CBP: How did you come to write this book?
STEVE: Iím an avid reader; I read a lot of books. Quotes from Spurgeon would keep popping up, and as I read the quotes, I saw how relevant he was even though he lived over a hundred years ago. He had a mind that understood human needs. He understood the permanency of the Bible, that itís relevant to us at all times, no matter what. He had some very strong convictions about the Christian life, which I appreciated. And the more I read of him, as I was building my library, I realized that he never really did a book on leadership himself. He did do a book called All Around Ministry, and itís a collection of messages that he spoke to leaders. The book is just a collection of messages designed to look at specific aspects of leadership. And thatís what caused me to think it would be really neat to take all that Spurgeon taught on leadership, especially to his students at Spurgeonís College, and bring some of that material together with the idea that a modern-day pastor could hear what Spurgeon had to say about what it takes to be a spiritual leader.
CBP: With all the ďpopularĒ books on leadership that are out there now, Seven Steps to Being the Greatest Sunday School Leader, How to Build a Mega-Church, how well do you think Spurgeon is received by todayís average church member?
STEVE: I wish I could say that he would be received very well. The difference between Spurgeon and many of the people we hear today is that many people today emphasize programs that have to be in place to be a successful leader. But God doesnít work through programs. He works through people. And Spurgeon knew that. Spurgeon knew that if you were the right person inside then God would be able to use you. We need to have a right heart with God, a right relationship with God, make sure weíre not living in sin. The depth of our relationship with God affects the breadth of our ability as spiritual leaders and people today donít like to hear that. They donít like to hear that they have to go through the slow process of growth, the day in, day out dealing with every day realities, growing step by step. They want something instant, they want something quick, they want something now. They look at other people around them who are real successful, they want that same success, and those successful people are basically selling nothing more than a program like you say, Seven Steps to This, Five of That. And itís unfortunate because God has gifted every person in a different way and you canít really use one program on everybody. It isnít necessarily going to work that way. You want God working through you. And thatís what Spurgeon had. Spurgeon naturally yielded himself fully to God, and because of that, God was able to use him. And thatís still true for today. We still need to be fully yielded to God for Him to be able to use us.
CBP: Do you see a growing interest in Reformed theology and Spurgeon specifically, and if so, why do you think that is?
STEVE: Thatís a good question. I do believe thereís a growing interest, and that growing interest might be split into two parts. There are those who have long appreciated the Puritans and the early Reformers, and they have kept that succession going through the years. There have been people like Martin Lloyd-Jones and John MacArthur who appreciate the Puritans -- R.C. Sproul -- and who have kept alive the flame of the original Reformers. And that is the one track that we see, and those people seem to be growing. They have influenced people under them who have that same contagious spirit, so to speak. There also seems to be people now, I think this group is still fairly small, people who have gone to the seeker-oriented churches. And theyíre attracted there, but after a few years, they donít really grow. And they say, ďThereís got to be something more substantial to the Christian life.Ē And as they look around, some of them are stumbling across classics written by people like A.W. Tozer, Spurgeon, R.C. Sproul, maybe they come across a Puritan quoted in a magazine article. I think thereís probably a small, growing group, a small group now, but I have run into people who have been introduced to them for the first time. I think the interest is growing but whether thereís a real organized effort, itís hard to say. I think probably the most organized effort takes place in distinctly Reformed ministries today who are bringing back into print a lot of the old out-of-print Puritan works. Thatís probably the best place to see that. My own personal conviction is that we could make that even better by going one step further. Reprinting these old Puritan works, I donít think, is enough. There are a lot of people today who have the mindset who, when they read them, it just goes over their heads. So if we were able to reprint these Puritan works and then follow some of the chapters with modern-day applications for people to say, ďOh, I see the relevancy now.Ē I think people could take that and run with it. Right now thereís a bit of a disconnect between that culture and todayís culture. So if someone could not just expose todayís culture to the past, but expose them and apply it. I think that would help.
CBP: When you talk to people about Spurgeon, do they understand what youíre talking about?
STEVE: Well, there are a lot people who donít recognize the name. But not once have I heard from anyone who has read the book and not understood. That confirms to me that what Spurgeon taught, because he was so scriptural, he anchored everything in the Bible, he showed that the Bible was relevant for all ages. And what Spurgeon was teaching in his day is just as relevant in our day. The most common response Iíve gotten is that people have been deeply convicted by what Spurgeon had to say about what a spiritual leader should be. Too often we think of a spiritual leader as someone who is naturally charismatic, able to attract people, able to raise the funds to get big projects done, who looks aesthetically appealing on TV, someone who has a nice voice for radio, who has administrative abilities and can organize well, and they leave out the internal prayer life, being deeply rooted in Scripture, having a passionate love for people and concern for them. The things that make a real leader are just overlooked today. And so when people read this they say, ďWow, thatís what real leadership is all about.Ē Itís what we are inside; itís not the things we do, itís what we are.
CBP: Have you gotten this reaction from pastors, or are you talking to laypeople?
STEVE: Most of the people who have talked to me have been pastors and church leaders. I havenít gotten as much reaction from laypeople that have read the book. Most of the people who pick up the book are going to have some familiarity with Spurgeon. Those who arenít familiar with Spurgeon probably will not be predisposed to pick up the book, unless they are the kind who like to read everything they can get their hands on about spiritual leadership, and they have usually read things by Henry Blackaby, Oswald Sanders . . .
CBP: And they read the bad as well as the good?
STEVE: Unfortunately, we live in a day when if one program doesnít work, they go on the next. And thatís why you see books coming out every few years like those you mentioned before, Seven Steps To . . . But the way we get connected to God has never changed. And the way we grow spiritually has never changed. And thatís what Spurgeon taught. And there are people today who teach that too, but unfortunately they donít get as much of a hearing.
CBP: When you say, ďit doesnít workĒ you mean their church doesnít grow numerically?
STEVE: Well, I guess what I would say to that is that too often we measure success in terms of numbers of people. And the way we need to measure success is impact on individual lives. One of the things that I really appreciate about Spurgeon and also D.L. Moody (I also did a book on D.L. Moody on spiritual leadership) is that they appreciated the value of individual souls, that people come to Heaven one by one, not en masse. If weíre going to have an impact on people we need to work with them one on one. Spurgeon deeply loved his students at Spurgeonís College; he built personal relationships with them. Unfortunately, we have the mentality today that if a church has 20,000 members, theyíre a successful church. Just because itís large doesnít necessarily mean it has Godís blessing on it. It might be large because it is pragmatically successful. They use techniques that naturally appeal to us, that naturally attract us, but are not necessarily spiritually attractive. So we canít measure by numbers, we have to measure by the spiritual impact that weíre having.
CBP: Conversely, if a church only has 20 members, does that mean it does not have Godís blessing?
STEVE: It would be true for any size. There are people who are sincerely wrong, theyíre sincere, but theyíre wrong; they might profess to have a love for the Lord, but theyíre not reading their Bibles carefully, theyíre not getting grounded in theology. They may think that theyíre small because theyíre the only ones that hold to this particular view on whatever. You can be big and sincere and wrong, you can be small and sincere and wrong. You cannot measure at all by the number of people. You have to measure by are you being true to the Word, and are you passing the Word on to the next generation?