Does A Calvinistic Theology Destroy Missionary Zeal?

John_Calvin_2One of our most firmly held and diligently taught fundamentals at To Every Tribe’s Center for Pioneer Church Planting (CPCP) is our belief in the doctrines of grace. These doctrines are often referred to by the nickname “Calvinism.”  We believe that this system of theological understanding is thoroughly consistent with Scripture and that it exalts our sovereign Lord while it puts man face down before His majesty in repentance and utter dependence on His grace.  Since the CPCP is a training program for missionaries, this might be surprising to some. The surprise stems from the fact that many have been led to believe that Calvinism is inconsistent with evangelism and, by extension, mission work. Nothing could be further from the truth! I am aware that there are some who have miss-applied the doctrines of grace and allowed flawed thinking to make them “hyper-Calvinists.”  These are the misguided thinkers who do not see the need for evangelizing the lost. However a truth-loving, honest Calvinist cannot help but obey the great commission!

Here are five reasons why I believe that a right understanding of the doctrines of grace is not inconsistent with missions.

1. The Calvinist views the great commission as a command, not a suggestion.
Although he believes such doctrines as total depravity, unconditional election, and particular redemption; these truths, contrary to what many say, do not kill his willingness nor his desire to evangelize. He hears his Master say: ”Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”(Mark 16:15). So, he goes. He takes his Lord’s words as an happy obligation and gives a free offer of the gospel to everyone. He holds no doctrinal position that would release him from his obligation to obey a direct command of his Lord as it is revealed in Scripture.

2. For every child of God and especially for the Calvinist, proclaiming the gospel is the natural result of having experienced saving grace.
Having been regenerated from death to life, and having understood and experienced the saving grace of God through the effectual working of the Holy Spirit, one cannot help but tell it to others. Saul of Tarsus (later renamed Paul) began to preach Christ immediately after his conversion (Acts 9:20). Someone has said “Evangelizing is one beggar telling other beggars where he found bread.”

3. The Calvinist knows that the doctrine of election guarantees that there are “other sheep” in whatever people group he is evangelizing.
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).  Because of this he is encouraged knowing that his labor is not in vain. Christ will use his faithful preaching to bring His “other sheep” to Himself.

4. The Calvinist knows:
First, that the preaching of the gospel is God’s appointed means for saving those who believe. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). So he, with joy and passion, proclaims it.  Second, that the Gospel is sufficient, inherently powerful and God will use it to effectively bring men to Christ. This I say by experience: He may be one of very few on the field who has complete confidence in the power and sufficiency of the gospel he preaches to accomplish God’s saving work.

5. The man who best knows the doctrines of grace is one who has glimpsed something of the glory and majesty of our high and holy God.
He is so awed by God’s glory that he wishes he had a thousand tongues with which to praise Him, but lamentably, he has but one. So he goes forth convinced that his Lord is worthy of much more praise than he alone is able to give. Therefore, he preaches the good news longing to reach others who will join their hearts and tongues with him and with all those who worship the God of glory. His daily consuming desire is for one more different voice in the choir sounding forth its unique note as it sings God’s praise. One more heart that is captivated and awed by His majesty, and one more witness to His truth so that still others may hear and join the chorus of praise. From Scripture he gets the command for mission but worship gives mission its fire and life.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that he who correctly understands the doctrines of grace is one who has the right message, the right method, and the right motivation for scriptural missionary activity.