Preaching While the Bombs Fell

Just a few blocks from Buckingham Palace and a short walk from Big Ben and Westminster Abbey is a building which has been used to influence London and the world greatly.

Westminster Chapel, pastored by G. Campbell Morgan and then by Martyn Lloyd-Jones has served as a light to the city of London and to the UK for over 150 years.

wp-1481067470723.jpgwp-1481067470728.jpg

It was G. Campbell Morgan who invited Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who had studied to be a medical doctor rather than a minister, to come and serve with him and be his successor at Westminster Chapel.

Lloyd-Jones was from Wales, and had been serving at a small village church there. At the time, doctors were considered the true heroes of society, whereas Christianity was already in steep decline in Britain. To give up a career in medicine to pastor a small church was considered a fools errand by many, but Ll0yd-Jones’ decision to become a pastor rather than work as a medical doctor had been aided by something he had witnessed from one of his mentors as he was studying to be a doctor:

He witnessed a doctor who was at the top of his field, the most respected position in that society, who supposedly “had it all” – and yet he had fallen into despondency, hopelessness and depression because of a failed marriage. Having witnessed this, Lloyd-Jones would later say, helped him to decide that he wanted to help people in a way that went beyond just caring for their physical bodies, he wanted to be a doctor for the soul.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones became the pastor of Westminster Chapel in 1939, right before the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. The people of Great Britain knew what was coming: they had seen the aggressiveness of the German military, the how the Luftwaffe had no qualms about bombing highly populated areas. They knew that soon the war would probably come to London, and they were right.

In 1939, Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached a series of sermons which prepared his people for the war. He told them that whether the German bombs killed them or not, they should be prepared to stand before God, and he urged them to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ as their hope.

Throughout the war, as people evacuated London, Martyn Lloyd-Jones continued to preach to those who gathered at Westminster Chapel. On one occasion, a bomb fell only a few yards from the church during a service, causing the plaster from the roof to fall on the heads of the congregation. When the bomb hit, Lloyd-Jones was praying. He paused for a moment, and then finished his prayer, and went on to preach his entire sermon.

Theologian J.I. Packer sat under Lloyd-Jones’ ministry and called him “the greatest man I ever knew – not just brilliant, but wise.”

Westminster Chapel continues its ministry in its efforts to be “a prophetic voice to London, the UK and the nations.” Their website here.

A documentary was made about Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ life and ministry a few years ago called Logic on Fire. Here’s the trailer for it:

Thoughts on “Unbroken” and the Power of the Gospel

On my recent road trip to Minnesota, my friend lent me an audio book of Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.

I listened to about half of the book while driving, and when I got home I purchased a copy of it because I wanted to know how it ended. I had heard that Louie Zamperini had became a Christian, and was curious to hear how that would be depicted in the book. I had also heard that the movie about the book hadn’t been such a big box office hit as was expected, partly because of the brutality of the depiction of Zamperini’s time as a POW in Japan.

I found the book incredible, and was moved to tears at the account of Zamperini’s conversion and how his heart and his life were transformed by the Gospel. It seemed that everything that had happened until that point – all of the brutality, all of the providence – had been building up to the radical redemption that God worked in his life.

Zamp became a man who was so changed by the Gospel that he was willing to forgive his abusers and was set free from addiction to love his family and work to see other broken people redeemed.

The title of the book has an intentional dual meaning: He was unbroken in the sense that he had survived intensely trying and difficult experiences – and he was un-broken in the sense that his brokenness was healed and he was restored by the power of the Gospel.

I’m not sure if I want to see the movie now after having read the book… I can’t imagine how they could fit into a relatively short film all of the aspects of Zamperini’s life and conversion that were so important to the story.

Here is a quote from the book I found particularly insightful from the period of Louie’s brokenness, before he received the Gospel:

The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent on those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only from making their tormentors suffer. In seeking [his tormentor]’s death, Louie had chained himself once again to his tyrant.

All he had left was his alcohol and his resentment, the emotion that, Jean Améry would write, “nails every one of us onto the cross of his ruined past”.