“Woodbine Willie” — D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

A Healthy Reminder
From A Great Preacher & Teacher Of The Bible

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Preaching & Preachers
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Secondly, our methods must always be consistent and compatible with our message, and not contradict it. This again is a most important point at this present time. There are men who are quite sincere and genuine and honest, and whose motive is undoubtedly good, and whose concern is to bring people to salvation. But this so runs away with them that in their desire to make contact with the people and to make it easy for them to believe the message, they do things which I suggest often contradict that very message. The moment the method contradicts the message it has become bad. Let us have elasticity, but never to the point of contradicting your message.

This is not only true in terms of biblical principles but it is even proved to be right in practice. What always amazes me about these people who are so concerned w^ith modern methods is their pathetic psychological ignorance; they do not seem to know human nature. The fact is that the world expects us to be different; and this idea that you can win the world by showing that after all you are very similar to it, with scarcely any difference at all, or but a very slight one, is basically wrong not only theologically but even psychologically.

Let me illustrate what I mean by a well-known example. At the end of the First World War there was in England a famous clergyman who was known as * Woodbine Willie’. Why was he called * Woodbine Willie’ ? The explanation is that he had been a chaplain in the army and had been a very great success in that capacity. His success he attributed to the fact—and many agreed with him in this—that he mixed with the men in the trenches in a familiar manner. He smoked with them, and in particular he smoked their cheap brand of cigarette known as *Wild Woodbine’ commonly called * Woodbines’. In pre1914 days you could buy five such cigarettes for a penny. Now this cheap type of cigarette was not the brand of cigarette that an officer generally smoked, but the ordinary soldier did. So this man, whose name was Studdert-Kennedy, [1] in order to put the men at ease, and in order to facilitate his work as chaplain smoked ‘Woodbines’, hence the name * Woodbine Willie’. Not only that, he noticed also that most of the men could not speak without swearing, so he did the same. It was not that he wanted to swear, but he held the view that if you w^ant to win men you have to use their language and you have to be like them in every respect. All this certainly made him a popular figure—there is no doubt about that. After the end of the Second World War he used to go round the country teaching this and urging that preachers must do this; and many tried to do so and began to do so. But the verdict of history on this was that it was a complete failure, a temporary *stunt* or ‘gimmick’ that achieved notoriety for a while but soon entirely disappeared from the thinking of the Church. But it had a great temporary vogue.

From the standpoint of the New Testament it was based on a complete fallacy. Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different. They drew near to Him because they felt that there was something different about Him. That poor sinful woman of whom we read in Luke 7 did not draw near to the Pharisees and wash their feet with her tears, and wipe them with the hair of her head. No, but she sensed something in our Lord—His purity. His holiness. His love—and so she drew near to Him. It was His essential difference that attracted her. And the world always expects us to be different. This idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder.

This same principle has a further application at the present time. There are foolish Protestants who seem to think that the way to win Roman Catholics is to show them there is practically no difference between us, whereas the converted Roman Catholic will always tell you that what appealed to him was the contrast. ‘Action and reaction are equal and opposite.’ The modern idea is wrong psychologically as well as theologically.

What makes this to be inevitably the case is that the subject matter with which we are dealing is so different. In this realm we are dealing with God, and our knowledge of God, and our relationship to God. So ever3rthing here must be *under God* and must be done *with reverence and godly fear. We do not decide this; we are not in charge and in control. It is God. It is His service, and He has to be approached Vith reverence and with godly fear, because our God is a consuming fire’.

Furthermore, light entertainment, easy familiarity and jocularity are not compatible with a realisation of the seriousness of the condition of the souls of all men by nature, the fact that they are lost and in danger of eternal perdition, and their consequent need of salvation. Not only that, such methods cannot bring out the Truth; and our business is to preach the Truth. These methods may affect people psychologically and in other respects, and they may lead to *decisions’; but our object is not merely to get decisions, it is to bring people to a knowledge of the Truth. And beyond this, we must never give the impression that all that is needed is for people to make a little adjustment in their thinking and ideas and behaviour; that is to militate against our message. Our message is that every man *must be born again*, and that whatever may happen to him short of that is of no value whatsoever from the standpoint of his relationship to God. The New Testament teaching is that the unbeliever is all wrong. It is not merely his ideas of art or drama that are wrong; everything about him is wrong. His particular views are wrong because his whole view is wrong, because he himself is wrong. The rule is, *Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these (other) things shall be added unto you’. If you put your emphasis on these *other things’ instead of on ‘seeking first the kingdom of God’ you are doomed to failure, and you are doing despite to the message that has been committed to you.



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Studdert_Kennedy

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