These are discussion questions at the end of chapter 1 in the book, Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Do you feel there is still a need to “justify” preaching? What are the contemporary objections to preaching?
Yes, to some people. There is no need to justify it to the members of healthy churches that receive, affirm, and nurture biblical preaching as central to the pastoral task and life of the church. But there is still a need to justify it to other groups. Unbelievers don’t understand why we’d take 45-60 minutes to explain and apply a text. Some Christians clamor for more singing, more testimonies, more multimedia, and shorter gatherings. Some Christians argue that the Sunday sermon is not central to the church’s life. They argue for word-centered ministry as opposed to sermon-centered ministry. There is much truth in this position. Some see the modern church growth movement, study the so-called mechanisms that produced such “growth” and then call for the marginalizing of preaching. Other objections have to do with bad examples of preachers and churches that are dying as a result of a certain philosophy and practice of preaching.
Of Lloyd-Jones’ reasons for the decline of preaching, which make the most sense? Are there any that seem less plausible?
Lloyd-Jones gives a few reasons for the decline: (1) lack of confidence in the authority of the Scriptures, (2) the emphasis on oratory over content, (3) the exaltation of written “sermons” which have a demonstrable quality over the actual sermons preached, (4) the call for more singing, testimonies, and “worship”, (5) tape-recording which is a “special abomination.”
The lack of authority in Scripture makes the most sense today. There is also an emphasis on oratory, style, humor, engagement, being interesting, and the immediate feel of relevance. I think that audio and video recordings can have a negative effect on local churches as well. They can be used as a substitute for hearing the word preached physically in the same location with the rest of the church. Recordings can be heard with people building bad habits in terms of how they listen to preaching. If it is God’s Word re-revealed (D. A. Carson’s definition of preaching), we should not try to be Martha and Mary at the same time listening to sermons half-attentive while multitasking. That doesn’t bode well for the habits of hearers during the Sunday gathering. These reasons all have a certain degree of plausibility.
Do you agree “the primary task of the church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God”? Why or why not?
It depends on what one means by preaching. MLJ sometimes uses it as gospelizing and other times uses it as the Sunday sermon preached from a pulpit. He doesn’t distinguish between the two but rather confuses them (page 30 is an exception). I think the primary task of the church is to make disciples by gospelizing others, not the preaching from the pulpit in the Sunday gathering. I think the primary task of the pastoral ministry is the preaching of God’s Word, and the Sunday sermon to the whole congregation is the most-important channel of the Word ministry to the local church.
What other options are offered today for “the primary task of the church”?
Social justice, good deeds in the neighborhood, political causes, singing and making people feel good, and being a social hub for the community.
If preaching is primary, how can we help the church see this truth once again?
Prayer, good preaching, recommending good audio/video sermons to others, pointing out by name bad preaching, discipling the Christians in our churches well, influencing other Christians with good resources, and encouraging others who are being called into pastoral and preaching ministry.