If you had to list the two or three greatest books on the ministry, you would have to consider Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Since it was published in 1972, it has perhaps been the most influential title on the subject.
Why has it been so popular? On the one hand, Lloyd-Jones clearly stands as one of the masters of the pulpit. He could open the Scriptures with a deftness most of us who preach could only dream of. Then there is the fact that he is a racy lecturer. This volume is a written record of his lectures on preaching near the end of his career. What he has to say is worth hearing! He gives life to what some call “the romance of preaching.”
He begins at the beginning–the primacy of preaching. As he says, “…the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.” He laments the increase of entertainment in worship at the expense of preaching. That is only more true today. He disdains the shift from our great task–the exposition of God’s Word. His solution is to bring preaching back to its proper place. Actually, it is his answer to every issue that he will discuss. I suspect that he is exactly right!
Lloyd-Jones carefully unfolds what preaching is as well as what a sermon itself really is. Along the way he drops nuggets of gold as if he were dispensing cheap candy. For all the criticisms of preaching today, his explanation that preaching smashes pride, with our need of being humbled so real, preaching then is the avenue to reach people. He believes people with come to hear preaching if, and only if, it be real preaching.
To him real preaching must be expository. Though there can be an occasionally blessed topical message, he is right. The reason is that we need God’s Word, not our own creative message. It is the Bible first, not your sermon idea. How contrary to most preaching today, but perhaps a good explanation for preaching’s low standing in current times.
In the larger context of preaching, he elevates the importance of corporate public worship. He writes of the wonderful long term benefits of preaching in people’s lives. He explains what a call to the ministry really is. He is adamant that “the pew” not control “the pulpit.” He explains how people can pull the preacher away from what we are to do, but we must hold true for their good.
His chapter on “The Preparation of the Preacher” is incredibly good. It gives us so much on personal growth. He ends with a discussion on the necessity of the unction of the Holy Spirit in our preaching. That is a correct emphasis.
Some criticize how dogmatic he is in this volume. He is truly harsh on a few occasions and a little too picky on some minor matters. Still, if you just overlook a few such lapses, you will find incredible treasure throughout this volume.
Be sure to look for Zondervan’s 40th Anniversary Edition of this great classic. In addition to his text, six modern well-known preachers explain why this volume is so good. What they have to say is worthwhile too.
I love this book and I think you will too.
You can find all posts and books reviewed in this series here in this introductory post.