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Converted clog-dancers: Spurgeon on drawing a crowd

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was known for being an ardent “soul winner.” He maintained that a gospel minister will see certain fruit. A lack of success could be caused by weak preaching, faulty doctrine, or unfaithfulness in prayer. In An All Around Ministry, he said, ‘He that never saved a sinner after years of work is not a minister of Christ.”Tom Nettles’s superb biography of Spurgeon, Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Nettles points out that though Spurgeon emphasized such divine results, he did not espouse methodological short-cuts to evangelism. In fact, this opposition to entertainment religion was a conviction that Spurgeon developed over time:

But to resort to sensationalism to draw a crowd, or ‘attract a congregation, Spurgeon could not abide. Though early in his ministry in a hyperbolic moment he told a crowd in Scotland that he would stand on his head if it would help draw a sinner to Christ, he receded from that position. Though some might feel at ease in conscience about using brass bands and tambourines and all sort of noise to draw a crowd, such users should be prepared for the eventual failure of these methods and the necessity to become more sensational.’What else is to be done?’ he asked. ‘Will you stand on your head: Hornpipes have been tried; will you try the tight-rope? I cannot suggest to you a novelty–since we have already heard of Brummagem Bruisers, devil-dodgers, converted clog-dancers, etc.”Eventually, such a method must decline to ‘those blasphemous insults in the eternal and incommunicable name which arise out of the desecration of the word ‘hallelujah.'”Spurgeon suggested a true novelty–a meeting with no vulgarity and no slang. He also wearied of sensational advertising that led people on with the promise of greatness and rare opportunity. “Cheapjack advertising is altogether out of harmony with the grand truths and the glorious spirit of the gospel.”1

About Ryan Martin

Ryan Martin is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Granite Falls, Minnesota. Prior to that, he served as the associate pastor of Bethany Bible Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He is on the board of directors of Religious Affections Ministries. Ryan received his undergraduate degree at Northland Baptist Bible College, and has received further training from Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, Minn. (M.Div., 2004; Ph.D., 2013). He was ordained in 2009 at Bible Baptist Church of Elk River, Minn. (now Otsego, Minn.). He has a wife and children too. Ryan is the associate editor of Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). He contributed to the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans, 2017) and is the author of Understanding Affections in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards: "The High Exercises of Divine Love" (T&T Clark, 2018).

  1. Tom Nettles, Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2013), 177-78. []