A Historical Perspective, setting a context for Evangelism and Discipleship—Part 1

April 11, 2010

March 1, is an important date in the minds of conscious Moravians as it was on that day in 1457 when The Unitas Fratrum came into being.  This was not a body looking for power and prominence but a group of people who were zealous for the purity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for sharing the faith they had personally embraced.  The Moravian Church, as it was later called, is the oldest surviving Protestant church – now 553 years old.  It is worthwhile to note that the birthing of the church came 42 years after the death of John Hus the initiator of this puritan movement, 60 years before Martin Luther began the Great Reformation in Germany, 131 years before the Church of England (The Anglican Church) separated from the denomination of Rome and 281 years before the conversion of John Wesley which is traced back to the Moravians and particularly Bishop Peter Bohler.


Persecution forced the church under cover for about 100 years eventually gaining air in Germany in 1722 on the estate of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. There they constituted themselves and after a Pentecost experience in 1727 they had a new focus and passion.  The new focus caused them to look outward rather than inward, to discover the fields that were ripe unto harvest.

The membership of the congregation was divided into groups called choirs.  They were grouped according to sex, age and condition.  Groups of widowers, widows, married people, single men, single women, older boys, older girls, little boys and little girls.  The basic purpose of each group was to disciple its membership into mature Christians, fulfilling the call of God on their lives.  It helped to keep each member of the choir accountable and active in the work of the church.  It built comraderie and fellowship and made the church warmer.

With the passage of time the choir system was laid aside.  Some aspects of it still remain with our current system where an Elder is responsible for a particular district.  However, this still does not work too well as many Elders do not engage the people in their care.  It is worth noting that the choir system was taken up and used effectively by the Methodist for a long time.  It is now being used by the Seventh Day Adventist to great effect.  Further, the choir system is our modern day cell group.  Some have noted that the only way to grow a church effectively is through choirs or cell groups.

It was from the choirs that the missionaries came.  They came first to St. Thomas Virgin Island, then a Danish Colony.  This missionary effort was due to a meeting of Zinzendorf and a slave from St. Thomas named Anthony who expressed the need for his sister and brother to know the gospel.