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Looking Back: Nicolaus von Zinzendorf and the Moravians

Cody Irwin
Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was one of the most influential mission leaders of the modern Protestant missionary movement in the 18th century.

In 1700, Nicolaus was born into a noble Austrian family in Germany. At an early age, his father passed away and his mother remarried, which resulted in Nicolaus being raised by his highly spiritual grandmother and aunt. Following the family tradition, he attended Wittenberg University to study law.

However, his heart was in Christian Ministry.

Turning to a life of ministry was unthinkable. If he were to divert from this path, he would dishonor the family name. Sadly, he was caught between two worlds with his family name on one side and his heart on the other. This tension grew until it dissolved in 1719.

During a visit to an art gallery, Nicolaus observed a painting that depicted Christ with his crown of thorns. The inscription on the artwork read All this I did for you, what are you doing for me. The question penetrated his soul. It was at that moment, his call to ministry began.

In 1722, Nicolaus took in some Protestant refugees at his estate, which would later be known as Herrnhut “The Lord’s Watch”. These refugees were fleeing religious persecution from Moravia. So, he allowed the Moravian refugees to settle on his land. Soon after, his generosity for these refugees spread over all the country.

Many Moravians came to make their home with Count Zinzendorf.

In 1727, the now largely diverse community experienced a spiritual revival of unity that resulted in a passion for Global Missions and a 24-hour prayer vigil that lasted over a hundred years. Their passion was rooted in a call to unite all peoples through the Gospel.

Following this revival, Nicolaus was empowered to begin sending out missionaries from their community. For 33 years, he forsook his noble responsibilities and oversaw a massive network of missionaries all around the world.

The Moravians Mission sought out the most marginalized people in the world with mission posts on the Virgin Islands, Greenland, North America, South America, and South Africa. Their passion to reach the whole world set the stage for one of the greatest centuries for Global Missions.

What can we learn from Nicolaus von Zinzendorf and the Moravians?

This community’s passion for the unity of the body of Christ and the Gospel resulted in sending people out into the world. This makes sense, doesn’t it? When a church community is passionate about the Gospel of Jesus it naturally leads to a desire to go out and proclaim. What is your church doing to reach the people not being reached around the world?

The Moravian’s passion for Global Missions was fueled by an unceasing devotion to prayer! We should follow their example. How often do you pray for cross-cultural workers and the people they’re engaging? There is no doubt God’s desire for us is to participate in the Great Commission with bent knees.

Finally, the desire to go among the unreached people was inspiring. The Moravians saw the need for people to go where the Gospel was not being regularly proclaimed. Despite the challenges and threats of death, they sent their beloved fellows into uncertain perils with the anthem Go and receive the bounty of the cross. 


Written by Staff Reporter/Writer Cody Allen Irwin

Source: From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth A. Tucker