By 1870 Dwight L. Moody and his song leader Ira Sankey spent at least half of their time holding evangelistic crusades. Eventually Moody would preach the gospel and Sankey would sing the Good News to more than 100 million people. There is no way to quantify the effect of this ministry. Sufficient to say, tens of thousands became believers or recommitted their lives to Jesus Christ and found healing and freedom from various bondages.
Because of his experiences with Edward Kimball and his field hospital ministry during the Civil War, Moody knew he must find ways for the crowds who heard him preach to get individual care. Out of the necessity to help the seekers at his meetings in America and abroad, Mr. Moody sought the help of local churches wherever he preached. Before his big preaching crusades that typically lasted from one to six weeks, he sought the assistance of local pastors and lay leaders in identifying people he could train for “inquiry room” consultations. Moody believed that at the end of his sermons people should not be pressured to come forward and “accept Christ.” Instead, he invited people to visit “inquiry rooms” after the message. There they could ask questions about the message, the Bible, or issues involving their souls. In those unhurried environments, men, women, and children were not only encouraged to ask questions, they were invited to seek prayer for salvation, inner or physical healing, or sundry needs and burdens. And finally, to be sure, folks were encouraged to attend local churches for baptism and membership.
In the wake of such meetings, thousands not only heard the gospel and made a decision to turn to Christ; a maturation process bolstered by face-to-face counsel, encouragement to read Scripture and pray, as well as invitations to become connected to Bible-teaching, Christ-honoring churches where wholesome fellowship could be found became the order of the day.
Besides these impetuses for converts and new Christians to grow, countless men and women experienced God’s call to Christian service. Indeed, Moody and his fellow workers were frequently asked for advice about entering full-time service, and the requests to be mentored and trained for Christian ministry became so common that Moody knew he could not ignore them.
When those who sought guidance toward ministry were university educated and economically stable—like Henry Drummond and R. A. Torrey—Moody’s task was simple. They were invited to travel with the team and be mentored for ministry along the way. In fact, Moody was able to help both of these men build upon and apply their extensive educations and point them to places where they almost immediately could become useful in “the work.” But many men and women who came to Moody for help came from backgrounds similar to his. They grew up in rural or urban poverty, and they had little or no education beyond the elementary levels of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Moody’s heart went out to such people and consequently “the work” took on new and formal dimensions. In his home base, Chicago, Mr. Moody managed to recruit a college professor from Illinois State Normal University, Emma Dryer, to oversee a training school for women who felt called to home and foreign mission work. Already by 1879 a local historian called it “Mr. Moody’s Theological Seminary.” Of course it was hardly sophisticated enough for that lofty title, but within a few years the Chicago Bible Training School for women opened its doors to men. Gradually a small work for women became the Chicago Bible Institute that, after Moody’s death, became Moody Bible Institute that remains strong to this day.
The Chicago school proved to be a mere prelude to the planting of other educational institutions. Mr. Moody began to share his ever-widening vision to see men and women, both young and old, be mentored and educated as part of “the work” to spread the gospel all over America and to the ends of the earth. Moody networked with prosperous men in Chicago, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia—among them John Farwell the Chicago dry-goods king; John Wannamaker, a Philadelphia department store magnate; Philip Armour, the meat-packing mogul; Colonel Julius J. Estey, of Estey Organ Company fame; and philanthropists such as Mrs. Cyrus P. (Nettie) McCormick. Moody personally invested in these people—helping them to grow in their faith and unabashedly asking them to help underwrite training for economically deprived young people. In the final analysis, a powerful network of Christian philanthropists, educators, and ministers formed that enabled several of Moody’s visions to become reality.
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