Charles Spurgeon on Leadership (3): Seven Observations about Context
1. To understand a leader’s influence; one must evaluate him in the context of his ministry. Although Spurgeon was very successful in his day and time, one must set him and all other leaders within their context to understand their specific impact.
2. A leader cannot be separated from the background, environment, culture, and other multiple outside influences that contribute to his development as a person. Every leader is as much a product of the composite of forces and factors that helped to shape and inform his life as he is an influence on the lives of others.
3. The social, economic, and cultural aspects of a society influence the extent of a leader’s success. Spurgeon described himself as a “capital man,” a product of the scene in metropolitan London in the midst of a most conservative Victorian society. At the same time, his position of privilege stirred him to meet the needs of those less fortunate than himself. He took very seriously James 1:27.
4. A leader’s vision is expanded through exposure to all of the needs of his surrounding environment. When Spurgeon first entered London, his encounter with the cholera epidemic provided the urgency for his evangelistic ministry. He did not shudder from his responsibility but shouldered more than his share in risking his own personal health to minister to the sick and dying.
5. The general state of society and the material conditions of the time help us to understand to some extent why Spurgeon attracted such widespread attention. His style and approach to ministry were unique for his time because many of his peers were more reserved and predictable in their office. Spurgeon’s aggressive approach to evangelism and ministry provided a platform for his widening influence.
6. A leader helps society by helping individuals. Spurgeon and various other religious leaders sought to advance numerous forms of individual philanthropy. Their belief was that society would benefit as a result of their helping individuals. Therefore, they instituted orphanages, almshouses, and other ministries to meet the social ills of their time.
7. Many spiritual leadership principles are timeless, regardless of social and cultural context. The enduring standard of Spurgeon’s leadership continues to this day because its basis was directly related to Spurgeon’s understanding of and obedience to the Word of God as applied to his life and ministry.