When I taught preaching, I’d assign Preaching and Preachers by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (“The Doctor”). I also assigned a weekly reading report. The reactions were priceless. What could this opinionated old preacher have to teach us today?
As it turns out, a lot. Lloyd-Jones does have his opinionated moments. “I believe in wearing a gown in the pulpit,” he writes — advice I’ve never taken. But he expresses many views that I have adopted, and he expresses them strongly. For instance:
The work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. If you want something in addition to that I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.
Every time I pick up Preaching and Preachers, I benefit. Here are five reasons why I think every preacher needs an occasional dose of “The Doctor” and his book.
1. We Forget the Importance
Pastors do many things today. It’s easy to think that the real power in our ministries comes from being visionary leaders and effective managers. While these are important, we can never forget the central importance of preaching to the life of the church.
The church can survive without many things. It can’t survive without the proclamation of the Word. Lloyd-Jones reminds us what’s at stake. “The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God,” he writes.
2. We Get Caught up with Fads
Fads come and go faster than ever. Many think that the secret to effectiveness is to stay ahead of the fads. Ministries are always changing in a desperate search for relevance. It’s exhausting.
Lloyd-Jones reminds us that this approach to ministry is deadly:
This is, surely, a very sad and regrettable state for the Christian Church to be in, that like the world she should exhibit these constant changes of fashion. In that state she lacks the stability and the solidity and the continuing message that has ever been the glory of the Christian Church … I argue that even from the pragmatic standpoint it can be demonstrated that you must keep preaching in the primary and central position.
We need to be reminded that ministry effectiveness doesn’t come from chasing the fads, but from staying faithful to our central calling.
3. We Need the Basics
We quickly forget the basics. We frequently forget the end for which we work. We also forget the importance of character, the basics of sermon preparation and delivery, and more. Every time I read Preaching and Preachers, I’m getting a review on all the basics of preaching. I never fail to come away with some reminder that I needed in my life and preaching.
4. We Need Unction
We’re often tempted to rely on personality and technique in our preaching. We’re quick to forget that without the Holy Spirit, our preaching is worth little. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is essential to preaching.
Lloyd-Jones reminds us of the importance of unction. He calls it the “greatest essential in connection with preaching.” We need both preparation and anointing. “There must be no ‘either/ or’ here; it is always ‘both/ and’. These two things must go together.” I need his reminder: “This ‘unction’, this ‘anointing’, is the supreme thing. Seek it until you have it; be content with nothing less.”
5. We Need to Rekindle the Romance
I love so much about Lloyd-Jones and this book. I think what I love most is his love of preaching. He is not writing as a theoretician; he is writing as a lover. He helps me recover my love for my highest calling and my hardest work.
Listen to the love in his words:
Now let us hurry on to something much more important— the romance of preaching! There is nothing like it. It is the greatest work in the world, the most thrilling, the most exciting, the most rewarding, and the most wonderful I know of nothing comparable to the feeling one has as one walks up the steps of one’s pulpit with a fresh sermon on a Sunday morning or a Sunday evening, especially when you feel that you have a message from God and are longing to give it to the people. This is something that one cannot describe…
There is no romance comparable to that of the work of the preacher.
What preacher doesn’t know about this romance? And what preacher doesn’t need the reminder to rekindle that romance once in a while?
If I came up with a shortlist of books I’d recommend on preaching, Preaching and Preachers would always make that list. Every preacher needs “The Doctor.”