Worthy of admiration: the Prince of Preachers
Charles Spurgeon was a pastor and author from England. He died in January of 1892 at the age of 57. Spurgeon was a preacher's preacher and he is often referred to as the "Prince of Preachers" because of his impact and speaking prowess.
Before people wore those Britney Spears-esque microphones on their cheeks, people preached at the volume that one could muster from the lungs. Amplification from acoustics in a venue certainly helped, but one could only preach as loud as he could talk (or yell). Spurgeon's vocal constitution was like that of a lion; he would preach to thousands at his church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and those that heard him preach were impacted greatly by the word of God he preached so lovingly and ferociously.
Spurgeon, during his 57 years granted on earth, simply got after it. He started preaching when he was in his late teens after his conversion, which happened during a snowstorm when Spurgeon sought shelter in a church. During that snowstorm he heard the Gospel preached and God just grabbed his heart. From that point on, Spurgeon was a man committed.
He preached from that point forward, despite health problems and plenty of criticism. In fact, he didn't just keep working despite the challenge, he often worked 18 hour days. According to Eric W. Hayden, who is a former pastor at Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon (see "Did You Know?" here) :
- Produced volumes of material. It is said that there is more material available that is written by Spurgeon than any other Christian author.
- Once was testing the acoustics of the vast Agricultural Hall and shouted "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world". There was a guy working in the rafters of the hall who heard Spurgeon's shout and was converted after hearing it.
- Often preached 10 times per week.
- Read and retained around 6 books per week (he apparently could recall what he read years later).
- Is estimated to have preached to over 10 million people in his lifetime.
- Spent 20 years studying the Psalms before he wrote a book about the Psalms (The Treasury of David).
So what can we learn from Spurgeon that we can apply today?
To me, the most striking things about Spurgeon are his work ethic and his absolute burning passion for his craft of preaching. Spurgeon seemed to have no motive except for love of God and love of his fellow man. Though he became very famous, this was not his end game. Spurgeon loved big and worked tirelessly at preaching and writing because he believed that what he was doing was for the greater good of other people.
Lesson: Spurgeon spent his life doing something that mattered: serving other people.
Though he worked long hours, he was wise to rest and take sabbaticals - but he did not, as far as I know, spend his time doing the 19th century version of playing video games while eating potato chips. Spurgeon did enjoy rest, but he wrote, prayed, and even taught while on sabbatical.
Lesson: Spurgeon knew the importance of rest, but understood that rest is found in Jesus and not in laziness.
Spurgeon had many critics for various reasons, but some people did not like his plain and sharp appeals that he made from the pulpit. Though Spurgeon had an outstanding wit and command of the English language, he chose to speak clearly and in a way that everyone could understand. Spurgeon knew the importance of his message and he did not mince words. He let his yes be yes and his no be no (Matthew 5).
Lesson: Spurgeon communicated clearly and fearlessly.
Charles Spurgeon, while imperfect like the rest of us, is a shining example of dedication, brilliance, and hard work for the right reasons. We would all be wise to take a moment to consider the lessons we can learn from the Prince of Preachers.
Note: This post was inspired by my recent reading of Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity by John Piper.