Thursday, 16 July 2009

TOAM Training Track 4: Lex Loizides: John Calvin's Mission

Lex is an elder at Jubilee Church Cape Town. He serves locally and internationally as an evangelist, including the Frontedge initiative within Newfrontiers. He is a really nice guy, with a fascination for cars and Church history in almost equal measure. I found the conversation while I gave him a lift to the airport with him last year fascinating, as is his blog.

Calvinism is often viewed as counter-productive to the gospel. The accusation is that it brings passivity and neglect to witness because it is “all in God’s hands anyway”

There is almost a sense that the believer needs to choose between Calvinism and the great commission!

“God is in ultimate control of the plan of redemption” has two clear objections to it, highlighted by greats such as Wesley and Finney. These boil down to election and the call of God to salvation.

Lex’s key claim was that CONVICTION ABOUT GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IN ELECTION AND SALVATION DOES NOT REDUCE EVANGELISTIC VIGOUR using examples from real life and starting with scripture.


Acts 18:4 Paul is told to keep preaching for God has many people for Him there. This is quite clearly an evangelistic motivation to stay and engage in mission that comes from direct revelation from God. Calvin noted that God already called them “His” people to Paul even before their conversion.

This was a supernatural revelation to Paul.
  • It was not a hunch
  • The place and circumstances did not “look ripe”: it looked tough
  • It came to Paul from a decidedly “Charismatic” experience of God speaking
  • It was an ANTIDOTE to fear and apathy and enabled him to overcome his fear and persevere
In 2 Timothy 2:10 we see he won’t give up because of a genuine motivation

God had “Many” people for him in Corinth. By revelation 7 v 9 that “many” is expanded.

In Acts 13 there was seriously effective ministry happening in Pisidian Antioch and nearly the whole place was there. V48: as many as were appointed believed and v49 this spread across the whole region.

The scriptures relating to predestination in Acts promote or have the effect of stirring up evangelism. So if Calvinism is biblical, it should do the same.


There have been many Arminians and Calvinists zealous for mission who saw great fruit.

Both groups also have apathetic people and apathetic Churches who are not zealous for mission.

But the accusation that “Calivinism reduces evangelistic zeal” is simply not backed up a quick glance at some major historical figures.

Calvin’s original movement was pushing 2000 Churches across Europe and represented 3,000,000 people, with local Churches up to 9,000 people in number

Wesley and Finney were key critics of Calvinism, so let’s look at two contemporaries in each century they represent.

  • A strong Calvinist, but famous for being an evangelist
  • His most famous sermon is an evangelistic sermon
  • There are examples of both his Calvinism and his evangelistic successes right the way through his writings and sermons
  • He had a clear focus on evangelism
  • He saw a major harvest

  • Again, a strong Calvinist and a strong evangelist
  • He preached the need of new birth and gave a call for a clear decision, which is what we would expect from an evangelist today. The preaching became the “event” and massive crowds came to hear him
  • His ministry was at the centre of great awakenings in both the UK and the US
  • Wesley’s ministry, ironically, collected and organised many of the converts from Whitefield’s mission and turned them into a Church planting movement.
In both these cases holding a high view of the sovereignty of God certainly did not reduce either their evangelistic vigour nor their success


He is known as the “Father of modern missions”. He did not just sent others, he went himself. He waited 7 years for his first convert.

Vishal Mangalwadi lists his contributions to India:
  • He imported the first steam engine
  • Then taught the local blacksmiths how to make their own
  • Development of printing and publishing
  • Taught locals and showed them how to develop their own printing industry
  • He started local paper manufacture so he would not have to import as much
  • 1st newspaper published in an oriental language
  • Formed the first horticultural society
  • Performed major agricultural surveys
  • Wrote essays on forestry
  • Developed the concept of savings banks
  • Advocated new methods in leprosy treatment
  • Wrote the first Sanskrit dictionary
  • Developed Schools
  • Developed libraries
  • Campaigned against the oppression of women especially the practice of widow burning
  • Translated the bible into 3 Indian languages, and sections of the bible into many others.
“He saw India not as a land to be exploited but as His father’s land to be loved and served”

Is a list like this the work of a dull and fatalistic Calvinist who thinks he does not have to bother because God will sort it out anyway?


Believed conclusively in justification by faith, in the doctrines of the grace of God and in the sovereignty of God

  • He was one of the most successful evangelists of his century
  • He is the widest read preacher in history
  • He saw over 200 Churche splanted including overseas
  • 900 pastors were trained
  • He opened 2 orphanages
  • He wrote lots of books and pamphlets
  • He almost always spoke to the unbeliever in His sermons. It is estimated over 15,000 responded in his own Church meetings during his ministry and the Church numbered in the thousands.
Spurgeon was Calvinist and passionately evangelistic.


Both Scripture and history give us examples which disprove that accusation.

There are other reasons why people may choose to reject Calvinism but the accusation it produces apathy in witness just does not hold water.

Because God is sovereign, we should want to address the unbeliever with a relevant gospel.

This has implications for our neighbours, our street, our Church, our Town, our Nation and the Nations

This begs the question why are people so hostile?
  • Often people disagree with a caricature not a reality
  • They take an experience of the extreme fringe of Calvinism and stereotype all
Lex finished with a call to read and honour the contribution of Wesley and Finney because they did things really well and God used them in amazing ways, so we can learn much from them. If we hold to the doctrines of grace we need to extend that grace to those who disagree with us and remain open hearted.

This excellent session finished with questions and then a powerful time of prayer for the extension of the gospel.

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