3 Distinct Church Planting Lessons From Charles Spurgeon

A Majestic Vision

Charles Spurgeon was "crazy-busy" on steroids. In addition to his duties as pastor of the massive Metropolitan Tabernacle Church, Spurgeon worked unrelentingly on behalf of his beloved Pastors’ College. Here’s just some of the ways he served the college:

  1. He was a recruiter for the Pastors’ College. [1]
  2. He was a lecturer for the Pastor’s College. [2]
  3. He was a fundraiser on behalf of the Pastor’s College. [3]
  4. He was a scout to position men upon completion of the Pastors’ College. [4]

Yet all of these roles serviced one glorious pursuit: planting churches! Spurgeon’s majestic vision was to plant churches for the sake of the gospel. For him, missiology needed a robust ecclesiology to be truly biblical. So Spurgeon dedicated his ministry to seeing churches multiplied through church planting.

From Spurgeon’s example we can learn 3 distinct lessons:

1. Train Men to Love the Church

The Pastors’ College was strategically integrated into the Tabernacle so students could observe how to apply their studies within a working model. This deepened their love for the local church as they observed the transforming power of the gospel at work. Dallimore observed, “This school had a benefit the others did not possess. The college was part of the life of the Tabernacle, and association with a great and active church provided a wealth of instruction and a power of inspiration to be found nowhere else.” [5]

Spurgeon’s majestic vision was to plant churches for the sake of the gospel. For him, missiology needed a robust ecclesiology to be truly biblical.

Once the students finished the program, they left the Pastors’ College to reproduce what they had observed, experienced, and come to love. The graduates had seen the fruit of gospel-application within the church and wanted to multiply it by planting churches. Spurgeon understood: only men who love the church can effectively reproduce it.

As we work with men considering the call to ministry, we would be wise to follow Spurgeon’s example of training men to love the church. Like begets like. Men do what men see. Only men who are shaped by the church will learn to cherish it and sacrifice whatever is necessary to replicate it.

The Great Commission is a call to train men to love the church.

2. Train Men to Build the Church

Spurgeon’s view of missions was church-centered and church-based. He knew that one gospel-centered model, well built and wisely deployed, could have a greater impact than one hundred aimless churches. Spurgeon dared to believe that the Metropolitan Tabernacle could make a culture-shaping difference.

And they did!

Spurgeon understood: only men who love the church can effectively reproduce it.

Be it the Pastors’ College, the Stockwell Orphanage, the Colportage Ministry, the Rock Loan Society, or the Penny Pulpit, the Metropolitan Tabernacle was a local church with a global vision. As Dallimore concluded, “The Metropolitan Tabernacle was not, as some have assumed, merely a highly popular preaching center. . . . The Tabernacle was a great working church.” [6]

“Great working churches” serve strategic roles in God’s evangelistic design—they become recruitment hubs, training centers, and mission beachheads for gospel expansion. They create working models that display the impact of the message they bear.

Most importantly, they become magnificent tools to connect the world to the Caller.

3. Train Men to Multiply the Church

The Metropolitan Tabernacle was not built as a monument to Spurgeon’s leadership, gifting, or ambition. It was built to be a church-multiplying church. Only months after completing the facility, Spurgeon wrote,

I look on the tabernacle as only the beginning; within the last six months, we have started two churches — one in Wandsworth and the other Greenwich — and the Lord has prospered them; the pool of baptism has often been stirred with converts. And what we have done in two places, I am about to do in a third, and we will do it, not for the third or the fourth, but for the hundredth time, God being our helper. I am sure I may make my strongest appeal to my brethren, because we do not mean to build this tabernacle as our nest, and then to be idle. We must go from strength to strength, and be a missionary church, and never rest until, not only this neighbourhood, but our country, of which it is said that some parts are as dark as India, shall have been enlightened with the gospel. [7]

The legacy of this great church is undeniable. Consider what these biographers have said of Spurgeon and his extraordinary work in church planting.

Perhaps the most significant auxiliary work of the Pastors’ College, and that which made the greatest and most long-lasting contribution, was the work done in church planting. Scores of churches were planted in London and throughout the country because of the College students’ efforts. [8]
Many men went to places where there were no churches and built them. Some went to good residential areas, others to poor districts. Some went to the slums, and there they witnessed for the Lord, preached on the street corners, visited door to door, and handed out tracts. They then secured meeting places of some kind and gathered people in, won them to the Lord, baptized them, and organized them into churches. [9]

Spurgeon got it. Training church planters isn’t merely downloading more spiritual knowledge. It’s about altering leadership genetics to include the church and then deploying men to multiply the church.

A Great Working Church

Charles Spurgeon was missional before it was cool. He was able, therefore, to build something in the present that delivered men into the harvest . . . and into the future. Spurgeon built a “great working church” and then gave his blood, sweat, and tears to multiply the model all over the land.

Over a century later, we are the inheritors of his spiritual legacy, not only through his preaching, but through his commitment to multiplying healthy churches.

Praise God that the Gov’ner of the Tabernacle and Prince of Preachers was also a Prince of planters!


Notes:

[1] Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1992) 409; Tim Curnow et al., A Marvelous Ministry: How the All-round Ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon Speaks to us Today(Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1993), 66.
[2] Drummond, Prince of Preachers, 412; Curnow et al., Marvelous Ministry, 66.
[3] Drummond, Prince of Preachers, 411; Curnow et al., Marvelous Ministry, 67; Arnold A. Dallimore,Spurgeon: A New Biography, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1985) 102, 104.
[4] Drummond, Prince of Preachers, 341.
[5] Dallimore, Spurgeon Biography, 105.
[6] Dallimore, Spurgeon Biography, 153.
[7] Drummond, Prince of Preachers, 341.
[8] Drummond, Prince of Preachers, 419.
[9] Dallimore, Spurgeon Biography, 108.


This post was written by Dave Harvey and also appears on the the Crossway blog, where you can find a revised and updated version of the book Am I Called?: The Summons to Pastoral Ministry.