Home Voices The Prince of Preachers… and Church Planting

The Prince of Preachers… and Church Planting

charles spurgeon
Boston Public Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

My friend, Rod Earls, has a new book: “Spurgeon’s Theology for Multiplying Disciples and Churches: The Story of How Spurgeon and the Metropolitan Tabernacle Followed Christ.”

You can order the book here. I wrote the foreword and am sharing it here with you.

The Prince of Preachers…and Church Planting

“If I have seen further,” Isaac Newton wrote in a 1675 letter to a fellow scientist Robert Hooke, “it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”1 Newton’s influence on mathematics and physics is hard to overestimate, yet he acknowledged his dependence on those who preceded him. 

We can all reflect upon those who have influenced us, people on whose shoulders we stand as well. Parents, pastors, professors, mentors, and more would check that box. Those of us who serve in ministry each have our list of spiritual heroes who have impacted our lives. They may be individuals who have influenced us directly. But many of us find ourselves also deeply influenced by historical mentors—those individuals who we did not know personally but by whose legacy we are moved and changed for the better.

Prince of Preachers

For preachers of the Bible in the evangelical tradition and beyond there are few giants with shoulders broader than Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The “Prince of Preachers” is beloved both by those within his theological world—Baptist and Calvinist—and those outside that orbit. In fact, it would be hard to find a historical figure in the evangelical movement more universally loved and respected—and quoted (and misattributed!)—than Spurgeon. 

Spurgeon’s preaching ability is legendary. His sermons continue to be read to this day by preachers and students. We have more of his writings available today than any other Christian writer outside the Bible. Helmut Thielicke once said of books, “Sell all that you have…and buy Spurgeon.”2

In his youth, Spurgeon had an interesting theological odyssey. Raised an Independent (his parents were Congregationalists), he came to Christ at age 15 when he stopped in a Primitive Methodist church during a blizzard. A layperson was filling in for the pastor who was prevented by the blizzard from showing up. The lay preacher called the tiny congregation—and specifically unfamiliar young Spurgeon in attendance—to look to Jesus. Within months he became convinced by a burden to preach the gospel himself. He would become a Baptist and, eventually, the most famous Baptist preacher of his era.

I can relate to Spurgeon’s journey as a youth. I came to Christ through the ministry of a charismatic Episcopal church in Florida. I would eventually become a Baptist like Spurgeon. And like Spurgeon, I have an appreciation for all those who love Christ, Baptist or not. 

While Spurgeon is known best for his preaching ability, he was so much more than a great preacher. He founded schools, pastored a megachurch in London long before the modern megachurch movement, authored many books, stood tall in theological controversy, and oversaw the planting of many churches. 

Megachurch Pastor

When a young twenty-something Spurgeon came to the New Park Street Church in 1854, the congregation had 232 members. When his pastorate ended almost four decades later, it was probably the largest congregation in the world. A true megachurch, what is now called the Metropolitan Tabernacle had grown to over 5,000 members during Spurgeon’s tenure as pastor. Some have estimated that he preached to more than 10 million people in his lifetime.

He spoke to his congregation in a common language that was uncommon in the established church but fit his setting well. He gained strength from the “boiler room,” the people who gathered in the basement to pray for their pastor as he preached. Spurgeon knew that the growth and health of a church must be rooted deeply in prayer.

College Founder

A couple of years after becoming the pastor of his church, Spurgeon also founded Pastors’ College, which is now called Spurgeon’s College in honor of its founder. His goal for the College was both to train ministers and to found new churches through its training of future ministry leaders. By the time Spurgeon died, the college had already trained nearly 900 ministers and released them into the world for ministry service, multiplying Spurgeon’s legacy for generations to come.3