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 tries 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 from 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.

  • Les

    I remember reading John Owen’s lament that he had ruined his health due to lack of sleep. On the other hand John Newton kept a blistering schedule and only seemed to burn out at the very end.

  • Isaac Gajendran

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • Michael Morgan

    I’ve also been wondering how much of Spurgeon’s herculean efforts are rooted in an over-concern with control and a lack of either desire, skill, or effort to raise up other leaders. How might pride masquerade as missional zeal?

  • Kofi Adu-Boahen

    Mhmm. As a workaholic who is being forced to learn not to do that, the importance of “down time” cannot be understated.

    • Astrapto

      How much downtime do you try to get?

  • Zach Vandenberg

    I went surfing this afternoon and didn’t think about my sermon at all. It was marvelous.
    (I take Friday’s off)

  • Astrapto

    “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.”

    Such as…?

  • Casey

    This is a good reminder for any and every believer, pastor or not. Not everyone is a Spurgeon or a John Piper. I’m glad we have such examples but comparison (i know that’s not the intent of the original article referenced) is a terrible burden.

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  • Jake

    I can say I am dearly grateful for my vacation beginning this week, as I find I work much better when I have sufficiently rested. Let the world burn itself out if they want. Let’s enjoy the work given by our Father whose commands are not burdensome.

  • Hans van Bemmelen

    I am very agreed and thankful for the artikel. But 1000 times better a life like Spurgeon than doing nothing or nearly nothing for the kingdom of God. God bless you all

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