Pastors must follow Charles H. Spurgeon’s example by living a life of conviction, humility, integrity and an intense “longing of his heart to see men and women come to Christ,” noted Alistair Begg during the fourth annual Spurgeon Lectures on Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS).
Screen capture from MBTS
Begg, a popular evangelical pastor of Cleveland-area Parkside Church, delivered his lectures at the seminary’s Kansas City, Mo., campus on Oct. 18-19. Begg was also inducted by MBTS President Jason Allen as the school’s fourth Spurgeon Fellow. The lectures were held about a year after the dedication of the seminary’s Spurgeon Library and Jenkins Hall.
“As we continue to train the next generation of pastors and ministry leaders for the church at Midwestern Seminary, it is imperative to host a lecture series each year that is dedicated to expositional preaching,” Allen said. “All who have attended these lectures will, prayerfully, leave with a deeper commitment to proclaiming God’s Word.
“Having Alistair Begg for these lectures is something we have worked on for several years, and it is an honor to host and learn from a man who stands for biblical, expositional preaching and who has a deep love and respect for Charles Spurgeon.”
Conferring Begg as a Spurgeon Fellow, Allen recognized him “for his ongoing leadership in equipping church leaders, for his commitment to the expository preaching of God’s Word, and for his service to the broader evangelical community.”
Spurgeon & John the Baptist
In his first lecture, Begg gleaned from Mark 1 and John 1 in explaining the “measure of the man,” 19-century Baptist Pastor Charles Spurgeon, by making five comparisons to “another famous Baptist, namely, John himself.”
The first comparison, Begg noted, was the divine authority of the two men. Plainly both men were “sent by God.” This calling, he continued, is exactly what underpins the ministry of a servant of God.
Neither man ever received a formal education, nor was he formally ordained. Each began his teaching ministry at an early age and with a small group of disciples.
Like John the Baptist, Spurgeon “was so convinced about the authority that was his in the Word of God, that when he took the Word of God and proclaimed it … the hearts and minds of his listeners had a divine encounter with the living God, through the work of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Begg said.
Secondly, Spurgeon and John the Baptist held a sense of helpful humility. Begg explained each knew his place in the Kingdom of God – as “a voice.”
Each also recognized that the only reason he had a voice was because God had given him something to say.
The third comparison between Spurgeon and John the Baptist was in the area of integrity. Begg noted that in each man’s most difficult season, he was a man of character. This integrity enabled each to challenge political and church leaders of his day, to make a strong gospel stand, and to acknowledge his frailty as a man.
Next, Begg compared the two men’s bravery. Just as John was not fearful to call out Herod’s adultery, Spurgeon was unafraid to point out “sham and pretense.”
The final comparison drawn was that both men possessed a helpful simplicity and clarity, and had little tolerance for those who did not.
Neither man “clouded the issue” for those they interacted with. Begg said of Spurgeon, “He understood that the things which were central to the gospel could be articulated with clarity and simplicity. …”
Lessons from Spurgeon to his students
Begg’s second address detailed two lessons from Spurgeon’s, Lectures to My Students, with the first being the call to live a devout and holy life, and the second being the urgent call to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Spurgeon’s deep desire was that neither his students nor congregation would fall into a cavalier attitude or casual approach in their spiritual relationship with Christ, Begg said. He said that should be modern-day Christians’ concern as well.
“Spiritual fitness takes precedence over physical fitness,” Begg noted. “And yet some of us have expended far more energy on the physical than the spiritual. The average young minister has an iPad, a laptop, and an exercise bag. … None of these things are necessarily bad, but Paul says to Timothy, ‘You better pay attention to the vital importance of spiritual fitness. You better watch yourself in this regard.’”
Begg further explained that it is easy for pastors to preach a message and not conduct self-introspection as well.
“I fear that I am failing to take these matters as seriously as I should. Remember Spurgeon said, ‘Give the talk to yourself first, and then let others listen if they choose.’”
In his second point, Begg challenged the congregants, especially pastors, to question whether they intensely desire to see their hearers believe in the Lord Jesus.
“Did you read Spurgeon? Did you ever think about the tears he wept, the concern he had … the longing of his heart to see men and women come to Christ? You see, how good we are at championing the little bits that allow us to stay in our comfort zone while avoiding the implications of that which unsettles us, confronts us and drives us to our knees. It makes us cry out for the infusion of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our ministries.”
Begg concluded the lectures saying, “As much as we love Spurgeon and revere his memory, the reason we actually do this is because he did exactly what he is urging us to do – to take seriously our own life, our doctrine and the issue of watching over our souls; and to commit ourselves fervently, passionately and consistently to proclaim the unsearchable riches of grace.”
To view the Spurgeon Lectures, visit mbts.edu/news-resources.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.)