Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Was Lloyd-Jones a Black Preacher?

Iain Murray records an interesting aspect to Lloyd-Jones' preaching. Or more accurately, the cultural context into which he began his preaching career. Apparently, among Welsh preachers of the day, there was the accepted and revered practice of preaching with "the hwyl." Murray explains, in the words of a newspaper of the time, that "the hwyl" was a "combination of ecstatic emotion and of musical intonation which has held vast congregations absolutely spellbound with its mesmeric effect." That same writer declared that "the hwyl" was "the distinctive and exclusive characteristic of Welsh preaching."

Many African-Americans will note that "the 'hoop" is the distinctive and exclusive characteristic of many an African-American pulpit. So distinctive and exclusive is "the 'hoop" that preaching and 'hooping are almost synonymous; one can't preach if they can't 'hoop. The expectation for Lloyd-Jones as he began his career, and for many African-Americans preachers, is that they would pay homage to this preaching style.

I pray that Lloyd-Jones' attitude would come to characterize more and more African-American handlers of the Word of God. Murray tells us that "Dr. Lloyd-Jones viewed it as an artificial contrivance to secure effect, just as he did the multitude of illustrations and anecdotes which the preachers had taught the people to expect. In contrast to this, his sermons were closely reasoned, with the main theme carefully analyzed. He was certain that true preaching makes its impact, in the first instance, upon the mind."

Yet Lloyd-Jones was not merely an intellectual preacher. He intended from the onset to engage the "average man" and to preach with unction. In his own words, Lloyd-Jones describes his basic approach:

I am not and have never been a typical Welsh preacher. I felt that in preaching the first thing that you had to do was to demonstrate to the people that what you were going to do was very relevant and urgently important. The Welsh style of preaching started with a verse and the preacher then told you the connection and analysed the words, but the man of the world did not know what he was talking about and was not interested. I started with the man whom I wanted to listen, the patient. It was a medical approach really--here is a patient, a person in trouble, an ignorant man who has been to quacks, and so I deal with all that in the introduction. I wanted to get the listener and then come to my exposition. They started with their exposition and ended with a bit of application.

While we don't need imitators of Lloyd-Jones, we do need more men who think carefully about their approach in the pulpit. What are we doing there? Who are we speaking for, and who are we speaking to? And for what effect?


LouLove said...

"I started with the patient, a person in trouble, an ignorant man who has been to quacks...."

That little statement is worth pondering.

Jeff Lash said...

This makes good sense. I am constantly challenges with the fact that I need to thoughtful in my sermon construction as well as my exegesis and study. I would be interested to know how you order or construct your sermons.

Brian Roden said...

Sounds a little like an earlier version of Andy Stanley's Me-You-God-You-We presented in Communicating for a Change

Anonymous said...


A while ago I read both volumes of Murray's biography on Lloyd Jones - when I did I remember reading a quote from Lloyd Jones of how the church (in the UK) had never been sucessful in reaching the working class - if you come across the quote, could you post it ? I have tried to find it since but have been unsuccessful. They are massive books. Thanks ...

Concerning the similarity of (old school) black churches and welsh churches ... having worshipped in both .. you are spot on ... and the similarities in the cultures don't stop there either ...


Anonymous said...

I have always thoroughly enjoyed Dr Jones, method of preaching.

One of the best books a preacher can ascertain, is "preaching for preacher" by Jones.

He was earnest, disciplined, and most of times, thoroughly expository.

This always promises blessing. Because it required the prerequisite of both labor in the word to be ready to expound your subject,

But it also, trains the congregation, to think, to meditate, and to deeply consider, the urgency of the subject,
( this is the true transformational experience, to see Christ, via an illumination of the Word of God, by His Spirit)

without being manipuated by this vain practice, of pagan technics seen so much in the African American Church.

I have come to believe,that when the preachers, go into their rant, that the people subconsciously, shut down, and go into their," We are on our way to eat some chicken" exit protocal.

There are a number of things, the doctor was graced by God, not to follow , that proved themselves to be great stumblings in the Church, world wide.

By Grace, Alone

Anonymous said...

Bro Thabiti,

thanks for your constant edifying and thought provoking posts and giving us rich thoughts and faithful men to glean from regarding pastoral ministry.

pray ministry is going well.

Jude 2,


p.s. this note is to let you know I'm still alive (and reading) in case you wondered! :-)