Monday, October 12, 2009

On Reading C H Spurgeon and Sermons ...

I'm not a very patient Christian bookshopper. Many go into a Wesley Owen or a CLC and browse happily and slowly. I rush in like a whirlwind and sweep the shelves and usually leave without buying anything. I don't have much patience for the majority of Christian books - to me they tend to be either rubbishy Christian novels or dry, dead theology (a misnomer surely). I lament spending lunch hour after lunch hour scanning the shelves and leaving empty-handed.

I think that partly explains why I invest so much time in transcribing sermons. My thought is that there is no point in moaning about a lack of quality Christian books if you don't write your own.

But that's an aside. I was thrilled last week to find a treasure in CLC which I duly brought. Day One Publications have brought out a volume; "C H Spurgeon's Sermons Beyond Volume 63". I'm an avid collector of the "Metropolitan Tabernacle" volumes and have about 20 or so to go. This volume has produced 45 "forgotten" sermons that have been transcribed and edited. Phil Johnson wrote the foreword and made a valuable point;

"Years ago a student just entering seminary visited my office and noticed that two large shelves behind my desk are filled with the New Park Street Pulpit and Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit collections, which he had never seen in their entirety. He was fascinated by the set. Thumbing through a random volume, he observed out loud what almost everyone nowadays would notice first of all; by today's standards the books are very thick, the type quite small and the paragraphs surprisingly long.

The student looked up from the book he was holding and asked whether I had read every sermon in all sixty three volumes. I told him I had not (and still haven't) and that reading Spurgeon is a pleasure I expect to savour with care and patience, sermon by sermon for the rest of my life ... I explained that I don't read Spurgeon chronologically. I select sermons to read based on whatever passage of Scripture I am studying at any given time. I wouldn't think of preaching on a passage until I have seen what Spurgeon had to say about it ... He almost never fails to shine a bright light into some dark corner of the text showing me things I would not have seen otherwise".

I know that not everyone is a Spurgeon fan but a few thoughts occured to me;

1. In the Christian book saturated market - have we abandoned the use of "books of sermons"?

2. If you are a pastor/teacher/preacher - have you considered how your ministry will outlive you? It's unlikely that CD's or sermon tapes will do. Do not hide behind the facade of "humility". God gave you a gift for a purpose - do you really believe that only your generation is meant to be exposed to your gift? If you are not then you are robbing future generations. Are you writing? Are you commissioning some to transcribe your sermons?

3. We all know the "classic" books of sermons. C H Spurgeon of course being one of them. John Calvin is another. James Montgomery Boice is a more modern classic. But what about the gifted and modern preachers of today that God is using? Greg Haslam listed his favourite preachers in a recent interview;

"But I regularly try to hear sermons by A W Tozer (a true prophet for today, who died in 1963), Tim Keller (a church-planter in New York, and evangelistic pastor-teacher par excellence), Mark Driscoll (a modern-day Spurgeon!), Terry Virgo, David Pawson (prophetic teachers), past greats like Lloyd-Jones, Eric Alexander and John Stott (great expositors), as well as some people you may not have heard of like Rick Godwin and Ern Baxter".

Ern Baxter for example does not have much in print of his sermons - that is exactly the reason why I try to transcribe the sermons of his that I have. Just the same for Rob and Ryan Rufus.

Let's not forget sermons! They can accomplish much in opening to us the gospel of glory and grace!

4 comments:

janelle said...

Have you ever thought of publishing a book of the stuff you are transcribing? Especially Ern Baxter's stuff. That would be awesome.

Dan Bowen said...

V v good point Janelle! :)

Only problem is, I wouldn't have the first clue how to go about getting stuff published. I guess so far, I just work on transcribing material and hope that one day something will happen!

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

At it's simplest you can now go to Lulu.com and print what you like. They only ask 20%. Amy walking in the Spirit did it that way.
They just print them up in small batches and send them out when there is an order. I think that's right.
The other thing is to contact Ed Harding (church member here) who runs quite a big setup as regards Christian publishing in UK and book importing from the States and exporting there. Someone as significant as Ern is his own headline grabber...so marketing is not too much of a problem.
Or...you put up the £1000 yourself and friends necessary for a first run. Printing costs have come right down. Because your blog is so wellknown you could do worse than beginning right here!!!Anyone looking for Ern Baxter books would soon be directed by google to this blog.

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks for this input Chris, this is really exciting! I had visions of sending manuscript after manuscript off to publishers and facing rejection letter after rejection letter.

I had no idea it was possible to make so many steps yourself.

I'd be very interested if anyone had input into copyright issues. Where are the issues in terms of a sermon (spoken) being put into print? After all Spurgeon commissioned his own - so I guess that solves that one. But what if the preacher (i.e Ern Baxter) is dead?

With Rob Rufus it's a lot easier, because I can obviously send all my manuscripts to City Church in Hong Kong for their use.