I ran across the 40th Anniversary Edition of Preaching & Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones last week. The classic text has been reprinted with commemorative essays by Mark Dever, Tim Keller, John Piper, Bryan Chapell, Ligon Duncan and a few others.
I first read this book when I was 23 and just starting seminary. Even though I began public speaking/preaching/teaching (at churches/diocese) at 19 the content of Lloyd-Jones’ book was, obviously, mostly theory at that point in my life. Now, 25 years after my first (and only) read of the book, I’m reading this Anniversary Edition with much more appreciative eyes.
Lloyd-Jones sets out in his opening chapter to address the devaluation of preaching. He begins with this:
I would not hesitate to put in the first position: the loss of belief in the authority of the Scriptures, and diminution in the belief of the Truth. I put this first because I am sure it is the main factor. If you have not got authority, you cannot speak well, you cannot preach. Great preaching always depends upon great themes. Great themes always produce great speaking in any realm, and this is particularly true, of course, in the realm of the Church. While man believed in the Scriptures as the authoritative word of God and spoke on the basis of that authority you had great preaching. But once that went, and men began to speculate, into theorize, and to put up hypotheses and so on, the eloquence and the greatness of the spoken word in inevitably declined and began to wane. You cannot really deal with speculations and conjectures in the same way as preaching had formerly dealt with the great themes of Scriptures. But as belief in the great doctrines of the Bible began to go out, and sermons are replaced by ethical addresses and homilies, and moral uplift and socio-political talk, it is not surprising that preaching declined.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, p. 21
It’s well worth your time to obtain a copy of the book – especially if you’re a preacher, even more so if you’re an Episcopalian/Anglican since so much of our preaching is lamentable (observationally, we’ve abdicated the primacy of the pulpit, and the teaching role of the sermon, to the Prayer Book and liturgy).