen interest in the subject but also because it contains an abundance of practical advice for the preacher, with numerous real-life examples from the author’s own experience.
The chapter titles are as follows:
- The Primacy of Preaching
- No Substitute
- The Sermon and the Preaching
- The Form of the Sermon
- The Act of Preaching
- The Preacher
- The Congregation
- The Character of the Message
- The Preparation of the Preacher
- The Preparation of the Sermon
- The Shape of the Sermon
- Illustrations, Eloquence, Humour
- What to Avoid
- Calling for Decisions
- The Pitfalls and the Romance
- Demonstration of the Spirit and of the Power
Following is a summary of some of the most salient points:
The author is of the conviction that preaching has been underplayed in the life of the church in recent decades. He believes that “the primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.” He notes that the eras of decline in the history of the Church were times when preaching was devalued. The dawn of revival and reformation through the centuries has always been in times of renewed preaching. It’s obvious that Lloyd-Jones’ high view of preaching stems directly from his high view of the inspiration and authority of the Word of God.
Preaching is not a talk using a Bible verse as a spring board, nor is it a verse-by-verse commentary on a passage of Scripture. Preaching is an expositional message, based on the proper interpretation of a passage or passages of Scripture, but it is more than that – it is “a burden” given to the preacher empowered by the Spirit. Though each sermon has a particular form and shape, it is more than eloquence and oratory. Preaching is delivering God’s message to people. The chief end of preaching is “to give men and women a sense of God and His presence.”
The content of preaching is the Word, the gospel, the whole counsel of God. Lloyd-Jones makes an interesting distinction using two Greek words in the New Testament:
“It is very important that we should recognize … two main sections in the message of the Bible. The first is what you may call the message of salvation, the “kerygma,” that is what determines evangelistic preaching. The second is the teaching aspect, the “didache,” that which builds up those who have already believed – the edification of the saints.”
As a result of this distinction, Lloyd-Jones strongly believes that the preacher should do both evangelistic preaching aimed at nonbelievers and instructional or experiential preaching aimed at believers. Both kinds should be theological in that they should deliver the truths of the Bible, but as a sermon, not as a lecture.
In preaching on a biblical text, Scripture must always be compared with Scripture. To say it another way, systematic theology must inform good expositional preaching.
There must be pathos or emotion in preaching. We can easily lose our balance and become too intellectual. There must be power in preaching. The preacher is under the influence of the Holy Spirit. This subject is so important to Lloyd-Jones that he devotes the whole final chapter to it.
The author writes much not only about preaching, but about preachers. He makes a strong point that the preacher should have a call from God. He should feel a sense of constraint. Lloyd-Jones agrees with Spurgeon who used to say to young men, “If you can do anything else, do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.”
Besides being a Christian, a man called to preach should be filled with the Spirit. Other factors to consider are his character, his psychological soundness, his gift of speech, his general knowledge, and his life experiences. Lloyd-Jones, who was a physician, believes some secular work experience is important before entering the ministry.
For his preparation for the ministry, a young man should study the Bible, the original languages, theology, church history, and “lastly and only lastly homiletics.” In addition, he should listen to and read the great preachers, such as Spurgeon, Whitefield, and Edwards.
Lloyd-Jones contends that preaching cannot be taught. “Preachers are born, not made. This is an absolute. You will never teach a man to be a preacher if he is not already one. All your books such as “The A.B.C. of Preaching,” or “Preaching Made Easy” should be thrown in the fire as soon as possible. But if a man is a born preacher you can help him a little but not much. He can perhaps be improved a little here and there.”
Some readers may find chapter 14 “Calling for Decisions” a bit controversial, but personally I found the writer’s arguments against altar calls convincing. A strong reason among others is that it is the Holy Spirit who opens hearts in response to the preaching of the gospel. Of course, explaining the need for the sinner to repent and believe in Christ is indeed part of the preacher’s role, but the results must be left to God rather than giving an invitation. Lloyd-Jones makes it clear from the pulpit that he is available to talk to people one-on-one about their eternal destiny. Sometimes he also leaves on the seats a response card that can be filled out by those who desire to speak to someone about their salvation.
The preacher’s goal is to preach “the Truth.” One of the most important points Lloyd-Jones makes in the whole book is in regard to the mind, the emotions (affections), and the will when he writes, “As the mind grasps it (the Truth), and understands it, the affections are kindled and moved, and so in turn the will is persuaded and obedience is the outcome.”
As for what we call today “seeker friendly preaching,” the author states, “I would lay down as being axiomatic the pew is never to dictate to, or control, the pulpit. This needs to be emphasized at the present time. But having said that I would emphasize equally that the preacher nevertheless has to assess the condition of those in the pew and bear that in mind in the preparation and delivery of his message.”
As for how to prepare for preaching, I especially resonate with two points Lloyd-Jones makes:
(1) the preacher is always preparing everywhere he goes, and (2) preparing himself is more important than preparing his message.
The author stresses the importance of personal prayer in preparing for preaching. In addition, he promotes reading the Bible systematically and regularly, not just in preparation for a sermon. At the same time he shares, “For many years I have never read my Bible without having a scribbling-pad either on my table or in my pocket; and the moment anything strikes me or arrests me I immediately pull out my pad.” The preacher then goes back to these notes in putting sermons together.
Lloyd-Jones believes in reading widely, especially theology, church history, apologetics, biographies, and sermons, but also secular reading. “I would emphasize strongly the all-importance of maintaining a balance in your reading.” He gives this good advice, “Take all you read and masticate it thoroughly. Do not just repeat it as you have received it; deliver it in your own way, let it emerge as a part of yourself, with your stamp upon it.”
One final piece of counsel that struck me personally: “There is a chorus which says, ‘And now I am happy all the day.’ I do not believe that; it is not true. There will be times when you will be unhappy. There are these states and conditions of the soul, and the sooner you learn how to deal with them, and how to handle them, the better it will be for you and for the people to whom you preach.”