“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.”
The Moravian Brethren were responsible for some of the most inspiring and sacrificial stories of missions history. Lead by Count Zinzendorf, one of every sixty Moravians went as cross-cultural missionaries, planting mission stations in the Virgin Islands, Greenland, North America, South America, South Africa, and Labrador. Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was born in 1700 into wealth and a noble family. Raised by grandmother and Aunt, in an atmosphere of evangelical Pietism, and during his study at Halle as a young man, Nicolaus developed a dedication to Jesus Christ and a passion for spreading the gospel. Zinzendorf attended Wittenberg University with the aim of earning a law degree and following in his family’s expectations of him as a nobleman. There was a constant dissonance in his heart between the pressure of his family and the responsibility that he felt toward serving the Lord in ministry, and giving his life to the one who gave His life for all. Even though his future as a nobleman and in state service would be full of success and approval, he found no joy in the idea of spending his life as a follower of Jesus in comfort and ease. Then in 1719 Zinzendorf was powerfully impacted by a painting of Christ enduring the crown of thorns. An inscription below the painting read, “All this I did for you, what are you doing for me?” This was a decisive moment in his life, moving him to finally choose against the life as a nobleman and enter Christian ministry.
Several years later, in 1727,during a communion service, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully on all that were there and Zinzendorf lead the others in beginning a prayer meeting. Beginning with a deep conviction for the evangelization of the world, the prayer meeting continued and deepened in passion for the lost both near and far. This prayer movement that began that night of Aug 13th continued through the Moravians around the clock, without interruption, for more than one hundred years. This was undeniably the force behind the great Moravian missions movements that would follow during the 18th century.
The Moravian Brotherhood was a result of the missions mobilization and passion of Zinzendorf. They had a seal that represented and reminded them of their devotion to the Lord. It contained a lamb on a crimson ground, with the cross and a banner representing the triumph of the resurrection with the motto; “Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him.”
The Moravians beautifully explain their motivation for missions in the following 1791 evangelical report. “The simple motive of the brethren for sending missionaries to distant nations was and is an ardent desire to promote the salvation of their fellow men, by making known to them the gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ. It grieved them to hear of so many thousands and millions of the human race sitting in darkness and groaning beneath the yoke of sin and the tyranny of Satan; and remembering the glorious promises given in the Word of God, that the heathen also should be the reward of the sufferings and death of Jesus; and considering His commandment to His followers, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, they were filled with confident hopes that if they went forth in obedience unto, and believing in His word, their labor would not be in vain in the Lord. They were not dismayed in reflecting on the smallness of their means and abilities, and that they hardly knew their way to the heathen whose salvation they so ardently longed for, nor by the prospect of enduring hardships of every kind and even perhaps the loss of their lives in the attempt. Yet their love to their Savior and their fellow sinners for whom He shed His blood, far outweighed all these considerations. They went forth in the strength of their God and He has wrought wonders in their behalf.”
The two first Moravian missionaries, on October 8,1732, set sail from Copenhagen for the West Indies. On board were John Leonard Dober, a potter, and David Nitschman, a carpenter. Their purpose was to follow Jesus’ command, “As the father has sent me so send I you.” Jesus, in incarnating His life into humanity, had left all. Paul said, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some (1 Cor. 9:19-22).” The only way to reach the slaves of the West Indies was to become incarnated into their lives. These two men set sail with the objective of selling themselves into slavery to reach the slaves if they must.
What they called out to the shore from the boat would become the rally of all future Moravian missionaries. Taken from Revelation 5:9 they pointed their mission to the worthiness of the glory of God saying, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.” Upon arriving at the shores of their destinations, the Moravians would unload their few belongings and then burn the ships. It was a refusal to look back to that country from which they went out. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one (Heb 11:15-16). The Moravian’s passion for missions was great, because their passion for God was great.
By Claude Hickman
David Smithers, Count Zinzendorf.