What exactly is Preaching? 

4 Mar 2023

Book Review: Preaching and Preachers. Part 1.

Martin Lloyd-Jones in Preaching and Preachers, opens his book by answering the vital question: what is preaching? He writes “Any true definition of preaching must say that that man is there to deliver the message of God, a message from God to those people (p.53)." The delivery of this message has two main aspects.

First, there is the sermon which constitutes the content of preaching. The sermon is distinct from all other literature. Lloyd-Jones argues that preaching is not: a news bulletin, a series of topical comments, a book review, a moral essay, or psychological advice, nor is it a philosophical thesis or speculation. Instead, preaching contains a distinct message given by God to be proclaimed by the preacher.

This unique character of the sermon ought to be remembered. Essays are not evangelistic; they do not proclaim repentance toward God and call men to trust in Jesus. The sermon is the one medium where the gospel can be proclaimed; let us use this opportunity!

In second place, there is the delivery which is the very act of preaching itself. He explains this by the way of listing the attributes of proper delivery. Preaching, Lloyd-Jones argues, should be delivered in an authoritative manner. There should be an element of freedom. There should be a two-way exchange with the people where the preacher connects with his hearers. The preacher should be lively, yet at the same time, preaching should be conducted with seriousness, to reflect that he is delivering a message from God himself. The preacher should always firmly believe what he is saying; that is, he should be convinced of his message and emotionally invested. Preaching should be done with urgency, be persuasive, and be full of power.

As a student at a reformed seminary, I have noticed that there are two things on this list that often separate beginning preachers from those more experienced. Beginning preachers, due to a lack of confidence, which is completely understandable, often do not preach with an air of authority. I think that it is important for beginners to view the sermon in the way that Lloyd-Jones does, as containing the authority of God himself. When a preacher is fully convinced in his own mind that he is not just offering tentative suggestions for Christ, his preaching becomes powerful and persuasive. 

Another thing that beginning Seminary students can forget is that they are allowed to be emotionally invested in their message. Yes, this can make criticism hurt more, yet it will also hurt in real ministry. If we do not preach with passion now, when will we? While emotion in preaching varies from personality to personality, I do consider the culture, where emotion in men is considered unsavory, to also influence young preachers. If one has been changed by the message he has prepared, we ought not suppress this reality but proclaim God’s Word with our mind and heart.

The portrait which Lloyd-Jones paints of preaching is finalized by a reminder that the act of preaching must be paired with the sermon in order to qualify as true preaching. In doing so Lloyd-Jones delivers his famous line where he compares the relationship between the sermon and delivery, to light and heat: “light without heat never affects anybody; heat without light is of no permanent value.” (p.97)

In sum, Lloyd Jones offers a helpful way to think about preaching, that is, in terms of content and delivery. His insights, with respect to proper delivery, should be noted by anyone aspiring to the ministry.


Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Preaching and Preachers. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1972.