"The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also" (p. 17)
It is with these timeless words that Martin Lloyd-Jones begins Preaching & Preachers which is one of the most classic books on preaching. Lloyd-Jones faithfully ministered to the congregation at Westminster Chapel in London for over thirty years and the thousands of sermons he preached there echo throughout the Christian world even today. Originally given as a series of lectures to the students of Westminster Theological Seminary, Preaching & Preachers is a clarion call for ministers of the gospel to take their task of preaching seriously.
If the most urgent need in the Christian church is true preaching then "the primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God" (p. 27). But the urgency Lloyd-Jones speaks to is not just the timeless need for preaching the truth of Scripture. Lloyd-Jones believed that preaching in the church was waining:
"While men believed in the Scriptures as the authoritative Word of God and spoke on the basis of that authority you had great preaching. But as belief in the great doctrines of the Bible began to go out, and sermons were replaced by ethical addresses and homolies, and moral uplift and socio-political talk, it is not surprising that preaching declined" (p. 21).
For Lloyd-Jones, there was an untie-able knot joining belief in Scripture as the authoritative Word of God and truly great authoritative preaching. If one does not accept the authority of Scripture then how can one preach the words it contains with any kind of authority? If it merely offers some words of wisdom, moral guidance or examples to follow then it stands as an equal next to every other book out there that vies for our attention as it seeks to do the same. But, if Scripture is from God and has the message of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ then it carries with it and in it an authority that is unrivaled by any other book. It is the belief in this authority that needs to drive the words of the preacher.
With the 40th anniversary edition of Preaching & Preachers there are a few additions to enhance the readability and impact of the book. First, subheadings have been added throughout in order to follow the flow and change of ideas and subjects within each chapter. Second, the end of each chapter has questions to hep reflect on the content of the chapter. Third, sprinkled throughout the book are a number of contemporary preachers reflections on the impact of Llyod-Jones book and preaching on their own preaching ministries. Readers will find that these inserts will help to make the content of the book more palatable (as some of it can be hard to swallow) and enable you to be more appreciative of Lloyd-Jones style.
I have come upon reading this book at the age of thirty and I have to admit that had I read this book while in college or seminary I might have passed much of it off as irrelevant, stuffy, offensive, wordy and I might not have bothered to finish it. This is a book that every young preacher can benefit from reading but I am not sure they could appreciate it. Lloyd-Jones is very opinionated and only seems to see areas as grey where he is in the grey about them. Most everything else he comments on is black and white - period. His critique of the state of preaching of his day is eerily similar to that of our own today. He would never debate, believed you should always wear a black robe while preaching, decried the public testimonies of the famous, was skeptical of too much music in the church, felt tape-recording was an abomination, was put off by books on method, was ardently against altar calls and was not in favor of lay preaching.
Though there is much in the book some readers will have a hard time stomaching, those who finish the book will be greatly rewarded. This is a chance to sit a the feet of one of the Christian churches greatest preachers and learn. Preaching & Preachers is full of biblical foundations for preaching, personal examples, wisdom and advice. For all of the hard to swallow pills in this book there are many more spoons full of sugar to help them go down that make the book well worth the time to read.
I recommend Preaching & Preachers to all preachers. Many preachers should probably read it a few years out of school and into ministry. More mature students could handle the book in school and would be all the better for it. There is a reason this book is a classic and I trust it will serve generations of preachers to come.
NOTE: I received this book from Zondervan for free to review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the opinions expressed are my own.