I have never been embarrassed about being a Calvinist. In fact, I used to be a pretty big jerk about it. Around 1995/6 that began to change (a future post no doubt). Though it is not the banner we raise, our church is also Reformed in theology. Over the past year a number of leaders in our Convention have come out swinging at Calvinism, or at least a straw version of Calvinism. One of the frequent assertions is that Calvinists and Calvinism are anti-evangelistic. You know, since we believe in the doctrine of election, we think we don’t need to tell people about Jesus. Of course, this is nonsense. Such thinking is, at best, a part of hyper-Calvinism that I have dealt with here. What I want to do today is share how Reformed theology has led to me being more passionate about God and making him known than ever before. Yep, Calvinism has been a boon to my evangelism. Note: I am presuming Reformed theology here, not arguing for it, in order to emphasize how it affects my motivation. Please do not turn this post into a thread debating Calvinism itself.
Man's total depravity moves me to preach Jesus Christ because I know that there is no hope for a man to find his way to God, accidentally or intentionally, on his own. There is no hope of him believing the truth apart from the preaching of the Gospel. Because people are dead in their sins, and are unwilling to come to Christ apart from the Father's drawing, I know that their salvation hinges on God's sovereign work. I know that he uses the preaching of the Gospel as the means of awaking the dead.
The doctrine of election encourages me to share the Gospel, because I am assured that God has chosen a people for himself. Like Jesus, the prophets and the Apostles, I preach indiscriminately to all, trusting that all who were predestined to eternal life will believe, if not now, later.
Particular redemption compels me to tell others about Jesus because not a drop of Christ's blood was wasted. Because Jesus has purchased people from every tribe, tongue and nation we understand that God has sent us where we are, and is sending others around the world to preach Christ crucified with the awareness that He is building his church. Christ has accomplished redemption for his people, and it only awaits application.
The doctrine of effectual grace pushes me out of my study and into the community with the Gospel because I know that, although I may fail to persuade someone, God will not. Because a leopard cannot change his spots, nor man his nature, I am relieved to know that God will cause a man to be born again. So I tell as many as I am able the good news that we have in Jesus, with the hope that God will open hearts to respond to the word.
Ultimately, I am compelled to preach the Gospel first and foremost because of the glory of God. In other words, I share the Gospel with my neighbor because God, and his Gospel, are worth making known. I do it first for his pleasure, and then for the good of man.
I am also encouraged by those who have gone before me, believing these doctrines, and have set the example of evangelistic work: men like John Bunyan - and the Puritans in general, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainard, Andrew Fuller, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Asahel Nettleton, Charles Spurgeon - you get the idea. Today we have men like Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, and John Piper.
Having said all of this, let me admit that I am a sinful man who sometimes misses, or neglects, God given opportunities to tell others about Jesus. This is not because of my theology, but because of my tendency to think more about myself than others; sometimes it's because I am not thinking at all. Of course I have met those in the Reformed camp who have neglected their responsibility to share the Gospel of Christ. I have also found the same deficiency among the non-Calvinists in no lesser measure. As I have said earlier, I do not think it is simply our theology that kills evangelism, but our hearts. In my case, and in the case of most I know, Calvinism has not killed our evangelistic impulse. It does produce a different kind of evangelism; one that is more careful, but no less earnest.
For more thoughts on evangelism check out my series, Reforming Evangelism.