John Calvin on Evangelism

John Calvin on Evangelism

“If we have any humanity in us, seeing men going to perdition, …ought we not be moved by pity, to rescue the poor souls from hell, and teach them the way of salvation? (from sermon 196 on Deut. 33:18-19; taken from Ref 21 article)

…nothing could be more inconsistent with the nature of faith than that deadness which would lead a man to disregard his brethren, and to keep the light of knowledge choked up within his own breast. (from commentary on Is. 2:3; taken from Ref 21 article)

When we know God to be our Father, should we not desire that he be known as such by all? And if we do not have this passion, that all creatures do him homage, is it not a sign that his glory means little to us? (from sermon 196 on Deut. 33:18-19; taken from Ref 21 article)

Since we do not know who belongs to the number of the predestined and who does not, it befits us so to feel as to wish that all be saved. So it will come about that, whoever we come across, we shall study to make him a sharer of peace . . . even severe rebuke will be administered like medicine, lest they should perish or cause others to perish. But it will be for God to make it effective in those whom He foreknew and predestined. (from Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God; taken from the Founders Journal article)”

Calvin's teachings often emphasize the compassion Christians should feel for those who do not know Christ. He believed that the knowledge of God’s grace in one's own life should spur a desire to share the Gospel with others. This compassion is evident when he discusses the fate of those without Christ, urging believers to be moved by the plight of the unsaved. Calvin believed that faith itself was a gift from God, yet he also upheld the necessity of hearing the Gospel to come to faith. This is why he supported the preaching of the Word and the missionary endeavor as means used by God to bring his elect to salvation. He saw the proclamation of the Gospel as the primary means by which God sovereignly draws his chosen ones to Himself. Calvin’s emphasis on practical theology can be seen in his support for training preachers and missionaries who were well-versed in Scripture and sound doctrine. He understood the importance of equipping those called to evangelize with a deep theological understanding and the ability to apply it in pastoral contexts. He placed significant emphasis on the role of the church in missions. He viewed the church not only as a community of believers but also as an institution responsible for the propagation of the Gospel. This included the responsibility to send out missionaries, support their endeavors, and pray for their efforts.

John Calvin's role in promoting missions and evangelism is often seen through the lens of his influence in Geneva, which became a hub for Protestant reform and the training ground for ministers and missionaries who were sent throughout Europe and beyond. Calvin’s Geneva became a center of theological education, where many Protestants from across Europe came to study. The Academy of Geneva, which Calvin helped to found in 1559, trained hundreds of ministers who returned to their homelands to preach the Gospel, effectively acting as missionaries in predominantly Catholic regions. This includes notable figures who went on to lead reform efforts in countries like France, Italy, and Scotland. Calvin was particularly instrumental in supporting the Protestant cause in France. He maintained correspondence with leaders of the French Reformed churches and sent trained ministers from Geneva to strengthen and organize these churches. This effort was crucial during the turbulent times of the Reformation in France, where these leaders often acted as missionaries, establishing new congregations and spreading Reformed teachings.