13 Jul 2011 by Tim Keller
When I first came to New York City in the late 1980s, I realized that I had not come to a normal part of the United States. I remember reading at the time a brief religious comparison of Manhattan and the rest of the country. 30% of Manhattan residents said they had “no religious preference” compared with (at the time) 6% of U.S. residents. 5% of Manhattanites attended any Protestant church at all, compared with 25% of Americans. I realized that New York City was, religiously and culturally, more like secular and very post-Christian Europe. So I began to search for preaching ideas from the great preachers I knew who had labored in London.
One, of course, was D.M. Lloyd-Jones, and so I re-read his book Preaching and Preachers (which was a new volume when got to seminary.) In addition I listened to scores (eventually hundreds, I think) of his sermon recordings. Particularly I was fascinated with his evening sermons, which he designed to be evangelistic. In the morning, his main purpose was to edify the saints, to speak to his congregation and (as he put it) address their heart issues from the Bible. In the evening, however, he had the non-believer particularly in view. Until that time, like many others I had been mainly acquainted with his published Romans series, but those were preached on Friday nights and were, in his mind, more ‘instructional’ and more like lectures. Very different was his Sunday preaching. When I began to listen to his Sunday messages and especially compare the morning and the evening, it was something of an epiphany.
What was so striking to me as I listened to the recordings was how similar the morning and evening sermons were. The evening sermons, yes, usually had a more direct appeal to people to come to Christ and believe the gospel, but the sermons were richly theological and expository, and quite often from the Old Testament. On the other hand, the morning sermons, yes, generally assumed a bit more knowledge of Christianity, but they always got back to sin and grace and Christ, the gospel. Yet they too were expository and rich. It was most interesting that Lloyd-Jones insisted and urged that all his members come to both. While the evening service was ideal for bringing a non-believing friend, he wanted the professing Christians there regularly also for their own good. Nor was he concerned when non-believers showed up regularly at the morning services. In fact, he said, “We must be careful not to be guilty of too rigid a classification of people saying, ‘These are Christians, therefore….’ [or] ‘Yes, we became Christians as the result of a decision we took at an evangelistic meeting and now, seeing that we are Christians, all we need is teaching and edification.’ I contest that very strongly…” (p.151)
The lesson I eventually learned from him was—don’t preach to your congregation for spiritual growth thinking everyone there is a Christian—and don’t preach the gospel evangelistically thinking that Christians cannot grow from it. In other words—evangelize as you edify, and edify as you evangelize. These are two different by intimately related ideas, and we will tackle one in each of the next two posts.