Each week I attempt to read a sermon by my favorite preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Recently I read a sermon from 1855, The Church of Christ. In it Spurgeon sought to develop an argument on the clause from Ezekiel 34:26:
And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing.
Here he attempted to convince his audience of the church’s role in the world. His argument was simple: first, “Christ’s church is to be a blessing” and second, “Christ’s church is to be blessed.”
As I was reading I was struck by his first point, specifically his third item of application: the development of gospel blessing. It made me stop and consider the practicality of the Prince of Preachers. I believe we can apply Spurgeon’s wisdom as pastors.
Spurgeon states boldly, “I hope we shall never be satisfied, as members of Park Street, until we are a blessing, not only to ourselves, but to all the places around our hill. What are the places around about our hill?” Let’s consider three places:
The First Place: Our Agencies (ministries)
The first place “around the hill” according to Spurgeon are the agencies (ministries) of the church. Charles mentions the importance of Sunday School. Not only does Sunday School offer an opportunity for teachers to express their gifts but also for the listeners to be blessed. For Charles, the Sunday School program had an important role in training members in the gospel.
Next Spurgeon encourages us not to neglect the visitation ministry, especially to the sick. This ministry is important as it connects those who are homebound or in the hospital to the church. If you’ve read Spurgeon, you realize that this ministry was very close to his heart.
Lastly he mentions a society of preaching. Spurgeon is speaking about a society of young gifted preachers training for ministry (this is probably the early formation of the Preacher’s College that opened in 1856). He emphasizes the need to train and send preachers out in the city of London to speak the gospel. As pastors we too must identify and pour into brothers called to preach.
In applying Spurgeon’s wisdom we also must recognize that the various ministries of the church are a blessing around the hill of our community and church. Pastor, are you recognizing your Sunday School program (small group) as a vital place of blessing in the local church? Have you established a visitation team and are you visiting personally? Are you pouring into the next generation of preachers? According to Spurgeon, these are places around the hill are a blessing.
The Second Place: Our Neighborhood
The Lion of London discusses the neighborhood around the hill. His words are convicting and striking, “I am paralyzed sometimes, when I think that we are of so little service to the neighborhood, though this is a green oasis in the midst of a great spiritual desert.”
Spurgeon’s concern was that the church was failing to reach people in the neighborhood. He goes as far as to tell members from other churches to “stay home” in order to allow sinners to attend the Sunday service. But he wasn’t just concerned about open seats in the church. He exhorts we must “open our arms” and “preach the gospel to them.” Charles wanted church members to move outside the church walls into the neighborhood with the gospel. He loved sinners and wanted to do all he could to reach them.
In other words, he wasn’t impressed with transfer growth from other churches but wanted to see the evangelization of sinners. This happens inside and outside the church. He believed that the church had a responsibility to the neighborhood to reach the lost. Evangelism burned in his heart. Reaching the neighborhood with the gospel brought blessing.
We should ask ourselves: are our churches blessing the neighborhood by reaching it with the gospel? Do our churches welcome sinners in to hear and believe the gospel? This brings blessing around our hill according to Spurgeon.
The Third Place: The Churches Adjacent to Us
The last place around the hill are the other churches in the neighborhood. Spurgeon notes the importance of rejoicing in the work of other churches. This brings blessing. Though there were many churches in London that were dying, Charles believed that his church had a responsibility to help aid sparking revival fire in the life of these congregations.
He states, “If there is a light in this candlestick, let others come and light theirs candles by it. If there is a flame here, let the flame spread until all the neighboring churches shall be lit up with the glory.” Sharing in the gospel work with other like-minded churches helps spark a fire in dying churches. Could it be that Spurgeon in 1855 was speaking about what we know as church revitalization? Maybe or maybe not—but nevertheless, he desired to partner with other churches.
One of the ways to be a blessing is by working and rejoicing with other churches in the community. An individual church may be strong but partnering with others can advance the gospel on a larger scale. Celebrating the gospel work of other churches opens our eyes to God’s marvelous work among His people.
Friend, are you rejoicing in the work of other churches in your community or do you view them as competition? Are you seeking to help struggling churches in your area advance the gospel? According to Spurgeon, you should because this is a place of blessing.
Charles Spurgeon is known for being a powerful herald of the gospel. But here we see Spurgeon speaking practically to other areas of ministry beyond simply preaching. There are other places around the hill of the community and church that we should take note of and be thankful for as pastors. We should be thankful for the ministries in our churches such as Sunday School and the visitation team. The hill of the church is found within a neighborhood and our churches have the opportunity to reach it with the gospel. But remember that our churches aren’t the only ones around the hill. We can rejoice in and partner with other churches to see the gospel advanced. Let’s apply Spurgeon’s wisdom to the hill God has called us to serve.