Moravians, Movements, and Missions: A Lesson for 2021
– Adapted from a longer article by Stan Parks –
An axiom among disciple making movements says: “Every movement of God has been preceded by a movement of prayer.”
As we close out 2020 and look to 2021, the 24:14 Strategy Team has designated January as a month of prayer and fasting. We are seeking God to see every unreached people group, in every global place, engaged by people multiplying disciples and churches. This move of God will not take place without a sustained prayer movement. As we plan for 2021, let’s plan to give our time and ourselves to that which is most important.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25
On August 13th 1727, the Holy Spirit was poured out on a refugee community of Moravians and their Lutheran protectors at Herrnhut (“the Lord’s Watch”) in Saxony, Germany. As they celebrated a communion service,, they experienced a powerful “Pentecost.” This event radically changed the community and sparked a flame of prayer and missions that would burn for decades to come.
This marked the beginning of the Moravians’ commitment to a round-the-clock “prayer watch” that continued nonstop for over a hundred years. On the 26th of August, 24 men and 24 women covenanted together to continue praying in intervals of one hour each, day and night. Based on Leviticus 6:13, “The sacred fire was never permitted to go out on the altar,” they felt their intercession should never cease.
The spirit of prayer touched not only the adults of the community, but also spread to the children. Parents and other members of the community were deeply moved by the prayers of the children for revival and missions.
From that time onward the Moravians prayed continuously for revival and the missionary expansion of the gospel. Their prayers for revival saw an answer in the Great Awakening — an evangelical and revitalization movement that swept Protestant Europe and the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s. 1 Their prayers also became the catalyst for one of the world’s greatest missionary movements. 2
As they kept praying and asking God for more, it wasn’t long before the Holy Spirit put them into action. They soon felt the call to spread the Lamb’s kingdom to the ends of the earth. Feeling called to missions, the brethren sent out their first two missionaries to the island of St. Thomas: David Nitschmann and Leonhard Dober. These young men showed incredible dedication. To win the souls of slaves on St.Thomas, they tried to sell themselves into slavery. This was not legal because they were white, but they eventually found a way to get to know the slaves. These missionaries ministered in some of the worst conditions you could imagine. 3
The leader and protector of this persecuted Moravian group was Count Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. He said: “I have but one passion: It is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ.” 4
By the time Zinzendorf died in 1760, after twenty-eight years of cross-cultural mission, the original band of 300 Moravians had sent out 226 missionaries and entered ten different countries. This was more missionaries than the entire Protestant movement had sent out in over 200 years. The Moravians had a great influence on John Wesley and on William Carey. In many ways they birthed the modern missions movement that has seen the Body of Christ move from mainly an enclave in Europe and North America to becoming a truly global Body.
2 With the exception of Footnote #1, all materials above this location in the document are adapted or quoted directly from the following article: http://gcdiscipleship.com/2013/01/16/into-all-the-world-count-zinzendorf- and-the-moravian-missionary-movement/