Profile in Faith: D.L. Moody by Lyle Dorsett - page 4

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Wartime Ministries

By the time of his twenty-fourth birthday in 1861, Moody was listed in the Chicago city directory as “city missionary.” This generic label was quite appropriate. Moody worked without pay as an evangelist for Chicago’s Young Men’s Christian Association. To conserve money for ministry, he lived in the modest YMCA building, sleeping on a line of chairs that he covered with old newspapers for a mattress. Eventually a group of devout Christian businessmen, among them John V. Farwell, a dry-goods merchant who became one of the wealthiest men in the booming Illinois metropolis, discovered Moody’s living arrangements. They immediately agreed to provide monthly stipends to Moody so he at least would have a comfortable place to live and a diet of more than cheese and crackers.

A watershed in Moody’s life and ministry occurred in 1862. He and Emma Revell married and began a beautiful marriage that produced three children. That same year Moody, under the covering of the YMCA and the Illinois Christian Commission, became a chaplain to General U. S. Grant’s soldiers.

While four years of fratricide raged, Moody ministered to Union soldiers in Grant’s army. In the winter months, during lulls in fighting, he conducted evangelistic services and Bible classes for large gatherings of soldiers. He also visited Confederate troops in prison camps—happily sharing the good news and food from the Bible to the soldiers in gray. At times of heavy combat, Chaplain Moody was usually found in field hospitals, where he would engage in one-on-one personal work. In these tents and make-shift field hospital buildings, Moody would go from man to man, listening to their confessions, praying for them, and helping them send letters to loved ones—regardless of the color of their uniform.

Postwar Work

The personal work became a school of practical ministry for the poorly educated evangelist. There he learned to listen to God as he listened to broken men.  While he never ceased to believe in the importance of preaching to large crowds, Moody came to understand the supreme importance of personal ministry. In the same way that Edward Kimball had laid his hand on young Moody’s shoulder and then prayed for the healing and salvation of his soul—so Dwight Moody discovered the power of placing his hand on the forehead, arm, or hand of wounded and dying men as he prayed for their peace, comfort, and salvation.

By the war’s end in 1865, Moody knew that preaching, teaching, and personal ministry comprised his life’s work. He also met and began to mentor men who knew even less about ministry than did he. During those tumultuous years, Moody trained men and women to evangelize and disciple children in the poorest sections of Chicago. And he helped equip men and women to join him in doing evangelistic and disciple-making work among adults.

Prior to the middle of the twentieth century, the YMCA maintained a decidedly evangelistic focus. The association’s workers were called to evangelize the unsaved and make disciples who could reproduce their kind among the converts. Moody took a lead in preaching, teaching, and fundraising under the auspices of the YMCA. And he also planted a church in the heart of Chicago, where the poorest of the city’s poor would attend and be comfortable alongside people of more means.

Moody’s ministry grew so rapidly after the Civil War that out of necessity he was led to train people as helpers who were equally committed to Christ and his kingdom. Among those Union combatants he met during the war, Major D. W. Whittle became one of his closest and dearest friends. Moody became an encourager of Whittle soon after the young officer was severely wounded at Vicksburg in 1863. And after the war, when Whittle returned to Chicago and became an executive with the Elgin Watch Company, Moody drafted him to help out with Bible studies for new believers. Moody also encouraged Major Whittle to accept some speaking and preaching engagements. Then in 1873 Whittle learned what his mentor and friend had learned over a decade earlier: if God taps you on the shoulder to enter full-time ministry, you find no peace until you obey.

Soon after D. W. Whittle answered the call to a life of preaching and disciple making, he in turn mentored Paul P. Bliss who taught music in Chicago. Moody had urged Bliss to become a music evangelist, and Whittle walked alongside the able vocalist and song writer. By 1874 Bliss teamed up with Whittle and the twosome of Whittle and Bliss became an anointed and popular evangelistic team in the same vein as D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey, who traveled throughout the United States and Great Britain preaching and singing the gospel.

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