An All-Round Ministry is the collection of 12 addresses delivered by Spurgeon, 9 at the Annual Conference held at the Pastors’ College in London which he founded and 3 at the meetings of the Evangelical Association, which had been newly formed. As you read the addresses, it becomes clear that Spurgeon has a profound love for those gathered, as he speaks as a father to his sons, a soldier to his comrades in arms. His impassioned words are simple and clear, vividly articulating the core, fundamentals of gospel ministry—the necessary preparation, work, power and aim of the gospel minister. If the minister fails in any one of these areas, so does his ministry.
Spurgeon stresses preparation for the minister that is fourfold, focused on the gospel, Scripture, prayer, and personal holiness. The gospel minister must know, believe, and delight in the gospel of Christ. “Those who believe firmly are, moreover, the men who are strong for service…the man who says, ‘I know whom I have believed, I know what I have experienced,’ he is the man who can run upon the Lord’s errands.” For the minister to know the gospel of Christ, he must know his Word. If he is to be of use in service to the Lord, he must be diligent in the reading and studying of God’s Word.
“You are to be, above all things, students of the Word of God; this, indeed, is a main point of your avocation. If we do not study Scripture, and those books that will help us to understand theology, we are but wasting time while we pursue other researches. We should judge him to be a foolish fellow who, while preparing to be a physician, spent all his time in studying astronomy.”
And this diligent studying of God’s Word is not a mere matter of intellectual acquisition, but it is a matter of knowing and communing with God himself. “Know Jesus. Sit at His feet. Consider His nature, His work, His sufferings, His glory. Rejoice in His presence; commune with Him from day to day.” It is in the Bible that God speaks; and it is to the Bible the minister is to turn to hear from him.
Believing the gospel, studying God’s Word, the prepared minister will be a man of prayer. “Prayer is the master-weapon. We should be greatly wise if we used it more, and did so with a more specific purpose.” Spurgeon is emphatic, “Be much with God in holy dialogue, letting Him speak to you by His Word while you speak back to Him by your prayers and praises.” Finally, the fourth point of emphasis for preparation is the minister’s personal holiness.
“In a word, we must labor for holiness of character. What is holiness? Is it not wholeness of character?…holiness is life. You must have holiness; and, dear brethren, if you should fail in mental qualifications…and if you should have a slender measure of the oratorical faculty…yet, depend upon it, a holy life is, in itself, a wonderful power, and will make up for many deficiencies.”
This holy life that must be the minister’s is not simply a matter of not giving oneself to carnal actions, which it includes, but it also demands a heart that hates vanity and seeks humility like oxygen, for “we shall never preach the Savior of sinners better than when we feel ourselves to be the sinners whom He came to save”.
What does Spurgeon identify as the primary work of the gospel minister? His work is one primarily of prayerful proclamation. The minister is to proclaim the gospel, which has its apex in the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross in the place of sinners, to unbelievers and believers alike, persuasively calling men and women to repentance and faith. Spurgeon is adamant, “I have only one remedy to prescribe, and that is, that we do preach the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in all its length and breadth of doctrine, precept, spirit, example, and power.” This proclamation is mainly to be from the Scripture, through diligently prepared, zealously delivered, and plainly spoken sermons.
While the minister must prepare and work, he is to know that the power for gospel ministry comes from God alone. Spurgeon exhorts, “Take care, brethren; for if we think we can do anything of ourselves, all we shall get from God will be the opportunity to try.” This task is too great for us. Left to our own strength, we are found wanting. I think one of the most blessed of men, the minister finds himself called to a task for which he is forced to be in a state of “constant dependence upon God.” His delightful duty is “to lie passive in the hand of love, to die into the life of Christ…to feel that: you do not know, but your Heavenly Father knows; that you cannot speak, but that ‘we have an Advocate;’ that you can scarcely lift a hand, but that He worketh all your works in you.” The minister must rely on the power of the all-powerful God, which will fuel harder work than any man thought himself capable of doing and make successful supernatural ends.
All of this, Spurgeon’s An All-Round Ministry, this explanation, and the ministry of the gospel, has an aim. The preparation, the work, the power, is all for an end. What is that great end? Spurgeon asserts that the ultimate aim of the work of the gospel minister is the glory of God; and the penultimate aim is the good of the church. He sets before his audience the relevant question, “In what way can I bring my Lord most glory, and be of most service to His Church while I am here?” It is singularly to this that all our toil is to be directed. “The harvest for which we look is to see faith springing up in the furrows of men’s hearts to the praise and glory of God.” By God’s grace, may it be so.
To end by hearing and heeding the words of Spurgeon’s teacher, the Apostle Paul, is most appropriate.
“[Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:28-29 ESV).