The Little German Village That Shaped the Modern World

In 1705 AD a new era also dawned in the Kingdom of God. For the first time since the Protestant Reformation some two centuries earlier, and probably for a thousand years, true Christians in Europe and America began to understand the Great Commission and God’s heart for those in the four corners of the world who did not know Jesus. In the early part of the 18th Century a little band of Christian believers who had escaped the Jesuit-led destruction of the Moravian church in Bohemia (The Czech Republic) were living in the small village of Hernhut on the German estate of a Count Zinzendorf. In 1727 AD they experienced a powerful visitation from the Holy Spirit. They were then inspired to begin reaching souls outside Europe. This tiny community of a few hundred people sent scores of missionaries to the Caribbean in 1732 AD, Suriname in 1735 AD, northern Russia in 1736 AD, Ghana, South Africa & New York USA in 1737 AD, Sri Lanka in 1738 AD, and Labrador in 1750AD. In the hundred years from 1727 AD this Moravian church sent out over 2,000 missionaries, all backed with a century of non-stop, 24 hour prayer. A new era in world history had begun and their prayers were about to be answered in a way none of them could imagine.

John Wesley first encountered the Moravians on a wild voyage to North America as a young Anglican minister. Soon after becoming a true Christian at an Moravian prayer meeting on his return in 1732 AD, John and Charles Wesley started a holiness club in Oxford. This small group quickly turned into a full scale evangelical reform movement within the spiritually barren Church of England, revival spread both at home and in the English colonies. Travelling over 250,000 miles on horseback and delivering over 40,000 sermons, Wesley saw millions swept into the Kingdom of God. He always organised believers into small house churches and set up leadership structures similar to the New Testament model. This became known as Methodism. It soon parted ways from the deadness of the Anglican Church and grew exponentially. What began as spiritual renewal quickly turned into social reform on a massive scale. John Wesley is now regarded as the greatest Englishman of the 18th Century, and rightly so.

One of the attendees at the Oxford Holiness club was George Whitefield, who took the message of salvation to the streets and open air for the first time, and with great effect. Soon he was preaching to tens of thousands at a time. In 1737 AD Whitefield made the first of seven trips to America. A prayer-focused revival had just broken out in New England under the ministry of Jonathon Edwards, so the timing was perfect. It is estimated Whitefield preached over 18,000 times to between 10 and 15 million people in his lifetime. Although he didn’t leave a disciplined church behind as Wesley did, the revival he started in America lasted 50 years and completely transformed nearly every Protestant denomination in the colonies, while the Catholic churches were completely untouched. Evangelical faith thus became the largest spiritual, social and political influence in North America, and played no small part in creating a culturally democratic American nationalism in the lead up to the American Revolution.

Back in the UK, late in the century other Protestants finally decided to start reaching out to the lost. In 1792 AD William Carey, a Baptist missionary sailed for Calcutta. In 1799 AD the Anglican Church, now full of Methodist evangelicals, established its own missions agency.

The Moravians, the Wesley brothers, George Whitefield and Jonathon Edwards, and other lesser known leaders together laid the blueprint for the modern global evangelical and Pentecostal movements. In this respect they spiritually and socially transformed the modern world, taking Christianity away from politics, corruption and wars, and into hearts, the home, workplace, legal system, educational institutions. For the first time since the New Testament era, global growth in true Christianity was occurring on the back of intense prayer for the lost. The second great era of a global free market for souls had arrived. The era of state supported Christianity that began with Constantine in 312 AD would now drift slowly into the history books.

And it all started with a small backward village of 300 believers in the backblocks of Germany. Prayer changes history!

Kevin Davis