An All-Round Ministry by Charles Spurgeon is a collection of 12 lectures-turned-essays to ministers and students preparing for the ministry. If a reader is familiar with Spurgeon, he may be reminded of his other famous work Lectures To My Students. While there are many similarities between An All-Round Ministry and Lectures To My Students, the books serve different purposes. Lectures is far more in-depth, including details on the preachers voice, anecdotes, illustrations, open-air preaching, etc. An All-Round Ministry, though very practical, is more concerned with a big-picture view of a pastors’ ministry.
An All-Round Ministry is the Prince of Preachers at his best. These essays read as they were originally presented; as lectures. Spurgeon had a gift for simple explanation of complex things. He also provided stories and imagery that not only help prove his point, but also make reading enjoyable.
Spurgeon’s first lecture is entitled Faith. Before addressing the faith of minister’s in particular, he introduces the concept of faith, giving a brief biblical theology of faith: “We owe our conversion neither to the reasoning of the logician nor to the eloquence of the orator, neither to our natural betterness nor to our personal efforts; we are, as Isaac was, the children of God’s power according to the promise.” (p.1)
The remainder of the lecture consist of three questions about about faith in relation to the minister. First, what do ministers have faith in? Spurgeon establishes the minister’s faith upon God, Christ, the doctrines of the gospel as laid out in scripture. The minister’s faith is demonstrated and increased in power through prayer and the commission to preach the gospel. Spurgeon labors here to show that “the Great Shepherd of the sheep will grant us and all-sufficiency with which to feed His people.” (p.10)
The second question Spurgeon asks and answers is: What does our faith work in us? A glorious independence of man, courage under all circumstances, it makes the minister abundant in good works, to bear much hardship. He sums up the work of faith in the minister by saying “it is a great enlargement of our souls.” (p.16)
Spurgeon closes with the question: What does our faith say to us this morning? It is a well-founded faith. Heres, he asks a simple but important question regarding the object of one’s faith. Is the living God worth trusting? This question, and chapter, is foundational for the book. For without faith in Christ, a minister cannot function as he ought.
Spurgeon also closes with an important word on the minister’s communion with God: “You do not wonder if Moses had faith, for he had been forty days upon the mount with God; and if we have communed with God, it shall be a marvel if we doubt, and not that we believe. Feed faith with the truth of God, but especially with Him who is the Truth.” (p.21)
The next lecture, Forward, is meant to address the progression of ministry and the minister. The purpose of this lecture is to aim at the improvement of the minister. Spurgeon writes that ministers must first go forward in mental acquirements; “We must give him our mind as well as our affections, and that mind should be well furnished, that we may not offer Him an empty casket.” (p.24) Exhortations such as these are all but absent from the American church today. Pastors are not seen as intellectual individuals but mere public speakers. Spurgeon is right to challenge pastors to increase in this way. He goes on to write that the first and foremost way the minister must grow intellectually is in the Scriptures.
Spurgeon also exhorts minister to move forward in oratory skills, moral qualities, spiritual qualifications, and work. In short, Spurgeon is challenging the minister to progress in holiness and work.
In Chapter 3 Spurgeon writes on the minister’s personality and his union with Christ. He shows first that we are uniques yet unworthy servants. Spurgeon is careful not to promote egotism here. In essence, Spurgeon is telling minister to be themselves, while noting that all we have is because of Christ. The identity of the minister is not found within himself, but within Jesus. In showing this, Spurgeon is cultivating a dependence upon God in the work of ministry: “It would be far better to speak six words by the Spirit than to speak six thousand without him.” (p.58)
Chapter 4 address How to Meet the Evils of the Age. In Spurgeon’s day, like today, ministers fought against superstition, false doctrines, secular attempts to debunk the gospel, and all kinds of evil in general. Spurgeon is exhorting ministers to be aware of such evils and properly fight against them with the truth. Here Spurgeon addresses a major issue in today’s church; disintegration. By this, he means an unnecessary divide and lack of unity among the people of God. Spurgeon gives great wisdom in this issue: “Christian labors, disconnected from the church, are like sowing and reaping without having any barn in which to store the fruits of the harvest; they are useful, but incomplete.” (p.69) Spurgeon is certainly not hopeless in addressing these evils. He concludes this chapter by showing that the only remedy for such evils in any ages is to preach Jesus Christ!
Chapter 5 focuses on the minister’s renewal or revival. Spurgeon begins by showing how easy it is for ministers to become weary and run down. Therefore, the need for revival and renewal are great. There is very practical wisdom for ministers here. For example, Spurgeon writes on the flow of the history of the church. There are days of greatness in conversion, growth, etc. and then there are days of drought. It does a minister well to be aware of these things and take them into account during times of discouragement. Spurgeon encourages the disparaging minister, “If any man walk in darkness, and see no light, let him trust in God, and look to Him for brighter days.” (p.87) Spurgeon’s greatest challenge here is for the minister to take care of his own spiritual well-being.
Chapter 6 is entitled Light. Fire. Faith. Life. Love. The purpose of this chapter is summed up on pages 110: “Let us arouse ourselves to the sternest fidelity, laboring to win souls as much as if it all depended wholly upon ourselves, while we fall back, in faith, upon the glorious fact that everything rests with the eternal God.” According to Spurgeon, such an arousal is awakened by attention to these five things. Light refers to knowledge, which Spurgeon addressed in chapter 2. Fire refers to religious excitement, though not mere emotionalism. Spurgeon writes of true, godly zeal. Faith refers to trust in God as addressed in chapter 1. By life, Spurgeon seems to mean an awareness to the duties of ministry and an abundant spiritual life. It is difficult to see the difference here between what Spurgeon means by Life and Fire. By Love, Spurgeon means a genuine desire and affection for the things of God.
In Chapter 7, Spurgeon lectures on what it means to have strength in weakness. This concept is from Paul’s words to the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” This does not mean weak in our communion with God or in our spiritual life. Nor is the minister strong in himself or the things of this world. Instead, the minister is to recognize his own insufficiencies and fully rely on the power of God in Christ for his life and work. This lecture is both and encouragement to a minister who feels weak and burdened. It is also a challenge to the minister who has neglected cultivating godliness. According to Suprgeon, Christ is the greatest testimony of this strength in weakness concept: “When was Christ strongest but when He was weakest? When did He shake the kingdom of darkness but when He was nailed to the tree? When did He put away sin for His people but when His heart was pierced? When did He trample upon death and the old dragon but when He was Himself about to die? His victory was in the extremity of His weakness, namely, in His death; and it must be the same with His trembling Church.” (p.150)
Chapter 8 is entitled What We would Be. While each of these lectures is meant to stand on it’s own, this lecture is the most holistic in terms of what it means to be a pastor. It is similar to chapter 2 in that it addresses the progress of the minister, what a minister should be and strive to become. Here, Spurgeon lectures on godly ambition, the need of grace, and a number of other topics, including what it means for a minister to be a soul-winner. This chapter is unique in that it is from Spurgeon later in life. He comments throughout the lecture on his lack of strength. This gives the reader a sense of seriousness as these words are coming from a man who has labored long and hard, even under difficulties, for the kingdom of God.
In Chapter 9, Spurgeon lectures on what it means to be a steward of God’s mysteries. In short, as ministers we are servants of God, who constantly give account to him. In summary, Spurgeon is showing that ministers are to handle the ministry as God’s ministry, done God’s way, for God’s glory. This means guarding against the tendency to become man-pleasers, lazy, misusing talents and giftedness, forgetting the return of Jesus, etc. Such a ministry conducted with faithfulness will return an exceedingly great reward.
Chapter 10 is entitled The Evils of Our Present Time, and Our Object, Necessities, and Encouragements. The first portion of this lecture consist of information already covered this far in previous lectures: the evil of today, the rejection of truth, and the commitment of ministers to build up God’s church. This is yet another area where Spurgeon’s old words prove true and relevant today. He speaks the need for ministers to be better men who have a firmer grasp on what they claim to believe. He also calls for men to be more committed to self sacrifice for the cause of Christ. Spurgeon closes by encouraging pastors to take heart in difficult times and commit themselves to prayer.
In Chapter 11, Spurgeon addresses the task of preaching and the power that is to accompany it. It is the responsibility of the preacher to bear witness to the truth that others may be convinced of it, and called out of darkness into the light. In terms of power in preaching, the minister will not have it in public unless he has it in private. This has been a theme throughout all of the lectures; the outward ministry of a pastor will not be complete without a vibrant personal spiritual life.
The final chapter is entitled The Minister in These Times. Spurgeon exhorts ministers to reflect on the Lord’s position towards us, our position towards the Lord, and our position toward ourselves. Christ is our sin-bearer, mediator, teacher, law-giver, and example. The minister’s position to the Lord is to love sinners, and suffer for his sake. Our position to Jesus, according to Spurgeon, affects the minister when he realizes all that God has done for him in Christ. Therefore, ministers are to stand before God conscious of his power and presence, waiting patiently for his return. In closing, Spurgeon exhorts hearers to be self-contained, choose friends wisely, live a holy life, be diligent in the Lord’s work, and confident.
An All-Round Ministry is a practical and beneficial read for pastors and men considering pastoral ministry. As noted above, Spurgeon had a gift for speaking clearly and practically, yet with theological depth and precision. These 12 lectures combined show that he highly regards personal spiritual vitality, holiness of character, a love for others, and a theological mind, as central to the role of the minister. Spurgeon is also clear on the object of our faith; the person and work of Jesus Christ. These are characteristics that are missing from the lives of many pastors today. He also speaks clearly on the necessity of holding and preaching truth in an evil, ever-changing culture. Spurgeon’s words are refreshing, convicting, and much-needed.
One critique would be how repetitive some of the concepts are when put together in book format. As different lectures at different pastors conferences at different times, repetition is understandable. Spurgeon wanted to make sure the foundations of pastoral ministry were taught. Repetition on such foundational truths is not only helpful, but necessary. But when these 12 lectures are read together, the repetition becomes somewhat tedious. Aside from this minor critique, An All-Round Ministry is a commendable work.
~ Kevin Sanders, Student
Reformed Baptist Seminary
 This review is based on an online PDF version of Spurgeon's book which may be accessed here: http://www.armorofgodbooks.com/books/spurgeon/an_all-round_ministry.pdf (as of Sept 2013).