Edited by Dr. Waylon B. Moore
Some of my favorite spiritual lifters have been historical mentors.
We need mighty men and women as role models. Sometimes they are in short supply
around us. Biography can warn, instruct, inspire, sharpen our vision and
encourage a higher walk with Christ.
The preacher-pastor at Metropolitan Tabernacle in London spoke without a sound
system to crowds of 6,000 people weekly for nearly 30 years. Charles Haddon
Spurgeon's sermons were read in newspapers, sold all over the world, and bound
in books that have been selling thousands for over 100 years. His three-volume
Treasury of David
is the standard work on the Psalms. Spurgeon, more than 100 years after his
early death, is still preaching through his published books. We have
edited, by permission, Fred Smith's outstanding eight leadership
insights gained from decades of responding to Spurgeon's ministry. My
editorial comments below are in (parentheses).
Mentored By The Prince of Preachers
by Fred Smith
Used by permission from Fred Smith, Leadership Magazine,
Summer 1992, pp 52-56, Carol Stream, IL 60188
Champions learn to play hurt. A successful Jewish businessman once
remarked to me, Amateurs can produce when they feel like it. Pros can
produce when they don't feel like it. Spurgeon, like many great
accomplishers, fought with a thorn in his flesh.
1. His wife became an invalid at 33, evidently forcing him to sublimate his
2. Later in life he had rheumatic gout, which eventually took his life at age
57. Confined to bed a week at a time by the pain, he would stand to preach on
3. Spurgeon suffered deep depressions. He never doubted the gospel message, but
he often doubted himself, the messenger. Suffering is essential to sainthood.
It is the hurt that opens the heart. When Malcolm Muggeridge neared the end of
his life, he reflected, Looking over my 90 years, I realize I have never
made any progress in good times. I only progressed in the hard times.
The furnace had changed his iron into steel.
(When I was pastoring, few in the church knew the emotional hurts and stabs
that put me to bed depressed a number of times. At the same time at home we
could not share fully the regular trauma and abuse we all experienced from our
handicapped son. Paul grew to weigh 270 pounds, violently strong. He was
practically blind, and 6 years old mentally. We learned so much from God,
working with Paul's anger and mostly his hurts through rejection. Helping Paul
memorize and apply scripture became our greatest aide to normalcy.)
PUTTING FAITH FIRST
Spurgeon preached answers, not mere opinions. His faith controlled his
knowledge rather than his knowledge controlling his faith. Spurgeon was, first
of all, a man of faith. He knew that it is by faith, not knowledge, that we
please God. When higher education makes knowledge the orifice through which
faith must come, it does us a disservice. Certainly God can use a person of
great intellect, but only as long as his faith is even greater.
(Spurgeon said, Have great faith. Little faith will take your soul to
heaven; great faith will bring heaven to your soul. We read
. . . faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God
(Romans 10:17). There is power in deciding to listen acutely to a sermon and
apply it. Faith grows as we personalize a verse into our life.)
SPEAKING OUT OF THE OVERFLOW
Spurgeon's sermons flowed from both a full heart and a full head. He read
widely and meditated on his sermon text all week (though he rarely prepared his
sermons before Saturday night). He always had more to say than he could
possibly include in one message. He spoke out of the overflow. Spurgeon was an
artesian well that tapped deeply into God's spiritual aquifer. He knew the joy
(As a child Spurgeon was paid by his mother a penny for each mouse he caught,
and each scripture verse he memorized. These verses flow through his messages.
Nothing produces overflow like memorizing and meditating on two
scripture verses weekly, with review. God will use this habit to build a
Niagara of refreshing, healing, life-changing words in you.)
LEARNING WITH A PURPOSE
Spurgeon was functionally, not scholastically, educated. He didn't attend
college and was never ordained. I believe he would subscribe to the ideal. It
is not a disgrace to lack a degree, but it is a disgrace not to be educated. In
industry we have learned that people rarely learn and retain anything that they
don't use quickly.
Though he read widely (he amassed a personal library of more than 12,000
volumes), he read with discipline. C.S. Lewis said, Every life has a
limited number of themes. Spurgeon, like all good communicators, knew the
power of his themes. Spurgeon read six books a week, selected according to his
interest rather than what some course required. As a six-year-old he read
for the first time. During his 57 years, he read it 100 times. He was steeped
in it because he saw him living the journey of Pilgrim's progress as a
metaphor of his life.
(We need focus. Can you do any
thing very well? Do you have a major focus you're feeding, sharpening, so that
you have passion in sharing it with others? Jack of all trades; master of
none is the death sentence to an impacting ministry.)
DEVELOPING A KNACK FOR NETWORKING
Spurgeon networked a hundred years before the word came into style. He
was a genius at picking friends. Six close friends fed six different streams
into his life: Prime Minister Gladstone (the statesman), D.L. Moody (the
evangelist), George Mueller (the man of faith and prayer), Lord Shaftsbury (the
social conscience), John Ruskin (the intellectual), and William Booth (the
activist and founder of the Salvation Army). From them he formed a broad grasp
of life and the essence of what was important.
(To maintain any spiritual balance in our twisted world, we need to cultivate
Godly friends who are totally honest, don't always agree, and have a passion
for something perhaps not on our priority list. Have you committed to being
regularly accountable to a few people?)
It is a gift to be able to go one-on-one with individuals, even in a mass
audience. Billy Graham does it when he says, You're not here by accident,
you're here by the will of God. This links him in a one-on-one, personal
relationship with the listener. Spurgeon did it by applying the message to
segments of the congregation: Are you a laborer? Are you a housewife? Are you a
business executive? Are you a governmental official? . . . Spurgeon was not a
preacher, but an authentic person speaking for Almighty God.
(Sharing failures and battles sometimes reaches hearts faster than success
FOCUSING ON THE BIG ISSUES
Spurgeon was a destination preacher. He once said, I take my text
and make a bee-line to the cross. Spurgeon believed the cross God's
plan for our salvation was the heart of Christianity. (Spurgeon once
asked a pastor, Do you believe people will be saved every time you preach
the gospel? No, replied the surprised pastor. That's
your problem, said Spurgeon. I expect the Gospel to produce fruit
TAPPING THE SPIRIT'S POWER
You couldn't hear Spurgeon without feeling something. That something was
the power of the Spirit. God's Word was coming
him and not
him. He allowed them to experience his strong emotion. He wasn't afraid for
his audience to see and experience what he was experiencing. Spurgeon's legacy
is three-pronged: the thousands of people who found Christ under his ministry,
the nearly 900 students who learned to preach in his school, and the multiplied
thousands of us whom he continues to mentor, both through his messages and his
life. (I need daily debugging, confessing all sins by name.
Then I surrender each part of my life to the control of the Holy Spirit).