Thursday, May 25


On this day (May 26th) in 1700, little Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was born to Erdmuthe Dorothea of Reuss-Ebersdorf and her noble husband, Christian Ernst von Zinzendorf. So, baby Nik entered into the world at Dresden, Saxony as a person of great privilege.

However, his father soon died and after her remarriage, his mother moved to Berlin. Young Nik was then raised by his grandmother, Baroness Gersdorf, a devout Pietist with many connections in the burgeoning renewal movement. It's said that the Pietist pioneer and theologian Philipp Jakob Spener was his godfather and mentor (even though Spener died when Zinzendorf was only five years old).

Zinzendorf developed a devout and robust faith as a child. He was educated in a school run by the Pietist leader August Hermann Francke (with whom he did not see eye to eye on a number of issues — causing significant tension at times). During that period Zinzendorf and three other young students organized a club called "The Order of the Grain of Mustard Seed." They focused on responding to the love of God through commitment to Christ, right living, love of others, and mission work among the heathen. These values shaped his life's work.

In 1722 Zinzendorf purchased the Berthelsdorf estate from his grandmother and soon after invited groups of religious refugees, including some from the Unitas Fratrum (the followers of the martyred proto-reformer Jan Hus), to settle on his Herrnhut land. He quickly emerged as the spiritual leader of this rag tag collection which thrived under his patronage and protection. In 1737 Zinzendorf was consecrated as a bishop of the group.

This renewed Unitas Fratrum eventually became known as the Moravian Church. They, following the lead of Zinzendorf, have been a quiet driving force behind both the modern missionary and ecumenical movements. They are Christ-centered joyful people with an irenic spirit. My own tribe, the Evangelical Covenant Church, owes much to these Moravian pioneers and their emphasis on a personal faith in Christ that manifests itself in evangelism, global mission, social justice, religious freedom, ongoing renewal, and a Christian unity that transcends ecclesiastical tribalism.

The Moravians have embraced a saying from the German Lutheran theologian Rupertus Meldenius (a proto-Pietist of the 16th and 17th centuries) as their informal motto — “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” It is an appropriate maxim for all who follow Christ in the foot-steps of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf.

Happy birthday, Nik!

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