Ed Stetzer, Charles Spurgeon, And Preaching to Circuses

Ed Stetzer has faced some criticism lately. Criticism, of course, that began with some unkind words to a certain friend of Pulpit & Pen on Twitter and culminated in an open letter to Lifeway by one of the victims of the entity’s pursuit for filthy lucre, a young man named Alex Malarkey, which just happened to wind up first on this blog and then on every major news source and media outlet in the western world. Of course, Stetzer and others at Lifeway don’t exactly deal well with criticism.

When asked recently why he has hosted shows on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the flagship media giant of the Word-Faith prosperity cult, Stetzer replied, “I’ll go anywhere if I can take the Gospel.” This excuse seems to have been working as of late, as it was also used by the ERLC’s Russell Moore in his recent partnership and excursion to the Vatican. It sounds noble, doesn’t it?

Of course, the real danger here is that TBN and its viewers are under the impression Stetzer thinks (the late) Paul Crouch and company are somehow Christians. A few years ago, I wouldn’t think Stetzer would be under that assumption, but over the last year, Stetzer has shown a brazen willingness to partner with the worst of the worst Word-Faith heretics that out there. Maybe he was under the impression that what TBN calls Gospel in someway is. I’d still like to think that’s not so. But as Silva pointed out before his passing, TBN clearly used Stetzer’s orthodox Southern Baptist credentials to legitimize their own doctrinal malfeasance.

But what about, “I’ll be invited anywhere so long as they let me talk Jesus”?

At one time Mr P.T. Barnum, head of the great Barnum & Bailey Circus, invited Charles Haddon Spurgeon of London to speak in the large tent at his traveling circus. He made every concession to make the offer attractive to Spurgeon. Barnum would provide the musical talent, unless Spurgeon wished to provide his own. He would provide any equipment or manpower Spurgeon desired. Spurgeon could speak as long or as short as he wished. There was only one basic stipulation! Barnum Circus Association would take the gate receipts and pay Spurgeon one thousand dollars per lecture.

This was a generous offer in Spurgeon’s day. Many would doubtless have said, “What a wonderful opportunity to reach people with the Gospel!” But not Spurgeon.

Knowing it would be wrong to join hands with the world, he sent a reply to Mr. Barnum:

Dear Mr. Barnum:

Thank you for your kind invitation to lecture in your circus tents in America. You will find my answer in Acts 13:10.

Very sincerely yours,

Charles H. Spurgeon

If Mr. Barnum looked up Acts 13:10, he found these words: “O full of all subtility and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (source)

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