Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Book Review: Spurgeon on Leadership (2010) by Larry J. Michael

Spurgeon on Leadership: Key Insights for Christian Leaders from the Prince of Preachers
(2003, 2010) by Larry J. Michael

Reading biographies – Christian biographies, especially – is one of the best decision I ever made and habit that I will keep for a lifetime. Philip Brooks, preacher, and author, said, "A biography is, indeed, a book; but far more than a book, it is a man… Never lay the biography down until the man is a living, breathing, acting person to you." We who are in the ministry – of all people – ought to read biographies. We minister to real people, and the better we understand great men and their times, the better we can minister to our people in our times. A truly good biography of a great person "has a universal quality about it that makes it touch life at many points," observed Warren W. Wiersbe.

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), well-known British’s 19th-century preacher, though I never met him, is my spiritual mentor. Since I read two of his awesome biographies Spurgeon: A New Biography (1984) by Arnold Dallimore and Charles Spurgeon: The Prince of Preacher (1997) edited by Dan Harmon, my respect, and admiration for him ever increases. It was intensified by my reading of Spurgeon Gold (2005) collection of quotes compiled by Ray Comfort and a huge volume of The Essential Works of Charles Spurgeon: Selected Books, Sermons and Other Writings (2009) edited by Daniel Partner which is over 1,391 pages! Many great preachers today also admire Spurgeon, men like John MacArthur [in his book Ashamed of the Gospel, MacArthur warned the church today not to be like the world. He uses the life of Spurgeon as an example of a faithful preacher of Christ] and John Piper for examples [he preached and wrote a book entitled Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity]. Spurgeon is my spiritual mentor and his life is an inspiration for me. I never dream of becoming like him – far from it – because as Philip Brooks advice, "The object of reading biography… is not imitation but inspiration." Oh yes, an inspiration indeed!

Because of this, I rejoice gladly and read with great interest this book by Larry J. Michael. You can't separate Charles Spurgeon, pastor of the first megachurch in church history, from his excellent leadership. Beside pastored a megachurch, he also began a college to train pastors, founded an orphanage, instituted countless charitable organizations, sending missionaries, and bless other churches through his preaching, publishing books and book ministry for not-well-to-do pastors. No doubt among churches today this type of leader is in high demand, and Spurgeon's leadership style and innovations provide a challenging model. Rich Warren writes, "Spurgeon's model of leadership has profoundly influenced my life and ministry." Tom. S. Rainer agrees, "In every generation as few leaders emerge to set the pace and established the standards for leadership. [C.H. Spurgeon] was definitely one of these great leaders." John C. Maxwell simply says, "I highly recommend this book to all serious students of leadership!"

Here Michael points out not merely the insights of what it means to be an influential leader but also important fundamentals such as Christian commitment and moral character. Moreover, he shows how Spurgeon demonstrated extreme courage and conviction for those principles and how, in the various controversies that surrounded his ministry, he rose to meet them with a genuine sense of Christian maturity and Biblical constancy. Michael also stresses important characteristics such as grasping a vision for the task and prioritizing one's ministry in both the setting and the context of pastoral compassion and leadership. He also highlights Spurgeon as Christian model for both his staff, church members, and – especially for his family. Here too Michael does not exclude the fact that leadership often entails suffering and that was where Spurgeon truly ascended to the heights of leadership (besides physical illnesses, he also suffered depression). This book officially becomes my favorite leadership book!

It is divided into 3 parts and each cover leadership insights that are both historical in its context and practical for today's applications:

Part 1: The Leader for All Seasons

#1 Competence: Developing and Demonstrating Leadership
#2 Confidence: Balancing Faith, Attitude, Initiative, and Humility
#3 Context: Spurgeon in Victorian England
#4 Calling: Conversion and Growth
#5 Character: An Example of Integrity

Part 2: Leading Through the Seasons

#6 Casting Vision: Spurgeon's Goals and Planning
#7 Courage: Standing for Righteousness, Scripture, and Sound Teaching
#8 Commitment: Teaching and Modelling Devotion to Family
#9 Creativity: Preaching, Methods, and Ministry Innovations
#10 Compassion: Personal Toughness and Pastoral Tenderness
#11 Compass: Leading Despite Criticism and Conflict
#12 Coping: Dealing with Illness and Depression

Part 3: Applying the Lessons of a Leader

#13 A Leader for the World in Crisis
#14 A Leader for the Daily Challenge

Do you know why Spurgeon was such a great leader? For your information, he didn't go to any theological school (huh, I’m glad). Humanly speaking, he was self-taught. This is his theology and how he became a great man of God: "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is my Lord!" he exclaimed. With Lord Jesus Christ as his Master, only Master, everyone including Spurgeon is nothing but the humble servant of God. He first a follower of Jesus, then only he is a leader of men. Keep this in mind.


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