Dwight Moody God's Just Do It Man
The great Chicago fire of 1871, a perilous boat journey, and the popular belief of his colleagues that the world would soon end, filled Moody with a kind of urgent desperation. One time, just before the great Chicago fire, he gave a message and then told the audience to think about making a commitment to Jesus and then come back the next week; however, the next day the fire took many of their lives. The experience filled him with a sense of mortal man's need for salvation on the spot. He came up with a simple and effective solution to save unchurched people by the thousands; he called it the three R's . . . ruined by the fall, redeemed by the blood, and rejuvenated by the Holy Spirit. Moody took the rough camp revival of tents and emotionalism to a higher level of planning and sounder doctrine. Although not well educated, his first success with his revivals came in England and later in America in the larger cities of the East. His base was Chicago, but his conversion took place in Boston. A Shoe Selling Jacob Moody was born in 1837 in Northfield Mass to Lyman and Betsy Moody, both of English descent. His mother was a descendant of the early puritans, but his father who labored as a brick mason died when he was four, leaving his mother to raise nine children. The desperate situation did not encourage higher education. He attended seminary school, and had to spell out his sermons phonetically. However, his humble beginnings made him compassionate to the poor, and his known lack of education was why the criteria for acceptance into his academies excluded no one. Moody's revivals and bible academies were absolutely free of the denominational schisms that destroyed the power of the Holy Spirit. Also, the usual social formalities that fettered others had no hold on Moody; he would walk up to men he didn't know and ask if they were Christians. He did not see any reason for pretence, formalism, or to try to hold more than one idea in his head at a time, he was extremely blunt and simple. Of himself and his desire to evangelize the entire world he said, "I suppose they say of me, he is a radical, he is a fanatic, he only has one idea. Well, it is a glorious idea. I would rather have that said of me than be a man of ten thousand ideas and do nothing with them." The ability to do things, to organize, and make a real change were the ingredients for his success. But when he came to Boston at the age of fifteen he was just a greedy and tenacious shoe hustler. Moody had the salesmen's gift of talking very rapidly; in his messages he spoke two hundred and fifty words a minute. After Moody gave his heart to Jesus, his salesman nature, his hustler's nature, strangely enough didn't go away; instead he used it. He believed that souls must be won for Christ. He did not believe in predestination or saving solely by grace. He believed souls could be won by a man who did everything he could for his Lord and God who saved him. Moody was not like a Calvinist minister, but a gospel salesman. In effect, a man who wins you to his confidence until you give into the gospel. Moody was convinced that the more people he convinced of Jesus' love and their need to be born again, the more his Christ and his boss who had done so much for him was pleased. Moody did not lose his identity and his character as a salesman any more than David Brogi lost his soldier spirit when he became a Christian or any more than Steve Fox stopped being an intellectual. The secret to this success is that he used his human nature, his hustler's spirit in the service of the living God who had given him his new life and he used it to do God's work on earth while he could. Moody originally did not want to use his talents for selling and organizing for anyone but himself, but his uncle whose store he worked in made a stipulation that he must attend this congregationalist church on Sundays or he could not sell his shoes. Moody who had been raised as Unitarian hand not heard about Jesus' atoning blood and the need to accept it for salvation. He felt uncomfortable and wanted to delay becoming a Christian because of his wealth. In one year he made $5000; this is equivalent to about $50,000 today. However, the Congregationalist's minister's boldness and sincerity about Christ's personal love of him won him to Christ once and for all. You see, Moody's conversion took place in a place of business; in the back of a shoe store! It amazed and impressed Moody that a church minister would come into a place of business to convict him of his need for Christ and his salvation. It also made him realize that men can be saved anywhere at anytime and in any place, in season and out, anywhere right on the spot; as long as someone boldly goes where he is and reaches out the gospel to him. He realized the need and necessity for training and bible study through his church's Sunday school program. His conversion in the shoe store was followed with weekly studies and church activities which he enjoyed very much. Sunday School in a Saloon Many young men of Moody's time were enamored by the call of the west and the romance of that idea. Moody whose revival meetings were dramatic and sometimes romantic, was no exception and shortly after his conversion he moved to Chicago. Because he had been saved by a congregationalist ministry he sought out this church. Now three years a Christian, and knowing the value and prestige of being a Sunday school teacher, he asked for students and a class room. Perhaps his unchurched side showed. They did not say yes or no, but the minister gave him an interesting challenge. He could have his own class if he found the students to be in it. The young hustler went out and brought in street hoodlums, all street wise, and yet at the same time, all in need of being saved. They had names like Madden the butcher, Red Eye and Smikes. There is a scriptural passage which is sometimes used in reference to Moody, it is "the kingdom of God has been advancing and violent men have taken hold of it". Some people think this means that they oppose it, but in Moody's case and maybe in the correct way it means that aggressive men are the ones who bring it to the world. Moody was sometimes criticized because of his impulsive nature, and that he hated committees and any kind of procrastination. He was known to storm out of board meetings and once fired all his board members only to have his wife rehire them all. In reference to this he said, "that if a committee had been appointed to build Noah's ark, it would never have been built." He also believed wholeheartedly that the poor and the destitute were the ones that God most wanted to be saved. One of his beliefs was, "when a man gets up so high on the spiritual mountain top that he cannot reach down and save poor sinners, there is something very wrong." At first his plan to induct street people was accepted and his students were alright, but perhaps Madden the butcher and Smikes did something to seriously jeopordize the atmosphere of Moody's congregationalist church, because he wasn't kicked out of the church, but it was suggested that he start his own. Again he was challenged, and he aggressively brought the kingdom of God to the world. At the age of twenty-one, Moody launched his first Sunday school classes in a saloon! His school curriculum was an hour and a half of spirited singing, scripture reading, prayer, an exciting testimony, a contest and then a lesson. To get students for his classes, Moody would sometimes ride through the streets on a pony giving rides to children, promising them candy and that they could wrestle with him afterwards if they attended. There is one famous picture of Moody surrounded by street boys in suits. Moody gave a suit to any boy who completed all of the lessons. Sometimes people wondered why God would use someone like Dwight Moody. He was very colorful and certainly charismatic, but God is not a man; he is not subject to the charisma or human interest, or number of people; these are things of man. The answer to his success was that he had a profound love for learning the word of God and listened humbly to others. Once in his early days of preaching he was as he said of himself, " I was just beating my arms in the air." At this time he was followed by two women who were free Methodist. He was angry with them because they kept telling him he needed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Finally he conceded his own lack of the Holy Spirit. This established, he set out to learn all he could about this Holy Spirit and called out for and received it. He credits the training those women gave him with his success in Europe and America. Also, when he went to England his first of seven times, he was derided and rebuked by much more advanced preachers. One named Moorehouse, who was known as "the boy preacher" rebuked him and said, "if you stop preaching just your own words and preach God's word, he will use you for a great good." He didn't get angry but listened. The writer of the book that I read said that there is a great danger for ambitious young men who hear voices telling them that they are the next Dwight Moody of the age. They want the glory and vast numbers of people, but don't realize two things. First, the only motivation for Dwight Moody's success was to return work to God who had done such a greater work to save him and second, that Dwight Moody, because of his humble unchurched beginning, listened to others and usually considered other people to know more than himself. Save as Many as You Can In 1871, after fifteen years of establishing other Sunday schools, orphanages and what he called his "gap man" program, the terrible fire of Chicago burnt to the ground all Moody's Sunday schools and lay minister training centers. Since opening his first Sunday school in a saloon, he had planned to be a trainer and an educator; he was the pioneer of the lay minister's such as ourselves. He had a vision to establish what he called "gap men". These were unordained people trained to teach bible and preach to people. This is what the heads of the different campus bible fellowships in our ministry do. They teach throughout the week and on Sunday they preach. But they are not encumbered by a denomination or by the need to be funded. His academies accepted and trained many men with no elementary or high school education. They received no degrees or denominational title except evangelical. In his later years (Moody by the way died just at about the turn of the century) returned to this work and all over Chicago many of his institutes are still there. But when the fire destroyed all his buildings, it sought to break his spirit. Instead of rebuilding he decided to try a new and bolder attack; this was massive revival meetings in public houses like theaters or train stations, not with hundreds but with tens of thousands! Many of the revival meetings in America had failed because they appealed to emotion and passion without a sound scriptural basis. Moody, however, had a very simple scriptural formula called his three R's, ruined by the fall, rescued by the blood and rejuvenated by the Spirit. Moody organized the tours in a way that was revolutionary at the time. First, he preached in railroad stations or theaters not one denomination but to all. His theme was fallen man's need to change. The need to change or repent was graphically illustrated in parabolic human narratives, something like what you hear in life testimonies, stories of changed lives. It was a dramatic and enlivening change for the stoic English. What the self taught minister Moody brought to England in his first revival meetings was that a new and abundant life was waiting for them if they accepted they were sinners ruined by the fall of man into sin. Whether publicly or secretly many believed God's promise that he gave through his son's blood and were changed forever. The general consensus of the day was that Dwight Moody was succeeding in England because he gave the people what they wanted and needed instead of what they were "suppose" to want. First, the meeting didn't start out with a strident theologian telling you that you are going to hell. It started out with singing. Actually there wasn't one hymn sung but several enough to last about half an hour. This was his way of creating an environment. Then to further set the mood or spirit, he had his featured soloist that traveled with him sing. His name was Ira Sankey. One person hearing him said, "that with each note and tremor of his voice he was drawing people heavenward". It was careful environment making strategically placed. Moody had a good sense of drama and environment making that was not used before in revival messages. Before, people were asked to just take their conviction of sin and repent; it was black and white. Moody was wooing them into seeing the error of their ways gently and gracefully in a celestial setting. Drunkards living in fear accepted the bloods' power, prostitutes in bondage to men and money reached out to free themselves, and men with broken families were being reunited with God and family. By staying within his three R's, Moody was able to draw on many human experiences that most lofty and pious ministers wouldn't touch. When you think back to how or why you committed your life to Jesus at a conference, much of it probably has to do with the atmosphere or spirit that surrounded you at the time. The beauty and atmosphere is implemented by God's people, the music, the testimonies, the messages and who gives them and how are not just take it or leave it. They are done with love and art that opens the heart of the world's weary soul. Dwight Moody was a master of this environment making and worked hard to make sure that everything was just right so that when he called the sinners to stand or to cry or to open their heart to let Jesus in they would do it. Moody after his success in England and Scotland returned to give his revivals in Chicago, New York and in large theaters and even in Barnum and Bailey fifty thousand seat hippodrome. In closing, we can say he was the greatest evangelist and speaker the world has ever seen. His success was given to him because he sought nothing but to repay the God who saved him and return love to him with his talent to organize and win men to Christ who shed his blood for him. God bless Dwight Moody for his love of God and his courage to be an innovator and give people what they need and want.