In Need of a Moravian Pentecost: Herrnhut to the World

Moravian Church, Herrnhut

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Herrnhut, Germany, while attending the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It was a humbling and inspiring experience that has left an indelible impression on my view of God’s destiny and how He moves in our lives to accomplish His purposes. Let me explain.

Nestled in the quaint German countryside, Herrnhut could be easily overlooked in regards to its significance in the development of the modern missionary movement and its impact on Western society. However, it was here on June 17, 1722, that God orchestrated a story that continues to unfold even today! It was on this day that a small group of refugees from Moravia (the modern day Czech Republic) asked permission from Count Zinzendorf to settle on his land. He agreed, and the community was given the name Herrnhut, meaning “the Lord’s covering.” The settlement quickly became a community of religious outcasts and exiles from across Europe. However, these pietist Christians weren’t without their disagreements and conflicts, soon major factions developed. Concerned about the situation, Count Zinzendorf returned to Herrnhut and worked feverishly to bring unity among the community by going home to home praying and conducting Bible studies. On August 13, 1727, a dramatic transformation occurred as they “learned to love one another” when they experienced a special visitation of the Holy Spirit known as the Moravian Pentecost. The fractured church was miraculously set on fire for the kingdom; a continuous prayer watch began which went uninterrupted, 24 hours a day, for 100 years; and missionaries were sent throughout the world, beginning the first Protestant missionary movement. Among other great accomplishments, their ministry would have a significant impact on the life of John Wesley! 

It is almost unfathomable how God used a rejected, exiled, and divided people to rekindle the flames of Pentecost and propel His church once again into mission. This renewed fervor took the Moravians, even at great personal sacrifice, to the ends of the earth preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Almost 300 years later, the church, for the sake of the world, again stands in need of a “Moravian Pentecost.”  Sadly, the 21st century church is fractured and at odds, self-absorbed in personal kingdom building, and withdrawn from the world due to ethnocentrism clothed in national patriotism.  But God’s purposes are not thwarted. His mission has not changed! In fact, He is looking for a people to accomplish His purposes and proclaim the love and salvation of Jesus Christ to the nations.

So what can learn from the Moravian Pentecost?

God is looking for leaders to bring reconciliation and unity to the body. When disagreements and conflicts arose, Count Zinzendorf returned to the disciplines of Bible study and prayer. However, he did not simply mandate these directives but personally modeled his desired actions.

God is looking for a broken and repentant people. The Moravians and the citizens of Herrnhut were refugees who were running for their lives. They had lost everything except their passion and zeal for God. And in their brokenness and hopelessness, they found not only a refuge but the Lord’s covering. They found a place in which they hungered for spiritual things demonstrated by an unquenchable prayer life.

God is looking a people who have learned to love one another. When the Moravian Pentecost occurred, it was not just a temporal manifestation, but it was a special visitation of God that empowered them with an unconditional love for one another and emboldened them to share that love with a hostile and often adversarial world.

God is looking for a people on whom He can once again pour out His fire.

God is looking for a people in need of a Moravian Pentecost!

Why Do We Go to the Unreached?

Nepail Women

Janese and I began our missions journey in 1993 as we traveled to London, England, to begin our first assignment at the Centre for International Christian Ministries.  It was here that we committed our lives to share the salvation of Jesus Christ with those who have never been given the opportunity to hear the gospel. These people are the unreached and they live in the most hostile and resistant areas of our world.

From that time in London until now, people have repeatedly asked, “Why do you go to people who hate us? Why bother? What are you trying to accomplish? Aren’t devout Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhist going to heaven anyway?” And so I quickly discovered that it was critically important to not only understand the mission but the “why” behind the mission. If we don’t understand the “why” then we can easily become distracted and even consumed with the “doing” while the original intent of going gets lost in all of our busyness. And when tough times occur—and they always do—then the failures of our “doing” gives us nothing in which to cling.  Therefore, to understand “why we go” is not only important to help us stay focused on the goal, but it also serves as a “battle cry” when we face opposition or even failures. The “why” energizes us, retools us, and propels us back into the fray of world evangelization.

So why is it important for Christians to be intentional in going to those that have never heard?

1. The unreached, as is the case for all people, are the object of God’s love.  Salvation thru the death and resurrection of Christ was offered not only to Americans or the Western World or to only sub-Sahara Africa, or to the coastal areas of Asia but God, as an expression of His expansive love, gave His Son as a sacrifice to all peoples in every generation. Therefore, in no way are the unreached, whether Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or animist, under some special condemnation that places them beyond the reach of that love. 

      For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”John 3:16-17

2. The expanse and depth of Christ’s love for the unreached must find its expression in us. We no longer live for ourselves but as Christ’s ambassadors to those living in spiritual darkness. If Christ loved us so much to take upon Himself the humiliation and horror of the cross, and if that love now abides in us as His followers, then this amazing love becomes our compelling motivation in witness. 

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”- II Corinthians 5:14-15

3. Our obedience to the Great Commission is not optional but mandatory. Jesus commands us that while going to proclaim the gospel to every ethne, we are to make disciples. This directive to be missional is a call to be Christ’s witnesses simultaneously locally, nationally, and even to the world’s most remote regions. Resistance and hostility to the message do not relieve us of this responsibility. 

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Amen.”- Matthew 28:18-20

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”- Acts 1: 8

4. In Christ, God has provided everything necessary for man’s salvation; apart from Him, the unreached are without hope.  If we truly believe this statement then it will radically transform how we live our lives and exponentially fuel our missional fervor. Dr. David Shibley once stated, “Our passion for world evangelization is in direct proportion to our belief in hell.” Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice that all should have eternal life in God’s presence. The horrifying alternative should unconditionally motivate us to reach our closest loved ones as well our most feared enemies.

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’”- Acts 4:11-12

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”- Romans 1:16

5. The unreached serve false religions, power structures, and philosophies which promote wrong conceptions of God and of the Gospel, robbing Christ of His rightful position and providing a false sense of security through self-righteousness. Most of these people have been born into a world of darkness never having had the opportunity to hear the truth of Jesus Christ. We, therefore, are obligated to declare the majesty of God and the good news of salvation thru Jesus Christ.

“But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”  – II Corinthians 4:3-4

Evangelizing the unreached is not an easy task. It is complicated, difficult, and filled with challenges and resistance, but we press ahead into a world that so desperately needs Christ. So when we want to quit, or hide ourselves in daily routines, or simply ignore the needs of our world, let us sound the “battle cry!” We go not because it’s a job, it’s adventurous, or it’s to fulfill some work of self-righteousness or self-gratification, but we go because God so loved the whole world!

A Torch in the Darkness

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –‭‭Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This call to carry the good news of the salvation through Jesus Christ has been passed down through every generation as a torch in the darkness. Whether it was Roman idolatry, the barbarians of northern Europe, or the discovery of the New World, each generation of Christ followers have encountered their own unique challenges and more importantly, they also derived relevant solutions in their methodology to carry the gospel forward. 

Our generation is no different. The church of the 21st century faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles from the growing cost of doing missions, to the rapidly growing economic disparity between the extreme poor and the rich of our world, to the threat of radical Islam. However, our generation will not be defined by the challenges but how we combat these “giants of our time” and our ability to implement solutions to overcome! 

In order to equip the church with the proper tools to reach a 21st century world and pass the torch to the next generation, we must be reminded of five truths of God’s mission. 

Truth #1:  The gospel is redemptive and when authentically lived produces a redemptive lift.

A 21st century missions thrust must reflect this. Over much of the past 150 years, the gospel has been carried from a prosperous western church to the  impoverished pagan masses. This era was characterized by unprecedented Christian growth, but also by paternalism created by the colonial era with which it coexisted. This paternalism brought resources and materials to build churches, and establish hospitals and orphanages to name a few, but is also created an unhealthy dependency and a structure of manipulation and control. Consequently, the western missionaries supplied the funds, made the decisions, and controlled the evangelism efforts.  

However, that day of the western church has passed. Not only does the western church no longer possess the ability and appetite to fund the Great Commission but it also lacks the missional fervor and fortitude to inspire the coming generation. But not all is lost. The strength of the church now lies within the formerly impoverished masses that paternalism once controlled. The same gospel, which redeems the lost from death in sin to victorious life, is also lifting the nonwestern global church from its economic despair to a place of adequacy and blessing. 

As a result, the old structures of colonial paternalism are now being replaced with structures of renewed partnership and empowerment. As we train, resource, and empower the global church, we allow and assist in the redemptive lift of the gospel. Only then will it be prepared and resourced to propagate the message of salvation to the ends of the earth as well as pass the missional torch to the next generation.

Kevin and Summer Sneed, Jamie and Jessica Dunning and Michael and Tammy McRae, IPHC missionaries in Kenya are doing just that! By training leaders, building greenhouses, helping to establish fish, rabbit, and poultry farms, and digging wells to provide water for drinking and irrigation, the IPHC in East Africa is being empowered to break dependency and take responsibility for building the church locally, regionally and even globally. 

Truth #2:  Missions is not a profession, but a call to the whole body of Christ!

It has been said that some are called to “go” and some are called to “send.” The truth is that the body has been called to make disciples! As we work collaboratively, we GO with synergy! The greatest resource of the church is us, the body of Christ! 

Over the past couple of years, I had the privilege of traveling with Owen Thomason an agricultural specialist and teacher. While in East Africa, He conducted an agricultural seminar speaking on: 

a) soil management 

b) grazing practices 

c) aquaculture(fish farming) 

d) rabbit, poultry farming 

and much much more! Owen visited various projects and gave invaluable advice to our leaders to be successful as they work to create wealth and alleviate poverty! 

Truth #3:  God is calling a new generation of non-professional missionaries!

This generation is not typified by age or nationality but by passion and commitment to completing the task! These skilled and educated individuals are willing to not only give up their profession for missions, but to give their profession to missions! 

The agricultural seminar at the East Africa Bible College drew a different group from the community and opened conversations and relationships that did not previously exist. The participants were not merely church leaders by profession but Christian farmers, social workers, teachers and agricultural novices who understood the important role they play in building a successful missional church.

Truth #4:  Training in missions is essential!

Not necessarily in the typical sense but in cultural awareness, intercultural communication, and applying our knowledge and success in a different context. Missionaries must be able to identify available resources and work with local people to take ownership of their problems. Only then will real, sustainable solutions be created!

For example, building greenhouses out of local raw materials instead of purchasing a manufactured house empowers locals to take ownership and reduplicate the model exponentially. This makes an investment into local economies and spurs community development.

Truth #5:  If Christ’s love for us compelled Him to a cross, then Christ’s love in us should compel us to sacrificially serve those that have never heard.

“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” – ‭I Thessalonians‬ ‭3:12-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

If we are called to change a world that hates and even despises Christianity, we must radiate God’s holiness and be compelled with Christ’s unreserved love. We must be people running hard after Him! People that strive to live lives pleasing to God! Lives that not only proclaim the good news but lives that are the good news! 

When Jesus was questioned whether he was the Messiah, Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5 ESV).

The task of missions is vast and complex but the opportunities for our generation are limitless! Let us follow the countless generations that have gone before us and respond to the call to proclaim Jesus Christ to our generation. And in the midst of a dark and troubled world, let us not flee from the darkness but rather let us be a light exposing the evils of our time. Let us be a torch in the darkness!