This post was published to Kiwi and an Emu. at 7:37:55 PM 29/12/2007

Dr. David Martin Lloyd-Jones begins by placing the book in the context in which it was written, “The Methodist or Evangelical Awakening of the 18th Century”.  Apparently the Awakening began in Wales about two years before England, but both had great similarities, the greatest being the rising of little groups meeting outside of normal service times “for further teaching and nurturing in the Faith”.  The object, according to Lloyd-Jones, “was primarily to provide a fellowship in which the new spiritual life and experience of the people could be safe-guarded and developed” due to the deadness of the Churches.  Experience and experiential knowledge of God’s love and ways was the goal; teaching and bible study and “intellectual aspects of the Faith” were left for preaching services and other times.

The meetings themselves consisted of sharing what God was doing in each person’s life and what sins and difficulties they were facing.  “Here, the emphasis was on daily life and living, the fight against the world, the flesh and the devil, and the problems that arise inevitably in the Christian’s pilgrimage through this world of sin.”

Lloyd-Jones then introduces the writer, William Williams, a leader during the Welsh Awakening, particularly recognized as the authority on these meetings.  Some sort of leadership was necessary due to the possibility that they “degenerate into exhibitionism…and lead to scandal, as very private matters were related involving others.”  These concerns led to the book being written.  Lloyd-Jones considered Williams a genius with respect to the running of these meetings.

At the time of Lloyd-Jones writing, he observed that a book like “The Experience Meeting” was necessary due to the lack of emphasis on experience in the Christian life in the 20th Century.  He gives three reasons for this:

  1. Superficial evangelism with neglect on real conviction of sin and repentance.
  2. A superficial theory of sanctification that discourages self-examination and encourages us to “leave it to the Lord”.
  3. “an unbalanced emphasis on intellectual understanding of the Truth, the social application of the Truth, and the manifestation of particular spiritual gifts.”

Lloyd-Jones believes that this book will help return the Church to emphases of the Evangelical Awakening and change the spiritual barrenness in his day to untold spiritual blessing.

Comparing Lloyd-Jones’ understanding of the Experience Meetings to the Biblical passages talking about Christian meetings in the New Testament there is certainly agreement.  Hebrews 10:24-25 talks about considering how to stir one another up to love and good works, this done through meeting each other and so encouraging each other in the light of the Day when Jesus returns.  Titus 2 lays out what is to be taught to different groups of people and in some cases, what those people are to teach others.  Galatians 6:1-10 speaks of bearing other’s burdens and correcting those going astray and encouraging all to continue to do good.  But this is definitely not the sum total of the New Testament meeting.  There also is a teaching component, where “intellectual aspects of the Faith” were discussed and transmitted, something Lloyd-Jones is happy to leave to preaching services and perhaps bible study meetings.  It would seem to me that these experience meetings are introducing a component that is missing in preaching dominated meetings but was present in New Testament Sunday meetings.

I do think Lloyd-Jones is spot on when diagnosing the problem with the 20th Century Church.  This is applicable, though perhaps more nuanced, right through until today – there is superficial evangelism, superficial theories of sanctification, and an imbalance in the direction of the intellect, social justice and spiritual gifts.  There is little emphasis as a whole on experiencing what we know, knowing what we are experiencing.  Lloyd-Jones, I think, would be well pleased with the present emphasis instead on the gospel to empower all three (and more).  A serious pursuit of spiritual reality in our lives in accountability with others would empower each of those now unbalanced areas of Church life and see Jesus glorified and people come to know him far more than they do now.  I don’t think many would disagree with this, though many may disagree with the form of that pursuit that I will suggest.

One last comment.  Lloyd Jones notes elsewhere that the Welsh Awakening included “Methodist Calvinists” almost exclusively, whereas England had a mixture of Methodist Arminians thrown in.  In other words, Lloyd Jones does not conceive of these meetings as doctrinally determined.

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