C.H. Spurgeon and Evangelism

Posted by: Joshua J. Mills

Down through the centuries, God has been pleased to raise up a long line of men who were heralds of truth in their day. These men were earnest in seeking the lost through the preaching of the gospel. In the nineteenth century, God raised up just such a man by the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892).

In this brief article, I would like to consider Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s evangelistic ministry outside of the pulpit, namely, his practice of open-air preaching, personal evangelism, and tract and literature distribution. Though his pulpit ministry was his primary means of winning souls, Spurgeon made every effort to win the lost wherever he went: “Not only must something be done to evangelize the millions, but everything must be done … This must urge us onward to go forth into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in.”[1]

Open-Air Preaching

In his early years of ministry, Spurgeon was actively involved in open-air preaching. Spurgeon argued that it is “very easy to prove that revivals of religion have usually been accompanied, if not caused, by a considerable amount of preaching out of doors, or in unusual places.”[2] The great benefit of open-air preaching is “that we get so many new-comers to hear the gospel who otherwise would never hear it.”[3] Spurgeon fondly recalled his days of open-air preaching: “I preached at Bristol, many years ago, in the open-air … I had a crowd of sailors and collier to listen to me, and when I began to talk to them about Christ’s redeeming work, I saw the tears streaming down their cheeks.”[4]

However, Spurgeon believed that open-air preaching must only be done by men who are called by God and compelled by a love for sinners. Far too often, open-air preachers are controlled by their pet peeves, and not the gospel of Jesus Christ. If properly done, however, open-air preaching can be greatly used by God: 

I am persuaded that the more of open-air preaching there is in London the better. If it should become a nuisance to some it will be a blessing to others, if properly conducted. If it be the gospel which is spoken, and if the spirit of the preacher be one of love and truth, the results cannot be doubted … The gospel must, however, be preached in a manner worth the hearing.[5]

The open-air preacher must have a large and loving heart: “We win hearts for Jesus by love by pleading with God for them with all our hearts that they would not be left to die unsaved, by pleading with them for God.”[6] Seeing the value of open-air preaching, Spurgeon also encouraged his ministerial students to go and do likewise: “One of the earliest things that a minister should do when he leaves College and settles in a country town or village is to begin open-air speaking.”[7]

Personal Evangelism

Spurgeon also sought the lost on a personal basis: “Many precious souls have been brought to Christ by the loving personal exhortations of Christian people who have learned this holy art! It is wonderful how God blesses very little efforts to serve him.”[8]Again, “one advantage of dealing personally with souls is, that it is not so easy for them to turn aside the message as when they are spoken to in the mass.”[9]

Tract and Literature Distribution

Finally, Spurgeon saw gospel tracts as an effective means for reaching the lost. Like many evangelists, Spurgeon began his evangelistic ministry by distributing gospel tracts: 

The very first service which my youthful heart rendered to Christ was the placing of tracts in envelopes, and then sealing them up, that I might send them … And I well remember taking other tracts, and distributing them in certain districts in the town of Newmarket, going from house to house … I used to write texts on little scraps of paper, and drop them anywhere, that some poor creatures might pick them up, and receive them as a message of mercy to their souls.[10]

A gospel tract is a helpful tool in the evangelist’s pocket and Spurgeon made sure he always had some with him wherever he went: “If I walked along the street, I must have a few tracts with me; if I went into a railway carriage, I must drop a tact out of the window; if I were in company, I must turn the subject of conversation to Christ, that I might serve my Master.”[11] In other words, “when preaching and private talk are not available, you have a tract ready, and this is often an effectual method. A telling, touching gospel tract may often be the seed of eternal life do not go out without your tracts.”[12]

For Spurgeon, a gospel tract or letter was a means for further gospel conversations: “I suppose, besides giving a tract, if you can, you try and find out where a person lives who frequently hears you, that you may give him a call. What a fine thing is a visit from an open-air preacher!”[13]


God has given every Christian a sphere of influence where they are called to be a witness. From this brief article, we have seen that there are various means to get the gospel to unbelievers. One must examine their own life according to Scripture and see how they can best use their time, talents, and giftings to tell of the Saviour. 

[1]                C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (1894; repr., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 253.

[2]                C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Full Harvest, ed. Susannah Spurgeon and Joseph Harrald (1900; repr., Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2014), 2: 91.

[3]                Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 255.

[4]                Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Full Harvest, 92.

[5]                Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 265.

[6]            Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon V. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching (1995; repr., Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2010), 82.

[7]                Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 262.

[8]            Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years, 373.

[9] Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years, 377.

[10]              Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years, 156.

[11]          Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years,156.

[12]              Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, 142.

[13]          Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years, 142.

Share this post