In the dark and long river of history, we discover and find among true Christians, the silver streak of God’s grace—Andrew Miller
The 10th Century, Cluny Reform Movement
When we think about Germany within the context of church history, we tend to think of Martin Luther. However, a few centuries before God raised up Martin Luther to carry out the Reformation, at the time of the Holy Roman Empire, a revolution had already begun to develop among God’s people – the Cluny reform movement.
Because of the presence of Roman Catholicism, which was fallen, chaotic, and full of corruption, the 10th century was considered the darkest century in the Church’s history. At that time, three popes reigned simultaneously while attacking one another. The monastery had been influenced by corrupt moral behavior, changing from a place of escape from the evil world to a hotbed of crime. The Cluny reform movement, a movement raised up through the Duke of Aquitaine and William the Pious, inspired thousands of saints and brought in a comprehensive renewing of their minds and thoughts.
This movement lasted for two hundred years with the protection and support of German emperors; this movement also maintained the stream of God’s recovery in His church. Later on, during the latter part of the middle ages, God used John Wycliffe and John Huss to oppose the corrupt doctrines and organizations found in the Roman Catholic Church. He also prepared a young man, Martin Luther, to start the Reformation and turn the age.
The 16th Century, Martin Luther–the righteous shall have life and live by faith
Martin Luther was born and grew up in a Christian family. As a godly man, he was desperate concerning the salvation of his soul. According to the teachings of the church at that time, he concluded that the best way to be saved was to escape from this world. As a result, he gave up his worldly pursuits and went to a monastery despite the opposition from his family.
At the end of 1512, while sitting in his room and reading the Bible, God led him to read Rom. 1:17 —- the righteous shall have life and live by faith. While Luther was reading this verse, he pondered over it and tried to figure out its meaning. Suddenly, his heart was filled with unspeakable joy and the burdens of his soul were completely lifted. Before that moment, he endeavored to do good in order to earn salvation. However, God told him through the word of the Bible directly: man is saved not by good deeds but by faith. This subjective experience of salvation brought in a crucial move of the Lord among His people.
Luther, now filled with joy, peace, and hope, began to see people, things, and churches around him from a new viewpoint. He began to see many mistakes in the church, and he became more and more bold to express his dissatisfaction. One day when Luther saw Catholic monks selling indulgences shamelessly at the gate of Wittenberg, he returned to his room and picked up his pen to write down the 95 theses mainly against the indulgences. Around noontime on Oct. 31, 1517, he nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, letting everyone know his opinions of these indulgences. Luther act does not represent the Reformation itself, but it was the first move in a series of activities that brought forth the Reformation.
Not long before this event, Johannes Gutenberg had invented the printing press in Germany. These 95 theses were immediately translated from Latin into many languages, printed, and distributed with an incredible speed to the countries in Western Europe. The whole country of Germany had read Luther’s 95 theses in less than two weeks. After four weeks, it had spread to all of Western Europe. For more than two hundred years, the expectation and thoughts of reformation increased until they finally converged into a huge stream. For a long time, Rome had successfully blocked this stream with a dam; however, the higher the dam built by the popes, the higher the water level became. Finally, Luther broke the dam to release the flood of reformation into the countries in Western Europe.
Following Luther’s reformation in Germany, God raised up Ulrich Zwingli in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and John Calvin in the French-speaking part of Switzerland to continue to reveal the truth in the Bible and bring about an improvement in church practice. From 1520 to 1562, the Reformation movement experienced numerous events of bloodshed. From 1562 to 1648, Christians fought for survival, and countless were martyred for their faith. In 1648, the Peace of Westphalia was signed to end the war between Protestantism and Catholicism. At that time, the geographical boundaries were set between Roman churches and Protestant churches. Since then, the boundary has not changed much.
The 17th Century, Philipp Spener—Pietism
However, in the 17th century, the Lutheran church had been filled with dead doctrines which could neither touch people and lead them to believe nor encourage believers to live a life as a testimony. Moreover, the lifestyle of some priests did not match their ministry. Many of them were not even saved. At the same time, there were instances of alcoholism and immoral acts occurring in the churches.
Therefore, God raised up a young German man, Philipp Jacob Spener, from the Lutheran church to bring in a new movement- Pietism. In his house, Spener gathered a group of saints who were not satisfied with just being “religious people”. They came together to study the Bible, to pray, and to discuss the message released by Spener on the previous Lord’s day. The goal of this kind of meeting was to help the saints to enter into a deeper experience of a spiritual life. This kind of meeting was called “Collegia Pietatis”
The University of Halle eventually became the center of Pietism because of August Francke, a young German gained by the Lord. In the middle of the 18th century, at least 60 students from the University of Halle went out to preach the gospel abroad.
The 18th Century, Moravian Church—-Brotherly Love
In the 18th century, the Lord raised up another young German man, Count von Zinzendorf, to continue His recovery work. Count von Zinzendorf had a strong religious consciousness since his childhood. The painting “Behold the Man” that showed Jesus on the cross with a caption “I gave my life for you, what have you given for me?” gave him a profound and strong impression. In his whole life he was encouraged by the love of Christ, always having a burning heart to save souls and lead people to the Lord. When he was ten years old, he was sent to a school in Halle where August Francke was, and there he immediately showed his leadership ability. He organized a club named “the Order of the Grain of Mustard Seed” among the boys. The aims of this club were to improve personal godly living and to support global missionary works. Even when he was nine years old, he had read a report from a missionary in east India. He said afterwards, “the burden for missionary works has grown in me since then.” He and a group of classmates made a serious oath: No matter in what kind of situation, we will confess Christ and lead people to Christ.
Later, Count von Zinzendorf used his inheritance to buy a large number of manor houses and gave a part of his property to some persecuted brothers who followed John Huss. They named this new shelter “Herrnhut” Gradually, more and more persecuted saints in Lutheranism, Pietism, Calvinism, and even Schwenkfeldians came there to seek residence. However, the disagreements over teachings concerning sacraments, baptism, and denomination become more and more severe as the population increased.
On May 12, 1727, Zinzendorf gathered the saints in Herrnhut and established two agreements with them based on the truth in the Bible; he led the saints back to the cross of Christ and encouraged them to consecrate themselves to the Lord. Through the shepherding of Zinzendorf, everyone was willing to empty themselves and comply with the agreements. Two months later, he obtained a copy of Ratio Disciplinae, the church order of the early Bohemian Unity, which was similar to the agreements. He translated it into German and distributed it after he came back to Herrnhut; everyone was surprised by this proof of the Holy Spirit. The prayers and fellowships among the saints increased after the implementation of the agreements.
On August 13, 1727, saints who had been divided confessed their sins to each other on their way to the church at Bethelsdorf. During the meeting on that day, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the congregation, and all experienced being baptized into one Spirit. After that, the Moravian church experienced an unprecedented revival, with many consecrating themselves to preach the gospel all over the world. In the 17th century, a century full of denominations, it was indeed a great recovery for the Moravian brothers to be able to set aside their opinions of denominations in order to be the unique testimony of Jesus.
Their unity was not merely outward unification but the work of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, their church life was quite simple; they called each other “brothers and sisters” without classification. They rejected all idols, simply prayed and dedicated themselves to the gospel, and waited for the coming of the Lord. They emphasized the work among children and young people; single young brothers and sisters lived in separate brothers’ and sisters’ houses to be perfected in the corporate living. The Moravian saints’ desire for the Lord and the love between the saints are regarded as the fulfillment of the church in Philadelphia in the book of Revelation and the location of the flow of the Lord’s move from the 18th to 19th centuries.
Through the Moravian saints, God gained a pair of brothers, John Wesley and Charles Wesley, to bring in spiritual revival in England to continue and strengthen the flow of recovery among His people. In the 19th century, God raised up the Plymouth Brethren in England; in the 20th century, the Lord’s recovery moved to China, being raised up by Brother Nee and Brother Lee to bring in the Lord’s ultimate recovery.
The 20th Century, the High Peak of the Divine Revelation—New Testament Economy
In 1984, fifty-one messages released by Brother Lee in Stuttgart and several places in the U.S. were collected into the book “God’s New Testament Economy.” Brother Lee once told us that the contents of this book are the ultimate vision revealed to us by the Lord in His recovery. The chart in pages 12-13 is the essence and result of his fifty-nine years of studying the New Testament.
After the unification of Germany, the Lord’s recovery came to Berlin in 1996. In the beginning, a solid foundation was established through the work of the ministry publications. By 2001, there were 16 books from brother Nee published and sold in Christian bookstores. Through the publications of brother Nee, the market was opened up, and the publications of brother Lee were gradually introduced as well.
In the beginning, there was only one local saint in Berlin, but the numbers of saints increased to fifteen after four years. In response to the call to migrate to Eastern Europe for the gospel move, about twenty saints migrated to Berlin from the U.S., U.K., Russia, and Taiwan in the November of 2000. During that time, although there were no other cities in Germany practicing the church life, there were still some saints in different localities receiving this ministry and remaining in the fellowship of the Body of Christ. From February 5 to February 16 in 2001, through the help of the trainees from FTTA and FTTL, about thirty saints passed out vouchers for the English Recovery Version Bible on German campuses. Among the 27300 vouchers that were distributed, 473 were sent back, requesting the Bible. Some students also attended our student meetings after being contacted by us.
(Excerpt from Propagation Overseas Report in March 2001)
The 21st Century, the Peak of Propagation
This stream of recovery is continuously flowing in the German-speaking world through a group of people who are willing to cooperate with the Lord, open to the Lord, and be filled with the Lord to carry this stream to every city and every university through their daily living and work. The Bible was opened in Germany through the Reformation five hundred years ago, and there needs to be a group of people today to bring all the inherited riches in the Lord’s recovery back to the German people!
The Lord is calling: Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?
May we all response: Here am I; send me.