The Vision and the Vow

A Story. The Honorable Order of the Mustard Seed. Three centuries ago Christians fled Moravia to find the safety of Count Zinzendorf’s landholdings in what is now the Czech Republic. In 1716 Zinzendorf and the Moravian Christian community established an extraordinary mission society called The Order of the Mustard Seed. They started a prayer meeting that prayed continually for one hundred years! They began sending missionaries to places like Greenland and to the slave plantations of the Caribbean. Members of this order wore a ring inscribed with the motto, “None live for themselves.” They made a solemn pledge: “Be true to Christ, Be kind to people, Take the Gospel to the nations.”[1] New members who were ready to take the vow would meet in Count von Zinzendorf’s home:

After prayer and a little discussion of each aspect of the covenant, they stood, one at a time, and with little emotion, each one made their solemn vow to God. Next, they knelt down as Zinzendorf placed the ring on their fingers, laid his hand on their heads, and prayed. The ceremony had taken minutes, but it was to last a lifetime. When all was done, they ate a hearty feast—breaking bread and drinking wine—to celebrate the covenant of their friendships: The Order of the Mustard Seed had been planted in good soil.[2]

Peter Greig

Peter Greig, author of The Vision and the Vow, asks, “Why is it that most Christians are so superficial and why are most churches so prone to breaking apart?” Greig wants to persuade his readers to believe a big vision—forming communities that will last a long time and make a big vow, like the Moravians did. “There is no place in the Christian community,” writes Greig, “for the idea that each new friendship comes with a shelf-life. When a relationship gets awkward, or boring, we do not simply move on to another connection. Instead, we dare to go on a life-long journey together, through conflict and disappointment as well as seasons of mutual fascination and fun.

It is difficult to persevere in Christian community because we are a stubborn, proud people, easily hurt and disposed to walk away. Therefore, we need to make a serious vow to one another, a pledge to be true to one another. In so doing we “stir one another up to love and good deeds,” at the very times when we might otherwise have allowed embers to die. “Our friendship survives seasons of vulnerability.” Greig writes, “when people see our sin and somehow still choose our company and laugh at our jokes. We turn acquaintance into friendship and a few of these friendships into life-long covenant camaraderie.”[3]

A Rule for Living at Peace with One Another and as Peacemakers at the Ends of the Earth

There is a pause when we hear the word “Rule for Living.” Think of it this way:

The word ‘rule’ has bad connotations for many, implying restrictions, limitations and legalistic attitudes. But a Rule is essentially about freedom. It helps us to stay centered, bringing perspective and clarity to the way of life to which God has called us.” (Northumbria Community)

The rule of the Order of the Mustard Seed is to be peacemakers where we live and at the ends of the earth.

A Rule helps us live consistently with our convictions.

A Rule enables us to develop a balanced, sustainable, and enjoyable rhythm of work, rest, and prayer.

Of course, in any Rule of Life, there are dangers:

  • There is the danger of pride, should members of an Order begin to consider themselves holier than others.
  • There is the danger of legalism, should we lose the heartbeat of love and grace and begin putting our faith in the rules.
  • There is the danger of heresy, should we add to the demands of the Gospel. A Christian Rule is always an essence of, never extra to, the Gospel.[4]
The Order of the Mustard Seed still exists. Find out more here.

Greig writes in conclusion:

Zinzendorf’s Order of the Mustard Seed touched and inspired men like John Wesley to release a spiritual fire in the earth that created the first Great Awakening in America and Europe. The church today is in desperate need of groups who will press beyond superficial, modern church Christianity as it is generally found in most of the world. Call these ‘elitist’ groups if you want, but we need them to call all Christians to higher standards of faith and life.”[5]

[1] Peter Greig, The Vision and the Vow (Relevant Books, 2004). 131

[2] Ibid. 139

[3] Ibid. 129

[4] Ibid. 161

[5] Ibid. 160