Rick Joyner has said, “One of the greatest sources of prophetic vision is found by better understanding our past.” I’ve been a student of history for as long as I can remember, and in more recent years, have become fascinated with the story of God’s interaction with man through the entire course of history – from the time of the bible, during the birth of the early church, and throughout the 2000 years since Christ walked the earth. We can see the partial fulfillment of prophecy, and learn of the unfolding plan of God in the timeline of history. We can also learn from the mistakes and challenges, and glean from the victories and purposes that were stewarded well.
What I find especially interesting to study, is how generational transfer took place, if at all, and if the vision, purpose and values of one generation were passed to the next. When a successful generational transfer takes place, the purposes of God carried by the fathers are transferred to the sons. The formats, methods and expressions may change, but the strength of the present generation needs to rest upon the next. In this way, we build upon the spiritual inheritance given to us, and we also steward and grow what has been given to us for the generation that follows.
THE MORAVIAN CHURCH
One of the greatest influences on our Modern-Day Church since the early church is the Moravian Movement. The Moravians directly influenced John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Church and leaders in the Great Awakening. John Wesley was led to salvation by a Moravian named Peter Bohler. They also sent out the first Protestant missionaries into unreached places, which had not been taking place since the early Church. In fact, the man who many attribute to be the father of modern missions, William Carey, was inspired by the Moravian’s willingness to go, and henceforth followed their example. The Moravian Church forged pathways for night and day prayer, global missions, women in ministry and leadership, sacrificial living, the work of unity, and much more.
Many know of Count Nicolas Ludwig Von Zinzendorf, born in 1700 in Saxony, and leader of the community that began on his land at Herrnhut in 1722. But the story of the Moravian Church began before this.
‘A HIDDEN SEED’
Jan Hus (1369-1415) prophesised many years before the birth of the Moravian Movement that the message of spiritual reform would be a ‘hidden seed’ that would fall into the ground and die, and then sprout again to bear much fruit. He was burned at the stake as a heretic for speaking out against the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. One of his ‘heretical’ teachings was the belief that all should have the bible in their own language. The movement started as a Catholic reform movement, not as a separate church or denomination.
The Moravian Church, or ‘Unity of the Brethren’ (Unitas Fratrum) as it was first known, was later established by followers of Jan Hus who gathered together in Bohemia and organised themselves into a worshipping people. This was 40 years before the Reformation began.
John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) was a leader in the Unitas Fratrum movement during a time of persecution, and lived most of his life in exile. He prophesied in 1627 that God would preserve ‘a hidden seed’ that would grow and bear fruit in 100 years time. Comenius dedicated his life to educating the young, and believed that unity in the Church would be reached through education based on the knowledge of Jesus. He hoped that unity would lead to the spread of the gospel to the nations.
Exactly 100 years later, on 13 August 1727, the Holy Spirit came during a communion service at Hernhutt (‘the Lord’s Watch’), where refugees from Moravia and Bohemia had been living on the estate of Count von Zinzendorf. In 1732 the first missionaries were sent.
Cindy Jacobs writes: “[They] didn’t only experience revival that summer, they made it a permanent part of their community’s culture and governance.”
The community soon became a sending centre into the nations, and RE Davies writes that their only qualifications were a living experience of ‘heart religion’ that was focused on the Lamb of God.
Although the community later ran into problems that arose from extremes and excesses, and the movement itself has not necessarily followed the path of its predecessors, we can still learn much from history.
PERSECUTION THAT LEADS TO GROWTH
With the community at Herrnhut thriving, Zinzendorf also had a desire to start Pilgrim communities that would be ‘a school of prophets that moved like a blessed cloud as the wind of the Lord pushes it, and makes everything fruitful.’ A year after writing this, he would have the opportunity to do so when he was forced off his own land for a time. The Bethlehem community in Pennsylvania was planted in 1741, and Zinzendorf was part of establishing the missions base there. Everyone was a missionary, whether at home or serving overseas. There was strong unity between the foreign missionaries and those who were working to support them.
MORAVIAN CORE VALUES
The way of life that the Moravian Church led was not for all, and nor are the methods and expressions necessarily those we need to reproduce today. However, they held many core values that governed how they lived which I believe we can learn from as we navigate the waters of the current Church transition we are in.
As I’ve been considering what a modern ‘prayer-missions community’ might look like, here are some of the values I believe the Moravian Church had that led to their effective witness and global impact during their time and in the generations that have followed:
- Total surrender to Christ
- Committed to produce disciples, not just converts.
- Their view of prayer was that fire should be keep burning on the altar, and should not go out (Leviticus 6:13). They kept this fire going for over 100 years.
- They wrote: “all must depend on humility and discernment”
- Love and cooperation between all the different groups had been worked out in humility and repentance, and following this, the Holy Spirit was poured out on 13 August 1727.
- Prayer helped to strengthen unity in the community.
- Shortly after the night and day prayer vigil began, the first missionaries were sent. Prayer that engages with the heart of God will birth sending.
- Missionaries were willing to give their lives, and so lived without any fear of having to lay down their lives whatever the cost.
- Everyone was a missionary or a supporter of missionaries.
- Everyone was involved in prayer.
- Everyone had a function and contribution to the community.
- Everything was considered worship.
- They were a community with purpose, and beyond their own self-sustainability, they also had a vision to bring far-reaching societal reform.
- They highly valued generosity and looking after the poor.
- They had the highest regard for understanding scripture, and applying it to all facets of life.
The generational baton is passed onto us, as we consider the values by which we are to build and grow our faith communities on. What values will we cultivate now that will shape our communities, churches, and spheres in the coming decades?
Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.
The Reformation Manifesto – Cindy Jacobs
The Moravian Church US website – a brief history
A Shadow of Things to Come – Rick Joyner
Zinzendorf.com – Articles
I Will Pour Out My Spirit – RE Davies (p78)
Count Zinzendorf: Firstfruits – Janet and Geoff Benge
The Moravian Mission Machine – YouTube documentary narrated by Dean Taylor
“May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”
(Moravian missionaries, David Nitschmann & Johann Leonhard Dober, 1732)