I came to know about Martyn Llyod-Jones (from here on out, ML-J) from a good friend of mine a few years ago. In 2012, the ML-J Trust released thousands of sermons previously known only to ML-J’ family to the public. I remember on one of the first days of the release, you were only able to download 10 sermons a day. I began to download and listen to ML-J exposit the book of Romans, and was hooked on everything he produced from sermons to books. Ever since then, I have had a great respect for this man, and I picked up Iain Murray’s biography of ML-J to know more about the man whom I had listened to for so long.
I really like Iain Murray; I read his biography on John MacArthur last year, and I currently own his biography on Jonathan Edwards (which I am anxious to start). Murray does not simply tell the story of whomever he is writing about, he speaks volumes about their theological convictions in a way only a Christian can articulate. For example, a secular biographer on Jonathan Edwards may write about his life, but he will never understand him in the same way a Christian will: a man who sought to glorify God with all his being. This is how I feel about Murray’s approach to ML-J.
I won’t go as far to tell his story, but will rather give some points about ML-J’s life that really made me think. First (and perhaps most important), the condition of England in the 1930’s-1950’s when ML-J was first beginning to preach was similar to the current state of American Evangelicalism. People were leaving the church in droves, secularization was taking over and God was put to the side in favor of atheism, agnosticism and eastern spirituality. Many churches during this time were trying to “win” the favor of the crowds by staging dramas during church, dances, and other events that garnered to popular culture and what we know of as the “seeker sensitive” church. ML-J, when he took over Westminster Chapel in the 1940’s, did not approach church this way. In fact, just the opposite. He believed that church was for the building up of the saints through teaching and that’s exactly what he did. There was no pomp, no fancy lights, no coffee shop, no gimmicks: he simply preached the word of God. And amazingly, he saw the population of the church grow from around 400 in the 1940’s to over 2000 by the 1950’s-60’s. He preached for 45 minutes to an hour, had no jokes in the sermon, sang hymns for worship (there was no worship pastor and if they sang them hollow or did not focus on the words he would scold the congregation), and still attracted thousands that give testament to his style. We Evangelicals should take note of this.
Second, there is a movie out now called “Logic on Fire” about ML-J’s life. That phrase speaks to how ML-J approached a sermon; by reason. Much like the Apostle Paul, ML-J can take you systematically through a structured plan that starts at A and ends at D, explaining how he got there through B and C. This is typified particularly when you listen to his sermons (which I highly recommend). Some attribute this to his early medical training where one had to be very thorough and make observations in a logical way.
Third, it is amazing to me that a man who has impacted so many had no formal theological training. This is proof that God can use anyone for His purposes.
There is probably more that I could say, but I will let you pick up the book. I would say that this is one of the most important books I have ever read, in the ecclesiastical sense anyway because it gives credence to what I have always thought a successful church looks like. ML-J had a desire to glorify God and did so by doing what His word commanded: preach to word. That is all he did and I believe it is that simple for us today. Church is not about having an awesome band, fancy lights, a big building or anything like that. It’s about feeding men and women the raw, unadulterated word of God. I highly recommend this book.