No matter what aspect of ministry you are involved in chances are you have heard of Charles Spurgeon. He pastored a church that had attendance of over 10,000 people on a weekly basis, wrote many books, and over 1,900 sermons are attributed to him (Spurgeon, 1954, backcover). Spurgeon regularly shared insights to ministerial students at Spurgeon College in an effort to adequately prepare them to be ministers of the Gospel. Lectures to My Students is the documented exchange of lectured that Spurgeon gave to his students. Ministers new and old with find a vast treasury of knowledge and insight that is helpful at any stage of a minster’s career.
Charles Spurgeon’s book Lectures to My Students is an in depth ministry manual for ministerial students and Pastors that are currently serving. In the work Spurgeon reiterates the importance of a relationship with Christ, a genuine call to serve, the necessity of prayer, and a hunger to reach the lost.
In speaking to his students about the Christian life Spurgeon states, “For a herald of the Gospel to be spiritually out of order in his own proper person is, both to himself and to his work, a most serious calamity (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 8).” Ministers are to ever vigilant in prayer, faithful in private devotion, and must have the understanding that his soul must be taken care of before he can even think about pastoral ministry to someone else.
Spurgeon goes into great detail as to why the call of the minister must be authentic and from God. A minister must have the desire to serve, be gentle under difficult circumstances, and good judgment. Spurgeon provides unfortunate examples of those who have gone into ministry without an authentic call. In regards to this calamity Spurgeon states, “That hundreds have lost their way and stumbled against a pulpit is sorrowfully evident from the fruitless ministries and decaying churches which surround us (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 25)”. Part of the call is understanding that God opens doors for those who are faithful.
The call to ministry is also a call to holiness and a godly character. If one strives to be a minister he must be someone the people can look up to. He is to be an example of what it means to be a Christian. One must be pious and have a high moral standard consistent with biblical principles. Spurgeon eloquently states in regard to godly living, “We do not trust those persons who have two faces, nor will men believe in those whose verbal and practical testimonies are contradictory (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 17).” This godly character is one that resonates from faith in Christ. In his teaching about sermons Spurgeon gives great advice to his students. He tells them to preach Christ always (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 79).
If there were ever a training manual for minsters then Lectures to My Students may qualify for it. It gives practical lessons to prepare minsters for what they will encounter, and ways to keep them on the straight and narrow. One of the great strengths of the book is the practical application that is presented.
The practical application can be seen in Spurgeon presenting what must be done with a minister’s life, both public and private. This can also be seen in the chapter discussing sermons. Spurgeon insists that sermons have teaching that can be applied to everyday life. He also insists that the truth not be held back no matter how unpopular it is (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 75). There is also a reminder of humility that the minister must always remember. The minister is called by the creator of the Universe and that must never be forgotten. It is a practical application of our place in the scheme of God, and we are to keep reverence to God as priority.
A weakness of the book, at least to the 21st century reader, is one of time. Spurgeon served in England in the 1800’s, and many things have changed since then. One such thing is language, and it has changed much in the last 200 years. There was also some doctrinal turmoil among various Baptist groups in England during Spurgeon’s time. This may have caused Spurgeon to be more forceful with some of his lectures. The things he is forceful about such as justification by faith and the deity of Christ are things we should still feel the same about today. As long as one understands these variables one will have no real issue with the work and will find it a great addition to their library.
In the larger academic context Lectures to My Students is remarkable and has stood the test of time. In in remarkable in its focus on a minster’s relationship with Christ, recognition of authentic calling, and the necessity of fulfilling the Great Commission. It is a reminder that things such as times of solitude, quiet time, prayer, and fasting are still beneficial and needed for the minister to properly prepare for his work. Sometimes those things are not popular, but they are certainly beneficial. Spurgeon, though a successful preacher, was a truly humble servant of God (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 51). He was truly an example for every one aspires to be in ministry, and for those who are currently in ministry.
Spurgeon, Charles. Lectures to My Students. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1954.