Lloyd-Jones and Pastoring Through Preaching

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones points to the example of peaching in dealing with the personal problems church members face. In pointing to the Puritans as an example of this the Doctor says:

The Puritans are justly famous for their pastoral preaching. They would take up what they called ‘cases of conscience’ and deal with them in their sermons; and as they dealt with the problems they were solving the personal problems of those who were listening to them. That has constantly been my experience. The preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit, applied by the Holy Spirit to the individuals who are listening, has been the means of dealing with personal problems of which I as the preacher knew nothing…1

The Doctor shows us that in this way member care is being done. That the Holy Spirit can and does apply the truth in general to the particular individual through preaching. It is through expositional preaching of the word of God that the church is faithful to the Great Commission command to teach disciples to obey all that Christ has commanded. For all of the commands of Christ are to be found in Scripture.

1Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 37.

Lloyd-Jones and the Primary Purpose of Preaching

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Lloyd-Jones in Preaching and Preachers provides a good view of the primary task of preaching in the following:

What is the chief end of preaching? . . . To give men and women a sense of God and His presence. . . . I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him. Preaching is the most amazing, and the most thrilling activity that one can ever be engaged in, because of all that it holds out for all of us in the present, and because of the glorious endless possibilities in an eternal future.1

This experience of God which comes through preaching comes through the exultation and exposition of the word of God. As opposed to a lecture or a running commentary, true preaching seeks to engage the hearts of the audience with the inspired word of God. The question that must be asked is why preaching must be expositional? The answer to this question lies in the authority of the Word of God as the self revelation of God. Lloyd-Jones in addressing how to form a sermon stated:“So you must be expository; and in any case my whole argument is that it should be clear to people that what we are saying is something that comes out of the Bible. We are presenting the Bible and its message.”2 It was this complete commitment to the centrality of the Bible that was the foundation of his ministry as seen earlier. For Lloyd-Jones every action and word was to point to the importance of the Bible as God’s revelation.

1D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching & Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1971), 97-98.

2Ibid., 75.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the Priority of Prayer in Preaching

 

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In Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s thought and practice there was no more important part of preaching and preparation then that of prayer. In addressing the students at Westminster seminary he pointed out the vitality of prayer to the work of the preacher. He says the following regarding the importance of prayer, “From every standpoint the minister, the preacher, must be a man of prayer. This is constantly emphasized in the Pastoral Epistles and elsewhere, and , as I say, it is confirmed abundantly in the long history of the Church, and especially in the lives of the outstanding preachers.”1 Prayer in the thought of Lloyd-Jones was so important because of its connection to the unction given by the Holy Spirit in preaching. It is this knowledge and dependence upon the unction and power of the Holy Spirit that comes in preaching through prayer which shaped his preaching.

1D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching & Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1971),171.

Spurgeon and the Priority of Prayer

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Spurgeon’s life and teaching also demonstrate the importance of prayer in the life of a minister. In Spurgeon’s Lectures to my Students he points to the great importance that prayer has for the work of the minister. In his address to me studying for the ministry Spurgeon makes it very clear that above all else a minister is to be a man of prayer, and even more so then an ordinary Christian. Prayer, according to Spurgeon, is greatly useful and important for the preparation and preaching of sermons.1 All of work must be infused with the spirit of prayer if the minister would see it used of God. To fail to make prayer central to our lives and work is to fail to rely upon the power that only God can provide. It is unbiblical to think that one can minister without making use of prayer.

Spurgeon did not just teach the importance of prayer, he also modeled it for all who ever heard him pray from the pulpit or in family worship. Dalimore recounts D.L. Moody’s reply to someone inquiry of whether he had heard Spurgeon preach to which Moody replied, “Yes, but better still I heard him pray.”2 This is a great testimony to the place of prayer in his ministry. His practice of prayer is worth noting as it seems to be against many preconceived notions of how a minister must pray. Dalimore states that Spurgeon while being a man of prayer did not spend long periods of time in prayer. He goes on to recount an American pastor’s experience with Spurgeon in prayer, the pastor said “Then, rising from his knees he went strolling on, talking about this and that. The prayer was no parenthesis interjected. It was something that belonged as much to the habit of his mind as breathing did to the habit of the his body.”3 This is a good model for pastors to follow. Prayer ought to more then an interjection in the life of the pastor, prayer is to be the breath of the ministerial life. This is not to say that praying long periods cannot also be useful and necessary in the minister’s life. While it might not have been his common practice there are at least two times where Spurgeon felt it necessary to spend a whole night in prayer, one being when his son was to leave for Australia and the other being too sacred to be mentioned.4 Spurgeon’s life gives us general principals to apply in regards to prayer, rather then a set pattern of prayer.

1 Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), pp. 42-54.

2Arnold Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography, (Carlilse, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2009),

3 Ibid., p. 178.

4 Ibid., p. 185.

What are we for?

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In The Pastor as Public Theologian Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer makes the following provocative observation, “What are pastor-theologians for? The short answer: for cultivating life and for coping with death. “Death” is more than the moment of dying. It is rather the sense of an ending that casts its dark shadow over everything else in our stories (Vanhoozer, The Pastor as Public Theologian, pp. 104-105).”

We know that death is certain, we all say the only things in life that are certain are death and taxes. Yet there is in our culture and even in our churches a certain unwillingness and inability to cope with the reality of death. I once visited a man who had been just diagnosed with cancer. He was in his 80s and in light of the doctors prognosis had opted not to receive treatment. This does not mean that he had begun to cope, or was willing to begin the process of preparing for death. Quite the opposite. During the months before his passing he did not mention the word cancer, even to his wife. On one particular occasion he did express that he was expecting a miracle and shared with me a booklet by Norman Vincent Peale that he had been given on the subject of claiming miracles.

The challenge for pastors today in my opinion is to minister to a people who have been conditioned by the culture to ignore the reality of death in every day life. I believe philosopher Luc Ferry clearly points the predicament of man in ignoring death:

Death is not as simple as ane event as it is ordinarily credited with being. It cannot merely be written off as ‘the end of life’, as the straightforward termination of our existence…Death is, in the midst of life, that which will not return; that which belongs irreversibly to time past, which we have hope of recovering. It can mean childhood holidays with friends, the divorce of parents, or the houses or schools we have to leave, or a thousand other examples: even if it does not always mean the disappearance of a loved one, everything that comes under the heading of ‘Nevermore’ belongs in death’s ledger ( Luc  Ferry, A Brief History of Thought, pp. 4-5).

Death lies lurking in every area of life, casting its shadows everywhere. Which means the liberating light of the gospel needs to be brought and applied to every area where death casts its shadow. Lets us be committed to knowing how to minister to those going through death’s shadows in every day life.

 

Spurgeon and Suffering to Win Souls

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In The Soul Winner, Spurgeon recounts a particular incident when his emotional suffering was used to bring about the conversion of a man who was in the midst of suicidal despondency. Spurgeon states the circumstances surrounding the message as follows:

Some years ago, I was the subject of fearful depression of spirit. Certain troublous events had happened to me; I was also unwell, and my heart sank within me. Out of the depths I was forced to cry unto the Lord. Just before I went away to Mentone for rest, I suffered greatly in body, but far more in spirit, or my spirit was overwhelmed. Under this pressure, I preached a sermon from the words, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” I was as much qualified to preach from that text as ever I expect to be; indeed, I hope that few of my brethren could have entered so deeply into those heart-breaking words.1

It was a combination of spiritual and physical suffering that in Spurgeon’s understanding enabled him to preach his text. His preaching of the text did not prove to be successful because of his study, it proved to be successful in reaching the despondent man because Spurgeon had lived in the shadow of the text which he was preaching. Spurgeon knew personally the soul anguish of feeling forsaken of God and he knew the cure for the despondency as well. After making clear that he would not have been able to reach out to the man in question had he not suffered in such a way as to enable him to preach his text from personal experience, Spurgeon exhorts those who would win souls to see the importance of suffering in soul winning. Spurgeon begins by putting forward the premise that one would undergo a painful procedure to save lives, so it is with soul winning. Spurgeon says,:

Reckon, then, that to acquire soul-winning power you will have to go through fire and water, through doubt and despair, through mental torment and soul distress. It will not, of course, be the same with you all, nor perhaps with any two of you, but according to the work allotted you, will be your preparation. You must go into the fire if you are to pull others out of it, and you will have to dive into the floods if you are to draw others out of the water. You cannot work a fire-escape without feeling the scorch of the conflagration, nor man a lifeboat without being covered with the waves.2

One cannot get past this reality, that in order to reach sinners in a world of suffering with the gospel of a glorious and gracious Savior, one must walk through suffering and suffer likewise. We cannot be good to our people who suffer unless we know what it is to suffer. It does souls good to hear the promises of God and the gospel from the lips of one who has suffered and been encouraged and comforted by them. The choice before the minister is either to suffer in order that one might bring the gospel comfort to the afflicted, or to avoid suffering and being almost entirely useless to those you would do good.

1 Charles Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1963), 185-186.

2Ibid., 187-188.

Review of Questioning Evangelism

In Questioning Evangelism Randy Newman provides a resource that rightly blends evangelism and apologetics. Newman draws on the example of Jesus who often used a questioning method to evangelize and teach. Where many resources focus on providing short memorable cookie-cutter outlines Newman helps readers think through how to ask the right questions to lead people to a better understanding of God and the gospel.

In the first section of this book Newman points to the importance of asking questions rather than giving pat answers. He gives general principles for evangelism drawn from the wisdom of Proverbs. He then provides basic principals that help move from asking the right questions to a place where the right answers are received. In the third section he addresses some of the fundamental issues that are often confronted in evangelism and apologetics ranging from the problem of evil to the biblical teaching regarding homosexuality. The third section addresses some important issues that point to the lack of compassion and concern that often prevent evangelism.

If you read nothing else in Newman’s book read his last three chapters. I think Newman has hit on the main reasons that professing Christian don’t evangelize others namely that either they don’t care or they actually hate others. Newman’s book is both instructive and convicting at times.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review

Review of Preaching in the New Testament

Among the many books that have been published on the issue of preaching Preaching in the New Testament by Jonathan Griffiths truly stands apart. Most of the recent publications on preaching in recent years have focused more on the how to of preaching. In contrast to those work Griffiths seeks to explore what the New Testament has to say about preaching and its priority in the local church.

This book is divided into three main sections. In the first section a biblical theology of the word is presented, the key terms used to describe preaching in the New Testament are explored, and the word ministry of all believers is addressed. In the second section of the book Griffiths narrows in with laser focus on six of the most prominent New Testament passages that address the issue of preaching the word, his work addressing Hebrews and its implications for the church are worth the price of the book. Th third and final section provides an overview of the material covered in previous chapters with some important implications of this work explored.

Biblical preaching has fallen on hard times, and rather than argue for the importance of preaching simply based on its importance in church history we must have a biblical foundation for preaching in the church. Griffiths in this work points to the solid foundation for understanding the enduring importance of preaching in the life of the church which is found in the New Testament.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review

Review of The Heart of the Church

The Heart of the Gospel, part of Joe Thorn’s three part series on the church, focuses in on  the most important aspect of the church the gospel. Thorn in his introduction demonstrates the fact that one of the primary problems the church has is the fact that it is not driven by the gospel which should be the central driving force of the church.

This book is comprised of three parts divided into twelve short and easy to read chapters. In the first section of this book Thorn addresses the gospel as the central theme running from Old to New Testament. In the closing two chapters of the first part the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are addressed. The third part of this book addresses the doctrinal truths of the gospel beginning with justification and its consequences and ending with sanctification and good works. The final section addresses the character and nature of God as revealed in the gospel.

Of the books in this series I think this one stands as the most important as it reminds pastors and church leaders of the central place the gospel is to have in the church, a place that it does not have in many churches. Without the gospel being central the aspects of character and life will never be what they need to be. In a day where there is increasing abandonment of the biblical gospel Thorn has given the church a wake up call to the supreme importance of the gospel, the whole gospel, for the very existence of the church.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.