Jul 3, 2012
neil

‘We should be doing more for the Lord in this great city’ – How CH Spurgeon changed the face of London

What happens to churches that really understands the radical message of the gospel of God’s grace?  They make it an urgent priority to proclaim the message of the gospel to their communities & cities and at the same time they make it a necessary priority to love and serve their neighbours in deed as well as word.

I’ve written before on Tim Keller’s book Generous Justice and his summary of the biblical evidence that your attitude to the poor is a measure of your grasp of the gospel. Having read DeYoung & Gilbert’s book on exactly how evangelism and social concern relate to the mission of the Church and the mission of individual Christian I look forward to making some comments soon. Both books are important reminders that whilst the preaching of the gospel is central to our work, where the gospel is at work in our lives, Christians are concerned for the practical needs of the most needy in our cities.

In my reading this morning I was reminded of just how the greatest preacher and evangelist of the British church in the 19th century, CH Spurgeon, was also hugely committed to mercy ministry. Larry J. Michael summarises Spurgeon’s impact on London in his Spurgeon on Leadership writing;

Spurgeon blended evangelism and social concern perfectly. In fact, most philanthropic movements in the nineteenth century originated with evangelicals. Spurgeon saw society as an organic whole.

He built almshouses for the poor (only one was in existence when he came to London). He built seventeen houses for the aged and a school for four hundred children. He erected the Stockwell Orphanage for homeless children. He began the Colportage Ministry to provide books for poor rural pastors. He instituted the Pastor’s Aid Society to help the poor. He also founded the Old Ladies Homes, the Book Fund Ministry, the Rock Loan Tract Society, the Ladies Maternal Society, the Metropolitan Tabernacle Poor Minister’s Clothing Society, the Flower Mission, the Baptist Country Mission, Mrs. Thomas’s Mothers Mission, Mrs. Evan’s Home and Foreign Missionary Working Society, the Gospel Temperance Society, the Tract Society, the ragged schools, the Pioneer Mission, and other ministries.

They all fit his approach to bringing the whole gospel to affect the whole person in every area of life.

Fullerton’s biography of Spurgeon records the birth of Stockwell Orphanage (sometimes called the greatest sermon Spurgeon ever preached);

at one of the Monday evening prayer meetings, which in his day were phenomenal, he said, “We are a large church, and should be doing more for the Lord in this great city. I want us to ask Him to send us some new work; and if we need money to carry it on, let us pray that the means may also be sent.” So the Stockwell Orphanage was really born in a prayer meeting.

In our own times the State has taken on much of this work but the church continues to witness to the gospel in a multitude of ways not least through City Missions up and down the country as well as releasing many volunteers to work with organisations such as Christians against Poverty.

May we continue to find in the gospel reason to join Spurgeon in proclaiming ‘we should be doing more for the Lord in this great city‘.

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