Ever since first finding out about them, I’ve been fascinated by Count Zinzendorf and the Moravian community he patronised and led in the 18th century. These Moravians were enthusiastic and influential evangelizers. John Wesley is just one person who was greatly impressed by their piety and courage in spreading the gospel.
The following article about Count Zinzendorf was written by Rob Dixon. It was published on his website with the interesting and apt name Challenging Tertullian. I have reposted it here with Rob’s permission. Enjoy.
Who doesn’t love a good revival story?!?
You know what I mean? Revival stories are tales about miraculous and divine interventions, where the human spirit is stirred with an unmistakable and intense hunger to know God more fully. Most of the time, revival stories simultaneously strengthen and stretch me. On one hand, I’m reminded of the unparalleled power of the Almighty. On the other hand, I’m reminded of my all-too-frequent dullness toward God.
In some ways, the revivals recounted in the book Count Zinzendorf and the Spirit of the Moravians (see here) are familiar. As ever, the descriptions are vivid, compelling and even a bit, well, crazy. For example, here’s one description of a Moravian revival:
“While they were singing this hymn, a powerful wave of emotion swept over the congregation. The awareness of the holiness of God was like a purging fire, leading them to a deeper repentance. People began to weep so profusely that their loud cries drowned out the singing. Some began to pray fervently with intense voices. New vigor and passion to worship filled their hearts as the power and the glory of the Holy Spirit descended upon the assembly. The presence of the Lord was so overwhelming, some reeled, some sank down to the dust before God. As time went on, the sweetness and joy of tasting the Lord’s presence was so intoxicating, they did not want to leave the church grounds.”
But, in one particular other way, Zinzendorf’s revivals were unique. How so?
The women were preaching.
Here’s how the Count put it:
“When you visit the ‘Quakers’ you will soon notice that the women will talk and preach. Rightly so. If we put women in the corner we will lose a Kleinod, a jewel. It is peculiar that when the Holy Spirit says your daughters will prophesy, we tell them ‘no.’ How can you explain Galatians 3:28? In Christ we are all equal, and I have always encouraged our sisters to teach and preach in our congregation, and I have put gifted women in key leading positions. When Paul talked about women being silent, he was telling a specific boisterous group of Greek women not to interrupt a service.”
Clearly, Zinzendorf was no Tertullian. Here’s what the author notes regarding the above quote:
“This was revolutionary in the 18th century, and Zinzendorf was attacked by his opponents for establishing a Weiberwirtschaft, women dominance.”
I bet he was.
So let’s celebrate Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, a community of saints who fervently sought and subsequently encountered God.
Further, let’s celebrate the fact that they did it together, as men and women.
Postscript: November 13, 2021
The Holy Spirit as Mother
Zinzendorf wrote, “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is our true Father, and the Spirit of Jesus Christ is our true Mother.” Did his views on the Holy Spirit influence his views on women and ministry?
Zinzendorf, and also John Wesley, was influenced by the writings of Symeon of Mesopotamia a monk who lived c. 300–390 and who wrote sermons (homilies) under the name Makarios. Four collections, written in Greek, still survive. Symeon repeatedly stated that there is no human birth without a mother, and therefore no spiritual birth without the Holy Spirit (e.g., Makarios, Homily 8.1). Here are a few more quotations from Symeon, AKA Makarios, about the Holy Spirit as Mother.
“As the mother of young birds cares for them, so the Holy Spirit provides food for God’s children” (Makarios, Homily 16.2).
“… the grace of the Spirit, the Mother of the holy…” (Makarios, Homily 27.1).
“She [feminine Greek pronoun: autē] is the kind and heavenly Mother …” (Makarios, Homily 27.4).
“And from his [Adam’s] time until the last Adam, the Lord, people did not see the true heavenly Father and the good and kind Mother the grace of the Spirit …” (Makarios, Homily 28.4).
From E. Klostermann & H. Berthold (eds.), Neue Homilien des Makarius/Symeon (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1961)
The Holy Spirit as Mother was a common idea in early Coptic (Egyptian) Christianity and also Syriac Christianity.
Follow Rob Dixon’s blog Challenging Tertullian here.
You may also enjoy Rob’s post on Boniface (b. 675) and his ministry collaboration with a woman named Lioba here.
More information about Zinzendorf is here.
Female Martyrs and their Ministry in the Early Church
Marcella of Rome: Academic and Ascetic
Nino of Georgia: A Woman Evangelist “Equal to the Apostles”
Catherine of Siena: Lessons from her Life and Ministry
The Countess of Huntingdon and Gospel Ministry
Phoebe Palmer: The Mother of the Holiness Movement