By Chip Thornton, FBC Springville
You need to know the man, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was a medical doctor. Indeed, he was the assistant to Dr. Horder, personal physician of King George V and his royal family. Dr. Lloyd-Jones left that promising medical career and became the pastor of a small church of 93 members in Wales. While there, people began being converted to Christ rapidly: his church secretary, a spiritual medium, . . . even his own wife. Word quickly spread. Nine years later, he was asked to be the pastor of the prestigious Westminster Chapel in London. Westminster had 150 attendees when he came. Under his leadership, the church grew to 2500 attendees on Sunday morning and 1200 attendees on Friday nights. How did he grow it? What was his strategy? Simple (almost too simple): Expository preaching.
The churches in England were flailing during and after WWII, and they were doing anything possible to draw a crowd: gimmicks, theatrics, drama, entertainment, you name it. One biographer noted: The good Doctor “chose to pursue the old paths of biblical exposition to build the church.” Lloyd-Jones said, “A sermon should always be expository. In a sermon the theme or the doctrine is something that arises out of the text and its context.” For Lloyd-Jones, God’s presence was manifest not “to” a preacher and then on to the listeners. Rather, God’s presence was manifest “through” His Word as the preacher expounded it to the listeners. Thus, the Doctor (rightly) placed preaching above all else in the church.
A humorous story is recounted by Iain Murray: “Everything else could go, and thus those activities particularly designed to attract the outsiders soon came to an end. The demise of the drama society posed a practical problem, namely, what to do with the wooden stage which occupied a part of the church hall? ‘You can heat the church with it,’” Lloyd-Jones told the Committee. He was unshakeable in this conviction: True believers will be drawn to true preaching.
Could it work today? Our churches are flailing. Clever gimmicks, marketing schemes, and entertainment that feed the appetites of carnal men are fast-replacing the pure exposition of Scripture. But, as my fellow pastor has written: “If it takes a circus to reach them, it takes a circus to keep them.”
I have a simpler strategy. When I came to our church, I chose the old path of biblical exposition. You know what I found? Our church started growing. I preached—line-by-line—through entire books of the Bible. The results were stunning: The church was cleansed by the washing of the water of the Word; true believers attracted to true preaching appeared out of nowhere; lost members and non-members became converted; and, now our church is healthy, thriving, and growing. It’s so simple: I preached and then went sleep at night. The Word did it all.
Expository is just what the Doctor ordered for today: Pastors who will preach, teach, and write God’s Word, and then go to sleep. The Word does it all. Ask Martin Luther: True believers will be drawn to true doctrine.