Philanthropists and the Reformation

This week we visited Bethleham Chapel in Prague, where Jan Hus pastored and preached. Sasa Flek gave us a great historical overview of the Reformation from the Czech perspective.

800px Betlémská kaple interior

Normally, when theologians tell the story, they focus on the doctrinal changes of the Reformation and honor the theologians like Wyclif, Hus, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc. But the story would not be the same without the businessmen and philanthropists who made it happen.

For example,

– The businessman who sponsored a few Czech students to go to Oxford and hear John Wyclif. These students returned to Prague with the documents and writings that would inspire Jan Hus.

– The businessman who paid for a “preaching station” in Prague where preachers, including Jan Hus in 1402, could articulate their thoughts on the Bible. It was here, at Bethlehem Chapel, that thousands of people came to hear and respond and ignite the Czech Reformation that would influence the rest of Europe.

– As a result of the Czech Reformation, and the negative Catholic reaction to it, the gospel was spread globally through the Moravian missionaries who would not have had a place to live or study or work had it not been for the wealthy philanthropic aristocrat Count Zinzendorf.

The reformation that followed Hus was massive and a hundred years later, Luther’s admission that Hus might not be as heretical as previously thought would be a turning point for the Lutheran Reformation. And from Germany to the world.

Now thats a HUGE return on investment, no matter how you measure it. Thanks to God and thanks to some nameless businessmen, who had the foresight to see what could be, and the faith to put their money into it.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Scott says:

    wow- great insight! I desire to see the sequel played out across the same stage of Bohemia, Moravia, and the world.

  • Joanna says:

    On reading that I had one of those “ohoh you’re aiming too small moments”, when I realise what the point is of setting up businesses. I was happy to be a starter for others projects but perhaps that is being too short-sighted. Will have to see where that thought leads

  • It’s always good to hear about the other players instead of just the top layer.

  • wow! that such a great “back” story! So often we want to measure immediate results! This show the time it take for fruit that God wants, and takes obeience and time to grow!

  • Fred Sanders says:

    Here’s a related story: the transatlantic revival of the 1740s was prepared for by a network of philanthropy that historian Gordon Rupp called “The New Benevolence.” Check out the chapter with that title in his history of the movement:

  • yup- now i just need those prophetic lotto numbers and i’ll have some fun doing just that! xcat

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