KANSAS CITY (BP) — On the heels of a major October announcement by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary about launching the Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Studies, the school held its second annual Spurgeon Lectures on Biblical Preaching on Nov. 4-5.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s president, served as guest lecturer and was inducted by Midwestern’s president, Jason K. Allen, as the school’s second Spurgeon Fellow.
“We desired, from the earliest days of consideration for The Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching, to have a lectureship each fall that would anchor the fall academic semester, that would be given to preaching, and that would bear the name Charles Spurgeon,” Allen said. “Hosting Dr. Mohler for these lectures is a great honor. He is a friend to Midwestern Seminary, to me personally, and he is a man who stands for biblical, expositional preaching — much in the same way Spurgeon did.”
Conferring Mohler as a Spurgeon Fellow, Allen recognized him “for his ongoing leadership in defending the inerrancy of Scripture and in educating the next generation of pastoral leaders in expository preaching.”
In his first lecture, Mohler presented an argument entitled, “The Foolishness of Preaching: Why Expository Preaching is such a Bad Idea.” He noted that from the time of the Reformation through the present, the “sidelining of expository preaching has not been by accident.”
Elements within movements such as pietism, revivalism, and pragmatism, Mohler said, caused a shift toward displacing expository preaching from the pulpit. He added that during the same period, another trio of “isms” further negatively affected how God’s Word was preached.
Liberalism deemed the Bible as irrelevant, out-of-date, and not worth preaching because pastors ultimately didn’t know what to do with it. Existentialism suggested that the congregation had needs, which God’s Word wasn’t considered sufficient to meet, that the pastor must try to accommodate. Consumerism and the Church Growth Movement placed an emphasis solely on growth resulting in messages focused on the felt needs of the congregation.
“One of the greatest effects, of all these things put together, is the loss of authority in the pulpit,” Mohler said.
Mohler listed several challenges that make expository preaching appear to be a terrible idea, including: people don’t listen to long messages anymore; no one knows the Bible anyway; preaching is “preacher-centered;” expository preaching will kill a church; and not every text of Scripture needs to be preached.
In light of these arguments, at the crux of his message, Mohler agreed expositional preaching is a bad idea, even a foolish one. “And yet this is the foolishness we are called to because it is the foolishness that saves,” he said. “Expository preaching is a horrifyingly bad idea, except for one thing, it turns out it is God’s idea.
“What happens when the Word of God is preached [expositionally] is that God does something with his Word that is beyond what the preacher is able to do,” Mohler continued. “If you are not preaching the Word, there is nothing the Holy Spirit has with which He can take that Word from their ears to their hearts…. At the end of the day, it is exposition or nothing.”
In his second lecture, Mohler detailed the context in which Spurgeon ministered and likened the challenges he faced to those of modern-day pastors.
Mohler noted that theism was drastically changing peoples’ understanding of God in the Victorian Age — the period when Spurgeon ministered. By the end of the Victorian Era, he said, Christianity had primarily been replaced by other beliefs, including Darwinism and Communist thought.
“Most Victorians, when they did go to church, were far more concerned with aesthetics than with truth,” Mohler said. “There was very little doctrinal preaching to be found in any sector of the Church of England.”
Spurgeon took an active role in engaging the intellectual ideologies of the day, Mohler added. Often, he was the lone voice speaking against the growing liberalism in society and within the church.
“Heresy became the mainstream understanding of biblical inspiration and biblical authority in the Church of England, and it was bleeding over into the non-conforming churches,” Mohler said.
“As liberalism … was spreading to the ranks of the Baptists, Methodists, and so many others, there were few who were willing to confront these theological adjustments…. Charles Spurgeon was the most significant and often singular figure both understanding and addressing these challenges,” Mohler added.
The ministry challenges Spurgeon faced aren’t entirely different from those modern-day believers face, Mohler said. Some of these challenges include: modern age ideologies must constantly be considered, as they will continually confront future generations; the modern age provides a great opportunity for Gospel proclamation; the modern age changes consistently — something will always follow; and the modern age requires uncompromising biblical preaching.
“The people are hungering for a Word from the Lord, not for a word from Charles Spurgeon,” Mohler said, directly quoting Spurgeon.
In addition to the two lectures, Mohler and Allen held a lunchtime dialogue on the topic of expository preaching.
To view the Spurgeon Lectures and luncheon discussion, click here.