Lessons from Count Zinzendorf – Christian Heroes Then and Now

Lessons from Count Zinzendorf - Christian Heroes Then and Now

Homeschool conference vendor halls…

They are ubiquitous with moms rolling book-laden plastic crates on wheels behind them and children mobbing the booths with hands-on activities.

Oh, and let’s not forget those beautiful brown skyscraper stacks of Christian Heroes Then and Now books! What homeschooling mom hasn’t dreamed of walking out the door balancing that giant precarious stack in her arms (or rolling crate)?

Over the years, I’ve managed to collect a decent little stack of these books.

Certainly not skyscraper-sized, but a respectable little office building-size, maybe.

And every single one of these books that we’ve managed to fit in between all the other curriculum we bounce around in have been real winners for both me and my children.

Recently, we pulled out one of these books to read about a very obscure Christian leader whom I had never heard of named Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. I think that is one of the most refreshing aspects of these books. They don’t just cover the stories of all the famous missionaries and heroes of the faith we’ve all heard of, but they introduce us to new names that Christian history has forgotten.

How wonderful that these heroes of the faith can be remembered and put forth to our children as examples of lives well-lived for Christ!

Lessons from Count Zinzendorf - Christian Heroes Then and Now

The story of Count Zinzendorf was certainly no exception.

Count Zinzendorf was the founder of two Christian refugee communities on his large estate in Saxony during the 1700s that eventually became known as the Moravian church. The Moravians were known for sending out many missionaries and seeing thousands come to Christ during Ludwig’s own lifetime as a result of their mission efforts.

Here are some positive qualities Count Zinzendorf demonstrated in his life that I hope will have a lifelong impact on my child:

1. Perseverance

As a young child, Ludwig faced misunderstandings and persecution from his teachers and tutors. Sadly, many children in such a privileged position were virtually raised by their tutors and boarding school professors, making it especially difficult to endure such treatment, and Ludwig was no exception.

However, he submitted to his authorities and endured the trials, doing his best to focus on his relationship with the Lord, even at a very young age. Years later, he would again need to persevere through various trials with governing authorities, and growing pains and difficulties of starting the Herrnhut and Hernhaag communities.

2. Humility and Disregard for Status

Though he was born into wealth and high status, Ludwig used his position and privilege only to further the cause of Christ. He often socialized with peasants and was not deterred from his goal of becoming ordained as a Lutheran pastor, despite the inevitable disdain he knew it would garner from his family and those of his own class.

“I bought this estate,” he once said about his Hurrnhut community, “because I wanted to spend my life among peasants and win their souls for Christ.”

Ludwig’s disregard for his status and privilege reminds me of Moses, who…

“refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;” (Hebrews 11:24-25).

Count Zinzendorf

3. Faith in God’s Sovereignty

During his life, Ludwig was well acquainted with heartache and trials. He and his wife lost more than half of the dozen or so children born to them, and many of the missionaries he knew and loved suffered persecution and death. Ludwig was even banished from his own homeland of Saxony for a season! But through every trial, Ludwig saw the hand of the Lord and trusted in His sovereignty.

4. Love for the Church

Ludwig’s love for the church prompted him to always look for ways to unite Christians of various denominations, rather than divide them. He focused on the bond of unity in Christ and encouraged the refugees on his estate, who were from various denominations, to do the same.

This spirit of unity was a deep conviction from the time of his youth when at age 18 he wrote a well-received pamphlet titled, Various Thoughts on Peace to the Quarreling Lutheran Churches. However, his horrified mother and stepfather insisted that as a count he stay out of such church matters. And his focus on unity in Christ and “Christianity of the Heart,” as he called it, caused many denominations to dislike him.

It seems little has changed throughout history!

It was interesting to read about Ludwig’s passion for church unity, as it is something we have been discussing much as a family lately. How much easier it is to focus on the differences between denominations rather than our bond as brothers and sisters in Christ, whether Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, or some other denomination. If Satan can divide us, how much easier it is to win against us!

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6).

Count Zinzendorf

Count Zinzendorf via Wiki Commons

5. Focus on Missions

One of the most notable passions of the Moravian church and Count Zinzendorf himself was missions. Ludwig was so focused on missions that he was even willing to risk his life to go to Saint Thomas as a missionary for a brief time, despite his high status and obligations as leader of the growing Moravian church.

By the time of his death, the Moravian church had sent out 226 missionaries and had seen a total of over 3,000 converts baptized. About 30 years after his death, William Carey, who was soon to be the first Baptist missionary, exclaimed to a group of Baptist pastors,

“See what the Moravians have done! Can’t we Baptists at least attempt something in fealty [devotion] to the same Lord?”

6. A Close Walk with God

One of my favorite stories in the book was a brief recounting of a time when Ludwig was traveling on a ship across the Atlantic and a violent storm overtook the vessel.

The captain warned Ludwig that the ship would be smashed on the rocks in just a matter of hours, but Ludwig confidently replied, “This storm will be over in two hours.” Sure enough, in two hours the sea was calm and the sun was shining again. The captain asked how he could have known this when he, as an experienced captain, had never seen such a thing.

“For more than twenty years now,” Ludwig replied, “I have enjoyed a trusting relationship with my Savior. So when I find myself in difficult or dangerous situations, the first thing I do is ask myself if I am to blame. If I find something that the Savior is displeased with, I get down on my knees and ask His forgiveness. And when I do this, He forgives me, and at the same time I usually know how things will work out. Of course, if the Savior does not choose to tell me the outcome, I remain silent and conclude that it is better for me not to know. However, this was not one of those times. Instead the Savior assured me that the storm would pass and last only two hours.”

So many of us today do not expect God to talk to us personally.

We say we have a “personal” relationship with Jesus, yet so many of us fail to believe that He will really speak to us so clearly if we stay in a right relationship with Him and simply ask, expecting an answer. But “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Why would He not still speak?

Count Zinzendorf was a godly Christian leader who inspired many other heroes of the faith, including John and Charles Wesley and William Carey. Reading his story was inspiring, even for my eight-year-old son, and I hope all these lessons deeply penetrate his heart.

This was another excellent book in this series! And I’m sure we’ll be through my little pile soon. So, whether or not I ever buy that “skyscraper” at the vendor hall, I’d definitely like to at least add some more floors onto my “building” very soon!

To help your book pile grow, Benge Books is giving away 3 sets of 5 books. Enter the giveaway below. You can also find more reviews on this series here.

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  • Hi Danielle, Thank you so much for such a thorough book review. You get an A+ LOL.
    Zinzendorf is one of the oldest people we have written about ,but it amazed me how fresh and relevant his faith is to us today.

    • Danielle Papageorgiou December 17, 2019 at 2:16 pm

      Haha! Thanks, Janet! 🙂 It was a pleasure to do this and so timely for us! Indeed it was amazing to see how relevant his life and experience was to issues we still face today in the Church. Thank you for following your God-given mission in writing all these books!

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