Sunday, June 07, 2009

Where have all the preachers gone?

A year ago, we spent a weekend in London and wondered where to worship. I couldn’t help reflecting on the situation 40 years earlier when people from all over the world came to London for a special Sunday – Lloyd-Jones in the morning, Stott in the evening (or vice versa). Where should we go?

There are many sound Biblical ministries in greater London. But where does the pastor on holiday go if he wants to hear a ministry that is shaping a generation? Where does the pastor of a small or medium church go if he wants – for a change – to be part of a large and enthusiastic congregation?

Greg Haslam now occupies the Lloyd-Jones pulpit at Westminster Chapel. By all accounts he’s a good preacher; but Westminster Chapel is now a small Pentecostal church (the description is from Geoff Thomas). We were staying very close to the Chapel; I might have been prepared to go but Elaine is very put off by charismatics. (Funny that; I’m the cessationist in the family!)

There’s the Met Tab, of course – Peter Masters coming to the end of a long and fruitful ministry there. But there seems to be more than a little of the Elijah spirit about him (‘I, I only, am left’) and we decided against that. So – where to go?

We settled for All Souls in the end, morning and evening. The incumbent – Hugh Palmer – was present but wasn’t preaching either time (Anglicans, eh?). In fact, it was a different preacher each time, both names I knew but men I hadn’t heard. Both times, we heard competent expositions – decent ‘Bible talks’. Not sure they were sermons, though – they never got to (what someone called) the ‘so-what hump’. If you went (as we did) already convinced that the Bible was God’s word and the sermon was important, they were easy to listen to – helpful, even. But not memorable; and for anyone who’d wandered in from the street, or been taken by a friend, there was no sense (as far as either of us could pick up) of ‘this is the most important thing you’ll ever hear in your life’; there was no sense of life or death about the message, no smell of eternity. We wouldn’t have gone back in the evening if the same preacher had been announced; and we wouldn’t have gone back, either, after hearing the second preacher.

What’s happened? There we are in one of the most influential cities in the whole world, a city that has seen some of the mightiest ministries in history – and we don’t know where to go. Where have all the preachers gone?

(Photo of London Skyline courtesty of


Jonathan Hunt said...

Had you got over your phobia of the preacher, you would have heard life and death preaching at the Met Tab, especially in the evening at the gospel service.

On your more general point, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that there is a serious problem with the idea that if the preacher explains the text well, he's preached. Preaching is not bible teaching alone, and I fear that the proclamation trust (not deliberately) so emphasises sound exegesis as to throttle the life out of ministry.

Mediate regeneration anyone?

Jonathan Hunt said...

I find some modern commentaries betray this lack of spiritual life and vitality, and you can easily finish a sound and worthy chapter and think 'yeah? so what? why should the people in my church get excited about that?'

Gary Benfold said...

Your comments are interesting, Jonathan, and I'd agree. Why not address the big issues here in - oh, I don't know - a blog post? You can change your mind, after all; you're not an English Muffin

Jonathan Hunt said...

Because I am willingly subject to very experienced mentors who think it a bad idea for the present.

Gary Benfold said...

Jonathan - subject to? Are these experienced mentors your husband? Your pastors? Is there anybody else Christians are to be subject to?
Seriously bro, respect your decision. Look forward to reading the new blogs.