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Mon Dec 09, 2013
by Cam Huxford IV
Martyn Lloyd-Jones: 20 Lessons from His Life
In this final post on the ministry of Lloyd-Jones, I will list some lessons we can learn from him. Some are from his positive example, and some are, perhaps, mistakes he made we can learn from.
- Having a theological degree is not necessary for everyone who would be a minister. The Doctor never had a theological qualification, and had a deep distrust of theological degrees, claiming we should never take exams in theology.
- We should not despise academic learning. Despite his views, he established a theological college, gathered pastors for intensive theological discussions, and was deeply influential in founding both the UK’s Evangelical Library and the Banner of Truth publishing house.
- We should learn from those who have gone before. He teaches us, but was himself very much taught by those who had gone before. He led a revival of interest in the Puritans, and read so much of them that, like Spurgeon before him, to read him is to read the Puritans distilled.
- We should actively pursue a knowledge of God by his Spirit, as well as reliable theology.
- Pastors should not leave all student ministry to others. Despite all his other roles, The Doctor was strongly involved in the foundation of the InterVarsity Fellowship.
- Preachers should make themselves available to their congregations. Lloyd-Jones is still remembered fondly by the countless Christians who joined the long lines of people waiting to see him in his study after each message. He worked like a medical doctor in Outpatients, conscious of the queues, but able to deal concisely and tenderly with each individual’s needs.
- We should labor to build a community, not just a preaching center. Despite the personal warmth of many of his own relationships, he never managed to establish a network of lives deeply involved in one other in his congregation.
- The Word of God must be applied with all the skill of a surgeon’s scalpel.
- We urgently need preaching that carries a sense of burden and compassion for the people. If the preacher is not passionately concerned for his hearers’ souls, what makes us think they will be?
- Anecdotes and illustrations are important. The Doctor regretted he had used few of these, and even those he did use are often edited out of his books.
- Preaching the gospel is the highest calling, and giving up a lucrative career, if called to do so by Christ, is no sacrifice.
On the church
- Denominations are not the most effective way of governing the church. Most analyses of the state of the established denominational structures would conclude they are worse than in the Doctor’s day. He described himself as a Moses calling people out with no Joshua-like plan for what would replace the legal entities he felt had been shown to be without hope of redemption. He was a forerunner of a more informal way of organizing church groups around a personality. God has always used anointed individuals to advance his purposes in dramatic ways. A vibrant life like the Doctor’s must not be tied down in denominational politics.
- Some men are a gift of Christ to the whole church. The breadth of churchmanship who claim the Doctor as their own today is remarkable. We must ensure we all benefit from those like him that God raises in our day to bless Christ’s body on a broad scale.
On our interactions with others
- We must be able to work with those who disagree with us. The Doctor demonstrated this by working harmoniously with his predecessor at the Chapel despite the older man’s Arminianism.
- We must not be afraid to criticize our friends. The Doctor will always be remembered for an evening in 1966 when he clashed in public with John Stott. Stott disagreed with the Doctor’s call for ministers to leave the established denominations. Interestingly, this controversy had strong echoes of Spurgeon’s "Down-Grade Controversy" and the reasons Jonathan Edwards was stripped of his ministry.
- Separation from unbelievers need not always mean separation from those who do not separate. It is surely a pity that Stott and Lloyd-Jones, despite maintaining personal respect for each other, were never able to find a way of working together after that evening. The ministers who followed Lloyd-Jones out of the established denominations also found it hard to relate with those who stayed. Each of us stands or falls to our own master (Rom. 14:4). In these days of church planting movements, those in more formal structures should not be despised by those who are in new church groups.
- We must be self-critical. At the end of his ministry, the Doctor spoke openly about many things he would have done differently, and of his concerns about the church of the day
- We must never become professionals. The Doctor was dismissive of the whole clerical approach to life, and believed the Word must first be applied to the preacher before the congregation.
- We must emphasize prayer and seek God earnestly to do what only he can do. Corporate prayer was never a strong feature of Chapel life, and the Doctor regretted this.
- We must make the pursuit of Joy central. The Doctor believed God had deliberately stopped him from finishing his Romans series because he did not know enough about “Joy in the Holy Spirit” to preach adequately on this (Romans 14:17). Despite living for a number of years after the health scare that interrupted him, he refused to attempt to restart. That Lloyd-Jones felt this way, despite being someone who strongly advocated such an experiential Christianity in other books, is sobering.
The Doctor concluded, at the end of his life, that church in his day was largely depressing. Seeking to build churches full of vibrant joy and committed deeply to God’s truth is a fitting tribute to this man of God.
To learn more about Martyn Lloyd-Jones
- Visit the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recordings Trust website where you can hear him preach and read an excellent biography
- Read John Piper’s brief talk on Lloyd-Jones
- Read Iain Murray’s two volume biography (Vol 1, Vol 2)