These are discussion questions at the end of chapter 2 in the book, Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Given the real need of people and the primary business of the church, what place is there for treating “symptoms”?
There is a place for it, but it is secondary and instrumental. The symptoms of broken families and relationships, poverty, addictions, loneliness, etc. are not the main problem and therefore are not the primary business of the church, gospelizing is. But helping people in these and other problems are necessary in obedience to “loving your neighbors as yourself.” But they are secondary in the sense that one loves people in these ways as a means to loving them in the most important way, which is to gospelize them that they may enjoy God himself through Jesus Christ. I’m not saying you need to explain the gospel every time you give a cup of water to someone who’s thirsty, but the intentionality of what is most important must be there.
Where do you see the church, in an effort to meet needs, drifting from relevance to redundancy?
Today, I see it in the calls for social justice and social involvement. Yes and amen, we need to love our neighbors! But this is not the primary task of the church and it is not the primary objective. I also see it in the calls to political involvement, counseling and helping others individually, meaningful church membership, and even the emphasis on “community.”
How can churches help pastors stay committed to preaching given all the “personal work” there is to do?
Great question! There are several things a local church can do: (1) pray for your pastors, (2) encourage and guard the pastor’s schedule to make sure he has enough time to study and prepare the sermon, (3) learn how to counsel other members and do some personal work yourself, (4) evangelize and grow the church so that you can hire more staff for personal work, (5) still expect your pastors to devote some time each week to personal work.
Lloyd-Jones finishes by mentioning two objections to the primacy of preaching. Where do you see these objections surfacing today?
The first objection is that times have changed. The way this surfaces today is under the vague yet sometimes helpful concept called, “contextualization.” So some may object to preaching and say you need to exegete the culture first. You need to adopt or fully grasp their worldview before you can preach in a way that is relevant to them. MLJ reminds us that they are still sinners and God is still holy so the gospel is still their greatest need. You shouldn’t bend over backwards if you don’t understand every nook and cranny of someone’s perspective before you preach the gospel to them.
The second objection is that people can read the gospel in books or blogs, they can hear it through a recording, broadcast, or video. Video sermons that are not live are popular in many of the churches today (including Bethlehem Baptist Church and Mars Hill Church). MLJ’s answer is insightful. I listen to a lot of audio sermons and watch some video sermons. MLJ is worth quoting at length here:
Now the Church is a missionary body, and we must recapture this notion that the whole Church is a part of this witness to the Gospel and its truth and its message. It is therefore most important that people should come together and listen in companies in the realm of the Church. That has an impact in and of itself (52).
The very presence of a body of people in itself is a part of the preaching, and these influences begin to act immediately upon anyone who comes into a service. These influences, I suggest, are very often more potent in a spiritual sense than pure intellectual argumentation (53).
It is not a mere gathering of people; Christ is present. This is the great mystery of the Church. There is something in the very atmosphere of Christian people meeting together to worship God and to listen to the preaching of the Gospel (54).
This is this mysterious element. It is the presence of the Spirit in the heart of God’s children, God’s people, and an outsider becomes aware of this. This is something you can never get if you just sit and read a book on your own. The Spirit can use a book, I know, but because of the very constitution of man’s nature – our gregarious character, and the way in which we lean on one another, and are helped by one another even unconsciously – this is a most important factor. That is so in a natural sense, but when the Spirit is present, it is still more so. I am not advocating a mob or a mass psychology which I regard as extremely dangerous, particularly when it is worked up. All I am contending for is that when you enter a church, a society, a company of God’s people, there is a factor which immediately comes into operation, which is reinforced still more by the preacher expounding the Word in the pulpit; and that is why preaching can never be replaced by either reading or by watching television or any one of these other activities (54).
From all this I was challenged. After reading Total Church, Everyday Church, and listening to a bunch of audio instruction from the GCM Collective and Soma Communities, I belittled inviting non-Christians to our Sunday gatherings or even mid-week gatherings and pushed our people to share life with them outside of formal church meetings. I wanted them to gospelize their friends on their turf more than think about inviting them to church gatherings. MLJ rebukes me and says, it’s not one or the other, it’s both. And the advantage of hearing the gospel preached in a Sunday gathering is altogether unique and should be used to one’s evangelistic advantage.