How 2 simple questions lead us straight to Jesus.
In the late 19th century, Charles H. Spurgeon was arguably the most influential person on the planet. The great pastor/preacher/theologian was born in England and committed his life to Christ in 1850, when he was 15 years old. He preached his first sermon a year later and took on the pastorate of a small church a year after that, at 17. Just five years after his conversion, the 20-year-old Spurgeon became pastor of London’s famed New Park Street Chapel. A few months into his new position, his skill and power as a preacher made him famous—at 22 he was, by far, the most popular religious figure of the day. He preached twice every Sunday, with 6,000 people crowding into both services (before the invention of the microphone).
Over the course of Spurgeon’s life he had more books in print than any other living person. He still has more books in print than any other pastor in history, including more than 2,500 of his published sermons. But in the midst of his pervasive fame and influence, he was suffering from a birth defect that saddled him with nagging and sometimes-debilitating pain. As a result, he battled depression, on and off, his whole life. Pain riveted his focus and clarified his purpose…
Spurgeon believed that every sermon he preached should, as he phrased it, “make a beeline to Christ.” When a young pastor asked Spurgeon to listen to him preach, then give constructive critique, Spurgeon told him his delivery was just fine, but the “target” of the sermon was way off the mark—here’s how he explained “beelining”…
“Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?” asked the young pastor.
“Because,” said Spurgeon, “there was no Christ in it.”
The young man said, “Well, Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text.”
Spurgeon responded, “Don’t you know, young man, that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?”
“Yes,” said the young man.
“Ah!” said Spurgeon, “and so from every text in Scripture there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. Dear brother, when you get to a text, say, ‘Now, what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis—Christ.”
Even today, Spurgeon’s passion for “beelining to Jesus” speaks to a gnawing hunger in our culture. In a survey of more than 10,000 emerging adults, I asked: “On a scale of 1-10, with 1 representing ‘no interest’ and 10 representing ‘high interest,’ how interested are you in talking with a ministry leader about the following issues…” Of the 15 issues they rated, here’s what topped the list: “Jesus—getting a better understanding of what He really said and did, and how faith in Him matters in my own life.” So, what can we take from Spurgeon’s beeline mindset into our own ministry practice? I think two simple questions can drive everything we do…
- “Who do I say Jesus is?” After another tough encounter with the conniving Pharisees, followed by another head-scratching conversation with his confused and clueless disciples, Jesus does something that is shocking for its humility. Matthew, the notorious former tax collector, offers this eyewitness account: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:13-15). We make “Who do I say Jesus is?” the central question embedded in every teaching, retreat, sermon, and program.
- “Who does Jesus say I am?” Of course, Peter steps up and answers Jesus with magnificent chutzpah. He, more than any other, is attached to Jesus. But attachment is a two-way street—we name Jesus, and Jesus names us. So Jesus fires back with his own chutzpah: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). We make “Who does Jesus say I am?” the central pursuit of our relational ministry and our efforts to help people surface and live out of their true identity.
When we orbit everything we do in ministry around answering these two great questions—“Who do I say Jesus is?” and “Who does Jesus say I am?”—we create a kind of gravitational pull that magnetically draws people deeper into relationship with God and deeper into their God-given callings. Spurgeon’s “all roads lead to London” philosophy means that no matter what topic or activity we’re exploring, we can find our way to Jesus in a natural, unforced way.
Jesus himself practiced “beelining.” In His conversation with the “woman at the well” outside of Sychar, in Luke 8, the woman misconstrues what he is offering her (she thinks he intends to draw water from the well for her). He tells her the water from Jacob’s well is nothing compared to the “living water” of himself. The real thirst-quencher is standing right in front of her. All roads lead to Jesus, even for Jesus…
Rick Lawrence is Executive Director of Vibrant Faith. His new book is The Suicide Solution: Finding Your Way Out of the Darkness. He’s the general editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible, and author of 40 books, including The Jesus-Centered Life and the new daily devotional Jesus-Centered Daily.