As I have researched the life and ministry of C. H. Spurgeon, one facet of his longstanding contribution that remains a source of intrigue for me is his ongoing appreciation by young pastors or pastors in training. What is it about this nineteenth-century English Baptist that resonates with the twenty-first century American twenty-something?
There are many reasons, to be sure, but I think the core reason is, quite simply, that Spurgeon preached and wrote with younger ministers in mind.
But, I think there another facet to Spurgeon’s influence is that what he did in his own day is lacking in our own. That is, there are not many pastors and preachers today writing, or even preaching, with younger ministers in mind and thus, the twenty-somethings have few models or examples to which to turn for training and aid.
Thus, Jason K. Allen’s new volume, Letters to My Students: On Preaching arrives at a good time and a needed time. The first of a planned three volumes, Allen writes inspired by Spurgeon’s own approach to providing instruction to younger ministers for Allen recounts how he was aided by timely mentors and by Spurgeon himself when he was in his twenties. Now, after two decades of pastoral ministry and leadership in theological education, Allen seeks to give specific and clear aid to those training for a preaching ministry or just starting down the journey.
Divided into three sections, the twenty brief chapters are such that the reader could devote a month to reading and reflecting on a chapter during each day of the work week. Further, Allen often structures each chapter around short lists to review or work through. These often function as “check lists” of sorts for those with minimal experience to use as guide while they gain their footing in sermon preparation and preaching itself.
While accessible in format and design, Allen’s volume does provide convictional and clear instruction. Of note is the care given to the definition of what is expositional preaching, noting that much is classified by that name. This is vital in an era where most young ministers have not yet sat under a regular and faithful expositional preaching ministry. To be sure, many will have access to such via sermon podcasts and the like, but those can not give instruction as to why one should pursue this model of “rightly interpreting and explaining the text, in its context, and bringing the text to bear upon the lives of the congregants” (38) or that such should be done sequentially through books of the Bible (34).
Further, Allen advocates that the young minister should not enter the task of preaching without the regular affirmation and counsel of a local church (49), which serves as a vital ecclesiological reminder in a day where the role of the church in the life of the believer, much less the minister, is often minimized.
Likewise, Allen’s advocacy for Christ-centered preaching, both in theory and in practical implementation, arrives as a steady reminder for the young minister of this fountain of everlasting strength for the preaching task and the source of power in the message proclaimed (89). In a day where so much emphasis is placed on rhetorical ability, personal charisma, or outward social projection, Allen’s reminder that the preacher’s aim is fundamentally to “preach Christ and Him crucified” is the underlying message his readers need to hear most.
While many will and do need to continue to read Spurgeon, Jason K. Allen’s first installment of his Letters to My Students is a solid twenty-first century book for twenty-first century young ministers and preachers to read and profit for the church.
Jason G. Duesing serves as Provost and Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College. He is currently the General Editor of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon and is th author of Mere Hope: Life in an Age of Cynicism (B&H, 2018).
 Jason K. Allen, Letters to My Students, Vol. 1: On Preaching (B&H, 2019)