Charles Spurgeon’s Public Evangelism (Part Three)

Charles Spurgeon’s Public Evangelism (Part Three)

This article is Part 3 in a series, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

In the last two posts, we have seen that evangelism was integral to Spurgeon’s public ministry. Similarly, Spurgeon was concerned with equipping men to preach the everlasting gospel to the lost. In this final post, we will explore Spurgeon’s methods of evangelism training both in his local church and the Pastors’ College.

The Local Church

First, Spurgeon trained evangelists through his pulpit ministry. The evangelistic zeal that Spurgeon modeled in the pulpit created a culture of evangelism within his church. Steven J. Lawson writes:

As Spurgeon powerfully expounded the Word, the members of the Metropolitan Tabernacle were burdened to share the gospel with the people of London. Large numbers took to the streets and spread the saving truth of Jesus Christ crucified. They distributed gospel tracts and copies of Spurgeon’s sermons far and wide. As they sought to win people to faith in Christ, they spoke to people in their neighbourhood and at work. They became the embodiment of Spurgeon’s famous book, The Soul Winner.[1]

An example of this can be seen in Spurgeon’s sermon, The Minister’s Farewell, which was preached on December 11, 1859. In that sermon, Spurgeon argued that “the true evangelist must never fail to set forth the beauties of the person of Christ, the glory of his offices, the completeness of his work, and above all, the efficacy of his blood.”[2]

Again, commenting on his evangelistic zeal, Steven Lawson writes: as believers sat under Spurgeon’s strong evangelistic appeals, it “launched them into the highways and byways to be his steadfast witnesses. The exposition of Scripture put fire in the bones of the congregation, who, in turn, [brought] their testimony of the gospel to the lost.”[3]

Similarly, in his preaching, Spurgeon modeled to his congregation what it looks like to reason and plead with the lost. In his sermon, Compel Them to Come In, you can hear Spurgeon’s love for Christ and his love for the lost. Spurgeon cried out:

Our first business has not to do with faith, but with Christ. Come, I beseech you, on Calvary’s mount, and see the cross. Behold the Son of God, he who made the heavens and the earth, dying for your sins. Look to him, is there not power in him to save?[4]

By the grace of God, many young men were converted and given a zeal for evangelism. Commenting on this, Spurgeon said the following:

When, in early days, God’s Holy Spirit had gone forth with my ministry at New Park Street, several zealous young men were brought to a knowledge of the truth; and among them, some whose preaching in the street was blessed of God to the conversion of souls. Knowing that these men had capacities for usefulness, but laboured under the serious disadvantage of having no education, and were, moreover, in such circumstances that they would not be likely to obtain admission into any of our Colleges.[5]

Therefore, it was those who sat under this kind of ministry were given a living example of how to win souls to Christ. It is important to recognize that in any church, the pastor always sets the tone. If the pulpit is cold, without evangelistic zeal, the pews will be cold. We need God to bring a fire of evangelistic zeal in the pulpit, and then, by the grace of God, we must pray for it to enter the pews.

The Pastors’ College

Second, Spurgeon trained men in evangelism through his Pastors’ College. In 1873, the College was described as a “Home Missionary Society for the spread of the gospel.”[6] Spurgeon, however, understood that “no college, no human ordination, can make a man a minister; but he who can feel, as did Bunyan, Whitefield, Berridge, or Rowland Hill, the struggling’s of an impassioned longing to win the souls of men.”[7] The Pastors’ College was established to further instruct those whom God had called to preach the gospel. Spurgeon stated that he “never dreamed of making men preachers,” but he “desired to help those whom God had already called to be such.”[8]

Tied in with the College was “The Pastors’ College Society of Evangelists,” which was established in 1870 and was designed to further mission work in their own country.”[9] The main purpose of the College was to train “attractive, impressive, effective preachers of the gospel”[10] In 1881, a report in The Sword and the Trowel highlighted how the College Society’s evangelists had “traversed the land with great diligence and the Lord has set His seal to their work.”[11] Spurgeon believed that the gift of an evangelist still operated in the church as one of the constituted means for the ingathering of the elect.[12] Therefore, evangelists must be trained, organized and work for and with the churches.

At the College, students sat in on lectures and were trained through practical fieldwork. Most students preached in churches each week and on Monday mornings the senior students met with Spurgeon to evaluate their preaching.[13] After receiving training at the Pastors’ College, Spurgeon encouraged his students to be active in open-air preaching the moment they start their ministries: “One of the earliest things that a minister should do when he leaves College and settles in a country town or village is to begin open-air speaking.”[14] One of Spurgeon’s students, Thomas Medhurst, followed Spurgeon’s advice and began his ministry preaching in the open-air. This open-air ministry later led to his call as pastor at the Baptist Church at Kingston-upon-Thames.[15]

Additionally, students in the College were placed under an experienced minister, who would then “train them in the Scriptures, and in all other knowledge helpful to the understanding and proclamation of truth. The emphasis was thoroughly practical.”[16] Spurgeon also frequently prayed for evangelists throughout his ministry. This can be seen in the following exhortation:

Preaching the gospel is the means which He is pleased to bless. Pray much that he may work by the means of our Evangelists and bring thousands to the Lord Jesus. They are men full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and God is with them.[17]

Summary of Findings

In conclusion, these series of posts have looked at Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s public evangelism. In the first post, we looked at Spurgeon’s involvement in open-air preaching. In the second post, we studied Spurgeon’s personal evangelism. Finally, in this post, it is my prayer that each local church sees the vital need to training evangelists both in the local church and in a similar “Pastors’ College.” All must be done for the glory of the Triune God and the good of His Church.

                  [1] Steven J. Lawson, “How Expository Preaching Builds the Church,” Expositor Magazine 29 (2020): 18.

                  [2] C. H. Spurgeon, Revival Year Sermons, 1859 (1959; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2002), 82.

                  [3] Lawson, “How Expository Preaching Builds the Church,” 18.

                  [4] Spurgeon, Compel Them to Come In, New Park Street Pulpit(1859; repr., Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1972), 5: 17-21.

                  [5] Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years, 385.

            [6] Ian M. Randall, A School of the Prophets: 150 years of Spurgeon’s College (London, Spurgeon’s College, 2005), 30.

            [7] Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years, 384.

                  [8] Ibid., 386.

            [9] Randall, A School of the Prophet., 30.

            [10] Ibid.

            [11] Ibid., 30.

            [12] Tom Nettles, Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013), 319.

            [13] Randall, A School of the Prophets, 18.

                  [14] Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 262.

            [15] Ibid., 27.

            [16] Ibid., 23.

            [17] Ibid., 31.

Joshua Mills is a graduate of Toronto Baptist Seminary (M. Div.) and has the privilege of serving as pastor at Trinity Baptist Church (Burlington, Ontario). Joshua is married to his beloved Kyla and they have two children: Isaac and Lydia.
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