I was recently asked, “Do ‘Calvinists’ practice evangelism?” I think we see a parallel to this question in the motivation of the Gold Rush. During the Gold Rush, people went West because there was a good chance that they would strike gold. Calvinists, or at least healthy Calvinists, are motivated by this chance of “striking gold” as well. Let me explain…
During the California Gold Rush (1848-55), men and women left everything they knew to go “out West” because they knew that there was a chance—a good chance—that they would strike gold. Clearly, they would not have left family, friends, and security to go West if there was only a random chance of striking gold. However, there was a chance, and so there was a “Gold Rush.”
In total, around 300,000 people saw the potential gold as a great opportunity and set out for California. Men and women left their lives in the East—many times at great cost, sometimes even of life and limb—to travel to the West. This Gold Rush even brought people from as far away as Latin America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. The life of a prospector was a difficult one: the work was hard, the environment was harsh, and there was the constant fear of Indian attack.
God Says There is “Gold” Among the Nations
Paul tells us that he endures everything for the sake of the elect (2 Tim. 2:10). Thus, far from making Paul relax his missionary zeal it encouraged it. In fact, one night the Lord said to him,
“Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent… for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:9-10)
Paul was encouraged to keep speaking because God had many elect people in the city.
There are elect people among the nations—or “gold”—that only have to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ to be saved. So, it is true that Calvinists believe that God elects people to salvation (see for example Eph. 1:4) but it also true that God uses us as means to bring about that salvation (see Rom. 10:13 for instance). So it is a great evangelistic encouragement to us that there are people ransomed for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (see Rev. 5:9-10). This truth, far from causing us to cease our evangelistic efforts, should cause a type of evangelistic “gold rush.”
One of the greatest encouragements in evangelism and missions is that there is a chance that we will “strike gold.” There is a chance that those to whom we are ministering are of the elect—chosen by God to be saved. Far from discouraging from evangelism, this truth should stir us up all the more to evangelize. When we read the passages we looked at we should see “Gold!” God has not only made evangelism possible, but He has in fact guaranteed that our evangelistic efforts are not in vain, for “He has many people in this city.” Our eyes should light up with the prospect of spiritual riches for us and for those with whom we can share Christ.
So yes, Calvinists do, or should, believe in and practice evangelism.