What Made Charles Spurgeon Successful in Ministry?

Josh Buice


Charles Haddon Spurgeon is one of the men from church history who has shaped me through his writings and his printed sermons. When you consider his life and ministry, it’s truly astounding. Anytime you read biographies of men and women who have gone before us, one thing that captivates us is the search for what made them tick. What was the thing that made them memorable? Why are they remembered?

Why is Charles Haddon Spurgeon remembered today? What should we remember about the man who is known as The Prince of Preachers?

The Accomplishments of Spurgeon’s Ministry

When it comes to the accomplishments of Spurgeon, it almost seems as if the list is an exaggeration. I recall watching a documentary of Bo Jackson, the two-sport professional athlete who played baseball and football professionally. In the documentary, commentators and coaches described some of the things that Jackson was able to do on the field in games and non-documented scenes like on the practice field. They described things that don’t seem possible for a human being. When it comes to Spurgeon, his ministry doesn’t seem possible—especially when you consider the fact that he died at the young age of only 57.

  • He preached 600+ times before he was 20 years old.
  • His sermons sold approximately 25,000 copies per week and were translated into 20 languages. One man ordered a million copies of one sermon and had it distributed throughout England.
  • The collected sermons fill 63 volumes which is equal to the 27 volume ninth edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. This collection of sequential work is the largest set of books produced by any author in the history of the world.
  • He read 6 books each week to prepare for his sermons and to sharpen his mind.
  • He read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress more than 100 times.
  • He saw over 14,400 people added to his church during his ministry.
  • He founded a pastors’ college.
  • He trained approximately 900 men for the ministry.
  • He founded an orphanage.
  • He produced more than 140 books.
  • He edited a magazine.
  • He responded to 500+ letters each week.
  • He often preached 10+ times each week (combined through guest appearances and through his own local church ministry).
  • He labored to spare the Baptist name from the liberals of his day (see the Downgrade Controversy for more information).
  • He was hated by many liberals for his fierce opposition to their agenda. They loved to mock him in the local newspapers like Vanity Fair.
  • When he turned 50, they listed 66 institutions that he had founded.
  • He was known to work approximately 18 hours per day.

What an amazing ministry career in a day without modern technology, email, and smart phones assisting with daily tasks and routine duties. However, there is one thing that stands as the foundation that everything in Spurgeon’s career stands upon and this is the real reason why we remember him today.

That One Thing About Spurgeon

When everyone else in the Christian world seemed to be going to the left through higher criticism, Charles Haddon Spurgeon kept his anchor deeply rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He may be remembered for many things, but the real reason why Spurgeon is remembered today is because he refused to be swept downstream in the rising tide of liberalism of his day. He remained fixed on the gospel.

Sure, we can celebrate the preaching gift of Spurgeon and talk about his command of the English language and his ability to turn a phrase. But, if we are completely honest, the reason why the Metropolitan Tabernacle grew under his ministry is because he was feeding the sheep in London (and beyond) with the true gospel of Jesus. He refused to employ gimmicks and trickery to grow the church. His anchor was deeply rooted in the gospel. He was like a lighthouse faithfully shining the light of the gospel in his preaching.

In March of 1861, the Metropolitan Tabernacle was opened in London, England. After leading his congregation at its original location at New Park Street Chapel and renting out large concert halls because the church had grown significantly, the church finally came together in their new home—the Metropolitan Tabernacle where it remain to this day at Elephant and Castle in London.

The winds of culture will always blow new schemes and methods through your city, but it’s essential to keep your anchor deeply rooted in the gospel of King Jesus.

These are Spurgeon’s first words during the first sermon on March 25, 1861 at the dedication of the Metropolitan Tabernacle:

I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist, although I claim to be rather a Calvinist according to Calvin, than after the modern debased fashion. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. You have there (pointing to the baptistery) substantial evidence that I am not ashamed of that ordinance of our Lord Jesus Christ; but if I am asked to say what is my creed, I think I must reply: “It is Jesus Christ.”

Spurgeon made it abundantly clear to those gathered for that occasion that Jesus Christ must always be the focus of the ministry of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. As Spurgeon would continue to preach the gospel week after week, the church would be strengthened by the grace of God and the power of the gospel. Tens of thousands of people would be converted during the 38-year ministry of Charles Spurgeon. Such enormous growth was not based on gimmickry or trickery or pragmatic schemes. It was a testimony of the power of the gospel to awaken sinners to life and to sanctify the church for the glory of God.

As Charles Spurgeon stood faithfully upon the foundation of the gospel, he refused to compromise during the Downgrade Controversy. His faithfulness to the gospel would cause him to separate from the Baptist Union. In the August 1887 issue of the Sword & Trowel, Spurgeon made his position crystal clear in his six-page editorial entitled, “Another Word on the Downgrade.” He wrote the following:

No lover of the gospel can conceal from himself the fact that the days are evil. We are willing to make a large discount from our apprehensions on the score of natural timidity, the caution of age, and the weakness produced by pain; but yet our solemn conviction is that things are much worse in many churches than they seem to be, and are rapidly tending downward. Read those newspapers which represent the Broad School of Dissent, and ask yourself, How much farther could they go? What doctrine remains to be abandoned? What other truth to be the object of contempt? A new religion has been initiated, which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese; and this religion, being destitute of moral honesty, palms itself off as the old faith with slight improvements, and on this plea usurps pulpits which were erected for gospel preaching. The Atonement is scouted, the inspiration of Scripture is derided, the Holy Spirit is degraded into an influence, the punishment of sin is turned into fiction, and the resurrection into a myth, and yet these enemies of our faith expect us to call them brethren, and maintain a confederacy with them!

When Spurgeon came to the end of his ministry, he was still a young man, but he was battling with severe physical illness. When he came to the pulpit on June 7, 1891, he didn’t know it would be his final sermon. He would go through another battle of illness and sickness that would eventually claim his life at the young age of 57.

In his final sermon, he preached 1 Samuel 30:21-26. But, when he came to the close, he pointed people to Jesus Christ. His concluding words in his final sermon:

What I have to say lastly is this: how greatly I desire that you who are not yet enlisted in my Lord’s band would come to him because you see what a kind and gracious Lord he is! Young men, if you could see our Captain, you would down on your knees and beg him to let you enter the ranks of those who follow him. It is heaven to serve Jesus. I am a recruiting sergeant, and I would fain find a few recruits at this moment. Every man must serve somebody: we have no choice as to that fact. Those who have no master are slaves to themselves. Depend upon it, you will either serve Satan or Christ, either self or the Saviour…. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day!

Just like that, the faithful soldier of the Lord finished his preaching ministry at the Metropolitan Tabernacle by pointing people to the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon is remembered for many things, but one thing stands out above them all. Spurgeon is remembered for his faithfulness in preaching the gospel.

May that be true of your church. The winds of culture will always blow new schemes and methods through your city, but it’s essential to keep your anchor deeply rooted in the gospel of King Jesus.

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Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.