In this current toxic and noxious political climate, I find my stomach queasy over the political leaders being held up before us, and my heart is yearning for inspiring leaders who walk in humble integrity.
Time to take a trip back to the 1700’s and talk about a leader who lived out of such godly passion that he changed his world. His transformative life was shaped not out of selfish ambition but deep humility, all centered upon Jesus.
Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf was born into a wealthy family in Germany in 1700. Though raised in a Christian stream of pietism, little Ludwig adopted the standards of the noble class he grew up with, becoming a spoiled nobleman unconcerned by the plight of his poor countrymen who served his estate. But once when he was 16 and visiting an art museum, he saw a painting of the crucifixion with the inscription, “All this I have done for you. What have you done for me?”
Nicholas’ heart was cut to the quick and he soon gave his life totally to Jesus. His relationship with the Savior grew strong and sweet.
When Nicholas was 22, a group of Protestant refugees from neighboring Moravia sought shelter from persecution at his estate in Hernhut, Germany. The count allowed them to move in to the large Berthelsdort estate. Soon after setting up houses and shops, there was much bickering among the stressed-out residents. Nicholas worked with the group’s leader, an itinerate carpenter, to try settle the quarrels and pastor the flock.
The two men led the inhabitants of the new village to cry out to God together. On an August night in 1727, God answered their prayer in a way none of them could have expected. The Holy Spirit descended one night in such an intense way that it totally transformed the community.
Spiritual renewal swept through the community and offended parties repented and asked each others’ forgiveness. Nicholas grew more madly in love for Jesus and His passion was infectious. It was said of him he would walk around the estate and could be heard muttering under his breath, “O fairest Lord Jesus,” just living moment-by-moment in intimate communion with Christ. He wrote hundreds of hymns of praise to God which the community sang together with gusto. He organized a prayer meeting started where shifts of these Moravian believers would pray around the clock seven days a week.
In 1731, Count Zinzendorf met a black slave from St. Thomas Island who pleaded with him and the community at Hernhut to send missionaries there. A missions fire was kindled in the fellowship of 300 people. Two men volunteered to go to St. Thomas Island and reach slaves with the Gospel. Many more followed their example, some even selling themselves into slavery so they could have closer proximity to the slaves they wanted to reach.
The Moravian motto became, “The Lamb is worthy to receive the reward of His sufferings.” As more Moravian believers left their familiar surrounding for foreign fields, they started a custom became to wave goodbye from their boats to teary friends and shout out, “The Lamb is worthy to receive the reward of His sufferings!”
This one fellowship in modern-day Saxony of Germany sent hundreds of missionaries to far flung outposts all over the world: the Caribbean islands, North and South America, the Arctic, Africa and the Far East. People in this community were trained in practical skills like shoemaking so that they could move anywhere on the planet and root down.
Their little mission’s movement in the following two decades sent out more missionaries than all Protestants and Anglicans had sent out in the previous two centuries! The prayer meeting that started during the spiritual renewal continued unabated, 24 hours a day, for 100 years! The prayer room became a furnace that stoked their missions fire and ignited passion in the hearts of the pray-ers. Within 150 years, this movement sent out a total of 2,158 of its members to countries all over the world. This was of course in the days when there was no electricity, computers, cars or airplanes. Nothing stopped them from making Jesus’ Name famous to the ends of the earth.
John Wesley, who started the Methodist movement, was converted after his contact with Moravians on a ship. Their passion for Jesus and willingness to pay any price for their beloved Lamb deeply impacted him and caused him to truly repent and fully pursue Christ.
A holy passion stirred in one man’s heart that ignited a flame in his community, which in turn spread out bonfires that lit up the globe.
“I have one passion,” he wrote, summing up his life’s mission. “It is He, only He.”
It all starts there. It always does.
O Lord, consume us with zeal for Your Name. Fill us up with a love and passion for You and Your fame. You are still worthy to receive the rewards of Your sufferings. Light that Moravian fire in us and our fellowships once again…to have that same driving passion for You and You alone.
“Europe’s Moravians: A Pioneer Missioary Church,” from Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, Fourth Edition, Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, 2009, William Carey Library, Pasadena, CA
Count Zinzendorf, John R. Weinlick, 2001, The Moravian Church in America, Winston-Salem, NC
All About the Moravians, Edwin Sawyer, 1990, The Moravian Church in America, Winston-Salem, NC