The original Order of the Mustard Seed was started in 1716 by a group of school friends at the Halle Academy in what is now Eastern Germany, led by a young noble man called Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. They saw their society as a kind of spiritual order of knighthood, dedicated not to personal honour or self-advancement but to radical service of Jesus Christ the King. The rules of their order morphed and matured as they grew, but the heart of their promise always remained the same:
  1. To be True to Christ
  2. To be Kind to People
  3. To take the Gospel to the Nations

For these young men ‘True to Christ’ was expressed in a radical commitment to prayer, to personal holiness and to working with integrity in the midst of opposition. ‘Kind to People’ compelled them to care for the poor, to fight for Christian unity and to love their enemies. Their aspiration to take the ‘Gospel to the Nations’ detonated the greatest missions movement of modern times, across Europe and in every part of the known world.

Herrnhut, Germany

Zinzendorf and others went on to become the leaders of the Moravian renewal, which has been described as “one of the purest moves of the Spirit in church history”. It was his promise to be ‘kind to people’ that led him to welcome Moravian refugees on his estate in Saxony where they built a village called Herrnhut. And it was Zinzendorf’s promise to be ‘true to Christ’ that caused him to start the 24-7 prayer meeting which continued in Herrnhut non-stop for more than 100 years. This third vow, ‘to take the Gospel to the nations’, inspired Zinzendorf to begin sending out missionaries from Herrnhut to the ends of the earth. These early Moravian pioneers were the first ‘lay’ missionaries and the first to be sent by a non state-sponsored organisation in modern history. They were soon followed by missions to Greenland, North America, Africa, and the Far East.

Throughout this remarkable period the Mustard Seed covenant was the guiding principle which urged them on in mission and service and led them back onto the right path when they got it wrong. Its members came to include people of influence like the King of Denmark, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief of the Cree tribe of First Nation Americans, and ordinary people from many walks of life, all committed to doing extraordinary things in God’s Kingdom.

The original Order of the Mustard Seed did not continue much beyond the late 18th century. We don’t claim to be a direct continuation of the Order, but we do acknowledge them as an inspiration and a challenge to serve Christ as faithfully in our generation as they did in theirs.

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