Why You Should Not Copy Spurgeon’s Schedule

Remember Spurgeon spent a large part of the last third of his life out of the pulpit while he recovered from depression-anxiety and multiple physical ailments.

In fact, many Christians of the past who are held up as examples of why we should work 70+ hours a week also suffered with various physical, emotional, and mental afflictions; and some of them died very young. But this doesn’t usually make its way into their biographies. Or, at least, it’s never connected to burnout and overwork.

 

The Spurgeon Center’s excellent website recently published Spurgeon’s weekly schedule. It’s introduced with the following words:

In fifty-seven years, Charles Spurgeon accomplished three lifetimes of work. Every week he preached four to ten times, read six meaty books, revised sermons for publication, lectured, edited a monthly magazine. In his spare time, he wrote about 150 books.

Spurgeon shepherded the largest Protestant megachurch in the world (he knew all 6,000 members by name), directed a theological college, ran an orphanage, and oversaw sixty-six Christian charities.

While there is much to commend in the schedule—his weekly Wednesday Sabbath with his family, for example—I want to offer a caution lest any pastor try to implement a modern version of this.

Here’s my caution: Remember Spurgeon spent a large part of the last third of his life out of the pulpit while he recovered from depression-anxiety and multiple physical ailments. 

In fact, many Christians of the past who are held up as examples of why we should work 70+ hours a week also suffered with various physical, emotional, and mental afflictions; and some of them died very young. But this doesn’t usually make its way into their biographies. Or, at least, it’s never connected to burnout and overwork.

I’d love to see an article that does some research into how long Spurgeon spent “off sick” and totaled the number of years that he “lost” as he tried to recover his health in the South of France for months at a time.

There are occasions in his writings when he himself connects his sickness and weakness to overwork. It would be good to see some highlighting of this too. That would give a more balanced picture of Spurgeon and would result in more balanced lives of those who want to imitate him.

We all have limited fuel and we either burn it efficiently over a longer period of time, or else we put our foot to the floor and burn it all up too quickly and end up burnt out.

Visit the Spurgeon Center website here and explore its ever-increasing array of fantastic resources.

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.