Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Book Review: R. T. Kendall's "In Pursuit of His Glory"

Book Review
R. T. Kendall, In Pursuit of His Glory: My 25 Years at Westminster Chapel (Charisma House, 2004): 310 pp.

As a missionary back in the early 1990s I picked up a copy of R. T. Kendall’s book Jonah in London and found it, at the time, to be spiritually helpful. I did not know then that the book came from Kendall’s first expositional preaching series in 1977 as the successor of Martin Lloyd-Jones at central London’s famed Westminster Chapel. It is the strange direction Kendall’s ministry took in subsequent years at Westminster that is the subject of this book.

In Pursuit of His Glory is a pastor’s memoir of Kendall’s controversial and, by his own admission, disappointing tenure at Westminster from 1977 to 2002. In some ways, one might say that Kendall’s ministry was doomed from the start. He began with at least two strikes against him. First, he was an American coming to serve a British congregation. Second, he was succeeding the famed pulpit ministry of the deeply influential Martin Lloyd-Jones. Kendall began behind in the count and never measured up to Westminster standards.

The strange aspect of the story is Kendall’s account of his embrace of the charismatic movement in an effort to produce revival at Westminster. It began with his welcoming of the Jesus movement street evangelist Arthur Blessit, the introduction of contemporary choruses in worship, and the extending of altar calls. In retrospect these changes were mild compared to what would come. Stunning is Kendall’s subsequent bold and rapid embrace from there of the most fringe elements of the charismatic movement. This included his welcoming of the "Kansas City Prophet" Paul Cain into membership and the pulpit at Westminster and then laughing evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne of the notorious "Toronto Blessing." In some ways, one might say that Kendall merely returned to his Nazarene roots, but was this what the Chapel members who called him in 1977 bargained for?

How did the Chapel go from such a staunch citadel of Reformed theology under "the Doctor’s" leadership to a place promoting the Toronto Blessing? The transformation, again, is stunning. This is not to say that these changes were unopposed. Kendall cryptically describes opposition that developed to his ministry at Westminster, including a painful "church meeting" on January 16, 1985 which he barely survived. He also refers often to his "total forgiveness" of those who opposed his ministry. One of the strangest elements of the book is Kendall’s insistence that he consulted with the aged Lloyd-Jones and gained his support for the introduction of these novel teachings. Kendall’s recollections have been openly challenged by Iain Murray in a review of this book in The Banner of Truth.

Kendall speaks with disappointment of the never achieved revival he sought to bring about at Westminster. His attempt to marry his version of Reformed theology (the "Word") with charismania (the "Spirit") did not bring renewal and revival. One of the saddest parts of this memoir is Kendall’s often expressed despair at the dwindling congregations to which he preached over the years. By the end of his ministry, the cavernous chapel, capable of holding thousands, held only a few hundred at best. Sadly one wonders in the end if his desire to see vast numbers in attendance was really an effort to pursue God’s glory or an effort to gratify his own pride and fleshly desire for popularity. This book should be read by Pastors and laymen alike not as an exercise in seeking methods to employ but as a cautionary tale of what to avoid in pastoral ministry.

Jeffrey T. Riddle, Pastor, Jefferson Park Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903


Groseys messages said...

I too have read the sad sad story of R.T.Kendall and the Chapel.
I liked Iain Murray's summation:
Let the reader not take this writer’s word for it but read In Pursuit of His Glory for himself. It demonstrates very clearly at what a critical juncture evangelicals are in England and beyond. .... What Spurgeon once feared is now upon us: ‘Anchors are up, winds are out, and the whole fleet is getting into confusion. Men in whose sanity and stability I once believed are being carried away with one fancy or another, and I am driven to cry, “What next? and what next?” We are only at the beginning of an era of mingled unbelief and fanaticism.’ (note 10)

I wondered when I read Kendall's expositiojn of Hebrews 11 whether the guy was of any use at all! He seems to wander from the main deal (Christ and Him Crucified) to what the believer has to do to enter into blessings.
I guess that is the nature of the current fads to vere folks away from the centrality of the cross at the heart of the gospel.

Anonymous said...

I am a christian minister along with another christian minister who used to be associated with RT Kendall. The failure is due to this man's horrific cruelty shown in private to people who supported him. In public he simply acted and is a hypocrite. Many christians have been traumatized by this man and I believe hundreds may soon come forward to discredit him as a service to truthful brothers and sister who love Jesus. RT Kendall was nothing like our loving brother Lloyd-Jones who had fruits. Do not read RT Kendall's books, do not give him money, do not associate yourself with him. He is extremely clever and when we writes and preaches, there is truth but extreme cunning and insertion of doctrine that eventually leads to condemnation.

David Stone said...

The story continues. If you want an update on what has been going on recently with Lakeland and RT kendall http://endtimespropheticwords.wordpress.com/2008/08/20/r-t-kendall-lakeland-grieves-him-is-not-of-god/

Peter said...

"I would say that my favorite theologians are Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Dr. R. T. Kendall both pastured churches in London, England. Dr Kendall I feel is the most powerful writer of our time"

Can someone tell me why this person says that Dr. R.T Kendall is the most powerful writer of our time when all I see is a trail of christians with a shipwrecked faith? How do people reach such conclusions? Why are so many people hooked on this man when it is now plain to all who he is? I hope the link works. If not, copy and paste http://www.blessitt.com/?q=v7n1

John said...

Dearest brother Peter

RT Kendall/Wikipedia

From February 1, 1977 to February 1, 2002 he was Senior Minister at Westminster Chapel in London. He followed the pastorate of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who himself remained in the church from 1977 until his death in 1981. Kendall's embracing of charismatic beliefs and practices brought criticism from conservative evangelicals

To do justice to Spirit filled bible believers , I feel it necessary to scribe here .The person's statement is so removed from the truth!! Let it be known!

In Westminster Chapel way back when, there was a movement of young bible believing Spirit filled people who liked to meet together every Wednesday to sing, fellowship and worship God. Many christians came to that meeting because they found love and acceptance. It was a great fellowship and God added regularly to the number of people that were being saved. So much so, that some people came from other churches to join that meeting. The meetings had very little to do with RT Kendall because he rarely ever attended them . In those meetings there was lots of hymn singing and group activity. RT Kendall did not like this kind of joyful christianity . He eventually shut this meeting down to the absolute surprise of many. He claimed that these people were "working things up" and would proceed to preach against false movements of the Spirit of God . These meetings were a true movement of God. Well, in these meetings there there were no miracle services or prophesying or even speaking in tongues ; they were simply a group of humble loving people getting together to worship God and serve each other and to share the love of God with others in Westminster Chapel. To say that conservative evangelicals are against RT Kendall is a complete lie. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones who I believe to be a sincere man of God believed in the power of God in our day but Lloyd-Jones did not believe in hype and false movements as does RT Kendall who has now joined the ranks of false prophets such as Benny Hinn and Maurice Cerellos.

Lloyd-Jones himself knew about the baptism of the Spirit of God and desired all believers come to receive this gift. Lloyd-Jones was a great intellect and bible expositor but he was humble. A friend of mine always remembered his first meeting with Lloyd-Jones and was so impressed by his humility.

Do not accuse Lloyd-Jones of being a conservative evangelical- something that he was definitely not- in fact he suffered persecution from many of those who opposed the work of the Holy Spirit in our day and age. I believe Lloyd-Jones also suffered persecution from RT Kendall on his deathbed. Ask yourself why Lloyd-Jones requested that RT Kendall not attend his funeral. Lloyd-Jones has left us a clue about the man RT Kendall. I personally do not believe that RT Kendall was ANYTHING like our brother Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones . Reading the comments on Wikipedia associating Lloyd-Jones with RT Kendall is to add insult to injury.

Dear Moderator. Please let this post go through. It is my personal contribution to the christian community. I do not hold you responsible for this post. I take personal responsibility as God is the judge and He is standing at the door. It is very important that young believers do not get caught up in the deceptions of RT Kendall or even remotely believe that he is anything like Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones .

Christian Youth Leader said...

This is quite a serious topic because I recently read somewhere that RT Kendall is being considered as one of the world's most powerful christian leaders. If this is true and the allegations made against him are true, then I believe it is time for sincere christian leaders to either investigate his life or to warn others about RT Kendall . Our children need to learn what the Lord Jesus Christ teaches about false and true prophets. Our Lord's wisdom may seem unspectacular to the world but his words are eternal and profound when he uttered " Ye shall know them by their fruits" I have seen people who have read Dr MLJ's books and although not all of them have the same theological opinions I can see that in some way Dr MLJ has been a positive influence on most of them. I dare say that this is not true of people who have been under the influence of RT Kendall. They seem to be suffering from an intellectual disability i.e. they are no longer able to think for themselves but are quick to either defend RT Kendall and anything he does. People laugh at Jim Jones and the Guyana tragedy thinking that it could never happen to them. I must say, the moment that a person cannot even see what is in front of their very eyes and call a spade a spade, it means that the thinking process of that individual has been tampered with. It means that the conscience has been defiled. I believe all men must be trained to think for themselves whether they are learned or unlearned. I am not an avid follower of Dr. MLJ but I have nothing bad to say against him and I dare not because I can see that he was a good man who tried to train his people to ask questions. The moment a person is no longer able to question anything around them, I believe they have fallen into a very dangerous trap. They have fallen into the realm of cults and fundamentalism. It seems apparent to me that many of the followers of RT Kendall may really be sincere christians but they have lost their spark in life, their ability to question and be amazed at the glorious and mysterious gospel of Christ. It would seem that RT Kendall has somehow stolen their child like faith. I will say a prayer today for anyone who is reading this and feels that there may be some truth in what I am stating and if so, may our faithful God may guide you into all truth. The truth that sets a person free. Maybe some of you need to be set free from RT Kendall and other godless men who are not concerned about the flock but have set their eyes solely on making a profit from deceiving God's children. God have mercy on us all. We are living in dark times. May God's countenance shine upon us all as we continue to fight for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.

Peace be upon you!

Jeremy said...

Wow, this is interesting and helpful. I believe we are all at an interesting juncture in our generation. The free internet could be considered a Godsend, simply because the common man now has the ability to give testimony to what he has both seen and heard. Many persons are ignorant to that fact of the absolute power of multi-billion dollar religious media machines which spew out blasphemies against the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. They are unaware of the lengths that billion dollar religious media corporations will go to hide the facts about themselves and the men who they are protecting. This could also be true of so called "christian" publishing houses which are also multi million or billion dollar money machines. I would go even further to mention one of RT Kendall's close buddies OS Hawkins, who is now CEO of Guidestone Financial Resources and responsible for US$7.5 Billion of evangelical christian money. This post is not to point out any fault in OS Hawkins but more to make the public aware that we are not talking about ministers of the gospel being involved with so called "loose change" but more so that temptation is abounding and men can easily fall into the devil's trap because huge sums of money can be made in the religious world. It is a multi million, multi billion dollar enterprise involving money from tithes, book stores, internet sales, charitys,preaching engagements,financial planning services, retirement funds and the list goes on.
I personally have respect for rich men who have made their money by what would be considered "normal means" People who work in so called "Egypt" but are true believers and righteous men and whatever profits they have made in Egypt they use to help their families and friends or maybe to help godly servants of Jesus Christ. I am thinking about our Lord who gave physical food in the feeding of the 5000. What is happening is the very opposite in much of what is termed as christendom where the prophet is taking whatever fish and bread the poor people have and in return poisoning them with their books, preaching and teaching.

I also believe in the saying " Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain" and those among us who are really blessing others with God's wisdom through preaching and teaching in love, surely they deserve double honor! But where are these men? They are few and far between and I believe we are in age just like the time of Solomon when the word of God is scarce and the Queen of Sheba would have to travel long distances to hear wise sayings. This is a good blog page because the people here are talking sense and encouraging people's faith. Keep up the good work Stylos. May God be with you as you love and serve God our Father and His Son Jesus through the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Anonymous said...

MLJ teaching has helped me tremendously.I would strongly recommend you download his app and listen to the expositions of Gods word.