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European Reformation: John Calvin And The Power Of Preaching

Standing next to Calvin’s pulpit in Geneva, Switzerland made me reminisce about the power of preaching. From here, Calvin impacted the world. But perhaps his preaching would not be well received today.

Let me explain.

My friend John Glass, a pastor in Geneva, told some of us that Calvin’s sermon output was enormous. For example, he preached 43 sermons on Galatians, 46 sermons on Thessalonians, 48 sermons on Ephesians, 86 sermons on the Pastoral Epistles, 186 sermons on Corinthians, and spent five years preaching on the harmony of the Gospels until his death in 1564. In the Old Testament, he preached 123 sermons on Genesis, 159 sermons on Job, 174 sermons in Ezekiel, 200 sermons on Deuteronomy, and 353 sermons on Isaiah.

If you’re wondering how one man was able to deliver so many sermons, it’s because he preached every day—and twice on Sundays! These sermons were taken down by stenographers, edited, and then became the basis of Calvin’s commentaries and independent writings.

Would we go to hear Calvin if he were preaching today? I’m sure we would, because of the sheer force of his intellect and delivery. But I know of no pastor who could possibly preach this many sermons on any given book of the Bible without becoming repetitious, general in his exposition, and—dare I say it—boring.

I think we would be making a mistake to use Calvin as our model for preaching. God calls people with different gifts, different aptitudes, and different abilities to apply Scripture to everyday living. That being said, I believe there is a real dearth of good, biblical and heart-transforming preaching today. We must have pastors who study hard, pray much, and preach with passion. Only a burning heart can beget a spiritual fire.

America cannot be revived, unless the pulpits of America are revived. Those of us who preach must remember we can’t be Calvins, but we can learn from his single-minded desire to make the Word of God clear to all who listen. There is power in biblical, heartfelt preaching.

God buries His workmen, but His work continues. He raises up new leaders, new preachers, and even new methods. But as Pastor Wiersbe used to say, “There is no substitute for the Word of God being preached by the man of God to the people of God in the power of the Spirit of God.” Well said.

In my next blog, I will introduce you to the reformer Zwingli in Zürich, Switzerland, and tell you how eating some sausages created a riot in the city!

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