Surprising Spurgeon # 1 – Relevance

October 14, 2008

Supposing a time machine could enable you to revisit the yesteryears of Christian history. What one preacher would you return to hear preach? Excepting the biblical period (Moses, Jeremiah, Paul!, Jesus!) I would probably have an almighty case of choice-paralysis. Trying to pick between the likes of Calvin, Whitefield, Edwards and Spurgeon?!

Thankfully I don’t have a time machine – only biographies – so I don’t need to choose! And having considered Edwards, Calvin and Whitefield in the last two years, with the help of Zack Eswine (in his book “Kindled Fire”) I’ve been returning to Charles Spurgeon.

Although I’ve probably read three or four biographies about the great man previously, some striking details about Spurgeon’s life and preaching have evidently evaded me. Several of the initial surprises revolve around the similarities between Spurgeon’s day and ours. In the first place, I’ve been somewhat surprised that ‘The Prince of Preachers’ had to contend with the cult of relevance. Even in Spurgeon’s time, someone bemoaned:

“I want something for today – for over burdened men and women in this year of our Lord 1869″ (Eswine, 13).

Another source demanded:

“…something live and something that has bearing on our daily work, something that recognizes the seething elements about us and their bearing on the questions of conscience and duty we are hourly called on to settle. Oh, if the clergymen would only study their fellow men more.” (Ibid)

Apparently, the quest for something new is nothing new. Similarly, the rallying cry for relevance is hardly the rarified call to the 21st century preacher we often think it to be.


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