The early preaching of Lloyd-Jones to the numerically and psychologically decimated congregation of Westminster Chapel is an example of what it means to make a certain sound in our ministry at an hour of great national need. From a pastoral perspective Lloyd-Jones understood that the hearts of people needed solace and comfort, and so he preached consolingly to those under the sound of his voice, understanding his call to help hurting hearts, as well as to break hard hearts.
How are we to answer the exigencies and anxieties of the hour? What tone of voice and approach should we assume when the world is crying out for answers? What dangers lie in uncertain speech, in mumbled sounds, as men and women hunger and thirst to know true reality? During this week I have been posting (here and here) on the danger of not articulating the gospel clearly, and not understanding the gospel lucidly, at a moment when so many of life’s props and stays are being taken away from those around us. I have been tracing some of the reasons for our hesitancy to answer openly, and suggesting that certainty in our theology (specifically a systematic understanding of God and our world) will lead to greater purchase in our ministry.
In this final post I want to hold up Martyn Lloyd-Jones as an example of how a refusal to accept the softening influences of society on the gospel, and a fundamental understanding of basic theology, combined to make him a powerful and prophetic voice when the world was coming apart at the seams. By focussing on his ministry during the Second World War we can understand something of his practice and its relevance for how we preach to our world during and after the Covid 19 crisis.
A man and a ministry on the brink
As the Second World War dawned Martyn Lloyd-Jones found himself in a precarious position personally and pastorally. As a recent addition to Westminster Chapel, the financial hardship which the war was bringing meant that the sustainability of his role was thoroughly uncertain. Offerings at the chapel, although initially sustained, soon began to ebb and the concept of either Lloyd-Jones or Campbell Morgan (the senior minister) being released from their positions was a reality. Added to this was Lloyd-Jones’ separation from his family, who had remained in the Wales during the early part of the war. The German aerial bombardment of London even led to disruption of the chapel’s services, with an air raid warning sign often cutting the preaching short. The numbers in the congregation had been drastically reduced, and some of the theological weaknesses among those who remained were now more evident with the cover of a large church gathering removed.