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The Integration of Mission Theology and Practice: Zinzendorf and the Early Moravians

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This paper explores the key characteristics of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf's mission theology that influenced the early Moravian missional practice. After discussing the early eighteenth century European historical context and the Spirit-renewal of the Herrnhut community, the paper considers Zinzendorf's theology on the death of Christ, the prominent role of the Holy Spirit, and harvesting the "first fruits." These theological distinctives contributed in determining the motivation and message of these pioneer Protestant missionaries. It then takes into account some of the subsequent methods such as working with the marginalized, practicing the love of Christ in cultural humility, and preaching the gospel in the vernacular. The main contributions of the early Moravians to mission were that they brought an understanding that spiritual renewal preceded mission renewal, the atoning death of Christ is central to mission theology, and a Protestant recognition that it had an obligation to do mission. On the other hand, the foremost negative aspects of Moravian mission were their obsession with the physical death of Christ and an ignorance of the broader social issues that at times resulted in a lack of contextualization, religious syncretism, indifference to social justice, and extreme subjectivism.

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, IL 60187, USA


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