John Calvin is the most influential pastor in church history. He wrote commentaries on nearly the entire Bible, which are still in print today. His systematic theology, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, is arguably the most significant Christian book ever published. Calvin was the architect of Protestant theology, and his teachings gave rise to modern government, public education, and even capitalism.
Calvin was first and foremost a preacher, generally giving six sermons a week. He moved the baptismal to the back of the church, and placed the pulpit in the middle, marking a change in the purpose of corporate worship – Christians would no longer gather for sacraments, but instead for the preaching of the Word.
Born north of Paris, he was converted to Christ in his 20’s and then forced to flee France – Protestants were not welcome there. He eventually settled in Geneva, where he spent the rest of his life pastoring.
Under Calvin’s preaching, Geneva was reshaped. Refugees poured in from England, Scotland, and France, themselves fleeing persecution. So many came that Geneva’s population doubled under Calvin’s pastorate. He started a program to train men to return to their own countries as gospel preachers, and so many of his disciples became martyrs that this institute was known as “the Calvin school of death.”
Calvin died at age 54 – he simply burnt out. He outlived his wife, and three children, but his legacy still towers over church history.