1. Controversy is unavoidable for the person who seeks to be faithful to the Lord’s calling. Spurgeon wrote, “Controversy is never a very happy element for the child of God. . . . But the soldier of Christ knows no choice in his Master’s commands…” Jesus counseled His disciples that because the world hated Him, the world would hate them as well. Even the most effective leader will encounter controversy along the way.
2. A leader should not seek out controversy for its own sake. Spurgeon expressed his distaste for controversy: “I’d rather walk ten miles to get out of a dispute than half-a-mile to get into one.”
3. Some conflicts occur because of a leader’s own faults and failures. When a leader is tactless, careless, thoughtless, uncommunicative, headstrong, dictatorial, and arrogant, he will attract criticism as a result. This kind of controversy is not admirable; rather, it represents an unwise leadership style that creates adverse reactions.
4. Controversy can serve to unite a leader with his followers. This point was true in Spurgeon’s early ministry when he was maligned by the media. “The bond that united me to the members of New Park Street was probably all the stronger because of the opposition and calumny that, for a time at least, they had to share with me.”
5. The wise leader is capable of differentiating between personal and professional criticism. Spurgeon did not typically respond to personal attacks, but he did respond when someone criticized the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. He showed more concern for his official role than for his personal reputation.
6. Leaders may profit by giving their potential critics significant responsibility. Spurgeon’s philosophy was to take disruptive types and, in his words, “I set them to work and they are no longer troublesome; if that does not cure them, I give them still more work to do.”
7. A leader’s goal should not include becoming a master of controversy, but to become consistent in handling the truth. Spurgeon may not have been the best controversialist, but his resolve was to remain true to firm convictions, regardless of the outcome, believing that righteousness will prevail in the end.