Similarity No. 7:
The Gravity of the Message
Finally, Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur, as they have stood in their pulpits with an open Bible, have been gripped by the weightiness of their message. These are both no non-sense men, marked by sobriety, gravity, and dignity. These men are expositors, not entertainers. Lloyd-Jones was fond to say that the preacher must be as Richard Baxter once stated: “I preached as never sure to preach again and as a dying man to dying men.” As they have proclaimed the Word, the weightiness of their message has rested upon them. Such gravitas has made their preaching impactful upon their listeners.
The Weightiness of the Truth
Lloyd-Jones maintained that the preacher must be dominated by what he preaches: “A preacher must always convey the impression that he himself has been gripped by what he is saying. If he has not been gripped, nobody else will be…He must impress the people by the fact that he is taken up and absorbed by what he is doing. He is full of matter, and he is anxious to impart this.” Lloyd-Jones believed that the truth must sober the man of God: “The preacher must be a serious man; he must never give the impression that preaching is something light or superficial.” Such seriousness was certainly seen in Lloyd-Jones’ pulpit demeanor. Lloyd-Jones warns: “A preacher of necessity must give the impression that he is dealing with the most serious matter that men and women can ever consider together.” The preacher “should always create and convey the impression of the seriousness of what is happening the moment he even appears in the pulpit.” The preacher should reflect a sense of gravity in his countenance, tone, and delivery.
Lloyd-Jones also believed the preacher must never go to the other extreme: “Seriousness does not mean solemnity, does not mean sadness, does not mean morbidity.” The Doctor stressed that sobriety is never a license to be dour: “The preacher must never be dull, he must never be boring…With the grand theme and message of the Bible, dullness is impossible.” Expository preaching must never be mundane. Rather, he insists: “This is the most interesting, the most thrilling, the most absorbing subject in the universe; and the idea that this can be presented in a dull manner makes me seriously doubt whether the men who are guilty of this dullness have ever really understood the doctrine they claim to believe, and which they advocate.”
Bottomline, “I would say that a dull preacher is a contradiction in terms; if he is dull, he is not a preacher.” Simply put, a lackluster preacher is one who has never been gripped by the truth he proclaims. If he remains stoic, it is because the truth has not affected him.
Lloyd-Jones stresses: “A man who is not moved by these things, I maintain, has never really understood them. A man is not an intellect in a vacuum; he is a whole person. He has a heart as well as a head; and if his head truly understands, his heart will be moved.” Despondent over monotone preaching, Lloyd-Jones agonized: “Where is the passion in preaching that has always characterized great preaching in the past? Why are not modern preachers moved and carried away as the great preachers of the past so often were? The Truth has not changed. Do we believe it, have we been gripped and humbled by it, and then exalted until we are ‘lost in wonder love and praise?’” If the preacher is not on fire, the truth will never ignite the people.
A Mandate From God
In the same way, MacArthur embodies a similar gravity in preaching. Describing the passion that must be present in preaching, he urges: “Feel deeply about the truth you are to preach. Remember that expositors have a mandate from God to preach the truth and that eternal consequences hang in the balance. This mandate is not easy to obey, nor is it a light load to carry.” No one, after hearing MacArthur, would conclude that he is anything less than blood-earnest in his preaching. He adds: “Taking this charge seriously produces an inner compulsion to reach the pulpit better prepared than when leaving the study.” In other words, every preacher must feel the responsibility of his calling weighing heavily upon him. Without this inner sobriety, MacArthur concludes, there is no true preaching.
Tragically, MacArthur warns that many of today’s preachers “cater to the tastes of their audience—precisely what Paul warned against. They want to minister to people’s ‘felt needs.’ They are obsessed with being ‘relevant.’ They think too much doctrine, or too much Scripture, is a turn-off to the ‘unchurched’ people they want to reach.” Consequently, he notes: “They allow opinion polls to determine the content of their message. Their greatest fear is offending their hearers. This style of ministry is often labeled ‘seeker-sensitive’ or ‘user-friendly,’ but Scripture calls it ear-tickling.” This kind of lifeless rhetoric, MacArthur contends, lacks the necessary gravity of real preaching. Such shallowness that marks many contemporary pulpits defies the biblical mandate to proclaim the transcendent truth, “Thus says the Lord!”
To this end, MacArthur sounds this clear warning: “Evangelicals have lost their tolerance for bold, confrontative, biblical preaching. People have demanded to be entertained. Pastors, fearful of ‘turning people off,’ have acquiesced to public opinion. And now the church, on several fronts, is flirting with serious doctrinal error, unable to distinguish truth from falsehood. Having turned aside from the truth, they are susceptible to myths.” But to the contrary, MacArthur asserts that the man of God must be fearless in the pulpit: “The preacher of the Word must be bold, thorough, unrelenting, persevering in the face of hardship and opposition—and above all, fearless.” Sadly, he states, “This kind of sobriety is the polar opposite of the flaky, whimsical, superficial, celebrity-type televangelists who color the public perception of preachers today.” Thus, MacArthur earnestly pleads, “The faithful preacher should be well-rooted and grounded, steadfast, stable—rock-solid.” In short, if a man is to truly preach, a sobering sense of God must weigh heavily upon him. If there is to be biblical exposition, the preacher must first be gripped by the Word of God. Without question, MacArthur has ardently demonstrated this kind of awe-inspiring preaching to an entire generation.
Article written by Dr. Steve Lawson
Used with permission