Who should preach and how to prepare

9 Mar 2023

Book Review: Preaching and Preachers. Part 2.

Martin Lloyd-Jones in Preaching and Preachers spends some time discussing the preacher. This calling to be a preacher is not something to be taken lightly; there are prerequisites needed to be eligible to take this calling. 

Lloyd-Jones argues that a preacher is someone who feels unworthy of the task; he must dedicate his whole being to it and cannot be satisfied with keeping it a side job. He must have a strong grasp of the truth (p.109), possess a spirit-filled character (p.110), be skilled in conversation, and be of good intellect (p.115). Yet, the most essential qualification is “the preacher is primarily a speaker (p.111).”

One noteworthy qualification is Lloyd-Jones’ belief that the preacher should be committed to his ministry. He takes the same view as Charles Spurgeon:

“if you can do anything else do it… the only man who is called to preach is the man who cannot do anything else, in the sense that he is not satisfied with anything else. p.105” 

While it is important that before a preacher enters the ministry he feels a strong calling in his heart, [1] Lloyd-Jones overstates the necessity of a seminary student’s internal call. This standard should not be applied to all those training for the ministry, after all, the desire to be a preacher is something that one may initially have, but then grow into as he gains confidence. Thus, Lloyd-Jones goes too far when he writes “I have always felt when someone has come to me and told me that he has been called to be a preacher that my main business is to put every conceivable obstacle that I can think of in his way. (p.108)”

On the contrary, we can learn from the famous example of John Knox who did not consider himself to have a call, and was reprimanded and exhorted publicly by John Rough. D. Macleod discussing this story particularly, helpfully writes, “the absence of desire is not in itself decisive. Some men are truly called who, to begin with, shrink back with horror from the very idea.”[2]

This brings Lloyd-Jones to a discussion on how one ought to prepare to become a preacher. In short, Lloyd-Jones believes that a good student must have good Bible knowledge, grasp the original biblical languages, be versed in church history, and regularly listen to good preachers. Many of these skills are vital to the life of an established minister, and thus, even the experienced preacher must continue to grow in these areas. 

In the training for the ministry, there is a position that Lloyd-Jones holds that is worthy of discussion. Regarding the discipline of homiletics, that is the field of study concerning teaching 'how to preach', Lloyd Jones claims that homiletics is “almost an abomination (p.118),” and its books are “prostitution,” and thus, should be “thrown in to the fire as soon as possible (p.119).”

While this is an overstatement, his position contains wisdom to be gleaned. His reasoning is that practicing preaching distracts one from listening to a sermon in “a spirit of reverence and godly expectation (p.119).” This offers a healthy warning against professionalism in church and seminaries today; something that Lloyd-Jones speaks about in great detail. 

It’s not that homiletics itself is bad; preaching skill needs to be developed. Lloyd-Jones agrees with this when he advocates that students read sermons of experienced preachers. We must not abandon homiletics altogether. But when homiletics becomes, streamlined, cold, and professional, and causes us to treat sermons in an analytical manner (not taking to heart the truth revealed in his Word), the discipline is no longer healthy.

In conclusion, Martin Lloyd Jones offers some valuable criteria in which to judge those aspiring to the ministry. He does, however, overstep with his graphic rejection of Homiletics. Nevertheless, there remains a healthy warning for seminaries and churches; that the word of God ought always to be received with a godly reverence and awe (Heb 12:29).


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