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Midwestern, filmmaker partner for Spurgeon documentary

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — A new documentary on the life and legacy of 19th century British preacher Charles Spurgeon, set for release today (Dec. 18), prominently features two Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary leaders and the Kansas City-based school’s Charles H. Spurgeon Library.

The film entitled, “Through the Eyes of Spurgeon,” was directed and produced by Canadian filmmaker, Stephen McCaskell. He said the goal of the documentary is to introduce a new generation to Spurgeon in the hopes that their relationship with God will be challenged and deepened as they learn more about “The Prince of Preachers,” who was radically transformed by the Gospel.

Midwestern Seminary president, Jason Allen, and curator of the Spurgeon Library, Christian George, were interviewed at-length by McCaskell’s film team in October, offering insight into the life of Charles Spurgeon, who is considered among the greatest Gospel preachers of the English language.

“Charles Spurgeon may be in full bloom right now in the Baptist and broader evangelical world,” Allen said. “Through his writings, he lives now more than ever, and this documentary will bring greater exposure to Charles Spurgeon, a greater exposure the church desperately needs.”

Allen added that because of the school’s 6,000-volume Spurgeon Library and recently announced Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching, Midwestern Seminary was the natural partner for this Spurgeon documentary.

“In God’s kind providence, the timing of this new, groundbreaking documentary could not be better,” Allen said. “It coalesces perfectly with Midwestern Seminary’s current construction project to build the Spurgeon Library and the recent launch of the Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching. As an institution, we are grateful to have been asked by Mr. McCaskell and proud of our participation in Through the Eyes of Spurgeon.”

On October 21, Allen announced the launching of the Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching, which will include a $2.5 million construction project to house the Spurgeon Library; an initiative called The Spurgeon Scholars, which offers a limited number of scholarships to exceptional, full-time residential students called to pastoral ministry; online digitized portions of Spurgeon’s library, correspondences, annotations, handwritten pulpit notes, and sermon galley revisions; and hosting the annual Charles Spurgeon Lectures on Biblical Preaching.

George, who has devoted his life to studying Spurgeon and who has seen many of the other available films about the great preacher, noted that Through the Eyes of Spurgeon is highly worthy of its subject.

“This documentary is unmatched in caliber and will offer visitors to the Spurgeon Center a glimpse into the life of this great preacher,” George said. “At Midwestern Seminary, we are interested in allowing the past to inform the present about the future, and this documentary is a reminder that God has done great things in the past and still has great things to do in the future.

“Out of all the Spurgeon documentaries that have been produced, Stephen has managed to create the most professional one on the market,” George said. “His quest to create a film of excellence launched him on a pilgrimage throughout Britain and continental Europe. Very few people have been able to accomplish this. Stephen and his crew have achieved a masterpiece that is worthy of the subject on which it centers.”

McCaskell, who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada, grew up as a pastor’s son and accepted Christ as his Savior at age 17. He said Spurgeon’s book, All of Grace, impacted him in many different ways and led him to read more of Spurgeon’s books and sermons.

Finding that he couldn’t help but share the things he learned with family and friends, he compiled his first book, Through the Eyes of C.H. Spurgeon, a collection of quotes sorted by different topics. This same thought process motivated his decision to produce the documentary.

“My desire to create a film about Spurgeon really stemmed out of the same desire I had to share his quotes with others,” McCaskell said. “My goal in all of this is to continue spreading the words of a man who lived and was powered by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The early planning for the film took place in October 2013, with all filming being completed this past September. McCaskell’s teams traveled to England, Ireland, France, Switzerland, and Kansas City, Mo., to shoot footage. All of the locations in Europe were places Spurgeon had been.

“For example,” McCaskell said, “We were able to visit Artillery Street Chapel, where Spurgeon was converted. The pews you see in the film are the original ones from Spurgeon’s day.”

After obtaining all the information about Spurgeon’s life through multiple readings of his autobiography and other helpful resources, McCaskell contacted churches with Spurgeon ties and made filming arrangements. While in Europe, the team also shot segments involving the documentary’s narrator, Jeremy Walker, who pastors Maidenbower Baptist Church in England. Additionally, McCaskell interviewed one of Charles Spurgeon’s descendants, Richard Spurgeon, in Ireland, calling it among the project’s most special moments.

McCaskell said his primary desire for the film is that as people watch it, they will come to know Spurgeon at a more personal and human level.

“I say ‘human’ because it’s so easy for us to think that these giants of the faith didn’t wrestle with the same things we do,” McCaskell said. “In showing Spurgeon’s human side, I hope that the Gospel he proclaimed is shouted even louder. And that’s really what this documentary is about. It’s about a man who lived and died in light of the Gospel.”

George, who also serves as assistant professor of Historical Theology at Midwestern Seminary, echoed McCaskell’s sentiments about Spurgeon.

“Charles Spurgeon struggled with the same temptations, dilemmas, and challenges as we do,” he said. “Even though he exchanged this world for the next in 1892, God is still using Spurgeon’s life to bring encouragement to Christians around the world. He teaches us of the importance of following hard after God, reading and loving his Word, living faithfully even under persecution, and making much of the Name that is above every name.”

Of his interaction with Allen, George, and the Midwestern Seminary community, McCaskell expressed gratitude and a sense of God’s moving in a great way.

“I think God is doing great things at Midwestern Seminary,” McCaskell said. “With the recent addition of new faculty and staff, and the announcement of the Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching, it’s exciting to see how God will use that school to equip and train the next generation of church leaders.

“It was an honor to have the opportunity to associate with the institution that houses the Spurgeon Library, and I think it lends credibility to the film,” he noted. “Additionally, I hope it causes people who watch the film to learn more about what Midwestern Seminary is doing with the Spurgeon Center and to visit it when it opens.”

George said, “This documentary will be a continuing reminder of the clear vision that Midwestern aims for. It is a documentary about the church and for the church — a visible legacy that equips us, encourages us, and holds us accountable to the standard of Christ-like excellence.”

Through the Eyes of Spurgeon is available for online streaming at www.throughtheeyesofspurgeon.com. There is no cost to view it. McCaskell’s desires for the film’s future include having the documentary available on Netflix and other widely-used public services for anyone who would like to own a personal copy of it. He added that any updates to the documentary can be found on the blog. 

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  • T. Patrick Hudson