Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Other Satisfying Read

I posted recently about 2 satisfying reads, except that it turned out to be a post about one of the books.

The other book which I thoroughly enjoyed was a biography by Iain Murray entitled, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years 1899-1939. I have the second volume, and I am looking forward to reading that in the near future.

I first heard of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in college, and while I was in college I picked up a massive work of his on the Sermon on the Mount. It is a sermon series of his in print, and what I have read from it is fantastic. Also I picked up another collection of sermons of his on Psalm 73. It was a psalm I did a couple of papers on in college as well as a sermon, and I thought I could profit from his insight. Indeed I did!

I recently listened to an interview with R. Kent Hughes about books to read. He recommended a couple by J. I. Packer, Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards, and Lloyd-Jones' Sermon on the Mount, the last one being a great understanding of the Christian faith.

Aside from all that, I didn't know much about Lloyd-Jones, but I picked up the 2-volume set from amazon.com. (I enjoy biographies of great Christians, particularly of missionaries and preachers.)

If I were to compile a list of recommended reading for pastors new to ministry, this bio would be on the list. Why? Well, to answer this you'll have to bear with a little personal background.

When I entered pastoral ministry, I soon realized there were various pictures of pastoral ministry to contend with. The congregation has a picture of what they think a pastor is. There's also a general American portrait of a pastor, or a cultural picture of what a pastor does. Of course there was my own picture, too, drawn to a great degree from what I had observed growing up and in my reading, etc. But I was soon aware that my own picture of pastoral ministry might not be entirely biblical; thus would I being doing things as a pastor that the Bible didn't call for, and I would not being doing some things the Bible did call for.

Thus began for me a quiet quest to understand the biblical view of pastoring and to have my pastoral ministry conform more and more to that. This bio of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is a most helpful tool in that quest. To me it clarifies many issues related to preaching and pastoring, and cuts through the fog of layers of expectations, biblical and unbiblical, placed on pastors.

I found this bio inspiring, both as a Christian and as a pastor. The witness of this book strengthened my faith in God, in the power of the Bible as the Word of God, and in the power of biblical preaching as a tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

Here are some specific topics I found helpful/interesting/gratifying, and I think other pastors/preachers would, too:

The call to ministry. The book discusses both the call of Lloyd-Jones to ministry and Lloyd-Jones' teaching on the call to ministry. (Lloyd-Jones was a prestigious medical physician in England when he felt the call to ministry; many could not fathom why he would give that up.)

Revival. Chapter 10, "Revival," may have been the most riveting, eye-opening, informative chapter for me personally. The chapter narrates the revival at Lloyd-Jones' first church under his ministry in 1931; it also delivers much of Lloyd-Jones' understanding of what revival is and isn't as well as how pastors should and should not minister in the normal seasons of the church and in seasons of revival. The whole concept of revival to me has been little more than a foggy notion of which I could pinpoint few particulars. This chapter made great sense out of it all.

Evangelism and the ministry of the church. When Lloyd-Jones went to Sandfields in Aberavon, Wales, his first church, he dispensed with all the outreach programs of the church. He focused in on the traditional activities of the church: the preaching services, the prayer meeting, Bible study, and men's fellowship. The goal was to save and disciple the congregation. When the church was being the church, living out the life of fellowship in Christ, others would be drawn in.

Study time. Despite the demands of ministry, he devoted portions of his day to private study of the word as well as to reading. When on vacation, he would devote mornings to reading.

Church life. A rather detailed picture of "family life" at Sandfields is given as the church family grew to resemble more and more the one another commands of Scripture. Fascinating stories of conversion and discipleship; some failures are depicted as well.

Additionally, extended quotations from Lloyd-Jones' sermons are included, which in themselves are a wealth of wisdom.

I think you should read the book for yourself.

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