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In 1932 Martyn Lloyd-Jones spent the summer preaching in Toronto.  One day he had lunch with T. T. Shields, a prominent pastor in town known for his public critique of theological liberalism.  At one point Shields asked Lloyd-Jones if he read a certain author who shared that passion.  Wisely, Lloyd-Jones’ answer was no.

TTS:  Why?

MLJ:  I get nothing from him.

TTS:  Man, what’s the matter with you?

MLJ:  Well, it’s all very well to make these criticisms of the liberals, but he doesn’t help me spiritually.

TTS:  Surely you are helped by the way he makes mincemeat of the liberals.

MLJ:  No, I am not.  You can make mincemeat of the liberals and still be in trouble in your own soul.

Lloyd-Jones appealed to Shields to aim at winning people who had drifted from the gospel.  As the conversation went on, Shields was genuinely touched and seemed open to recalibrating his ministry in a less censorious and more pastoral way.  Commendably, he told Lloyd-Jones that he would call a meeting of his church’s leaders the next night, explain this conversation with Lloyd-Jones, and follow whatever their conclusion might be.  And he did so.  But his leaders told him to disregard Lloyd-Jones’ counsel.

Unimaginable loss.

Narrated in Iain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years, 1899-1939 (Edinburgh, 2008), pages 271-273.

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10 thoughts on “Censorious or pastoral?”

  1. Steve D says:

    I love this article. Thank you! Many of us who are more doctrinal in our thinking tend to be censorious, and the Doctor has reminded us of the error of our ways.

  2. JB says:

    This is not an either/or proposition. You don’t have to disregard apologetics in pursuit of personal holiness.

  3. Eugen Olsen says:

    Is this the same TT Shields that so damaged Tom Carson’s (DA Carson’s) ministry? I remember the devastating chapter dealing with the outright betrayal and dictator-like behavior of Shields that deprived Carson of funds that had been raised particularly for his ministry…

    There is a way that the excitements of Christianity – that pretty much appeal to our base desire for some entertainment – like slander, controversy, the fall of a leader, conspiracy theories, etc – that I’ve found to consume and bewitch believers, all under the guise of “at least I’m on the right side of this firestorm”. Beware, beware…

    1. Ray Ortlund says:

      Good question. I don’t know. I haven’t read that book.

      Personally, by the way, rather than categorize this as “the excitements of Christianity,” I categorize such things as “the excitements of the flesh, having nothing to do with Christianity.” I understand your point, and I agree with it strongly. But I am eager to preserve this distinction.

      Thanks for your great comment.

      1. Eugen Olsen says:

        Thanks Ray… You’re right, I meant to say “excitements IN Christian circles” that distract from the central mission of the church. And I double-checked, this is the same TT Shields who hurt Tom Carson. I’ve witnessed this kind of back-biting in ministry and it is often the result of those in power who have lost sight of their mission – as Paul said, “…you aught to regard us (your leaders) as slaves of the mysteries of God…” – and get caught up in these various excitements, from power-struggles, to silly controversy, and an unwillingness to be humble and repent.

        Lloyd-Jones brought a wonderful simple exposition to preaching that translated well into his life and ministry. Thanks for article. A great reminder to a subtle but often all-consuming problem in our churches.

        God bless!

  4. Eugen – yes this is the same TT Shields. He served as pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist from 1910-1955. Tom Carson, Don’s father, so graciously handled this mistreatment.
    May those of us who speak so much of grace give great evidence of God’s grace.

  5. susanjholm says:

    Not making mincemeat of liberals clearly reveals trouble in your own soul.

    1. Tim Filston says:

      Thank you for keeping grace together with truth, Ray. I have no problem with the idea of making mincemeat of someone’s bad ideas to expose them for what harm they can cause. The challenge is to have compassion for the person lined up with falsehood. I must ask, “Am I fighting for what’s right or merely to be right?” I like Mark Twain’s quip–“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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