Dwight L. Moody (1837–1899):
Evangelist and Master Disciple Maker
The reputation of Dwight L. Moody had been well established prior to his death in 1899. Although the famous evangelist was only sixty-two years old when he died, he had already preached the gospel to more than 100 million people. This energetic and widely admired preacher with seemingly unbounded passion to see souls come to faith held the distinction of having preached to more people than anyone in history.
Nothing in Dwight Moody’s early life suggested he would become internationally famous. On the contrary, this remarkable man, born into abject poverty in 1837 in rural Massachusetts, never secured more than four years of formal schooling. Forced to leave home at age ten and find work as a farm hand and living without benefit of a strong Christian upbringing, Moody became an anointed preacher whose name was known in most American households and in Great Britain. What few people know—even folk well informed about the history of Christianity in the English-speaking world—is that Dwight Moody was much more than an evangelist whose preaching led innumerable souls to Christ. Mr. Moody became one of the most effective disciple makers of church history.
Throughout his adult life, Moody emphasized “This one thing I do,” referring to God’s call on his life to work with souls. From his devotion to full-time ministry that began soon after his conversion at age nineteen, it is apparent that he was referring to a call that encompassed the healing and nurture of souls as well as evangelism. Moody always took the biblical view that the Great Commission calls us to make disciples not mere converts. Consequently he labored tirelessly to help people grow into strong, reproductive disciples, and he also labored to equip other men and women to become full-time workers in this broader disciple-making ministry.
Moody absolutely delighted in “the work,” as he dubbed his ministry. In one of his last letters, he referred to both the formal and nonformal educational programs he founded, which he believed were his most significant enterprises: “The work is sweeter now than ever, and I think I have some streams started that will flow on forever. What a joy to be in the harvest field and have a hand in God’s work.” Just a few months before his death, Moody told his oldest son that his efforts to train the upcoming generation of young people “are the best pieces of work I have ever done.”
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