The Object of the Christian Ministry

In an oft-quoted passage, Charles Spurgeon reflects on the nature of his calling as a pastor: 

“I am occupied in my small way, as Mr. Great-heart was employed in Bunyan’s day. I do not compare myself with that champion, but I am in the same line of business. I am engaged in personally-conducted tours to Heaven... It is my business, as best I can, to kill dragons, and cut off giants’ heads, and lead on the timid and trembling. I am often afraid of losing some of the weaklings. I have the heart-ache for them; but, by God’s grace, and your kind and generous help in looking after one another, I hope we shall all travel safely to the river’s edge. Oh, how many have I had to part with there! I have stood on the brink, and I have heard them singing in the midst of the stream, and I have almost seen the shining ones lead them up the hill, and through the gates, into the Celestial City.”[1]

The heading of that chapter in Spurgeon’s autobiography is appropriately titled “Seeking the Souls of Men.” It was a passion shared by his contemporary, Horatius Bonar, who decried the lukewarm hearts of ministers who are “theoretically orthodox,” yet show little concern for the souls under their care.[2] Bonar writes:

“[T]he object of the Christian ministry is to convert sinners and to edify the body of Christ. No faithful minister can possibly rest short of this. Applause, fame, popularity, honour, wealth; all these are vain. If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry itself is vain.”[3]

Bonar continues with a series of questions that might pierce the heart of any minister:

“The question, therefore, which each of us has to answer to his own conscience is, ‘Has it been the end of my ministry; has it been the desire of my heart, to save the lost and guide the saved? Is this my aim in every sermon I preach, in every visit I pay? Is it under the influence of this feeling that I continually live, and walk, and speak? Is it for this I pray, and toil, and fast, and weep? Is it for this I spend and am spent, counting it, next to the salvation of my own soul, my chiefest joy to be the instrument of saving others? Is it for this that I exist; and to accomplish this would I gladly die? Have I seen the pleasure of the Lord prospering in my hand? Have I seen souls converted under my ministry? Have God’s people found refreshment from my lips, and gone upon their way rejoicing? Or have I seen no fruit of my labours, and yet am I content to remain unblest? Am I satisfied to preach, and yet not know of one saving impression made, one sinner awakened? Can I go contentedly through the routine of ministerial labour, and never think of asking how God is prospering the work of my hands and the words of my lips ?

h/t Rob Edwards

Ben Ciavolella is a student at Westminster Theological Seminary. He works as a publishing assistant and editor for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

Related Links

Words to Winners of Souls by Horatius Bonar

"Learning the Gospel from a Nineteenth Century Scotsman" by John Biegel

"A Resolution for the Church" by Zachary Groff

"Affliction Evangelism" by Aaron Denlinger

"Defending Door-to-Door and Open Air Evangelism" by Al Baker

A Workman Not Ashamed: Essays in Honor of Albert N. Martin, ed. by David Charles and Rob Ventura

Evangelism, ed. by Jeffrey Stivason


[1] The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, vol. 2 (Chicago: Revell, 1899), 131.

[2] Bonar, Words to the Winners of Souls (London: Nisbet, 1860), 2.

[3] Ibid., 5f.

Ben Ciavolella


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