My image of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones comes from the cover of one of his old books. He stands in the pulpit, robed, with a solemn stare that says that he means business. I picture a dour old man.
My image isn’t fair. To be sure, Lloyd-Jones took God and pastoral ministry seriously. But Lloyd-Jones also knew joy in ministry. Few men have influenced me more. I know a few people who knew him personally.
I think of Lloyd-Jones often, particularly as I travel to two places where he spent some time in Toronto: Saint Luke’s United Church, and Knox College.
Saint Luke’s United Church
Saint Luke’s is an affirming church on the northeast corner of Allan Gardens in Toronto. They preach a “a loving, inclusive God.”
In 1932, Lloyd-Jones spent 9 weeks in the summer preaching at this church when it was called Sherbourne Street United Church. The minister was not evangelical, but had heard of Lloyd-Jones and invited him to speak during the “dead months” of the summer. The congregation grew so much during his ministry that people sat on the stairs to the pulpit, and “special police were sent to control the traffic.” One news report stated, “Dr. Lloyd-Jones has taken the city by storm.”
Lloyd-Jones announced that he would assume on Sunday mornings that he was talking to believers, and would assume on Sunday evenings that he was speaking to unbelievers. Shaking hands at the door as people left, the minister pointed out an important member, one of the wealthiest members of the congregation. She indicated she would return that evening, and he later found out that she was not happy with her spiritual state. Lloyd-Jones sensed that the minister must have regretted inviting him to occupy his pulpit for the disruption it caused.
I think of Lloyd-Jones when I pass by this church. His ministry that summer reminds me of Acts 17:6: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” I pray, “Lord, do it again.”
While in Toronto, Lloyd-Jones lived at 74 Saint George Street, steps away from Knox College. He’d already heard about the works of B.B. Warfield from a review in The British Weekly. One day, in the library of Knox College, he stumbled upon the works, and it changed him. He compared his feelings to those of “stout Cortez” when he first saw the Pacific. He devoured the volumes for days.
“He not only asserted the Reformed faith; he at the same time demonstrated its superiority over all other systems.” He later wrote, “No theological writings are so intellectually satisfying and so strengthening to faith as those of Warfield.”
I thought of Lloyd-Jones as I browsed the stacks of the Knox library last year. In God’s providence, Lloyd-Jones came across books in that space while in his early thirties that marked the rest of his ministry. I pictured him sitting at a desk, absorbing rich truths that shaped him and his ministry. I felt like I was standing on holy ground.
Those were different days, but I can’t help but think of Lloyd-Jones sometimes as I trace his footprints on the streets of the city where I live. And I pray that God would move just as powerfully to raise up preachers like him, and to shake up this city and country with the gospel. Lord, please do it again.