Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Timothy Keller Blog Series on Preaching and Preachers

Over the last few months, Timothy Keller has been blogging his way through D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' classic book Preaching and Preachers (which is set to be re-issued by Zondervan next year). He's written four posts so far, with more to come:

Lloyd-Jones on the Problem of Preaching

Lloyd-Jones on the Permanence of Preaching

Lloyd-Jones on the Primacy of Preaching

Lloyd-Jones on the Efficacy of Preaching Today

Keller says the book has greatly shaped his own preaching, and suggests one reason why ML-J's views have not gained wider acceptance:
As I re-read his book I realized that [Lloyd-Jones'] views by no means have won the day. The objections to classic preaching have largely been accepted and people are scrambling to find alternatives. I think most young leaders who would pick his book up today will find it completely out of step with any of the last several books they may have read on preaching. And yet here I am, after twenty some years in the middle of New York City, a postmodern city by any definition, having been deeply shaped by the Doctor's definitions and prescriptions for preaching, and they have borne much fruit here. So if this advice has proved effective in the middle of NYC, why are so few people taking it? So why are so many people going in a different direction with preaching? Why aren't more people listening to it?

If you move beyond these posts and read the Doctor's book—as I hope you will—you will quickly see one possible reason why people have not followed him. Dr. Lloyd-Jones makes a host of dogmatic assertions about very specific practices. He believed strongly that the pulpit should be physically above the listeners, that the minister should wear a robe, that he should not make many personal references to himself nor use much humor. He believed that the preacher should not announce his texts and topics ahead of time. (He was that loathe to cater to people's interests and "felt needs.") He thought it was abominable to plan out exactly what your texts and topics would be months in advance. (That did not give enough space for the leading of the Spirit.) He was also opposed to having his sermons recorded (though he reluctantly agreed to it eventually.) He believed that large preaching services (Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Friday night) really would carry virtually all the "freight" of the church's ministry. He frowned on small group ministry and had few other ways for the church to gather as a community or do discipleship and instruction. As it turned out, in the end his church was too preaching-dependent and after his retirement the church experienced a crisis.
I've come to the conclusion that Lloyd-Jones's basic theses about the nature of preaching have not been followed in the U.K. nor here in the U.S. largely because of his own dogmatism on details and also because so many of his followers did not seem to know how to extract the Doctor's particular methods and personal tastes from the broad lines of the argument he laid down. That argument is, I believe, successful and crucial for us in our times.

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