Sunday, 12 July 2009

TOAM Training Track 4: Andy Johnston : John Calvin's Church Planting

These three seminars really have given me a lot to think about. It was Calvin's 500th birthday on the friday of the conference, hence the idea to use that as a springboard to discuss his life. I will blog them bit by bit over the next few days.

Andy leads Christchurch Hailsham and has published several books on the reformation.

Andy’s basic assumption was to look at Calvin in the light of what we understand about “apostolic” gift.

If Calvin were alive today we would recognise his gift for:
  • Theology and preaching
  • Building a “blueprint” Church that others modelled
  • Mission and Church planting
Calvin finished his preaches with a prayer “Let Him work his miracle of grace not only here, but for all the people and nations of the earth”

Does that sound familiar?

10 Points of interest & comparison:

1) Calvinism was a “second generation” movement of the reformation. While other movements were running out of steam Calvin’s influence continued to spread.

Newfrontiers is really a second generation movement of the Charismatic renewal in the 1960s

2) Calvin was apostolic in his gifting although would not have been comfortable with that title

It just kind of happened, he was not in a rush to claim a badge. Sounds a bit like Mr Virgo?

3) Calvin was an outstanding theologian, one of the greats of the last 500 years. He focussed on the “Big picture” of the biblical narrative: the glory of God

Newfrontiers remains commited to historic evangelicalism and the doctrines of Grace

4) Calvin built a “Model Church” in Geneva which was a genuine attempt to be true to the biblical pattern of Church life

We are looking for the recovery of New Testament Church principles. Some of our Churches have served us as real “model” Churches to encourage others.

5) Calvin overcame huge opposition within his cultural context in order to change his culture

This is a major challenge from the Driscoll / Keller camp. How can we become a city within a city?

6) Calvin was, in the first instance, a fairly reluctant Church planter. He offered no help or support to such ideas before 1554

Newfrontiers only started planting Churches properly in the late 1980s

7) In the last phase of his life (1555-1564) Calvin inspired a huge momentum to Church plant, both in his native France and across Europe

This is a great encouragement

8) This remarkably successful phase of Church planting was “Calvin inspired” not “Calvin organised”. No one individual could oversee 1,700 Churches being planted across France. Training helped, but in the end the movement had a momentum of its own. Only 88 pastors were sent from Geneva but 1700 Churches started: you do the math!

The vision to plant first 400, then 1000 Churches in the UK is aided by strategy and training but ultimately it must be organic and come from a snowballing effect of having mission in the DNA of each local Church

9) Calvinists saw themselves as “family” and “on a mission”. There were regular offerings and fast days which provided both material and spiritual support for co-workers

Do those expressions sound familiar?

10) Seeds of potential problems in the future were sown at the very end of Calvin’s life as he softened his stance regarding secular power which opened the door for armed uprising against the state amongst some of the Calvinist groups.

What do we really need to “hold true” to?

There was also an interesting look at how in many ways Calvinism was a deliberate attempt to oppose key elements of medieval Catholicism.

Calvin was rooted in the primacy of the glory of God. Therefore he rejected outright any practices or doctrines which could reduce the glory of Christ such as
  • Intercession through the saints
  • Elevation of Mary
  • “Continual” sacrifice
  • Elevating the role of tradition alongside scripture
It was into that context that the doctrines of the sovereignty of God took precedence.

1 comment:

Jongudmund said...

Calvin inspired a huge momentum to Church plant, both in his native France and across Europe

Not really. He inspired thousands of people to leave the established church (at a time when to do so was possibly treasonous - hence the armed uprisings against the state, which is just sedition taken one step further). That's not really the same as a positive decision to plant churches.

The issue for protestantism has always been 'how much of what we do stems from a reaction, rather than a proaction?'