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Calvin the Evangelist

As you are no doubt aware, Calvinists are not concerned with evangelism. Calvinism itself declares evangelism unnecessary. Right? History tells a different story, a story that goes back to Calvin himself.


imgMost are aware of the stereotypical charge that Calvinists are concerned only about doctrine and are indifferent to evangelism and missions. It is further charged that Calvinism is actually counterproductive to the missionary/evangelistic enterprise. Not only is that historically untrue, as revealed by examining the roster of great evangelistic pastors and missionaries who were avowed Calvinists, (i.e., George Whitfield, Charles H. Spurgeon, William Cary, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, etc.), it is patently untrue of Calvin himself.
   Calvin’s passion as a pastor/evangelist was revealed in multiple venues. Calvin persistently evangelized to the children of Geneva through catechism classes and the Geneva Academy. Moreover, he trained preachers to appeal for men and women to follow Christ. The visitation of the sick prescribed an evangelistic inquiry. Even a cursory examination of Calvin’s sermons readily reveals an unquenchable zeal for men and women to be converted to Christ.
   But what about missions? In the Registry of the Venerable Company of Pastors, it is recorded that eighty-eight missionaries had been sent out from Geneva. In actuality, there were probably more than one hundred, and most of them were directly under Calvin. But missions work also went on at a more informal level. Geneva became a magnet for persecuted believers, and many of these immigrants were discipled and eventually returned to their own countries as effective missionaries and evangelists.
   As the troubled times in Calvin’s pastoral ministry subsided, the opportunity for intentional missionary expansion, and church planting ripened. The blessing of God upon the missionary endeavors of Calvin and the Geneva churches from 1555 to 1562 was extraordinary—more than one hundred underground churches were planted In France by 1560. By 1562, the number had increased to 2,150, producing more than three million members. Some of these churches had congregations numbering in the thousands. The pastor of Montpelier informed Calvin by letter that “our church, thanks to the Lord, has so grown and so continues to grow every day that we are preaching three sermons every Sunday to more than 5 to 6 thousand people.” another letter from the pastor of Toulouse declared “our church continues to grow to the astonishing number of 8 to 9 thousand souls.” Calvin’s beloved France, through his ministry, was invaded by more than thirteen hundred Geneva-trained missionaries. This effort, coupled with Calvin’s support of the Waldensians, produced a French Huguenot Church that almost triumphed over the Catholic Counter-Reformation in France.
   Calvin did not evangelize and plant churches in France alone. Geneva-trained missionaries planted churches in Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Germany, England, Scotland, and the independent states of the Rhineland. Evan more astonishing was an initiative that sent missionaries to Brazil. Calvin’s commitment to evangelism and missions was not theoretical, but as in every other area of his life and ministry, a matter of zealous action and passionate commitment.

—Harry L. Reeder, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, ed. Burk Parsons (Reformation Trust, 2008), 67–68

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Posted  in: Church History · Harry L Reeder · John Calvin · John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology
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#1 || 09·06·18··08:32 || Tim Etherington

it is patently true of Calvin himself.

I think that should be "it is patently untrue of Calvin himself." :)

Quite right, thank you. —David

#2 || 09·06·18··11:46 || Mark | hereiblog

Brother, thanks for this post. This is such an important part of Calvin's life that is often overlooked.

#3 || 09·06·18··14:20 || Kim in On

Perhaps because Calvin did not use the evangelistic methods we in the 21st Century are familiar with, people misunderstand.

#4 || 09·06·18··14:29 || David

You mean like this?

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