Book Review : Preaching and Preachers – D.M. Lloyd Jones

30 10 2008

I haven’t got much to say today. Blogging tends to be quite time consuming for me. Lately my wife and I have been discussing how to relate faith and everyday life. In short we’ve been trying to take theology from abstract discussion to an everyday reality and its not as easy as you would think. But  its something we must do. Theology was meant to be discussed and lived. The two elements are inseperable. An incorrect understanding leads to an incorrect implementation.

Recently I went over the my folks place when my wife was working and sorted through their books. I was surprised to find some great titles in his collection that had been sitting in boxes under the stairs. Hard cover Lloyd Jones commentaries, a fair portion of Schaeffers works, the complete works of Jonathon Edwards, and a huge collection of Spurgeon in print. A few titles grabbed me because I was surprised surprised that my Dad had read them. Schaeffers True Spirituality, Bonhoeffer’s Cost of discipleship and Lloyd Jones’ Preaching and Preachers. I’m currently reading through the latter.
I must admit that I’ve never been a fan on Lloyd Jones, and I don’t know why. 
I just want to highlight a few great things from his book.

1. The Gospel is not only for the unsaved but for the saved as well. We all need to be reminded of where we’ve come from and where we’re going. Hearing the Gospel reminds us of the price paid for our lives, and of the amazing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It is the best way to “know nothing but Christ and Him crucified” as Paul said.

2. Preachers don’t need to know everything about the problems of the congregation in order to preach the Gospel.  Whether people get drunk in overalls or drunk in three piece suits, they both get drunk. Whether people steal with dirty hands for food, or with computers via they are both stealing. The symptom is not the problem but a sign of a deeper issue. Sin is the real culprit. Preachers need to minister to the cause not the symptoms. While we can offer practical advice on how to overcome these symptoms but without ministering to the ultimate cause our efforts are in vain.

3. There are a whole host of other organisations that can do a better job of social change than the church. But no one but the Church can minister to mans deepest need.
There are lots of charities that can feed the homeless. There are plenty of counsellors who can help with grief, marriages, divorce and breaking bad habits. We need not preach these things from the Pulpit. The preacher needs to deal with mans deepest need before attempting to help him in any other capacity. Of course the Church can be a vehicle for social change, but it must not do it at the expense of its core mission. “God hasn’t changed and the Truth hasn’t changed”. Man is still a sinful creature in need of a saviour. Our styles and contextualisations of that message can change. We can use language that speaks to the people of our time, but we must never change the simple message. It is an offense and a stumbling block to some, it is foolishness and blasphemy to others, but it is the power of God unto salvation.

The book is full of great advice for Christians even if they do not want to preach. One that struck me personally was to balance my reading. I spend a lot time reading technical academic books, and commentaries. While they are helpful and enjoyable they can often remove the simplicity of Gospel message. Sometimes its a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees. Often I need a simple biography, or devotional book to help break up the noise. When I do I find I am more refreshed to tackle another big academic work. The book has given me some practical common sense approaches to Christian living. If we are consistently reminded of the truth of Gospel on a regular basis enables it to overflow into every area of your life. I’d reccomend it to anyone, even if you’re not considering pastoral ministry or a career in preaching.

If anyone can reccomend any other similar books or books that have helped them I’d like to hear about it.




4 responses

31 10 2008
m slater

“There are lots of charities that can feed the homeless. There are plenty of counsellors who can help with grief, marriages, divorce and breaking bad habits. We need not preach these things from the Pulpit”

More later on both posts, but I wanted to mention that I read this book for a homiletics class and found this aspect of it deeply disturbing. It seems that Loyd-Jones (like many in his era) did not follow your goal of theology affecting all of life, at least not in the way it was intended to affect it.
Perhalps we should take a que from the emphasis the Scriptures themselves have, which displays far more concern for taking care of the poor and the disadvantaged, and the healing of our relationship with God, others, and the world, than it does telling people to shape up morally in areas like drinking or theft.
Not that those dont matter. My point is more that my impression of the the Gospel in both the words of Jesus and Paul sees the Gospel as bringing forth a kingdom life which is caracterised by social justice as a very important aspect of what it means to live a Christian life in service of God.
If those things were important to the prophets, to Jesus, to Paul, than I really think that we do indeed need to preach them from the pulpit, so long as we are doing so in a biblically grounded way.

2 11 2008

Yeah I agree in some ways it is a bit of a worry, unfortunately he’s dead now so he can’t defend his views. But at times I agree with Him. Many times its not the preaching on social issues that motivates us to do something, its the Gospel itself. I think being biblical means being reminded of where we have come from as human beings, and what our ultimate hope is. We then go out into the world and reform what we can because of the Gospel, not because social change or activism was preached from the pulpit. To be honest this is exactly how I feel. For years I was told that I needed to be doing more, changing the world, influencing the society I lived in, reforming my work place but had very little reason to do so. After joining a new church where the Gospel message is preached every week I began to feel a pull in my spirit to make changes in my own life and allow those changes to spill out into the wider world.

I don’t think Lloyd Jones was advocating a passive church that is indifferent to the world, rather he’s giving us the best possible means of lasting social change, and that always starts with the Gospel. He points out that no other organisation preaches the Gospel. When the Church stops doing that, theres no telling what problems will occur. He says a lot of tripe at times like “Preachers should wear a gown to show they are set apart for the ministry” I reckon they should wear whatever they like.

Interesting that your class used his book for homeletics. He says he despised homeletics in this book?

5 11 2008
m slater

It was not our textbook actually. We had an assignment to read and review a book covering preaching, and that was what I chose to review.

Yes, he makes some rather out there comments (like the one about gowns, or how pulpits should be elevated far above the congregation for effect which I very much disagree with). Those I can let pass though even if they rub me the wrong way. He is from a different time and culture, and the church was run and perceived in a way that simply would not work today in most cultural settings.

My issue comes with what I see as a false dichotomy between ‘social justice’ and ‘the Gospel’. This assumes that the Gospel is reduced to something like ‘your a sinner who will go to hell, believe this and go to heaven’, or a gospel that is only concerned with our reconciliation with God and ends there.
The Gospel of Jesus as far as I understand it though is that Jesus in his death and resurrection defeated evil and took the place we deserved for our sin and brokenness, the result being that Jesus is the world’s true Lord who has brought us reconciliation with God, others, and the world around us. If this is indeed an accurate portrayal of the Gospel than social justice (while not being the whole point) is an inseparable part of the whole picture of the Gospel.

5 11 2008

Mr Slater, thanks for the good comments. I see now what you meant by using this book in your class. I agree with you on the false dichotomy comment. I think we face a similar one with the post modernist argument e.g. All of history is biased so we can have no objectivity, when in fact we can have some but maybe not 100%.

I think Lloyd Jones would say that the biggest aspect of Social Justice would be telling sinners the message of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. Without this the church becomes just another organisation that helps people. We may be helping people but ultimately we are sending comfortable people to their ultimate demise. As one Rod Thompson, a lecturer at Laidlaw college once said, the race for survival has now become survival for what?

Secondly I feel Lloyd Jones would have welcomed social reform, but with the Gospel as a starting point. This is where I feel we don’t actually differ, we may just be using different terms to define the same thing. Hospitals, Schools, Colleges, Orphanages (spelling?) and a whole host of other social agencies were started when people got a good understanding of the Gospel message and realised it had a lot to do with the here and now as opposed to some form of escapism from this present “evil” world. I realise I am generalising here, but there is only so much one can say in a comment LOL.

Grace and peace to you mate, as a brother in Christ I really appreciate these comments you place. They are challenging me to test everything and not rest on comfortable assumptions 🙂 Keep it up.

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