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Count von Zinzendorf

In 1722, Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf of Saxony founded a colony of pietist believers called “Herrnhut,” later known as Moravians.

He also traveled to America and set up communities that began to send out missionaries, first to Greenland, then to the West Indies, then beyond.

By the time Zinzendorf died in 1760 some 300 missionaries, all laypersons, had gone out from the various colonies.

In 1738 when some of the challenges of missionary life had become clear, Zinzendorf wrote his famous instructions, many of which sound strangely modern, despite their 18th-century language. Here is a selection, reprinted with permission from World Encounter, mission magazine of the Lutheran Church in America, copyright 1980.

It is better to send people into the wide world than to send no one. But you should be warned about the following temptations:

  • To have even the slightest dealings with clergymen.
  • To think about your purpose in the land only when you get there.
  • To test your vocation on the heathen once you are among them.
  • To give up because something doesn’t work immediately.
  • To begin to make your home too comfortable, forgetting that you are really a traveler, a pilgrim among the nations.
  • To be prejudiced against the heathen because they are neither efficient nor pious, and to be irritated by how badly they run things.
  • To seek even the slightest advantage at the expense of your brothers.
  • To fill up whole diaries with descriptions of difficulties but write little or nothing about the ways in which our Savior has helped you.
  • To forget that one can do far more with a believing heart than with many word.
  • To judge your colleagues and particularly your superiors according to their personalities and then allow your relationship to be influenced by whether or not you approve of them.
  • To make a general rule of the experience you and two or three others have had.
  • To make so many plans that in the end you can’t carry out any of them, but throw up the whole task.
  • Out of boredom to make up new articles of faith.
  • Vindictiveness.
  • To lose sight of the Savior.
  • Letting a quarrel last longer than a day.
  • To reflect and think that if you were somewhere else you would not have to die, or that things would be different for you; to think that the present lot which God has given to you can be avoided.
  • For any pretext or whatever reason to give the devil an opportunity to outwit us, to cast us down or to rob us of our peace.
  • It is not always a bad sign to be troubled by something.
  • To embellish the heathen with names of people, not even those of Luther, Herrnhut or Zinzendorf.


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