This is the second part of a two part review. I split up the reviews because the nature of the new release by Zondervan. It is the 40th Anniversary Edition of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones classic Preaching & Preachers. If you are unfamiliar with the book, it began as a series of lectures that Lloyd-Jones delivered to the students of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. These lectures were held during the spring of 1969, over the course of six weeks. They were published two years later into a single volume which has, since that time, become a classic text on preaching. I will attempt to discover why it became so popular.
In Part 1 of the review I sought to focus solely on the additions to the 40th Anniversary release. So, part 2 is simply a review of Lloyd-Jones’ book.
If Lloyd-Jones was fearful of the decline in preaching during his day, how much more should we be over 50 years later? Preaching is a calling that is gaining more and more ire from the general public, and is even being pushed to the periphery in our churches–as it was in Lloyd-Jones’ day. So what does this book about preaching have to say to modern preachers and to the act of preaching itself?
Lloyd-Jones begins his series of lectures by stating that preaching is the primary task of the church. And it’s for that reason that he says after many years in the role he is prepared to lecture on this topic because as he says, “to me the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can every be called” (17). He argues for the primacy of preaching because it has fallen out of importance in many of our churches. He spends several pages discussing issues that have contributed to this before defending his view. He executes this defense by walking us through the appropriate Scripture references that testify to the primacy of preaching in the life of Jesus and the early church. Lloyd-Jones then reinforces his argument by calling on Church history.
“Is it not clear… that the decadent periods and eras in the history of the Church have always been those periods when preaching had decline?” So, “what is it that always heralds the dawn of a Reformation or of a Revival?” It is renewed preaching. A revival of true preaching has always heralded these great movements in the history of the Church (31).
Throughout the book, Lloyd-Jones often employs “personal reminiscence” to illustrate examples of the points he is trying to prove. He begins his defense of the sermon this way, by reminiscing, and then sets about to prove wrong “modern” thoughts and assertions that there are better ways of communicating than that of a sermon. Lloyd-Jones felt strongly the preacher was to do something. He wasn’t merely to make a speech. It was more than that, it was interacting with the people. They must go away effected if true preaching had taken place.
As I read through the book it became evident to me why this book has remained a preachers classic. I believe it’s because the book has an element of timelessness to it, as Scriptural arguments should. Though there are topics that Lloyd-Jones addresses that were definitely products of his time, yet he also addresses those topics in a way that seems as though he is speaking directly to us in our day. This is the sense in which this book continues to have a following.
I also became much more aware of why Dever says that he never fails to mention this book “as being the most fun to read” (255). It’s a fun read because the Dr. has many, many stories that he employs to illustrate the points he is making. I have no doubt these stories were much more colorful as the Welshman retold them in his lectures than they are in the book. While entertaining, the frequency of them became somewhat tedious as I worked through the chapters.
Much of what you hear about this book is that it is definitely a book on preaching that should be read. You’re not going to agree with everything, but as previously mentioned this may have a lot to do with when the book was written, Lloyd-Jones, in the informal lecture setting at WTS, was reacting against much that was happening to preaching during his day.
Lloyd-Jones knew what it was to be a preacher. Maybe that’s why this book is important to read. He exemplified the preacher. Staying in one congregation for over 30 years, is a feat very uncommon in our day.
He had much wisdom in those years of experience to glean. Listen and learn.