Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892, bio) is well known as “The Prince of Preachers”. He was England’s best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1854, just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon, then only 20, became pastor of London’s famed New Park Street Church.
The congregation quickly outgrew their building, moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000 – all in the days before sound systems. In 1861 the congregation moved permanently to the new Metropolitan Tabernacle. When the congregation moved to the Tabernacle, they did not sell the building on Park Street. Spurgeon admitted that if it was sold, they would probably be able to cover the Tabernacle’s construction cost. However, they maintained at as a separate church! As Spurgeon put it, “You know if we were to build one chapel, and sell another, that would be the ‘goose-step’; there would be no marching, it is merely putting one foot up and the other down, but never getting farther.”
When the cornerstone was laid for this magnificent building, Spurgeon laid bare his heart for the planting of other churches:
God sparing my life, if I have my people at my back I will not rest until the dark county of Surrey be covered with places of worship. I look on this as the beginning of the end. I announce my own schemes: visionary they may appear, but carried out they will be. It is only within the last six months that we have started two churches—one in Wandsworth and the other in Greenwich, and the Lord has prospered them. The pool of baptism has been stirred with converts. And what we have done in two places I am about to do in a third, and we will do it not for the third or the fourth, but for the hundredth time, God being our helper.
– C.H. Spurgeon at the Ceremony of Laying the First Stone of the New Tabernacle on Tuesday, August 16th, 1859.
He reiterated that building a large building would not cause them to be inwardly focused:
…we do not mean to build this as our nest, and then to be lazy. We must go from strength to strength, and be a missionary church, and never rest until not only this neighborhood, but our country, of which it is said that some parts are as dark as India, shall have been enlightened with the gospel.
This burden began early in his ministry. Five years prior, he preached a sermon entitled Preach the Gospel for the purpose of stirring up men from his congregation to preach and start churches: “I have preached this sermon especially, because I want to commence a movement from this place which shall reach others. I want to find some in my church, if it be possible, who will preach the gospel.”
Spurgeon stated that he would send men to start and pastor other churches until he didn’t have a man left. “Spurgeon encouraged his people to be out carrying the gospel on Sundays. During his career he frequently arranged to have a group of members leave the Tabernacle to start a new church, and often one of the prominent men of the Tabernacle went with them to provide leadership” (Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography, 1984, p. 137).
“We have never sought to hinder the uprising of other churches from our midst or in our neighborhood. It is with cheerfulness that we dismiss our twelves, our twenties, our fifties, to form other churches. We encourage our members to leave us to found other churches; nay, we seek to persuade them to do it. We ask them to scatter throughout the land to become the goodly seed which God shall bless. I believe that so long as we do this we shall prosper. I have marked other churches that have adopted the other way, and they have not succeeded.”
- C.H. Spurgeon from sermon no. 626, The Waterer Watered, delivered on Sunday Morning, April 23, 1865, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
In fact, they sacrificed to pay young men to pastor congregations throughout England. “Believers–Lights in the World” was preached in 1862 and mentioned the start and financing of four churches during that year.
Cheerfully you give week after week for the support of our young ministers, and I think our friends will continue to do this. At any rate the Lord will provide and friends far away may be moved to assist us. I want still more aid, for the field is ripe and we want more harvest men reap it…Four Churches of Christ have sprung of our loins in one year, and the next year shall it not be the same, and the next, and the next, if the Holy Ghost be with us, and He has promised to be with us if we be with Him.
It’s estimated by Doug McMasters 200 or more churches were founded by Spurgeon, members of his church, and students at his Pastor’s College. There were over 40 of these in London alone.
May God send a mighty revival of evangelism and church planting in the USA!