The legacy of legendary 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon has inspired a debate about preaching today in a conference at the Baptist Assembly in Great Britain.
A three-way conversation at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church with preachers from three very different contexts showed a variety of views of how Spurgeon would have preached if he had been alive today.
Les Isaac, director of the Ascension Trust behind the Street Pastors initiative, said it has opened up numerous opportunities to “preach” to non-Christians – whether a homeless person on the street or a room of police officers – by relating biblical principles in a way to their situations. He is constantly asking himself “How do I contextualize the gospel message?”
Karl Henlin, former president of the Jamaica Baptist Union, in Great Britain as part of a delegation visiting the Baptist Union of Great Britain, believed that there was a place for prophetically proclaiming the gospel in a similar way to Spurgeon and there was still “great value” in doing this.
In complete contrast, Jenni Entrican, who leads Jacob’s Well near Yate, a Baptist emerging church plant, has not preached for a year and favors a more collaborative approach to sharing the gospel.
Jacob’s Well is aiming to reach people who would not normally go to church and that has meant “dismantling” the way they do church with no hymns and no sermons.
“How do we as Christ followers live with others that don’t know him in post Christendom world?” she said. “There needs to be a stripping away of what we are comfortable with … we need to be giving up the things we love as what we should be doing is loving that other person (who doesn’t normally go to church).”
Henlin commented that the emerging church model was evidence that the “church is gasping in Europe and North America” and “we’re creating strategies to please others.”
“We are called to proclaim the gospel. That gospel needs to be relevant and proclaimed with power,” Henlin said.
In a workshop on prophetic preaching, Karl Johnson, general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, said that the place of preaching in the church had been diminished.
“Preaching especially in the Western world is a dying art,” Johnson said. Preachers had allowed their roles to be redefined as “caregivers, managers, CEOs of churches not pastors.”
“I believe preaching is a unique ministry ordained by God,” he said. “It is the primary way that God speaks his mind and will to his people.”
Earlier, Peter Morden, a history tutor at Spurgeon’s College in London, who specializes on Spurgeon, gave an overview of his ministry and the spirituality that underpinned it.
Morden believed that Spurgeon’s three principles of knowing God’s word intimately, consistent prayer and practical application (evangelism) with everything centered on Christ could be applied to us today.
“Spurgeon once said, ‘Do something, do something, do something. Committees just talk about things. Go out and do something.'”