Dwight Moody also adopted less formal means to equip people. Early on in ministry, Moody saw the need for Christian books and magazines. To that end he managed to get his brother-in-law, Fleming H. Revell, to launch what became a highly successful publishing house where books by men such as A. J. Gordon, F. B. Meyer, R. A. Torrey, A. T. Pierson, D. W. Whittle, and Moody himself were published and circulated throughout the English-speaking world.
When Fleming Revell refused to risk expanding his publishing company into the untried field of inexpensive paperback books, Moody began his own publishing company, the Bible Institute Colportage Association. This venture produced hundreds of new titles that could be inexpensively printed and distributed to prisons, jails, schools, and churches and eventually became Chicago’s famous Moody Publishing and Moody Press.
Besides printing inexpensive books as methods for evangelism and disciple making, Mr. Moody became an early advocate of summer conferences. Utilizing the hills and rocky fields surrounding his boyhood home and the Northfield and Mount Hermon Schools, Moody sponsored week-long summer Bible and deeper-life conferences where some of the world’s best Bible teachers and preachers were brought to teach and inspire laymen and women.
Finally, D. L. Moody, who always had a burden to train young people for “the work,” sponsored summer conferences for college students. His first such meeting was held on the Mount Hermon Boys’ School campus from July 7 to 31, 1886. More than 240 students traveled by train and foot, lived in tents or in the open air, to be mentored by authors, missionaries, and preachers whom God would use to call them to home and foreign ministry. Soon students from as far away as the United Kingdom, Japan, German, Norway, and Siam descended upon northwestern Massachusetts—making tiny Northfield a place of international significance.
Few people have done more than Dwight L. Moody to evangelize lost souls and mentor and train the next generation to fulfill the Great Commission. What explains his extraordinary success? First of all, from the moment he heard the British evangelist Henry Varley say, “It remains to be seen what the Lord can do with a man wholly consecrated to Christ,” the idea captivated him. He determined to be such a man. Moody was a “chosen vessel,” to be sure. But he gradually became a man with a single eye. Few men or women in modern times have been as determined as Dwight L. Moody to experience the truth of 2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the whole earth, to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” Every person who knew Moody well observed his love for Jesus Christ, his passion for souls, and commitment to do what he believed the Lord called him to do. To his friend D. W. Whittle he wrote, “I have done one thing, and the work is wonderful. One thing is my motto.” His son Will said, “Nothing could sever him from this deep-rooted purpose of his life, and in all the various educational and publishing projects to which he gave his energy. . . . There was but one motive—the proclamation of the Gospel through multiplied agencies.”
The Rev. Dr. Lyle Dorsett holds the Billy Graham Chair of Evangelism at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of numerous books, among them biographies of Joy Davidman (Mrs. C.S. Lewis), E.M. Bounds, Dwight L. Moody, and Billy Sunday. Dr. Dorsett is ordained in the Anglican Church and serves as Senior Pastor of Christ the King Anglican Church in Homewood, Alabama. Lyle and his wife, Mary, have two children and four grandchildren. The Dorsetts founded and currently serve as directors of Christ for Children International, a mission to the economically and spiritually impoverished in Mexico.
Sources: For this article, I have relied upon Lyle W. Dorsett, A Passion for Souls: The Life of D. L. Moody (1997).
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