In the early 1700’s, the followers of John Hus were been persecuted for the faith and they had to flee modern Czech Republic and they were given refugee in northern Germany by a local community leader named Count Zinzendorf.
Coming from a dramatic experience of being hunted for being of the faith, they turned to prayer and become a people of intercession. As a result, they deeply impacted the Germans in the area. It was common for them to pray for hours at a time in the early days of living in their new found home.
Count Zinzendorf grew to like these people and ultimately gave them land to build their community on from his personal holdings. That town is the modern day Herrnhut, Germany that was the global base for the Moravian movement for the next two centuries.
This relationship would be a lifelong friendship that would impact Count Zinzendorf, his friends and ultimately the world for many years to come. It was in the place of prayer that friendship were developed and people became “partners in the gospel.”
It is a gentle reminder God can use anyone at any time for any reason. The greatest revival of human history started with a bunch of refugees fleeing the Catholic crusaders.
What happened at Herrnhut in 1727?
In August of that year, they had a prayer meeting that did not stop in their lifetime. It has been said that the prayer meeting went on for a century. If this was literal, corporate or in the “attitude of prayer,” I am not sure but it is commonly believed to be the longest prayer meeting in history.
As prayer become a strong emphasis among the Moravians, it naturally led to the greatest missionary movement in the history of Christianity. It still remains to be the greatest revival since Acts. They had a major impact on what was called the East Indies and modern United States. Large tracts of North Carolina and Pennsylvania was lands committed to the missionaries from Herrnhut.
Church historians have debated the impact of the Moravians on the formation of the nation. It is very possible that the missionaries had a direct hand in the spirituality of many of the young leaders, especially Patrick Henry.
However, the biggest impact that they had in the region was in Jamaica. Within a decade of arriving on the island, they had baptized by water over a third of the nation. This “Jamaican revival” is not really known today by most but it is probably the best example of what revival should look like. Azusa Street or the Brownsville Revival cannot even point to a large chuck of the population being baptized.
The story of the Morovians from Herrnhut is quite sad. Somewhere around the turn of the 20th century, they become so dead in their preferred take of theology; they lost all elements of the once burning flame of missional of revival. They are a shell of what they were in 1700’s today.
Moravians are the grandparents to Pentecostalism
I am not a major believer in apostolic succession. I believe every person must receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire for themselves. Revival is also for every generation. The children of Azusa Street became backslidden, for example. As a general rule, we need to reject both apostolic succession and generational curses.
With that said, there is a linage that connects the people out of Herrnhut with the classic Pentecostals that have roots at Azusa Street. It all happened on a boat on the way from Georgia back to Europe.
The missionaries had a direct impact on a young (and unregenerated) John Wesley and his brother, Charles. While Wesley does not claim to have come to saving faith at this time, he spoke often of the time he spend with the Moravian missionaries on that trip.
For much of the Pentecostal movement, the influence of John Wesley on their theology is unquestionable. It could be said that every major movement that came out of the revival fires known as Barney Creek, Topeka Outpouring and Azusa Street hold to what is called Wesleyan theology.
I believe it is far reaching to state that without that meeting on the ship by the people out of Herrnhut, the theological framework of the Pentecostals might have been to some degree difference. It is safe to assume that without John Wesley; the holiness movement would not have been the same.
The sad story of Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians
As the years went by, the emphasis on surrender became more and more important. As this happens, the missionaries started to degrade themselves and put themselves through some unbiblical abuses. Like many great revivals in the history of Christianity, it ended with theological extremes.
The biggest issue is they begin to teach against modern day miracles and the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit. The odd part of this is many of the people, including Zinzendorf had seen God do signs and wonders with their own eyes.
This is the lesson that Pentecostal should take from those at Herrnhut and the revival that broke out in the 1700’s. We are only one generation away from not believing in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, praying in tongues, divine healing and the end time harvest.
The Pentecostal movement could become as dead as the Methodist Church within the next generation if we do not guard ourselves against bitterness because of we did not see the miracles that we think we should see. Almost every movement started in revival and most of them are a shell of what they once were.
It would be foolish to think that we could not end up being just as dead as they are. In fact, truth be told, the Pentecostal movement is well on its way to be a dead movement. Claiming to believe in the miracle power is not enough, we have to believe it and experience it in this generation.