The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music, and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing to staunch the flow of blood that is spilling from its true wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common.

David Wells, God in the Wasteland, p. 114.

The Kingdom of God and the Dangers of an Over-Realized Eschatology

There’s a lot of talk these days about the Kingdom of God. Kingdom this. Tangible kingdom that. Along with “missional” it’s one of the hot buzzwords in emerging evangelicalism. Books and videos and DVDs on Kingdom living abound.  Everybody wants a piece of the Kingdom.  Take, for instance, this search on Amazon. (By the way, I just purchased a new DVD series called The Kingdom Way of Life. I’ll try to write a review of it later).

For the most part this rediscovery or renewed Kingdom emphasis is welcomed because it’s correcting an overly internalized and spiritualized understanding of the Kingdom of God (God reigns only within) or a tendency to think of the Kingdom as a future only event with no bearing on the present.  But herein lies the danger.  In so emphasizing the now-ness, the present-ness, and the social and cultural implications of the Kingdom of God, for the sake of wanting to see people on mission with Jesus, we run the risk of an over-realized eschatology that bears a striking resemblance to the theology of C.H. Dodd or the ‘liberal’ view of von Harnack.  In other words, if people manifest the Kingdom through social action but have not experienced the Kingdom of God within, we’ve become missional, but at what expense?

So let the Kingdom come, now, on earth as it is in heaven, in all it’s glory. I’m all for that.  Let’s lead people to see and to experience God’s kingly rule through social action extending to to the institutions and culture around them.  But let’s not swing the pendulum so far in the direction of a realized eschatology that we neglect the inward aspects of God’s Kingly rule and end up looking like the liberalism of the early 20th century. Can I get an Amen?

Seven Leadership Observations From the Life of Spurgeon

Drawn from Arnold Dallimore’s Spurgeon, Moody Press, 1984.

1. Covenant of Service

Spurgeon made a covenant with God to serve Him as long as he was on this earth. This statement written just days after his conversion hints at the dedication, zeal, and commitment with which he would serve Christ throughout his life.  He says,

O great and unsearchable God, who knowest my heart, and triest all my ways; with a humble dependence upon the support of Thy Holy Spirit, I yield myself up to Thee; as Thine own reasonable sacrifice, I return to Thee Thine own.  I would be forever, unreservedly, perpetually Thine; whilst I am on earth, I would serve Thee; and may I enjoy Thee and praise Thee forever!  Amen.

Spurgeon worked tirelessly for the sake of the Gospel.  Behind much of what he accomplished was this simple yet genuine desire to give every ounce of his physical and mental capacities to his wonderful and loving Savior.   

2. Constant Prayer

Spurgeon was a man of prayer.  Prayer sustained every ministry endeavor he undertook.  Likewise, an attitude of prayer infiltrated the daily life at the Tabernacle.  Members of his congregation followed his lead in prayer by meeting regularly throughout the week to pray.  I have come to believe in a direct correlation between the fervency of one’s prayer life and the degree to which God uses a person for His Kingdom work.  A friend of Spurgeon, Dr. Wayland Hoyt, had this to say about him, 

Kneeling…he lifted up his soul to God in the most loving and yet reverent prayer.  Then, rising from his knees he went strolling on, talking about this and that.  The prayer was no parenthesis interjected.  It was something that belonged as much to the habit of his mind as breathing did to the habit of his body.

O, that the leaders of our churches and seminaries would submit to God in prayer! What would our lives look like?  How would our witness to the world around us change?

3. Humility

Too often Christian leaders, especially leaders of large churches, are obsessed with their own persona. Spurgeon appeared to remain free from this snare.  Note his wife’s comments as she read his autobiography.    

How marked is his humility, even though he must have felt within him the stirrings and throes of the wonderful powers which were afterwards developed.  ’Forgive me, Lord,’ he says in one place, ‘if I have ever had high thoughts of myself’ – early did the Master implant the precious seeds of that rare grace of meekness which adorned his after life.

Similarly, Dallimore states, “Amidst a success so great that it would have driven many a man to unbounded pride, [Spurgeon] remained humble and was often utterly broken before the Lord.”  This humility affected much of what he did.  For example, in his later years, Spurgeon calmed his preaching down for fear that his gestures and oration would draw attention to himself rather than to God.   I pray that God and His agenda would continually be more important our reputations, ministry, or even physical well being.

4. Boldness

If Spurgeon believed God was calling him to do something, he boldly did it and trusted God regardless of the consequences.  Many times Spurgeon’s bold leadership placed the Tabernacle and its ministries under financial duress or criticism from the press, yet God continually provided miracles to sustain the work. 

5. Voracious Reader

At the end of his life, Spurgeon’s personal library consisted of 12,000 titles. He constantly read and reviewed books.  This continual thirst for knowledge proved to enrich his preaching and kept his theological mind sharp.  It enabled him to converse on many different levels with his flock and reach many more people.  

6. Invested in Others

Spurgeon’s development of the Pastor’s College left an indelible mark on England. His willingness to help others become the people God called them to be was a highly admirable characteristic of his leadership.  The pastors he trained at his college had a profound evangelistic impact upon London.  It was reported that in 1888, “the 370 College men had, during the preceding year, baptized 4,770 persons, and the increase in their membership had amounted to 3,856.” This one-year impact, let alone all the preceding and following years, would not have taken place if Spurgeon had not had the vision to train pastors.  

7. Disciplined Personal Life

For God to use Spurgeon in the way he did required Spurgeon to be disciplined in his daily life.  Dallimore says that he,

Exercised an unyielding self-discipline. To him the Christian life must be fully governed, and he put that ideal into steady practice. Rising early, he filled the day with labor, studying and visiting, praying and preaching. He gave no attention to sports and had no personal friendships with members of the opposite sex, but all his time and thought were given to the Lord.

How much greater would God use us if we were not so concerned about our own selfish ambitions and instead used His time more wisely.