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Genius and Passion – Spurgeon on Leadership
Does a 19th-century Baptist pastor really have much to teach the modern church – and the world – about leadership? Yes, definitely, according to Larry J. Michael, himself a Baptist pastor and author of a new book, Spurgeon on Leadership. Larry kindly agreed to answer some questions about the book and about C.H. Spurgeon.
I don’t normally think of Baptist pastors as leadership models. What were some of the particular qualities that made C.H. Spurgeon such a strong leader?
C. H. Spurgeon became a Baptist as a teenager because of his conviction on believer's baptism, separating himself from his Congregationalist upbringing. He became such a strong leader because he had an unyielding passion for the gospel of Christ. Everything he did was to further the cause of Christ and reach people with the message of salvation. I believe he had a special anointing of the Lord, that God raised him up for the time in which he lived. He utilized all the gifts God gave him to implement the vision to share the gospel with as many people as he could in as many ways as possible.
What are some of the lessons he can teach us today?
He can teach us about the importance of character, that we must be the same persons in private that we are in public. In this way, he provides a stellar example for contemporary leaders. He can teach us about the singular purpose of serving Christ with everything that we are and have. Spurgeon never changed the message, but he was not afraid to change the methods to reach more people. He teaches us that we should prioritize our families, and not sacrifice them for our ministries. His devotion to his family is exemplary for those leaders who are tempted to sacrifice their loved ones on the altar of success.
How did you come to write this book?
I have always had an interest in Spurgeon from early days, sitting under my father's preaching. In recent years, I co-taught a course titled "Spurgeon on Leadership" with Dr. Lewis Drummond (a Spurgeon biographer), at Beeson Divinity School (Samford University), Birmingham. From the lectures I developed, the idea came for the book. Kregel Publications were gracious enough to grant me a contract. It took three years to write the book, as I am a full-time pastor with many other responsibilities as well. I pray that it may be helpful to Christian leaders.
I would presume there is quite a strong ethical overlay to his teachings. What can he teach the secular world?
Spurgeon can teach the secular world to live by principle and not compromise for the sake of personal advantage. His life and ministry prove that one does not have to take shortcuts to get ahead, but making the right decisions for the right reasons can lead to long-term fulfilment in one's life and work.
Has your experience in writing this book changed your own views on the qualities of leadership in the church today? Do modern pastors understand how to lead?
I believe it would do well for the current Christian leadership to re-discover the genius and passion of C. H. Spurgeon. He is a breath of fresh air to the seeker-driven culture of Christian leadership today. He believed the Bible to be true, he sought to preach the whole counsel of God, and he positively pursued the ministry and employed creative approaches to the many opportunities that God brought his way. He was careful not to do anything that would compromise the unchanging message of the gospel. Modern pastors are so pragmatically driven, that they may be tempted to compromise the substance of the gospel for the sake of numbers, buildings, and finances. They need to heed Spurgeon's message of following leadership principles that are tried and true, and trust God for the results. Spurgeon's leadership principles are timeless, and we do well to study them.
Larry, thank you. And good luck with the book.
July 24th, 2003