Zinzendorf and Moravian Missionary Principles (2/4)

Zinzendorf and Moravian Missionary Principles (2/4)

Section 2: Moravian Thought

The central though of Zinzendorf and the Moravians was Christ and His suffering.  Zinzendorf stressed that instead of giving elaborate proofs for God’s existence, the missionary should cut to the chase and simply tell the story of Jesus.[1]  Christ is the only way to personally experience the love of God in an intimate relationship; therefore it is of utmost importance to make Him known.  Zinzendorf emphasized the blood and wounds of Christ since this is how humanity can be saved from their sin and experience this love.[2]  By presenting the person of Jesus and His life to people, it could bring about conversations that may lead into deeper thoughts on the existence of God but the initial need for Jesus is what is of more importance.[3]  He thought knowledge of God can be assumed but Christ is the good, new news that needs to be shared with the world.  To this day, the motto and logo of the Moravian church is the triumphant Agnus Dei with the words “Our Lamb has conquered; let us follow Him.”[4]  The Moravians wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings, knowing that Jesus has the victory and we are to follow Him in faith, laying aside our agenda to take up His cross.

The second major aspect of Moravian thought was the importance of the Holy Spirit.  Christ is the king and leader of missions while the Holy Spirit is the only missionary.  The church has no other mission than to follow Christ and we serve as agents of the Spirit to preach the message of Jesus to those who are called to receive it.[5]  It was not in the preaching or cleverness of missionaries to win converts; it is all the Spirit’s doing.  Therefore, missionaries should not fear failure or be concerned with converting everyone.  If they are faithfully following Jesus, the missionary can know that what they are doing is part of God’s plan and the Spirit is guiding them to where they need to go as far as sharing the gospel, regardless of outcome.[6]

Closely associated with this was the idea of “first fruits,” those who accept the gospel message first.  Zinzendorf looked to the stories in Acts of the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius to show the importance of first fruits.  There are four principles in finding first fruits.  First the Holy Spirit prepares the convert to receive the gospel as they seek out truth.  Second, the Spirit directs the missionary to those that need to hear the gospel.  Third, the missionary should avoid preaching and initiate a conversation with those with a good disposition.  And lastly, baptism should take place as soon as possible once they are converted with no need for several weeks of preparation in answering questions.[7]  Missionaries were to look for those who may be receptive to hearing the gospel.  If this process does not bring any results over a period of time, then the missionary can move on to a new location without guilt, knowing that they did everything they could in the power of the Spirit.

[1] Mulholland, “Moravians, Puritans, and the Modern Missionary Movement,” 224.

[2] Robert L. Gallagher, “The Integration of Mission and Theology Practice: Zinzendorf and the Early Moravians,” Mission Studies 25, (2008): 188.

[3] Schattschneider, “Pioneers in Mission,” 66.

[4] Mulholland, “Moravians, Puritans, and the Modern Missionary Movement,” 224.

[5] Schattschneider, “Pioneers in Mission,” 65.

[6] Gallagher, “The Integration of Mission and Theology Practice,” 191.

[7] Ibid., 192; Schattschneider, “Pioneers in Mission,” 65.

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