Beyond the Bible, no other book has shaped my understanding of preaching more than D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s Preaching and Preachers. I remember pouring over this book as a young Christian before having ever preached a sermon. God was using this book, among other things, to confirm His call on my life to give all my vital energies to the faithful exposition of His Word.
What makes Lloyd-Jones’s work on preaching so helpful? Preaching and Preachers, more than any book I’ve read on the topic, describes the craft of preaching and the character of the preacher in harmony with the Bible. And by this I don’t simply mean that the book is biblical in the sense that it demonstrates a high view of Scripture.
It’s more than that.
Lloyd-Jones writes as a man that has been overwhelmed with God and His Christ. Lloyd-Jones offers a radical God-centered view of preaching and preachers that sets his work definitively apart from the myriad of “How To” books on preaching littering the landscape of evangelicalism. For example, consider how Lloyd-Jones describes what should be the manner of a preacher in the pulpit:
The preacher must be a serious man; he must never give the impression that preaching is something light or superficial or trivial….What is happing [in the act of preaching] is that he is speaking to them from God, he is speaking to them about God, he is speaking about their condition, the state of their souls. He is telling them that they are, by nature, under the wrath of God — “the children of wrath even as others” — that the character of the life they’re living is offensive to God and under the judgment of God, and warning them of the dread eternal possibility that lies ahead of them. In any case the preacher, of all men, should realize the fleeting nature of life in this world. The men of the world are so immersed in its business and affairs, its pleasures and all is vain show, that the one thing they never stop to consider is the fleeting nature of life. All this means that the preacher should create and convey the impression of the seriousness of what is happening the moment he even appears in the pulpit. You remember the famous lines of Richard Baxter: “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”…You remember what was said of the saintly Robert Murray McCheyne of Scotland in the last century. It is said that when he appeared in the pulpit, even before he had uttered a single word, people would begin to weep silently. Why? Because of this very element of seriousness. The very sight of the man gave the impression that he had come from the presence of God and that he was to deliver a message from God to them. That is what had such an effect upon the people even before he had opened his mouth. We forget this at our peril, and at great cost to our listeners (Preaching and Preachers, pp. 85-86).
What is so powerful about this perspective is how clearly theology is giving shape to practice. Moreover, we can’t miss how Lloyd-Jones’s God-centeredness is actually what is most helpful for people. In other words, Lloyd-Jones really believed the biblical witness that all of history is moving toward the day of Christ, and that all people must give an account to God. This absolute reality animated, more than anything, Lloyd-Jones’s understanding of preaching.
This is why I’m thrilled about a new edition of Lloyd-Jones’s classic work coming out in January. Here’s the publishers description:
For over 30 years, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones ministered at Westminster Chapel in London. Today, he is widely considered one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century. Based on a series of lectures originally given by Lloyd-Jones to the students of Westminster Theological Seminary in the spring of 1969, this collection of essays on the essence of powerful preaching has become a modern classic. Lloyd-Jones defends the primacy of preaching, showing that there is no substitute, and he challenges preachers to take their calling seriously: ‘The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching.’ He also provides practical direction on the task of preparing a sermon, sharing insights on the shape and form of a message as well as covering such topics as the use of humor, giving invitations in a message and the preacher’s relationship to the congregation. If you can own only one book on preaching, make this the one you read. This 40th anniversary edition includes the original text of Preaching and Preachers along with essays by Bryan Chapell, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Timothy Keller and John Piper reflecting on the impact this book and the ministry of Lloyd-Jones had on their preaching. This is a book that will continue to speak to a new generation of preachers and teachers for years to come.
I’m praying this new edition get’s into the hands (and hearts) of preachers young and old. I’m praying that God continues to raise up serious men of God who labor in preaching with an acute sense of the brevity of this life and the eternity yet to come. I’m praying that pulpits across the globe become occupied with preachers overwhelmed with the glory of God and love for people. And I’m praying for the preacher at the corner of North and Lynn streets in Bellingham, Washington. Praying that He makes me a preacher like that.