Growing up in the Reformed tradition, I never saw an altar call, participated in street evangelism, or attended any revival conferences. This does not surprise my more charismatic friends since Presbyterians and Reformed Christians have garnered a reputation for not being the least bit interested in evangelism. After all, if you subscribe to the doctrine of predestination, why bother trying to convert unbelievers? Or, the author states in a Ligonier Devotional titled Predestination and Evangelism, “If the Lord has chosen those who will be saved, and if they are certain to be saved, what is the point of evangelism? Does not this teaching on predestination mean that we do not have to preach the gospel because God is going to save His elect anyway?”
A Calvinist Evangelical is considered a paradox in the Christian community. Us “frozen, chosen Presbyterians” appear passive and complacent in comparison to our Pentecostal brothers and sisters in Christ who host crusades and plant missionaries across the globe. We are rarely the street pastor striking up conversations with strangers or the church with Easter services that are “more accessible” to visiting unbelievers. We do have missionaries, low-pressure Bible studies, and various forms of community engagement, but when church people think of the kind of Christians who truly fulfill Jesus’s Great Commission, our denomination is rarely what first comes to mind.
However, the truth is predestination is not at odds with evangelism. Keith Mathison says in a Ligonier blog post, A Calvinist Evangelical?, “Calvinism is not inconsistent with evangelism; it is only inconsistent with certain evangelistic methods.”
As Gospel-centered Christians, we cannot support highly-engineered church services that rely on confrontation and emotionalism to impart the Gospel. Certain stylistic choices can be manipulative, feelings-based, and—Mathison dare says—“inconsistent with Scripture.” We need to look to what the Bible teaches is pleasing to God in terms of evangelism.
Even though Presbyterian and Christian Reformed church services might not look like how the general Christian community pictures an evangelistic service, we can, and must, be just as passionate about spreading the Gospel.
Because We Love God and Our Neighbors
As obedient followers of Christ, we must take heed to the greatest and the second greatest commandment of all:
“’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:36-39
Because we love God, we obey His Word. We must have compassion for our friends, coworkers, relatives, and neighbors even if their beliefs and lifestyles do not conform to the expectations of the Christian community. In light of this, we must also yearn to tell them about Jesus as our love for them and our concern for their salvation grows.
Because God Commands Us
Our sovereign Jesus Christ commanded us to evangelize:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
I often struggle to comprehend how our free will can coexist with God’s will. If we have the agency to make our own choices, how can God be completely sovereign? Conversely, if God is sovereign, how can we have total free will? But I am also reminded of how, regardless of my gaps in understanding, God clearly teaches us to evangelize. Even if we do not fully understand why God commands us to do something, we must do it anyway. We must trust in Him with all our hearts and choose not to lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).
And as seen in Matthew 28, God calls us to be evangelists. Being passive about spreading the Gospel is not an option.
Because We Are Part of God’s Plan
We can be instrumental in somebody’s salvation story. Yes, predestination means God has already determined an individual’s salvation. But it also means God has designed the precise way an individual receives their salvation…and we cannot know what that precise way looks like until it unfolds in real time.
God not only establishes the end, but He also devises the means to that end according to His perfect will. And His will, as proven in Scripture, is that He will use us Christians to reach the unbelievers and tell them the Good News.
As the aforementioned Ligonier devotional says, “God’s plan is comprehensive. He works out all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11), and the counsel of His will has determined that He will use His people to reach the lost and call them into His kingdom. He has decided that in the ordinary course of events, people will be saved through the explanation of the gospel on the part of Christians.”
Make no mistake, people are saved by God, but they can be saved through Christians who speak truth and share the Gospel. Even the smallest act of evangelism can plant a seed in a person’s brain and blossom into a conviction.
When the Lord says, “Who can I send?”, we as servants of the Lord should say, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).