The Zeal of Zinzendorf
Given By: "Glenn D. Blank" On Saturday, May 12, 2012

Zeal of Zinzendorf


Today I want to talk about a hero of mine, a giant in the faith: Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf.

I hope his name is familiar to you? He came to our area in 1741, for the founding of the missionary settlement, which he named Bethlehem. But that’s only scratching the surface of what he accomplished, with his extraordinary faith and zeal to serve in the kingdom of our Lord Yeshua.

Here are the words inscribed by his devoted followers, above his grave in Herrnhut, Germany: “Here lie the remains of that unforgettable man of God, Nicolaus Count and Lord of Zinzendorf and Pottendorf. Through the grace of God and his own unwearied service, became the honored Ordinary of the Brethren’s Unity, renewed in the 18th century. He was born at Dresden on May 26, 1700, and entered into the joy of his Lord on May 9, 1760. He was destined to bring forth fruit, fruit that would remain.”

I’d love to bring forth some fruit that would remain, wouldn’t you? I’m no Zinzendorf. But he was such a giant in the faith, I think some of us could stand on his shoulders, if we got ourselves situated and hung on, keeping our eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith! V’eemru?

When Nancy came back to Beit Simcha near two years ago, she gave an extended prophecy in which she spoke about the ancient wells that only need to be dug again so that the waters of revival might flow.

In Genesis 26:18, we read about ancient wells, “Yitz’chak reopened the wells which had been dug during the lifetime of Avraham his father, the ones the Philistines had stopped up after Avraham died, and called them by the names his father had used for them.”

God gave Isaac favor by showing him where to find the wells that Abraham and his men had dug. It’s much easier to reopen old wells than to dig them in the first place. V’eemru? We don’t need to figure out where to dig for the life-giving water, let alone dig so deep into the ground. Much easier, right?

That’s what we can do today, because great pioneers in the faith have already dug the wells.

Zinzendorf and the United Brethren (Unitas Fratrum) or the Renewed Moravian Church, dug many wells, all over the world, from which the Spirit of God has flowed powerfully.
I will talk about four major wells: 

1) religion of the heart, 

2) covenant community, 

3) world missions, prioritizing the Jew first, and 

4) unity of the “Congregation of God in the Spirit.”

Do these ideals sound familiar to you?  They should, because they are part and parcel of the vision of our congregation, as well as the Tikkun network.

The Count was born to an ancient noble family. So he was raised and educated to govern an estate and serve in the government of Saxony, in the east of Germany just north of Austria. As a Count, he was able to advance the cause in the kingdom of God in the royal courts of Europe.

Yet he was not content to be a Count—he had a calling as a minister of the Good News—something his family frowned upon. In the social order of his time, counts were not supposed to be ministers! He was raised in a family of Pietists—a 17th century movement within German Lutheranism emphasizing a earnest, heart faith in Yeshua which should produce recognizable spiritual fruit. Indeed,the leader of the Pietist movement, Phillip Jakob Spener, was Ludwig’s godfather.

As a child, little Ludwig was a prodigy of Pietism. When he was 6, a Swedish army overran Saxony. Entering his family castle, they burst into the room when the count was at his devotions—so awed were they at his speech and prayer, they almost forgot their mission. The incident was prophetic of the impact of the depth of his spiritual life on others. He disliked religious orthodoxy, instead seeking a religion of the heart, a personal relationship with the Lord. Pietists urged earnest study of the Bible in private meetings, called ecclesiolae in ecclesia ("little churches within the church").

For Zinzendorf, radical discipleship leads to transformation of one’s whole being, including the emotions. Zinzendorf dug this well of the religion of the heart even deeper, producing tremendous spiritual fruit.

How have we begun to reopen this well in Beit Simcha? Havurah groups, discipleship--can anyone tell us the first lesson of discipleshipAdonai: following Yeshua as Lord. Amen? That's what produces the genuine relationship with God that Zinzendorf called a "religion of the heart."

When the Count came of age, he used his resources to purchase a new estate from his grandmother, and planned a refuge for persecuted believers. Even before Zinzendorf could settle himself, they came—Moravians from what is now the Czech Republic. Three centuries earlier—a century before Luther—Jan Hus had started a movement of reform. Though Hus was martyred, his movement survived.

But by Zinzendorf’s time, a century of religious wars and persecution by the Catholic Hapsburgs, rulers of Austria, had made their situation desperate. So Zinzendorf found himself reopening ancient wells as the Moravian Unitas Fratrum formed the core of a new community on his estate, called Herrnhut—“The Lord’s Watch.”

As the village grew it attracted individuals from a variety of persecuted groups.

The concentration of differing beliefs in the village produced disorder and severe conflict.

Some, even village founder Christian David, got caught up in apocalyptic fanaticism, referring to Zinzendorf as the "Beast of the Apocalypse"! Zinzendorf left his position in the government of Saxony, moved back to his estate, to devote himself to reconciliation of the conflict. He began to visit each home for prayer, and finally called the men of the village together for an intense study of the Scriptures. 

The question they came to focus on was how the Scriptures described Christian life in community. These studies, along with intense prayer, convinced the community that they were called to live together in love. Under Zinzendorf, they created a covenantal document called the Brotherly Agreement, a voluntary discipline of Christian community. During the following months, the spirit of prayer manifested in several of the groups that Zinzendorf had initiated. This led to ever-growing prayer gatherings, including the first “night watch” of prayer. An outpouring of the Holy Spirit fell (even among the children), which manifested in emotional and ecstatic prayer and singing meetings.  

On August 13, 1727, a special meeting was called to take part in the Lord’s Table. At one point, as everyone knelt, the Count prayed, openly confessing his sins before the Lord. Others were likewise prompted to pray. “From that time on,” said David Nitschmann, “Herrnhut became a living Congregation of Christ.” “Then werewe baptized by the Holy Spirit Himself to one love,” said Spangenberg. Zinzendorf called it, “a day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Congregation.”

Then Count Zinzendorf felt that the Holy Spirit was highlighting Leviticus 6:13 to him: “Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out. Urged by the strong impression that “the intercession of his Saints should incessantly rise up onto [God], like holy incense,” Zinzendorf proposed the setting up of a never-ending prayer-chain. The Herrnhutters committed themselves to a chain of unceasing day and night prayer, which continued 24/7 without a break for over one hundred years.  That alone would mark the Moravian revival as one of the most remarkable ever—the well of this revival has been reopened in prayer movements such as the International House of Prayer.

The intentional covenant community of Herrnhut was remarkable in many other ways. 

Zinzendorf grouped community members together for Little Boys, Little Girls, Older Boys, Older Girls, Single Brothers, Single Sisters, Married Brothers, Married Sisters, Widowers, and Widows.

These “choirs” came together for meetings, for discipline, and for carrying on community occupations. 

They would “converse together in a cordial and childlike manner, on the whole state of their hearts, and conceal nothing from each other, but … wholly committed themselves to each other's care in the Lord.”

The whole congregation met at least three times daily: 5AM, 8AM and after sunset, to pray and praise the Lamb and read the Scriptures. 

Special meetings were held for children and for the aged and sick.

The days ended as they began, with singing praise. Are you getting a picture of their zeal?


The Hernhut community was so successful that they replicated the model dozens of times.

The United Brethren constructed new communities in Germany, Holland, France, Switzerland, and the New World, including Bethlehem, Lititz near Lancaster, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, etc.

In every community the Moravians built a Gemeinhaus or Community House, where people lived, worked and worshipped together, and then added houses for “choirs” of single men, single women, etc.

In these communities, a radical equality of spiritual life was practiced. In Bethlehem, nobility and native Americans shared common quarters; in Salem, slaves were full members of the Congregation and could be elected to offices of leadership. For as Galatians 3:27-28 says, “For all of you who were immersed in Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.

If you visit God’s Acre in Bethlehem, you will see the simple flat grave stones for Joseph a Mohican and Anna Marie Lawatsch near each other.


What is this well that we would like to reopen here at Beit Simcha? “We are a community…”

It’s a challenge, though, because many of us live so far apart. One approach is to create more havurah groups where people can gather for prayer and fellowship.

I dream, along with Pericles and a few others—of building an intentional community to call some people to live closer together. Covenant community is part of my spiritual DNA ever since I experienced covenant community in Brussels, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Madison, WI in the Mansion, the co-op where Pamela and I met. Every evening we had a half hour of prayer and praise before dinner. If you didn’t pray, you didn’t eat! Praying before eating together is a great way of bonding together.

I urge you, my brothers and sisters, to pray about reopening a deeper well of community. V’eemru?


The third well that Zinzendorf and his Moravian Brethren dug was world missions.

From childhood, Zinzendorf had a vision for reaching the heathen with the Good News.

The Moravians who came to Herrnhut were themselves pilgrims from another land.

Almost immediately after the awakening in 1727, Hernhutters were on the march, mostly on foot. Singly, inpairs or in larger groups, their aim was to cultivate fellowship and zeal among God’s children. They developed a network of “societies” within the established churches of Europe, which they called the Diaspora.

1 Peter 1 opens, “Peter, a shaliach of Messiah Yeshua, to the sojourners of the Diaspora in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia—chosen.” So the United Brethren saw themselves as “sojourners of the Diaspora,” chosen by Godto proclaim the Good News of revival near and far.

Zinzendorf might have liked the Hebrew word shaliach,which means Sent Out ones—for saw himself as a leader of a team of brothers and sisters one sent out to proclaim the Good News. They travelled throughout Germany and also back to Austria, where Melchior Nitschman was imprisoned and died in 1729. Opposition and persecution came, but held back their zeal. 

Zinzendorf himself was banished from Saxony and his own estate in 1737. 

Yet he regarded itas a blessing, for it accelerated his commitment to world missions. He became known as the Pilgrim Count.

On the other hand, he used his position as a nobleman to help open doors for missions overseas. In the royal court of Denmark, he met two Inuit children from Greenland and a freed slave from the West Indies under Danish government. Zinzendorf brought the slave, Anthony Ulruch, back to Hernhut, where Mr. Ulrich made an appeal to the community to send missionaries to his people. The catch was, the missionaries would themselves have to live as slaves to work among the slaves.

In 1732, two Hernhutters answered the call, and Zinzendorf used his influence to get them passage.

Soon Brethren missionaries were in Greenland, Livonia in the Baltic states, Suriname in South America, the Nicobar Islands in the East Indies, Copts in Egypt, the west coast of Africa, and in the wilds of North America, to Native Americans of Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Many regard William Carey as the "Father of Modern Missions," but Zinzendorf preceded Carey by 70 years.  Arthur Glasser of Jews for Jesus regards Zinzendorf as the "Father of Modern Biblical Missions."

Some people criticized Zinzendorf for sending his missionaries off to die (for indeed some did lay down their lives for the Good News). Then Zinzendorf himself went to St. Thomas in the West Indies.
Before he left, he gave what he called his “last sermon,” not sure if he would even come back alive. Nowadays, people enjoy cruises to the West Indies—I hear St. Thomas is lovely—but in those days, t
he region was infested with malaria and other diseases.

But the Lord preserved him, and not only that, used Zinzendorf mightily. The governor of the island was so impressed—after all, it was very unusual for a Count to show upin the colonies, and Zinzendorf had a remarkable presence, was an articulate speaker, and had been educated to be a lawyer and statesman. The Moravian missionaries already on the island had been imprisoned on trumped up charges. Zinzendorf persuaded the governor to release them, and furthermore the governor ordered that the Brethren missionaries be free to preach to the slaves without hindrance from the slave owners!

Moreover, Zinzendorf was convinced that the priority of World Missions was to reach the Jews.

How did hecome to this amazing conclusion? Well, he read his Bible! Romans 1:16 does say,“For I am not ashamed of the Good News, for it is the power of salvation, first to the Jew, and also the Gentile.”

V’eemru? Among Herrnhut's first contingent of missionaries sent forth to the nations, Leonard Dober was sent to the Jews residing in Amsterdam. 

What particularly caught Zinzendorf's imagination was Paul's conviction that arenewed Jewish people would play an important role in God's plans for the Kingdom of Messiah. First, there would be Israel's wholesale turning to the Lord "and so all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:26). In turn, Israel's service under God's direction would mean nothing less than "lifefrom the dead" for whole Gentile nations. 

Romans 11:15, “For if their rejection leads to the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” V’eemru?  To Zinzendorf, this meant that even the evangelization of the Jews in his day could be related to what God would do through them in the Last Day. After all, no one knew when He would commence His transforming work in their hearts.

When Zinzendorf returned from his mission to the West Indies, he helped a Sephardic Jewish family named DaCosta by giving them his stateroom. No little concession, since that meant that the count would be sleeping under deck for a month or more! But it was worthwhile for him, so he could share the Good News with a Jewish family. Though they didn’t come to faith in Yeshua on board, they were moved by Zinzendorf’s generosity as well as his eloquence. Who knows whether those seeds brought forth eternal life for this family later? 

Zinzendorf never wavered from sowing the seeds of the Good News to Jews. When he made his next overseas trip—to Pennsylvania—he went on several missions to the Indians, in part because he thought they might be descended from the ten northern tribes of Israel.

Zinzendorf made it a rule that once a year, on Israel's solemn Day of Atonement, all Moravians should gather in their churches, get down on their knees and pray for the salvation of God's chosen people.

One thing that really caught my attention in reviewing Zinzendorf’s biography1 is the connection between the ideals of covenant community and missions. The passion for missions energized and strengthened the communities of the Brethren. They made a practice of reading letters from missionaries and devoting much of their hours of watching in prayer to missions.

When they experienced trials or persecution, they saw it as the Lord sending them out. As Acts 8:1 records, “On that day a great persecution arose against Messiah’s community in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria.”

How are we beginning to reopen this well? See our mission statement, in the bulletin: “Bringing our people into the Kingdom of Messiah Yeshua.” This mission motivates as our efforts with the Prayer Station near the JCC and the Power and Love Ministry, as well as our support for reaching the homeless and supporting local soup kitchens and Jewish Family Services.

We also connect with world missions, first to the Jews, through our covenant relationship with Tikkun Ministries International, with Dan and Patty Juster, Eddie and Jackie Santoro, Ron Cantor, as well as with Ivy Rosen and the Ark in the Negev. V’eemru? How can we dig this well deeper? Get involved in the Prayer Station, Power and Love, Homeless ministries.

Perhaps we can plan our own mission trip, perhaps to New York, or Israel as an extension of a tour?

I also wantto emphasize, “first to the Jew, also the Gentile” does mean we want to reach all people with the Good News. This weekend, after visiting my Mom, Pamela and I plan to spend some time with my former Ph.D. student Sophia—she and her husband, Michael accepted the Lord, were immersed and became members of the congregation. They now live in Frederick, MD. Part of my motivation for visiting is to strengthen them in their faith, so they can share it with others. 

Finally, there is the deep well of unity. When Zinzendorf was 16, he delivered a valedictory speech on the unity of all believers. He was stirred by the vision of the Moravian Unitas Fratrum for Christian love and unity. The “religion of the heart” proclaimed that the experience of faith and love toward the Savior Yeshua was common to all who believed and was indeed the basis of unity. These ideas were revolutionary in his time. Not long before, all Europe had fought wars over religion—the 30 Years War between Catholics, Lutherans and other Protestants slaughtered tens of thousands of people in Germany and Moravia, and the English Revolution cost King Charles I his head as Puritans, Presbyterians,Anglicans, Separatists and Quakers went after each other, and many fled to America for religious freedom—but that didn’t necessarily mean religious freedom for anybody else!

When Zinzendorf came to Pennsylvania, he hoped that he might carry out his work without interference from the established churches. He relinquished his rank and title and traveled as a Lutheran pastor under one of his other legitimate names, Herr Von Thurnstein, or simply Brother Leopold.

Unfortunately this move aroused suspicion—Brother Leopold could never escape his noble heritage!

He held several conferences to promote unity, but they failed to produce the effect he hoped they would. To oppose his efforts, the Lutherans sent Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, also from Saxony.

I used to think Zinzendorf’s efforts in this regard were simply too far ahead of his time. But when I got to the end of his biography, I read the rest of the story…. The communities of the United Brethren were so successful that German nobles and kings invited them to plan new ones in their realms. Indeed, the Elector of Saxony, though he had banished Zinzendorf, couldn’t help noticing the positive and stable influence of Hernnhut on his domains, not only spiritually but economically. So 20 years later, he welcomed Zinzendorf back and urged him to plant more communities in Saxony.

Moreover,when Zinzendorf returned, he found the clergy also friendlier to him. There came into being a remarkable annual gathering, the Herrnhut Ministers’ Conference. Zinzendorf was not its founder, though he encouraged it of course. Beginning with seven pastors and two Brethren, it continued every year, as a rallying point for inter-denominational fellowship for 113 years! Lutherans, Reformed,Anglicans and Free Churchmen from a dozen European countries were united in a common faith. Who’d a thunk it!

They helped inspire and sponsor the London Missionary Society in 1795, the Bible and Foreign Bible Society in 1804, and other local and regional societies of the 19th century.  So there was a direct link between Zinzendorf and William Carey, and also a direct link between Unity and Missions.

Indeed, all these wells are linked, as they were in Zinzendorf’s heart from childhood, and as they are in the heart of our Lord as revealed in Scripture. V’eemru? How can we reopen the well of unity among all believers?

We can all come out for the Praise & Prayer Concert on May 20th at Calvary Temple, co-sponsored by the One Voice and Share the Power networks.  

We can come out for the Tikkun America conference in Maryland, June 8-10. Tikkun is a worldwide Messianic Jewish apostolic network with a strong world missions component focused on Eretz Israel. Like Tikkun, Zinzendorf and the United Brethren were very much an apostolic mission, planting new communities all over and linking them together as a movement.

But again, I want to emphasize that all the wells of revival are connected under the ground. Missions invigorate community. Unity promotes missions. And deepest of all, a religion of the heart, binding us all in an intimate love relationship with our Lord Yeshua, is the source of our power to pursue everything else. Without a vigorous prayer relationship with God and one another, we are mere human beings naturally inclined to fall away from each other. Covenant community does not happen naturally, and when it does, entropy drives us apart. The power that drives open the wells and makes the waters of revival flow comes from our relationship with the Lord Yeshua. And that comes when we turn our hearts wholly to him in prayer.

So what can we do to reopen these wells?

We can and must pray.  Pray in your own prayer closet or walks in the park. Pray in our havurah meetings, or before our morning services, or at our intercessory prayer meetings. Pray for an outpouring of the Ruach on the Praise and Prayer Concert, on our Shavuot service, on the Tikkun Conference.

Pray for revelation about how we can re-open the wells of intentional covenant community even deeper, of missions to the Jew first and also the Gentile even deeper, of unity with all Israel and all believers, even deeper. V’eemru?


The worship team may come forward. We’re going to sing a song., a Keith Green song, very much in the spirit of Count von Zinzendorf. Singing songs was apparently an important aspect of Zinzendorf’s worship.

I’ve chosen this song as a way for us to respond to the challenge of the zeal of Zinzendorf and the United Brethren in the generation after 1727.

Would that we had such zeal!

Well, the way they got it is through devoting themselves to prayer. Can we try to do the same, now?

1John R. Weinlick, Count Zinzendorf (New York – Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1956). See also and