From prison to ReTrain: Russell’s story
Mon May 20, 2013
9 types of leaders in Scripture
Mon May 20, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
5 bits of wisdom for the professional Christian woman
Sun May 19, 2013
by Shandel Slaten
Sat May 18, 2013
by Hugh Whelchel
Resurgence roundup, 5/17/13
Fri May 17, 2013
Spurgeon Prayed, Laughed, Cared, and Evangelized - Part 3
This week is unofficially “Spurgeon Is the Man” week. In tribute to arguably the greatest Bible preacher outside of Scripture.
Spurgeon prayed both spontaneously by breaking from the affairs of his day to speak with the Lord, and also during scheduled times of prayer for himself that included walks in the woods, days away at a cottage, and months away in France for Sabbath, study, and prayer. Prayer for him was so significant that he aptly said, “Prayer has become as essential to me as the heaving of my lungs.” His commitment to prayer extended to a team of hundreds of intercessors who were appointed to pray for his preaching and people’s hearts during the church service. They prayed on their faces in the church basement that was aptly titled the “war room.” Occasionally when Spurgeon prayed over the sick they were healed and many believed he had the gift of healing. He also told his preaching students that his power, authority, and insight came from continually praying the text of his sermon before preaching it. His church prayer meetings were on Monday nights and as many as 1,200 people attended to pray as the Spirit led, which did not included printed prayers or long prayers because he hated both. In examining the role of prayer in the ministry of Spurgeon, one aspect in particular intrigued me. His biographies frequently note that he preferred to pray while walking outdoors. This led to his purchase of a larger home outside of town later in life that included a beautiful garden surrounded by enough quiet acreage to enable him to prayer walk often. His accounts of these times were that they were deeply refreshing to his soul, particularly in seasons of great stress and despair. In emulation of his example, I began praying for God to give me a quiet place where I could regularly go to have silence, solitude, and sufficient acreage to prayer walk. God was exceedingly gracious and provided a wonderful place. It is less than an hour drive from my home and is overseen by a loving Christian couple who maintain it as a small retreat center nestled on forty manicured acres of forest buttressed up against a slough from which I can canoe onto a lake. They have given me my own small apartment there to enjoy one day a week, enabling me to prayer walk, write, and even stay the night if I so desire. Like Spurgeon, the burdens of pastoring a large church in a major city can become daunting and I find having a quiet retreat in creation to prayer walk for long hours without interruption is often nothing short of a life saver.
Spurgeon viewed pleasure as a gift from God and did not gravitate toward Gnosticism or asceticism in the practice of the spiritual disciplines. Rather, he enjoyed his freedom in Christ to its fullest. Though scandalous to many, he drank beer, wine, and brandy. Further, after a visiting pastor proclaimed the evils of smoking to Spurgeon’s church, he simply replied, “I shall go home and smoke the best cigar I have got to the glory of God.” Like Spurgeon, I have received much criticism over the years for my enjoyment of such things as alcohol consumption in moderation. I have found him to be a great encouragement to live by Scripture and conscience rather than critics and legalisms. One of the things I have most appreciated about Spurgeon is his witty and seemingly continual sense of humor. Spurgeon was known to have a robust sense of humor that spilled out into his preaching much to the consternation of his many critics. Still, Spurgeon shared the Bible’s love of irony and sarcasm, and his great wit endeared him to people who appreciated the fullness of his emotional life. It made him a real human being from whom people enjoyed learning the Bible. Among my favorite Spurgeon quips is his statement that he loved church committees and believed the ideal committee consisted of three people, two of whom stayed home. Curiously, one of the least known books ever published by Spurgeon is actually a collection of his writings on the subject of humor, Eccentric Preachers. I greatly enjoyed reading it in conjunction with a sermon I preached about humor in preaching, as it argued for the place of humor and personality quirks in preaching.
Spurgeon was committed to activism and social justice, going so far as to preach against slavery, which made him very unpopular in America, where his printed sermons were banned and burned. Spurgeon was also a very merciful man who opened and oversaw an orphanage for needy children. Many called the orphanage the greatest sermon he ever preached. His wife, Susannah, had a particular burden for poor pastors who could not afford books to assist their studies of Scripture. She raised money for a pastors’ book fund that gave away thousands of books to needy pastors. What I find encouraging about the example of Charles and Susannah is their humble willingness to use their influence and resources for the service of others in need. Too often, it seems, those preachers who are so devoted to study are sadly less enthusiastic to do good works and serve those in need. I am continually convicted that he preached the gospel both in word and deed without being caught up in the kind of debate that raged in his day about the social gospel versus the propositional gospel. Spurgeon simply served the whole person with the whole gospel, which again helps to explain his success in reaching all strata of society. In light of Susannah’s example I now give away a few thousand copies of each of my books to mainly young pastors and church planters. In addition, we give away my sermons online for free to the tune of a few million downloads a year at www.marshillchurch.org and on iTunes and YouTube. We also give away theological content at www.theresurgence.com and host free training events for pastors. Thus, we have seen thousands of pastors taught free of charge through Mars Hill and other Acts 29 churches around the nation and the world.
The hyper-Calvinists in his day disdained Spurgeon for his passion for lost people to meet Jesus and his continual offering of the gospel of grace to the masses, which led to the baptism of 14,692 converts during his ministry. Despite much mean-spirited opposition, Spurgeon never shied away from calling all people to repentance and used unconventional means, such as meeting in a public theater (not a church) and preaching from a stage (not a raised pulpit), in an effort to be more culturally relevant with his ministry style. Curiously, however, he forbade the use of choirs, organs, and other musical instruments in his church services. Spurgeon has deeply impressed upon me the importance of always inviting people to repent of sin and trust in Jesus. He rightly shared God’s heart for lost people and his example reveals that one can believe in both election and evangelism, as the Apostle Paul did also. Too often those of us who are theologically reformed spend more time criticizing evangelistic methods than doing evangelism ourselves. I too consider myself something of a reformed evangelist and appreciate that Spurgeon shared a deep love for lost people that God used to save many lives.