More than a hundred people gathered at the end of September at the John Owen Centre at London Theological Seminary in Finchley, North London. They were present for the annual Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones memorial lecture.
The chairman was director of the centre, Dr Garry Williams. This year’s lecturer was Dr Stuart Olyott, who tackled the important subject of ‘Preaching that gets through’.
Having expressed his appreciation of the ministry of Dr Lloyd-Jones, Mr Olyott proceeded with a rhetorical tour-de-force that pointed up both the importance of rhetoric and unction.
He reminded us of the essential characteristics of effective speech set out by Aristotle – ethos, pathos and logos; that is, ethical, emotional and logical appeal. These are all in the preaching of Paul and other New Testament leaders. However, Paul also emphasised an extra thing – dunamis, or spiritual power.
Back in the 17th century John Livingstone said, ‘There is sometimes somewhat in preaching that cannot be ascribed either to the matter or expression, and cannot be described what it is or from whence it cometh, but with a sweet violence it pierceth into the heart and affections, and comes immediately from the Lord. But if there be any way to attain to any such thing, it is by a heavenly disposition of the speaker’.
The argument then was not only for good rhetoric but also for unction, which is too often dismissed as merely mystical, yet is essential.
It is to be hoped that the many preachers and others present will have been greatly helped and challenged and stirred to pray for such men. Next year’s lecturer will be Professor Michael Haykin.