An Overwhelming Flood of Grace – The Moravians
Before the breakthrough of evangelism and mission which is commonly called The Great Awakening, there were already significant movements of revival. One of the significant influences on Whitefield and the Wesleys was that of the Moravian preachers and teachers.
The roots of the Moravian (from the province of Moravia, modern Czech Republic) church go all the way back to pre-Reformation days to John Huss, the leader and martyr from Prague.
A Pilgrim Community
They were, like Huss before them, considered heretics at that time. But even after the Reformation they had trouble on all sides. They didn’t fit comfortably with state church structures and became a kind of refugee community of faith, seemingly unable to settle peacefully even in Reformation countries.
They were persecuted and driven out of many places as they preached the gospel and built their homes.
Finally, after two hundred long years of wandering, in 1722 these religious refugees gathered at Herrnhut in Saxony (Germany) under the oversight of the godly and gracious Count Nicholas Zinzendorf.
This group were made up from several church backgrounds although some were from The United Brethren (a kind of remnant of the ‘original’ Moravians). They sought to live together in peace after so much persecution. But there were sharp disagreements amongst them. Zinzendorf had laboured to bring the various factions together for a Wednesday morning communion service on August 13 1727.
The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
The squabbles came to an end when, after confessing their sins and seeking to be reconciled to each other, the Holy Spirit unexpectedly and suddenly fell on all of them. This was a tangible experience of power they had not previously known.
Zinzendorf described this day as ‘our Pentecost’. Christian David, one of their greatest evangelists, said:
‘It is truly a miracle of God that out of so many kinds and sects as Catholics, Lutheran, Reformed, Seperatist, Gichtelian and the like, we could have been melted into one.’ (R.E. Davies – I will pour out My Spirit, Monarch, UK p.76)
Various descriptions of these ‘baptisms of the Spirit’ have been recorded:
Zinzendorf wrote, ‘We saw the hand of God and His wonders…
The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days great signs and wonders took place in our midst.
From that time scarcely a day passed but that we beheld His Almighty workings amongst us.’
An Overwhelming Flood of Grace
‘A great hunger after the Word of God took possession of us so that we had to have three services every day: 5am, 7am and 9pm…an overwhelming flood of grace swept us all out into the great ocean of Divine Love.’ (ibid p.77)
God is able to overcome our limitations. The power of the Holy Spirit fell mightily on a disunited, grumbling and hounded people. And what began as a localised ‘Pentecost’, with manifestations of God’s power and presence in a small community, soon sparked a major church planting movement.
Read the second part of the Moravian story: The Missional Impact of an Outpouring of the Spirit here
© 2009 Lex Loizides