The Liturgy of Lloyd-Jones

D-Martyn-Lloyd-JonesRecently at 9Marks, Mark Dever interviewed Iain Murray regarding Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. If it was listed in the New Testament, I would say facilitating interviews or panel discussion is one of Dever’s spiritual gifts. This was an enjoyable discussion with Murray, especially on DMLJ, whose Trust you should make sure to visit so you can get all their terrific resources.

When I think about Lloyd-Jones, I think about preaching. But I don’t often think about the other ministerial necessities that go along with the sermon. And so it was with interest that I listened to Murray relay the details of an order of service during Lloyd-Jones’ ministry at Westminster Chapel.

“The Sunday morning service would always start with the unannouced Doxology… not, ‘let’s stand and sing the doxology,’ but the organ was playing, and then the people would stand and sing “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.'” So the order, Murray related, went something like this:

Hymn of Praise
Opening Prayer
Reading of God’s Word
Second Hymn
Pastoral Prayer
Brief Congregational Announcements
Third Hymn
Closing Hymn

A few notes. First, the “reading of God’s Word” was not the text from which the sermon was taken, but another portion of Scripture (no mention if that was lectio continua or not). The announcements were usually done by Alfred Marsh or another officer of the church, but not Lloyd-Jones. These announcements were terribly sparse (usually reminding the congregation of the evening service or the Friday evangelistic service). With the Doxology, the congregation sang five times, entered into prayer three times, heard Scripture read twice, and the sermon had the most time given to it.

The Sunday evening service is not clearly discussed, but Murray points out that Lloyd-Jones’ sermon was often longer in the evening, evangelistic, and he “would warmly encourage anyone to come and see him.” This invitation was for an opportunity to spiritual counsel with Lloyd-Jones. (Murray suggests that these ‘office hours’ and the sermon were his primary means of counseling.) “He would just wait until he had seen everybody” who had wanted to counsel with him. Also, it appears that the evening sermon was actually longer.

The whole interview is – in true Mark Dever fashion – worth listening to, but the relevant portion begins at the 58:18 mark.

A few brief observations:

  1. The simplicity of the liturgy.
    Call to Worship? Nope. Law and Gospel, with assurance of forgiveness? No thank you. Collecting of tithes? We’ve got deacons to see to that. There’s no worrying about the Fifth Sunday in Eventide here. If the electricity goes out, or a musician is sick, no worries! The service is very simple (though I doubt simplistic).
  2. The prominence of the sermon.
    Everything is geared toward the preaching. In fact, without the sermon, you’re left with a hymn sing. There was no mistaking the high point/climax of the service, nor the endpoint/telos of where the service was going to.
  3. The limits on the preacher.
    Having a simple liturgy forced DMLJ to limit any work on the order of service and employ his energies in the sermon itself. Lloyd-Jones did not have any room to be creative with the liturgy or the worship service. He was known as a preacher because that was the only place he could be known. You wouldn’t walk away from a service at Westminster Chapel marveling at the intricate manner in which the liturgy fit together, or saying to your friend, “Didn’t you really feel the Holy Spirit drop on the fourth hymn?”

What stands out to you – as either strengths or weaknesses – of Lloyd-Jones’ liturgy?

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