Our History and Our Hope
Most weeks we get tourists hoping to look at our building. They tend to come from the USA, but some come from as far afield as Korea, where Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ books are available. We get visitors on Sundays who have been blessed by Dr. Campbell Morgan, Dr. Lloyd-Jones, and Dr. Kendall. They want to see the place where such powerful preaching and timeless truths were uttered.
Do we live under the weight of our history as a church?
In some ways, maybe we do. Onlookers tend to feel that they own the Chapel, even if it has never been their place of worship. There’s a constant feeling of being scrutinized, and that our every move is being watched. Do they still stand for expository preaching? Why is the place not full?
It seems silly in one sense, because when you worship at Chapel, you realise it’s just a regular church. We’re pretty normal. Most of the people we have with us now have joined in the last 7 years. Why the attention?
But in another sense, I get it. I get why people look at Chapel and feel a special concern. The history is spectacular, and I understand why we (as the present members and leaders) need to be very aware of all God has done in the past.
So we celebrate the past. We look back with admiration. We read the books, the sermons, the newspaper cuttings (like these) and we feel such a sense of wonder at how God has brought us to a place like this, for a time like this. You can’t step into the big circular pulpit and not feel the adrenaline as you survey the view, and size-up the hefty lectern. There’s something amazing about walking into the vestry and seeing Lloyd-Jones’ preaching gown (complete with his name on the tag) hanging in the cupboard.
John Piper’s biography of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones is incredibly insightful. He ends by considering five areas of weakness in the Doctor’s ministry – ways in which his preaching did not necessarily lead to practical outworking.
The truth is, we have actively sought to correct these and other weaknesses. Of course we do not downplay the importance of preaching. We don’t want to trade off our heritage, and our Gospel-focus. But we take heart that what we’re doing now is right, and God will honour that.
We have hopeful hearts. We were recently looking at Haggai 2 (“…the glory of the latter house will be greater…”) and there’s a sense in which that passage resonates with us. Obviously, we’re not building a physical temple, but we are nevertheless part of the building-work on God’s living temple. And there’s a huge expectancy that swells in our hearts. Would God graciously move among us to save the lost in great numbers? Will we see our building filled again, overflowing, with queues of people seeking the truth? Yes, we will.
I encourage you to pray for us. There’s so much to thank God for, and it feels that we’re more a church now than we ever were. The sense of love, of family, of unity, has grown enormously. Nobody could accuse us of being a preaching centre (in the negative sense of just being a crowd) any more. But surely there’s more!
Becoming more missional will involve taking risks. We’ll no doubt draw more scrutiny (“The Doctor wouldn’t have done that…”). But increasingly our passion is to reach the lost people of London, and though we will not trade off our confidence in the Gospel (we have nothing else to offer) we will bolster the preaching with more and more efforts to live out the Gospel in practical dimensions.
Campbell Morgan and Albert Swift (his assistant) were spectacularly successful in this – as was the first Chapel pastor, Samuel Martin. We want to re-dig those old wells so that people come to our church and see more than just the preached word, but they will see a loving family, moving in the spiritual gifts, helping the poor, and binding the broken-hearted.
[If you’re interested in the history of Westminster Chapel, go to our Audio page and download ‘The Faith of Our Fathers’ by Josh Harvey, with the accompanying PowerPoint presentation.]