Good Medicine from the Good Doctor

In 1927 the 27 year old David Martyn Lloyd-Jones left a prestigious career in medicine to follow God’s call to pastor a small impoverished church in rural Wales. The churches in Wales were not even a shadow of what they had been at the turn of the century during the great Welsh revival. Now the churches were empty, powerless, and increasingly pastor-less. But something extraordinary began to happen in the little church in Sandfields Aberavon where the former physician ministered. God lit a fire in the heart of their young pastor and brought forth from him a new kind of preaching that had not been heard in years. It was the preaching of God’s Word with total conviction but conspicuously absent of the worldly trappings and entertaining flourishes that had come to characterize the church in those days.

When I read some of the things written by Lloyd-Jones on revival and read reports of what God did in Wales during his ministry there my heart leaps to see God move the way he saw God move:

“Pray for revival? Yes, go on, but do not try to create it, do not attempt to produce it, it is only given by Christ himself. The last church to be visited by a revival is the church trying to make it.”

“We say we are concerned for the sin of the town! How much prayer do we offer for the sin of the town? When we pass a drunkard it is not our business to say, ‘What an awful man, what a beast!’ No! judge not, but pray without ceasing. Christ came not to destroy – sin does that – but to save and release men from their sin. Will you as a church pray for the sinners of Aberavon and pray for God to save them through His Spirit? That is the meaning of a church…May God give us this power to pray for a visitation of His Spirit! God give power to all doing this in all places!”

In 1930 a reporter named J. C. Griffith-Jones, the South Wales correspondent for the News Chronicle wrote these words in an article he titled “A Physician of Souls”:

“Seven years ago Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., M.R.C.P., was on the threshold of a brilliantly promising career in Harley Street. He renounced it to labor in one of the most difficult fields of Forward Movement evangelism in Wales. The Sandfields district of Aberavon is a dead end. Even when the sun shines, sandy wastes and dreary, crowded houses convey a sense of desolation, almost hopelessness. What could a man denied work, disillusioned by social callousness, do here but live for a day, deteriorate, drift and die?

“Into this desperate little world came the young physician-minister, preaching, living the gospel of old-new hope. He shocked the locality out of its despair. This world had failed them; there was another world.

“Men listened amazed. Here was one who practiced the gospel that he preached with such tremendous conviction. He had given up a great career – fame, money, leisure – to live and work among the poor and hopeless.

“Not only in Port Talbot, but all around the district, the word went forth that surprising things were happening at the ‘mission hall’ on the sand dunes. Curious, skeptical, doubting, hoping, believing, people flocked to the church.

“It was no passing wonder. Today, years after the first revelation of new power, the congregations still overflow the church. Every meeting is a ‘big meeting.’

“A working-class (and unemployed) membership raising 1,000 pounds a year for church work. Crowded prayer meetings, a crowded church meeting in mid-week, a crowded brotherhood meeting on Saturday, of all nights, when men discuss the problems of spiritual salvation and the pastor sums up the discussion. Sandfields now shares the glad tidings with all Wales.”

So the little church in Sandfields could not chalk up their influence to money, impressive facilities, a seasoned pastor, or a ‘strategic location.’ The church was poor in every sense of the word. But they became rich in the things of God. And now, almost 100 years later, people still read and write about what happened there.