With his boundless physical energy, natural shrewdness, self-confidence, and eternal optimism, Dwight Lyman Moody could have become a Gilded Age industrial giant like John D. Rockefeller or Jay Gould. Instead, he became one of the great evangelists of the nineteenth century.
The Ministry, Life and Biography Of Dwight L. Moody, America’s Great Evangelist.
D. L. Moody was a well-known evangelist in the 19th century who revolutionized evangelism in the United States, and undoubtedly one of the greatest evangelists of all time.
Born the sixth child of Edwin and Betsy Holton Moody in Northfield, Massachusetts, on February 5, 1837, his father, Edwin died in 1841, leaving Betsey to raise nine children under the age of 13 on her own. This is likely why D. L. Moody never advanced beyond the fifth grade; however, at age 17, Moody began a short but successful career selling shoes. While working in the Holton Shoe Store—which was owned by his uncle—Moody joined a Sunday School class, and, after the teacher visited Moody in the shoe store’s stock room to share the good news, Moody accepted Christ. About a year later, Moody relocated to Chicago where he continued selling shoes. His original goal was to amass a fortune of $100,000, which was a realistic goal due to his business acumen and outgoing personality, but that changed when Moody began to sense God’s call on his life.
Millions heard the gospel preached during this campaign.
Mr. Moody was one of the weak instruments which God has chosen to confound the mighty. He didn’t attend school beyond the fifth grade; he couldn’t spell, and his grammar was awful. At seventeen years of age he could scarcely read or write, and in a Bible class he could not turn to the book of John but searched for it in the Old Testament. After his conversion he became a proficient scholar.
His manners were often brash and crude, and he never became an ordained minister. Once, before his conversion, he so outraged an Italian shoe salesmen with a prank, that the man chased him with a sharp knife, clearly intending to kill him. Yet, Dwight L. Moody was used by God to lead thousands of people to Christ. Moody’s life of Christian service began with his conversion on April 21, 1855.
During the revival of 1857 to 1858, Moody became more involved with the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), performing janitorial jobs for the organization and serving wherever they needed him. In 1860, when he left the business world, he began spending more and more time serving the organization.
Despite the fact that the YMCA could not pay him. His time there likely piqued Moody’s interest in social work, for he soon established a Sunday school class in the inner city of Chicago with the intent of reaching less fortunate, uneducated children.
As the classes grew, associates encouraged Moody to begin his own church. Eventually, on Feb. 28, 1864, the Illinois Street Church (now The Moody Church) opened in its own building with Moody as pastor.
This mission eventually became a full-fledged church, and Moody continued with both evangelism and social work, drawing children of immigrant families to Sunday school with candy and pony rides. He also started evening prayer meetings, English classes for the adults, and other ministries. It was at this church where Moody met the woman he would marry: Emma Revell, a Sunday school teacher. The two eventually had three children.
After a time Moody became the president of the Chicago YMCA. The American Civil War started about this time, and, although Moody refused to fight, he did begin a ministry to the soldiers at Camp Douglas, the base for the 72nd Illinois Volunteer Regiment. Over the course of the war, Moody traveled to battlefields throughout the state and the country, ministering to both Union and Confederate soldiers.
He did not care what denomination a person claimed, but just wanted the message of Christ to be heard.
The early part of Moody’s evangelistic career was characterized by preaching and social work, but Moody also knew the importance of educating others so they could aid in the spread of the gospel. He recruited a woman named Emma Dryer, who had a strong background in ministry and education, and together they established a training program for women for evangelistic outreach and missionary work. Things seemed to be going well until the Great Chicago Fire destroyed the YMCA, the church, and Moody’s home in 1871. This hard time marked a shift in Moody’s evangelistic strategies. During a trip to New York to raise funds for rebuilding, Moody felt a strong pull from the Lord to increase his preaching of the Word and decrease his emphasis on social work.
In 1873 Moody received an invitation to help spread the Word of God throughout the British Isles.
In June 1872, Moody made his first trip to the United Kingdom, during which a few close contacts urged him to come back in a year. In June 1873, Moody, with his wife Emma, their children, good friend and musician Ira Sankey and his wife all traveled from New York to Liverpool, England. Moody and Sankey traveled throughout the U.K. and Ireland holding meetings, helping to fuel the revival that was slowly sweeping the region. Moody’s visit made a lasting impression, inspiring lay people across the region to begin children’s ministries and ministry training schools for women.
Moody was revolutionary in his evangelistic approach. Despite conflicting counsel from friends and trusted contacts, he and Sankey traveled to Ireland during a time when Catholics and Protestants were constantly at odds with each other. Moody was different: he did not care what denomination a person claimed, but just wanted the message of Christ to be heard. As a result, the revival swept into Ireland, and he won praises of both Catholics and Protestants.
After two years overseas, the Moody family finally returned to the United States. When he returned to America, Moody was a world-renowned revivalist.
Throughout his life, Moody always found time to be with his family, making every effort to show his love and care for them.
They settled in Northfield, where Moody was born and raised, and he began to plan his next round of evangelistic city campaigns. From October 1875 to May 1876, Moody and three other evangelists toured through the major cities of the Midwest and Atlantic coast, preaching the message of salvation. Moody would embark on yet another city campaign before his desire to train young Christian workers would grip him again.
On their return to America, Moody and Sankey held great meetings in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago, and in many other cities of the United States. In 1881 they again visited Great Britain, and conducted another gigantic evangelistic campaign. After this Moody made repeated trips to Britain, and once he visited the Holy Land. He devoted much time to building up his great Bible schools at Northfield and in Chicago. During the World’s Fair in Chicago, in 1893, he conducted great meetings in the largest halls in the city and in Forepaugh’s Circus tent, with the assistance of famous preachers from all over the world. Millions heard the gospel preached during this campaign.
Moody continued to evangelize throughout America, often preaching in major cities and at various universities. His heart was for his schools, and he spent much of his time in Northfield. Moody was a visionary who always seemed a step ahead of the status quo. From training women, to reaching out to lost children, to bridging the gap between denominations, he was unlike any other.
Among his last words were, “This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! I have been looking forward to it for years.”
Moody was a man of great discernment. He had an innate ability to find capable, godly people to put into positions of leadership and bring his ideas to fruition. This enabled him to continue his evangelistic outreach while his ministries flourished. Throughout his life, Moody always found time to be with his family, making every effort to show his love and care for them.
Moody continued his evangelistic campaigns until his death in 1899. His last great series of meetings was in a gigantic hall in Kansas City. While there he was seized with heart trouble and hastened home to die. Among his last words were, “This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! I have been looking forward to it for years.”
This old world had lost its charms for him and for a long time he had been “home-sick for heaven.” His earthly remains were laid to rest on “Round Top,” at his beloved Northfield. By his special request there were no emblems of mourning at his funeral services. It is estimated that no less than a hundred million people heard the gospel from his lips, and his schools are training many others to carry the Glad Tidings throughout the world.