Discouragement is the occupational hazard of ministry, and many of God’s workers are disheartened by small crowds and meager results. Charles Spurgeon could teach them a lesson.
It isn’t that Spurgeon ever struggled with small crowds. Almost from the beginning, multitudes flocked to his feet. When he assumed his London pastorate in 1854, the church had 232 members. Soon so many were crowding his auditoriums that he sometimes asked his members to stay away the next Sunday to accommodate newcomers. He seldom preached to fewer than 6,000, and on one occasion his audience numbered almost 24,000—all this before the day of microphones. During his lifetime Spurgeon preached to approximately 10,000,000 people.
He also became history’s most widely-read preacher. Today there is more material written by Spurgeon than by any other Christian author of any generation. The collection of his Sunday sermons stands as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of the church. He is called the “Prince of Preachers.”
But ironically Spurgeon himself is a testimony to the power of a small church. On Sunday, January 6, 1850, a blizzard hit England, and 15-year-old Charles was unable to reach the church he usually attended. He turned down Artillery Street and ducked into a Primitive Methodist Church, finding only a few people standing around the stove. Not even the preacher arrived.
A thin-looking man stood and read Isaiah 45:22—Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth (kjv). The speaker, groping for something to say, kept repeating his text. Finally, he spied young Charles in the back. Pointing his bony finger at the boy, he cried, “Look, young man! Look! Look to Christ!”
The young man did look, and Spurgeon later said, “As the snow fell on my road home from the little house of prayer, I thought every snowflake talked with me and told of the pardon I had found.” Arriving home, his mother saw his expression and exclaimed, “Something wonderful has happened to you.” It had, proving that smaller ponds often yield the biggest fish.
Does anyone remember how glorious this temple used to be? Now it looks like nothing. But cheer up! Because I, the Lord All-Powerful, will be here to help you with the work just as I promised. … My Spirit is right here with you. (Haggai 2:3-5)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Jan. 6.