Zinzendorf and Moravian Missionary Principles (4/4)

Zinzendorf and Moravian Missionary Principles (4/4)

Section 4: Conclusion

Most of these principles are good but a few had drawbacks.  Zinzendorf’s assumption that everyone has a concept of God is not a safe assumption.  While there is merit in preaching Christ first and foremost, it is only natural to include the message of the kingdom of God and salvation history, which would include the nature of who God is.  The Moravians tended to over emphasize the blood and wounds of Christ to such an extent that it was off putting to certain cultures that might otherwise have accepted the gospel message had the missionaries not gone in excess on that aspect.[1]  Missionaries must be careful to be sensitive to culture without compromising the gospel truth.  Also, the Moravians inadvertently cooperated with unjust social structures like the slave trade and did not call it out as sinful.[2]  While the times were different in the 1700s, missionaries still should humbly call out practices that violate the Biblical standards.  The Moravians were evangelistic in nature and as a result did not develop church planting and leadership as well as they should have.  Their focus was more on building cultural centers for non-believers to come to as opposed to the church going to non-believers.  This also could be due to the fact that not many missionaries were trained to the proper extent that they should have been before being sent.[3]

All in all, the Moravian mindset impacted the modern missionary mindset profoundly.  The desire to be self-supporting, relational, and kingdom minded is something that any good missionary today would ascribe to.  But back in the mid 1700s this was a radical idea.  One important thing for modern missions to understand is the need for personal, spiritual revival first before mission renewal.[4]  An inward devotion to pursuing God is what started the missionary movement with the Moravians.  If the church today has that same desire to impact the lost across the world, then what must take place is a revival of the heart to truly worship Jesus.  Out of this will come the mission renewal as people latch onto the Holy Spirit and His plan for saving the lost. 

A quote attributed to Count Zinzendorf is “preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.”[5]  This is a great summary of Moravian thought and should be applied to all Christians.  We are called to preach the gospel in word and deed while we have life, not expecting anything in return from this world when we die.  Once we lay aside our pride and plans, die to ourselves, and follow the cross of Christ with boldness, then we can advance God’s kingdom just as Zinzendorf and the Moravians did.  Ironically, Zinzendorf and the Moravians are not forgotten even though they lived out their mindset to be forgotten.  The perseverance of Zinzendorf, his leadership of the Moravians, and their full devotion and reliance on God helped make inroads for God’s kingdom across all the earth that modern missions is eternally indebted.

[1] Gallagher, “The Integration of Mission and Theology Practice,” 203.

[2] Ibid., 204.

[3] Ralph D.Winter  and Steven C. Hawthorne, Perspectives of the World Christian Movement: A Reader, 4th ed. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009: 293.

[4] Gallagher, 201. 

[5] “Nikolaus Zinzendorf on Ambitions, Honor, and Being Forgotten,” https://themajestysmen.com/quotes/nikolaus-zinzendorf-forgotten-quote.

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