Light and Heat in Preaching

Note:  This is part of an on-going series as I blog through D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ “Preaching and Preachers.”

If any chapter in Preaching and Preachers will at first seem to not apply to you if you are not a preacher, it is Chapter Five, “The Act of Preaching.”  fireplaceIt was a chapter I needed to read and that I long to grow in, especially after preaching to our beloved congregation the last two Sundays.  But, I want to challenge you to spend a few minutes contemplating these incredible quotes from Lloyd-Jones and then consider two important applications concerning multi-site churches and prayer even if you are not a preacher.

[Preaching] is ‘truth mediated through personality.’ (96, quoting Phillips Brookes)

The preacher should never be apologetic, he should never give the impression that he is speaking by their leave as it were; he should not be tentatively putting forward certain suggestions and ideas…He is a man, who is there to ‘declare’ certain things; he is a man under commission and under authority…He should always know that he comes to the congregation as a sent messenger…You have no self-confidence, but you are a man under authority, and you have authority [as God’s messenger]… (97)

It may sound contradictory to say ‘prepare, and prepare carefully,’ and yet ‘be free’.  But there is no contradiction…You will find that the Spirit Who has helped you in your preparation may now help you, while you are speaking, in an entirely new way, and open things out to you which you had not seen while you were preparing your sermon. (99)

How can a man be dull when he is handling such themes?  I would say that a ‘dull preacher’ is a contradiction in terms; if he is dull he is not a preacher.  He may stand in a pulpit and talk, but he is certainly not a preacher. (101)

He is concerned about them [the people he is preaching to]; that is why he is preaching to them.  He is anxious about them; anxious to help them, anxious to tell them the truth of God.  So he does it with energy, with zeal, and with this obvious concern for people. (101)

The preacher is a witness.  That is the very word used by our Lord Himself, ‘Ye shall be witnesses unto me’; and this is what the preacher must always be at all times.  Nothing is so fatal in a preacher as that he should fail to give the impression of personal involvement. (103)

Can a man see himself as a damned sinner without emotion?  Can a man look into hell without emotion?  Can a man listen to the thunderings of the Law and feel nothing?  Or conversely, can a man really contemplate the love of God in Christ Jesus and feel no emotion? (108)

Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. (110)

You must have light and heat, sermon plus preaching.  Light without heat never affects anybody; heat without light is of no permanent value. (110)

Any man who has had some glimpse of what it is to preach will inevitably feel that he has never preached.  But he will go on trying, hoping that by the grace of God one day he may truly preach. (112)

First, I want to challenge your thinking if you are drawn to the multi-site model of church.  In other words, an exceptionally gifted preacher preaches at one church, and other churches at different sites geographically (sometimes even across state boundaries) watch the sermon via a video feed.  There are other reasons that I struggle with this model, but here is a strong argument against most multi-site models of preaching:  Not only does the congregation miss some of the element of being there physically (and emotions, etc. that can easily be missed even through video) as the Holy Spirit uses His Word through a man who is an ambassador, but generally the congregation does not interact regularly with the pastor either.

You may be thinking, “But isn’t this how most mega-churches are anyway?”  I am not necessarily talking about knowing your pastor personally.  For 5 years during seminary my family and I attended Grace Community Church where John MacArthur is the Teaching Pastor with a membership of over 8,000.  I only met him a handful of times face to face and we never talked for more than a minute at once, but seeing him preach in person week after week had a profound impact on me that listening to him on the radio never has (which would be the same as watching him regularly on a video feed).

For example, I saw the compassion of Christ in him as he lovingly shepherded a member in the congregation with Down Syndrome from the pulpit during a Question and Answer Evening Worship Service.  Watching him stay after the service most weeks to talk with the line of people that inevitably formed encouraged my heart.  I met his children and grandchildren as I was involved in different ministries at the church.  I saw the truth modeled that Richard Cecil explained, “To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach quite another.” (105)  This personal interaction, no matter how involved or limited it is with a preacher (not simply a campus pastor that doesn’t preach often), is something that cannot be duplicated through a multi-site church model.  We need to be careful that we are not so enamored with a certain style of preaching that we cannot stand to sit under the preaching of a man that is human, a fellow pilgrim, who is so much more than a talking head.

Second, I want to challenge you to pray for your pastor. Lloyd-Jones explains, “It is not surprising that the Apostle Paul, looking at the ministry, asks ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’…What are you doing?  You are not simply imparting information, you are dealing with souls, you are dealing with pilgrims on the way to eternity, you are dealing with matters not only of life and death in this world, but with eternal destiny.” (104)  Brothers and sisters, in light of such a glorious but weighty responsibility, pray for your pastor!

Source:  Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn.  Preaching & Preachers: 40th Anniversay Edition.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

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About Tim Counts

I am the Pastor at Northshire Baptist Church in Manchester Center, Vermont. I have been a pastor in New Mexico, Washington state, and Vermont and received my M.Div from The Master's Seminary. I love preaching the gospel to both believers (including myself) and unbelievers, and dreaming of ways to reach my community with the good news of Jesus Christ. I enjoy ethnic food and real Vermont maple syrup (but not together), and spending time with my wonderful wife of 13 years and 3 children ages 9, almost 6, and 4.
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