John Calvin – The Church Planter

Article: John Calvin, Missionary and Church Planter by John Starke

(original source here)

So long as some Christians have called themselves Calvinists, other Christians have probably alleged that Calvinists care little about evangelism, missions, and church planting. The critique isn’t new. But only recently have we learned the extent of the zeal and effectiveness of the early reformers in evangelism, missions, and church planting. Elias Medeiros, Harriet Barbour professor of missions at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, will lead a workshop on The Reformer’s Commitment to the Propagation of the Gospel to All Nations at TGC’s National Conference in April, likely presenting this wider understanding.

But in this short article, I want to give a small taste of John Calvin’s missionary and church planting zeal in particular. If you want to get a sense of Calvin’s theology of missions and activity, you can read Calvin’s sermon on 2 Timothy 1:8-9, “The Call to Witness,” Herman J. Selderhuis’s John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life, and Frank James III’s series of lectures, The Calvin I Never Knew. From these works, I have compiled several fascinating, surprising, and convicting facts about the missionary and church planting movement John Calvin launched in France and throughout Europe.

Calvin, Equipper and Sender of Missionaries

In the 1550s the population of Geneva doubled as refugees, many of them from France, poured in. Many of them sat under Calvin’s preaching five times each week. They heard sermons like this one on 2 Timothy 1:8-9, where he said:

If the gospel be not preached, Jesus Christ is, as it were, buried. Therefore, let us stand as witnesses, and do him this honor, when we see all the world so far out of the way; and remain steadfast in this wholesome doctrine. . . . Let us here observe that St. Paul condemns our unthankfulness, if we be so unfaithful to God, as not to bear witness of his gospel; seeing he hath called us to it.

Something happened to a number of these French refugees. As they listened to Calvin’s preaching their hearts were stirred for their homeland. Many of them yearned to go back to France and preach the gospel. Calvin agreed to commission some of them to return but wanted to train them first. “A good missionary is a good theologian,” he told them. He trained them to preach, taught them theology, and assessed their moral character, making sure they were qualified to be ministers of the gospel.

Calvin, Missionary Correspondent

But he didn’t just train them, give them money, and send them off. Even after he sent them, he corresponded with them frequently. We have thousands of letters back and forth between the missionaries and Calvin. They weren’t just magnets on a refrigerator, Frank James notes. They were his brothers in Christ. When troubles came, they asked Calvin, “What should we do next?” James reminds pastors, “You need to keep in close contact with your missionaries. You’ll be a good Calvinist if you do.”

Calvin, Leading Church Planter in Europe

By 1555, Calvin and his Geneva supporters had planted five churches in France. Four years later, they had planted 100 churches in France. By 1562, Calvin’s Geneva, with the help of some of their sister cities, had planted more than 2,000 churches in France. Calvin was the leading church planter in Europe. He led the way in every part of the process: he trained, assessed, sent, counseled, corresponded with, and prayed for the missionaries and church planters he sent. Pete Wilcox, writing in a doctrinal dissertation cited by James, concluded that in the last 10 years of Calvin’s life, missions was his absolute preoccupation. One French church in Bergerac exulted to Calvin:

There is, by the grace of God, a movement in our region that the devil is already driven out for the most part and we are able to provide ministers for ourselves [churches were now able to start planting their own churches in the region]. Day to day, we are growing and God has caused his work to bear such fruit that on sermons on Sunday, there are between 4,000-5,000 people at worship.

Another letter from Montpellier rejoiced, “Our church, thanks to the Lord, has so grown and so continues to grow every day that we are obliged to preach three sermons on Sundays to a total of five- to six-thousand people.” A pastor in Toulouse wrote to the Genevan Consistory,“Our church has grown to the astonishing number of about eight- to nine-thousand souls.” Calvin and Geneva sent missionaries not only to France but also to Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, and the free Imperial city-states in the Rhineland. We even know of two missionaries sent from Geneva in 1557 to Brazil. “Missions was not a ‘section’ of his systematic theology,” Keith Coleman says, “it was central to what he was trying to accomplish in his ministry.” Church planting and missions aren’t a byproduct of the young Reformed resurgence of the last decade but something embedded in the Reformation’s God-centered commitment to advancing the gospel.

Are All Religions Basically the Same?

In this brief clip from his teaching series Defending Your Faith, R.C. Sproul explains why Christianity is different from every other religion.

Transcript

I hear people say, “there is this underlining unity, we all believe the same thing.” That’s not true. What Muslims believe about what is good and the nature of redemption is radically different from what Christianity teaches, for example. Buddha was an atheist who simply claimed to be enlightened, Confucius talked about the veneration of ancestors—that’s a long way from the faith of the Scriptures. And what you don’t have in Buddhism and Islam, Confucianism, Shintoism, Taoism, and these other religions is an atonement. You don’t have a way of redemption that we have in Christianity, nor do you have a living Mediator. Moses is dead, Buddha is dead, Confucius is dead, and Muhammad is dead. There is no resurrection in these other religions. Christianity has elements to it, content to it that distinguish it from all other religions, and with that distinction comes the claim of Christ that it [He] is the only true way to God.

For the Cause of Reform in Kenya

Elly5Back in March I wrote, “Pastor Elly Achok Olare (Mumias, Kenya, Africa) has become a very precious friend of mine in recent months. He and I share a very similar background in that we both were at one time pastors in the word of faith movement.”

You can read an article he wrote at the Gospel Coalition website entitled, “How God Saved Me from the Prosperity Gospel”.

Pastor Elly had read my book “Twelve What Abouts” and wrote to me asking for permission to photocopy the book to hand out to his students. I said that with God’s help, I think we (King’s Church, Peoria) can do better than that.

This afternoon I had the joy of seeing photos of the 50 books we had sent to his ministry in Kenya now safely in the hands of Pastor Elly. He is more than delighted. He wrote, “My dearest brother, my friend and Co worker in the battle for souls, I have this day received with exceeding gladness the package of books you sent. It’s a blessing beyond words and thank you a million times.”
books - 50 kenya

Many of the students Pastor Elly teaches have a Pentecostal/Word of Faith background and now, through Pastor Elly’s ministry, five Reformed Churches have recently been planted in neighboring towns and cities in Kenya. Praise the Lord.

books - 50 kenya2Lets pray for our brother and his ministry and may God use the books in these students’ hands to drive many to God and His word, the true gospel of Christ and the biblical doctrines of grace.

books -50 kenya3Pour out Your Spirit O Lord and light fires in the hearts of many – for Your name, and for Your glory alone.

Building a Vision of World Missions

john-piperArticle: 5 Points for Building a Vision of World Missions by John Piper (original source we must understand that the Word of God is the foundation of world missions. Let us be a church that builds our missionary vision on the Word of God, information pills which has to do with the truths about God and His way of salvation and His way of life revealed in the Bible. This also has to do with doctrine—not the less central ones but the crucial, central doctrines of the Bible. When we choose and send missionaries, let us send those who can preach and teach the truth about God with an understanding of central biblical doctrines. The apostles built their lives and missions on these great truths. So should we.

Second, world missions are God’s work. What this means is not that He does it instead of us but that He does it through us. But He really does it. Missions are fundamentally supernatural. They are really God’s doing, God’s work in and through us. Thus, missions are not mainly a human enterprise but a divine one. It is God’s work based on God’s Word. We speak and we do. But in and through us God speaks and God does, or all is in vain. We rely on Him. Our job is to obey and be faithful and trust Him. Just as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” Continue reading

The Unreached and How We Reach Them

an entire family entered heaven together. Jamison and Kathryne Pals and their small children were driving from Minneapolis to Colorado for final preparations as missionaries to Japan. They planned to leave in October. But in an interstate construction zone in western Nebraska, a semi truck rear-ended the family’s vehicle. Tragically, the entire family died at the scene, including Jamison and Kathryne, both 29, and their three young children, 3-year-old Ezra, 23-month-old Violet, and 2-month-old Calvin. The 53-year-old trucker was arrested and charged with five counts of felony motor vehicle homicide.

Here is one of the last articles Jamison wrote (July 15, 2016):

Unreached and how we reach them (original source here)

In our last post, we shared why we feel burdened for unreached people groups. More specifically, we feel a burden for Japan, the largest unreached nation in the world. People are surprised to hear of the gospel needs in Japan. In some circles, the work of missions has become synonymous with humanitarian work. The popular picture of a missionary is someone who runs an orphanage, does community health, digs wells or comes into a country after a disaster strikes. Japan is a well developed country, so why would they need missionaries? That question is why we wrote our last post, and why we’ll continue writing this one.

We are not against humanitarian work. I (Jamison) am of the belief that–in a shrinking world–wisely and generously caring for the global poor is one way to fulfill the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I simply want to point out that many of the good humanitarian activities that Christian missionaries take part in are not the distinguishing activities of Christian missions. Non-Christians can do them and are doing them just as well, in some cases better.

The thing that makes Christian missions unique is Jesus Christ. The work of Christian missions is making him known in places and among people where he is not yet known; worshipped where he isn’t yet worshipped; obeyed where he isn’t yet obeyed; loved where he isn’t yet loved. In other words, missions is the work of “mak[ing] disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And, behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This is nothing new. The people of God have affirmed it since the Great Commission was issued some 2,000 years ago. But, from time to time, history shows that we’re prone to forget, to lose sight of the work Jesus Christ has left to his people until the end of the age. Continue reading

Missions – Post Apostolic to the Reformation

In the lecture below, Dr. Jim Adams surveys the history of missions from the post-apostolic era to the period of the Protestant Reformation. He demonstrates how the Kingdom of God steadily expanded from Palestine to distant locations around the globe. This lecture is part of the curriculum for Reformed Baptist Seminary’s course on missions.

Lecture 2: Missions from the Early Church thru the Reformation from Reformed Baptist Seminary on Vimeo.

A God of Strategies

On today’s DL broadcast, once again guest hosting in Dr. James White’s absence, I taught from Acts 16:1-15. I discussed the Apostle Paul’s mission strategy as it relates to the circumcision of Timothy, the closing and the opening of doors for the gospel, and God’s activity in opening the heart of man.