Growing a Church by Growing in the Pulpit
| By Geoffrey Chang
The key to healthy church growth is consistent, Bible-based preaching. Charles Spurgeon knew that preaching was foundational to church relevance, shaping discipleship ministry and outreach to the community.
Out of all the pastoral responsibilities that are out there, what should a pastor give himself to? This is a difficult question. After all, depending on the size of your church, there are facilities to be maintained, ministries to be organized, staff to be managed, people to be counseled, shut-ins to be visited, services to be planned, projects to be accomplished, meetings to attend, and the list goes on and on. So many of these responsibilities seem urgent and they clamor for our attention. And yet, while these responsibilities all have their importance, there is one pastoral responsibility that is the most important: the preaching of God’s Word.
Preaching leads to healthy church growth.
As the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, a church with a membership of over 5,000, a pastoral training college, two orphanages, and dozens of charitable institutions, Charles Spurgeon knew about the business of pastoral ministry. And yet, week after week, no matter how busy he was, he refused to let the preaching of the Word suffer. If there was anything that he would always give himself to in prayer and preparation, it was the preaching. Why is that?
Spurgeon taught that a pastor who fed his congregation from God’s Word would go a long way in keeping the church united and happy under his leadership. Spurgeon believed that preaching shapes the church. Preaching is how a pastor leads and grows the church spiritually. The character and health of the church depend on the ministry of the Word. Therefore, the strongest influence for spiritual growth in the church lay, not with the elders or deacons or Sunday school teachers, but with the preacher. “Doubtless the hearers influence the preacher, but for the most part the stronger current runs the other way.”
Without faithful preaching, a church will decline.
Spurgeon saw many negative examples of this principle in the churches of his day. Many of these churches had a historic ministry. But over the years, new pastors came in with modern theologies and new emphases. Inevitably, the pulpit was no longer central in these churches and what preaching remained was characterized more by intellectualism and current events, rather than the gospel. As a result, these churches began to wither spiritually. Prayer meetings were canceled. Evangelistic fervor declined. Worldly entertainments crept into the church. Such churches might attract people with their innovations, but Spurgeon saw that the spiritual condition had changed. In all these things, he traced the root of these problems to the pulpit.
Reforming the Pulpit
The solution, then, was to reform the pulpit and help churches see the importance of the faithful preaching of God’s Word. Spurgeon rejected those who undermined the pastorate and “would pull down the men God has raised up.” Rather, he believed that the pulpit was at the heart of the life of the church. A faithful ministry of the Word is “the instrumentality by which the Lord especially works” in the church. Churches that rejected “God’s chosen instrumentality of ministry” would soon have “Ichabod!” written upon their walls. But through the ministry of the Word, God displays His power in the church and in the world.
As a result, Spurgeon devoted himself to raising up faithful preachers of God’s Word. He could not envision reforming any church apart from the pulpit. Apart from the power of God’s Word, any efforts at church reform would fail. But if a dying church would call a faithful preacher to fill the pulpit and preach God’s Word faithfully, Spurgeon believed, by God’s grace, that any church could be restored and once again see God’s blessing upon its ministry.
Amid all the pressures of ministry, Spurgeon refused to let the preaching of the Word fail, because he was convinced that it is through the Word that God builds his church. This conviction held true when his church was only a few dozen in attendance. And this conviction continued when his church became the largest church in his day.
Excerpted with permission from Spurgeon the Pastor by Geoff Chang. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing.
To learn more about the Spurgeon Center at MBTS or about Spurgeon’s approach to pastoral ministry, check out Geoffrey Chang’s book, Spurgeon the Pastor, published by B&H Publishing.
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