If you know me, then you know that I can weave C.H. Spurgeon quotes or stories into just about any conversation I’m in—yes, this may be why it’s hard for me to make friends! And my goal in this blog is to amuse you with a story of how I used an account from Spurgeon’s life at the end of an interview I had at First Baptist Church Durham in Durham, North Carolina. So, this is basically a biographical blurb I wanted to put into a brief blog for the entertainment of those bored enough to read it.
A Phone Call from Andy Davis
On Monday, July 18, 2016, I received a phone call from Andy Davis, the Senior Pastor of FBC Durham. I had been attending FBC Durham for about eighteen months, and even though I had been sitting under Andy Davis’ preaching and teaching during this time, I was not accustomed to receiving phone calls from him. At this point in my life, I viewed Andy as an incredibly gifted preacher, a great author, a church historian, a seminary professor, and one of the last Puritans, not someone that typically showed up in my recent calls list.
A Ministry Opportunity
As I talked to Andy on the phone, he began to inform me of a ministry opportunity. The former College Director of FBC Durham left to plant a church in Winston Salem, North Carolina. For months, the elders of FBC Durham sought to replace this guy—you can’t replace this guy; he was, and still is, an incredibly gifted servant of the Lord. The elders interviewed numerous candidates that had turned in their resumes. For various reasons, none of these candidates worked out.
Me? You’re Kidding, Right?
Before long, some of the lay-elders and staff members at FBC Durham began to mention my name as a potential candidate for the position. And let me just make this clear; this was not because I put a resume in. I wrote in my journal: “I would never have put my resume in for this position because I know how unqualified I am for such a service.” At this point in my life, I was twenty-four years old, I hadn’t finished my Master of Divinity degree, and I had no college ministry experience. I practically had no ministry experience outside of teaching Sunday School classes and occasionally preaching for small, rural Southern Baptist churches.
Seriously, from the time I was eighteen to the time I was twenty-four, I spent way more time operating a weed-eater than doing ministry. I even mentioned this in my journal: “I know that I am terribly insufficient for a role such as this. It is hard for me to see myself doing anything other than weed-eating and preaching a few times a year.” In other words, I was completely unprepared for Andy’s phone call. This ministry position wasn’t even on my radar.
Apparently, though, my lack of knowledge and experience didn’t mean much to Andy and the staff. They saw certain aspects of my life that gave them sufficient reasons to interview me for the College Director position. And even though I was slightly baffled by the phone call, I agreed to come in for the interview.
An Interview with an Awkward Ending
Later that night, I found myself in Andy’s study being interviewed by a few of the staff elders. A few of the elders asked me numerous questions related to doctrine, personal holiness, and college ministry. I was intimidated and nervous, but the Lord graciously allowed me to answer the questions honestly and adequately. Then Andy Davis asked me, “Well, what do you think about all this? What’s going on in your mind?” To which I responded, “I feel like a young Charles Spurgeon.”
Everyone, especially Andy Davis, looked puzzled. You see, what Babe Ruth is to the history of baseball, Charles Spurgeon is to Baptist history. Babe Ruth is the “Sultan of Swat” and C.H. Spurgeon is the “Prince of Preachers.” Babe Ruth is the “Behemoth of Bust” and C.H. Spurgeon is the Baptist Behemoth. Spurgeon is regarded as one of the most gifted preachers in all of church history. Even the greatest preachers of our day regard Spurgeon as a preaching prodigy. If there was a Mount Rushmore for preachers, Spurgeon would, by overwhelming agreement, be found on it.
So, why in the world was I, at twenty-four years old with practically no ministry experience or extraordinary gifting, feeling like a young Charles Spurgeon? The fact that I put my name alongside Spurgeon’s name seemed like the height of arrogance. If there was such a thing as Baptist blasphemy, I had committed it. Everybody that heard it grimaced.
Well, what happened? Andy Davis did what he always does, he asked a question to give me the opportunity to clarify myself. He asked, “What do you mean?”
An Account of the Young Charles Spurgeon
As a young Spurgeon enthusiast, I knew this was my chance to salvage my job opportunity, so I quickly began to explain myself. You see, Charles Spurgeon came to faith in Christ on January 6, 1850. He was only fifteen years old when the Lord saved him. A little over a year later, Spurgeon was called to fill the pulpit of a small Baptist Church in Waterbeach. Though Spurgeon was only sixteen years old, he was already a preaching prodigy. When the good Christian folks of Waterbeach recognized this, they quickly called him to be their pastor–the Church had forty members when Spurgeon became their minister at the age of seventeen.
Spurgeon was such a phenomenon that the church at Waterbeach began to grow exponentially. And because of his consistent emphasis on the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God brought about a miraculous change to the entire village. By 1852, the Baptist Church “at Waterbeach was not only full, but crowded with outside listeners at the open windows.” Due to Spurgeon’s giftedness and the Baptist Church’s quick growth, the people of Waterbeach began to fear the very thing that most small Baptist Church’s fear; they feared a larger church was going to take away their beloved pastor.
Sadly, for the faithful sheep of Waterbeach, this fear became a reality. “On the last Sabbath morning in November, 1853, I walked,” Spurgeon said, “according to my wont, from Cambridge to the village of Waterbeach, in order to occupy the pulpit of the little Baptist Chapel.” He was overwhelmed and excited about his “pulpit exercises.” In other words, he was extremely excited to herald the gospel all Sabbath Day long.
Just as he sat down, though, “a letter bearing the postmark of London” was passed to him. “It contained an invitation to preach at New Park Street Chapel, Southward, the pulpit of which had formerly been occupied by Dr. Rippon.” With that, one of the most prominent and reputable Baptist Churches in one of the most well-known cities in all of England asked him to come fill their pulpit—Spurgeon was nineteen when he received this invitation. So, what was Spurgeon’s response? What went through his mind when he read this letter?
Well, Spurgeon recounts: “I quietly passed the letter across the table to the deacon. . . , observing that there was some mistake, and that the letter must have been intended for a Mr. Spurgeon who preached somewhere down in Norfolk.” To put it another way, Spurgeon responded saying, “You have the wrong Spurgeon!” He was in disbelief that the New Park Street Chapel would extend an invitation for him to fill the pulpit. He thought they sent this invitation to the wrong guy.
Back to My Interview
So, when I told Andy and the rest of the staff that I felt like a young Charles Spurgeon, I wasn’t implying that I was extraordinarily gifted. Nor was I saying that, like the young Charles Spurgeon, my ministerial future was incredibly bright, that future fame awaited me.
Rather, I was trying to tell FBC Durham: “I think you guys have made a mistake. You have the wrong guy! You have the wrong Philip McDuffie.” I wanted them to know that, just as the young Spurgeon was in disbelief that the New Park Street Chapel would reach out to him to fill their pulpit, I was in disbelief that FBC Durham would interview me for the College Director position—a full-time ministry position alongside an incredibly gifted staff in a very healthy church.
At this, they no longer grimaced uncomfortably in my presence. Sure, they probably thought it was an odd time to weave a Spurgeon story into the conversation. It was perhaps the strangest way someone has ever ended an interview. But I can tell you this, shortly after the interview, they graciously offered me the position. Perhaps the unexpected Spurgeon story got me the position. Probably not. . . but maybe!
 I’m joking about Andy Davis being “one of the last Puritans.” But I did, and still do, have a ton of respect for Andy Davis. If you’re unfamiliar with who Andy Davis is, then you should check out TwoJourneys.org. His teaching and preaching ministry will bless you tremendously.
 This is a shout out to Kevin Schaub. Unbeknownst to me, Kevin was recommending me to the other elders.
 This comment sounds kind of sad now that I’m thinking about it. I guess you could have regarded me as a young man with relatively modest ambitions!
 Yes, they made me interview the same day I received the phone call.
 C.H. Spurgeon, The Early Years (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1962), 245-246.
 C.H. Spurgeon, The Early Years, 246.
 I know a College Director position doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but it was a big deal to me at this point in my life. This was my first-time interviewing for a ministerial position within a local church. I was nervous, felt woefully inadequate, and lost sleep thinking about this position.
4 thoughts on “An Untimely Use of a Spurgeon Story”
Great blog Philip, I enjoyed it.
Thanks James. I know Lucy has you busy, so thanks for taking time to read it!
My family is so thankful that you were hired for that position!!! You did a great job and blessed my family very much. We think about you and your lovely family often and pray for you!
Thanks Lisa! I enjoyed getting to know you and your family. Thankfully, I still get to serve with one of your sons in Louisiana!