When one leaves seminary, the name Charles always references Spurgeon. It is hard to imagine any seminary student that would not make that connection. He of course is a great man and one who was iconic. That is, though, sometimes the problem. We study a man who is worth that study, and yet 99% of us will never come close to that calling or gifting. It is beneficial to study great men, but their example is not really capable of being imitated.
There is another Charles who was just as impactful, albeit in a different manner: Charles Simeon. Simeon impacted the legacy of preaching by, not so much his gifting, but by his character and his personal impact on other men with his same calling. He exemplified what anyone in the ministry, regardless of gifting, can be and do for Christ.
There were two things that made Simeon a powerful and able example to follow. He was a man of great character, and he—because he understood biblical preaching—spent time with others who were also craving that ability.
Simeon went through enormous persecution through his ministry. Just one example was that he was locked out of his own church for 12 years. When he preached on Sunday, people had to stand through the whole service to be able to attend and hear his heart for Jesus and the word. Yet in spite of that, he always had a sincere loving heart toward others and toward his savior. No matter the difficulty, it never changed his kindness.
The second quality he had was his heart for dispensing his knowledge to other young men who shared his call. Every Sunday night he would gather a group of young men that he would teach his understanding of text-driven preaching to. The theory that he espoused has come down the years via some great leaders of church.
This is why I think his is a name that should be as well known by exiting seminary students as Charles Spurgeon. Any of us can mentor other young men as long we have character, an understanding of real textual preaching, and a willingness to spend time with them.
Both of these are critical. Young men, especially today, will not respond to someone who does not exhibit authenticity with his character, and this trust and respect allows the mentor to drive truth into those he would seek to mentor. This does not mean perfection but a consistent direction toward Christ that is seen in life.
I have had the privilege of being involved with a number of young men who came through my years at Central. As their pastor, I was able to mentor some fine young men and their wives. Thursday through Sunday, my wife and I host these young preachers and their wives, and it has become one of the most rewarding things we have ever done in our entire ministry. We discuss everything from family, personal holiness, spirituality, and preaching with great honesty and reflection.
This comes from the time we had with these as they came through Central. That time developed a rapport and a teaching opportunity that has been premium for us. This mentoring requires a few things for it to be effective in the lives of those we love and hope to impact:
- You need to be sure your life has some character worth seeing. It again does not mean perfection but rather a clear direction toward Christ and his word that is evidently seen even in your imperfection.
- You must be willing to invest time. People need to be with people and not just a book they can download from Kindle. You need to put aside all digital material and engage with people in a face-to-face manner. This is the description of God the Son and God the Father in John 1. And if that is how the Trinity operates and we are in the image of that Godhead, we must engage each other in the same manner.
- You need to okay if the people you mentor disagree with you. You as a mentor do not have all the answers, and this effort at mutual discussion will be beneficial to you and those you are mentoring. These young men over the years have probably enabled me to stay at my church several years longer than ministering by myself would have allowed.
- As with Simeon, this relationship needs to be done on an ongoing basis. It cannot be just an episodic event that you do seasonally when you think you have the time. There should not be a single time you are not investing in someone else.
- As you teach these young men, you must demonstrate not only character and sound theology. You must show in your preaching the skill-set of real textual preaching and all that means for your church and the kingdom. This blog does not have the time to define that except to say you need to “expose the text,” and do that in a way that is seen to affect those under it in a manner so that these young men will desire to imitate your method.
Impacting young men can be done by anyone who is willing to embrace the above ideas and make it purposeful and not just seasonal. This is the greatness of Simeon and how he can impact all of us in ways that Spurgeon cannot. God has given you men to touch and impact, and anyone can accomplish that for Christ no matter his gifting.
Chris Osborne is the Senior Pastor of Central Baptist Church in College Station, Texas.