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Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf

Born into Austrian nobility, Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was influenced by Pietistic preaching and founded the Moravian Missions. The Pietist were a group of zealous Christians that are known as the instruments of the Second Phase of the Reformation. Church life tended to be shallow, and that meaningful religious commitment on the part of church members was frequently lacking. Christianity was for the most part something done, rather than a life style.

The Pietist were basically interested in the religious renewal of the individual, belief in the Bible as the unfailing guide to faith and life, a complete commitment to Christ that must be evident in the Christian's life, the need for devotional materials, sermons and yes, even hymns.

In 1722 a group of Waldensians and Moravians banded together to form the Unitas Fratrum (United Brethren). After being almost wiped out by the Counter Reformation, the remnant, under the leadership of Christian David, migrated to Saxony, where they were given refuge by Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf on one of his estates near Dresden Germany. Known as Herrnhut (The Lord's Watch), this colony became the source and center of a missionary movement destined to circle the globe.

Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf himself became preacher and later bishop in this flourishing community of believers. Their peculiar style involved a twenty four hour a day prayer watch, radical evangelical preaching, songfests, love feasts, and private devotions. Their emphasis was upon fellowship instead of ecumenical creeds. The Count himself declared, "I have one passion; it is He and He alone."

The missionary calling came about in a strange way. Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, on a visit to Copenhagen in 1730, met a man from the West Indies and two Eskimos from Greenland, each of whom pleaded for missionaries. He was deeply moved by the appeal and decided to do something about it. On his return to The Lords Watch, he placed the challenge before the group. The response was immediate and enthusiastic. Let us go!

Their first mission (1732) was to the slaves on the Danish island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Greenland was next, in 1733, and St. Croix, also in the Virgin Islands, in 1734. Ten of this last group died in the first year; but many others were recruited to fill the depleted ranks. Other mission fields were opened; Surinam (1735), South Africa (1737), the North American Indians (1740), Jamaica (1754), and Antigua (1756). Between 1732 and 1760, 226 Moravians entered ten foreign countries.
Within twenty years their missionary work had started more missions than the Anglicans and Protestants had started during the two preceding centuries. No other denomination has maintained as many churches as the Moravian Church throughout its history.

Their success was largely due to the fact that from the first they recognized that the evangelization of the world was the most pressing of all the obligations that rested upon the Christian Church, and that the carrying out of this obligation was the "common affair" of the church.


In almost every place their endeavors bore fruit, so that before long they had three members on the mission field for every one at home. All this was accomplished by men with little formal and theological education. Like the early apostles they were "unlearned and ignorant men," and like them, they were despised by the cultured people of their day. The first two missionaries to Greenland were gravediggers. But they were men of passion and piety. What they lacked in knowledge they made up in an anointed zeal and apostolic fortitude.

When these missionaries left their home church, they were provided with their fare. On reaching their destination they were expected to fend for themselves. They took their wives and little ones with them. They lived and died and were buried in the land of their adoption.

In the conclusion of this article, it should be noted that Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf stressed one very important issue that should be echoed in our generation, "the importance of experiencing God." That's what I call a Jesus experience!

Although we do not hear much about the Moravians, I believe they were full of the Spirit. Their missionary zeal is but a confirmation of the scripture, "And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord kept working with them and confirming the message by the attesting signs and miracles that closely accompanied (it)" Mark 16:20 (AMP).

© by Jonas Clark, Spirit of Life Ministries, 27 Hallandale Beach Blvd. Hallandale Beach, Florida 33009 (954) 456-4420

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