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The Making of the Christian Global Mission, Part 1: Jan Hus and the Moravians

How this came about was an occasion in Zinzendorf’s life prior to his moving to Dresden. In 1731, when Zinzendorf was in Denmark, he met several Eskimos who had been converted by the Lutheran missionary Hans Egede. This was a spark which set Zinzendorf “afire” in spreading the gospel globally. This desire stayed with him for the rest of his life. The Herrnhut community was filled with the same zeal. The next year their first missionaries left by boat for the Caribbean. They settled in several of the islands of the West Indies and part of South America. Between 1732 and 1735 Moravian Christians settled themselves in Africa, India, and North America. The 1735 venture into North America was an epochal one to say the least. In the first instance they were the founders of two communities in Pennsylvania, Bethlehem and Nazareth, with the blessings of William Penn, who also encouraged the settlement of Mennonites within that colony.

This article is part of The Gospel in History series by Woodrow Walton.
Image: The Books of Kells by way of Wikimedia Commons.

The Moravians settled also in the English colony of North Carolina and founded the town of Salem, now known as Winston-Salem, and started a school now known as Salem College. Also in 1735, the Moravians were part of General Oglethorpe philanthropic venture in Georgia of getting men and women out of English prisons and giving them a second chance. They made the attempt to establish Savannah, Georgia, as a site for rehabilitation, but that hope did not fully succeed. Nevertheless, there was an unforeseen side effect. On board the ship was a young Anglican minister and his brother, Charles, who were impressed with the calm demeanor of the Moravian believers in the midst of a storm that panicking the sailors. He was amazed at these believers. Back in London, in the Aldersgate section, he attended Fetter Lane Chapel which was a Moravian community. He was to later write of that experience that there “his heart was strangely warmed.” The correspondent was John Wesley who was to later preach throughout the English colonies of what was to become the United States of America. His brother, Charles Wesley was less a preacher but more of a hymn writer. These two English men were the forerunners of the revivals that spread across the American frontier and Atlantic seaboard and to whom the Methodist Church look back to as its formation. To the Moravians belong the first vision of a Christian global mission. To the Wesleys belong the initiation of American revivalism along with George Whitefield of England and Jonathan Edwards of New England.

Sketch of Herrnhut in 1765.

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Category: Church History, Spring 2020

About the Author: Woodrow E. Walton, D.Min. (Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions), B.A. (Texas Christian University), B.D. [M.Div.] (Duke Divinity School), M.A. (University of Oklahoma), is a retired Seminary Dean and Professor of biblical, theological and historical studies. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, he and his wife live in Fort Worth, Texas. Walton retains membership with the Evangelical Theological Society, American Association of Christian Counselors, American Society of Church History, American Academy of Political Science, and The International Society of Frontier Missiology.

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