Devotion, Doctrine, Doxology #2

May 27, 2009 at 9:44 am | Posted in Books and Movies | Leave a comment

            I just completed two more chapters in John Calvin, A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine and Doxology, about the man as a pastor.  The chapter called “The Churchman of the Reformation” was written by Harry Reeder, pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.  The amount of work John Calvin turned out as a pastor makes me feel inadequate and ashamed of what I accomplish with the same title.  As a leader, Calvin wrote a treatise called the Ecclesiastical Ordinances, which became the “foundational guide for the Sixteenth Century Reformed churches.”  This document still influences our views of church leadership today.  He personally trained many of the leaders in the Geneva church.  As a preacher, he gave about 20 messages a month, expounding the New Testament on Sundays and the Old on weekdays.  With the preparation I put into one sermon, I can’t imagine how he could preach twenty!  Reeder comments that “his preaching was normally extemporaneous.”  Amazing!  (The following chapter tells more about his extemporaneous preaching.  He stood in the pulpit with nothing but an open Bible – Greek when preaching from the New Testament and Hebrew when preaching from the Old!)  As a teacher, Calvin started the Geneva Academy, which at its peak had 12,000 students.  Calvin handpicked many of the professors and taught some classes himself.  Two hundred years later it was still considered by Thomas Jefferson to be the premier college in Europe.  As a writer, Calvin’s Institutes became the premier publication of the Reformation and has remained in print, in one form or another, into the present.  That opus is a small work compared to the volumes of biblical commentaries, letters and sermons in print that came out of his ministry in Geneva.  As a shepherd, Calvin’s heart “has unfortunately been obscured and neglected.”  He began three hospitals, taught the deacons to visit the sick, wrote numerous letters of concern to those suffering the plague, encouraged Reformation leaders all over Europe, and opened his home to students, immigrants and poor people.  As an evangelist, his sermons are full of evangelistic appeals, and he trained his pastors to make strong appeals for the gospel.  More than 100 missionaries were sent out from Geneva to England, Scotland, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Germany, and even Brazil!  By 1560, more than 100 underground churches were planted in Calvin’s native France, and within a few years they had multiplied to over 2000!

            Though reading such things can make me feel guilty for the measly amount of work I put out by comparison, I have to realize I can only do what God has called me to do.  My prayer is that God would open doors of opportunity, that I would recognize those doors and not let comfort or laziness determine my response.

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