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Reflections on the Past: The Moravians

by | Nov 21, 2012 | Missions Articles

I have always been fascinated when someone or a group of people somehow manage to accomplish way beyond one could have imagined or expected. One such group was the Moravians who in 1722 fled persecution in Moravia (present day Czech Republic) and found refuge on the estate of Count Zinzendorf in what is now Eastern Germany. The community they started was called Herrnhut (The Lord’s Watch).

August 13, 1727 marked the beginning of a great spiritual renewal for the Herrnhut community. The Holy Spirit was poured out on them all. And a few weeks later, beginning on August 27, there began 100 years of continuous 24-7 prayer. The results of which helped inspire one of the most extraordinary missionary movements of all time.

Count Zinzendorf had a vision to carry the gospel to the far corners of the earth. While in Denmark, he met a Christian slave who had been converted in the West Indies. He invited him to share his story at Herrnhut. His testimony inspired a deep commitment in the Moravians to go where God would send them. On October 8, 1732 the Moravians sent out their first two missionaries to the West Indies. As the ship left, they lifted a cry, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.” They sent missionaries to Greenland, Africa, South America, America, and Asia. When a message came back to Hernhut that some of their brethren had died, the same number would volunteer to replace those selfless martyrs.

The Influence of Herrnhut

By the year of Zinzendorf’s death in 1760, the Moravians had sent out 226 missionaries. To put this into perspective:

  • Herrnhut likely had only 300-400 inhabitants during this time period.
  • It is estimated that Herrnhut sent out more missionaries than had been sent out by all Protestant efforts in the 200 years since the birth of Protestantism.
  • William Carey, commonly referred to as the father of modern missions and credited with the starting the era of modern missions, was born the following year in 1761.

The Moravians also had a deep influence upon John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. He credits the “Germans” with helping to lead him to his true conversion experience even though he himself was already an Anglican missionary.

Today, there are almost one million members of the Moravian Church in the world.

It Can Happen Again!

We can sometimes be tempted to think that I or we cannot affect change.

  • “I/We” are too small… Herrnhut was “big” enough.
  • “I/We” are ill equipped. The “missionaries” the Moravians sent out were normal people not clergy.
  • “I/We” just can’t have an impact. Perhaps there is a John Wesley in your future path.

It has happened before and it can happen again. Let’s pray…

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