The Staggering Influence Of D L Moody

The seeds of the "revivalist gospel" were spread throughout the Western world by the mammoth influence of D. L. Moody (1837-1899).

Properly conceived, the goal of preaching is not the salvation of souls. It is the birth of the church. As one scholar put it, "Conversion can only be the means; the goal is the extension of the visible church." Karl Muller, ed., Dictionary of Mission: Theology. History, Perspectives (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997), 431. Scholar D. J. Tifton has echoed the same thought saying. "Paul's primary interest was not in the conversion of individuals hut in the formation of Christian communities." Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), 885. The Frontier-Revivalists had no concept of the ekklesia. J]l White, Protestant Worship and Church Architecture, 121-124. See 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 1-3.

John Wesley, "Sermon on the Mount IV," Sermons on Several Occasions (London: Epworth Press, 1956), 237. IJ! Ibid., 132. See for details on Dick's mimeograph stencil invention.

Ferguson, Early Christians Speak, 84. Written liturgies first came into being in the fourth century. But they were not put into bulletin form until the nineteenth century.

He traveled more than one million miles and preached to more than 100 million people—in the century before airplanes, microphones, television, or the Internet. Moody's gospel, like Whitefield's, had but one center—salvation for the sinner. He preached the gospel with a focus on individuals, and his theology was encapsulated in the three Rs: ruined by sin, redeemed by Christ, and regenerated by the Spirit. While those are certainly critical elements of the faith, Moody apparently did not recognize that the eternal purpose of God goes far beyond redemption.'"

Moody's preaching was dominated by this single interest— individual salvation. He instituted the solo hymn that followed the pastor's sermon. The invitational solo hymn was sung by a soloist until George Beverly Shea encouraged Billy Graham to employ a choir to sing songs like "Just As I Am" as people came forward to receive Christ.'"

Moody gave us door-to-door witnessing and evangelistic advertising/ campaigning.'" He gave us the "gospel song" or "gospel hymn. 134 And he popularized the "decision card," an invention of Absalom B. Earle (1812-1895).135

In addition, Moody was the first to ask those who wanted to be saved to stand up from their seats and be led in a "sinner's prayer."'" Some fifty years later, Billy Graham upgraded Moody's technique. He introduced the practice of asking the audience to bow their heads, close their eyes ("with no one looking around"), and raise their hands in response to the salvation message.'" (All of these methods have met

1!1 Christian History 9, no. 1 (1990); Douglas, Who's Who in Christian History, 483-485; Terry, Evangelism, 151-152; H. Richard Niebuhr and Daniel D. Williams, The Ministry in Historical Perspectives (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1956), 256. While God certainly wants souls to be redeemed by Christ, that is just the first step in what He is ultimately after. We are not against evangelism, but when we make that our entire focus, evangelism becomes a duty rather than something that happens spontaneously when Christians are consumed with Christ. Believers in the early church were completely Christ-focused, which is why our evangelism methods and outlook are so different from theirs. For a thorough discussion of God's eternal purpose, see Viola, God's Ultimate Passion.

Streett, Effective Invitation. 193-194, 197. m Terry, Evangelism, 153-154, 185.

David P. Appleby, History of Church Music (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), 142.

Streett, Effective Invitation, 97. "Each person who came forward signed a card to indicate his pledge to live a Christian life and to show a church preference. This portion of the card was retained by the personal worker, so some form of follow-up could be worked out. Another portion of the card was given to the new Christian as a guide for Christian living" (pages 97-98). Ibid., 98. For more information on the "sinner's prayer," see chapter 9. JT Ibid., 112-113.1n his forty-fifth year of ministry, Graham had preached to 100 million people in 85 different countries (Pastor's Notes4, no. 2: 7).

fierce opposition by those who argue that they are psychologically manipulative.)'"

For Moody, "the church was a voluntary association of the saved."' So staggering was his influence that by 1874 the church was not seen as a grand corporate body but as a gathering of individuals.'" This emphasis was picked up by every revivalist who followed him.' And it eventually entered into the marrow and bones of evangelical Christianity.

It is also worth noting that Moody was heavily influenced by the Plymouth Brethren teaching on the end times. This was the teaching that Christ may return at any second before the great Tribulation. (This teaching is also called "pretribulational dispensationalism.")142

Pretribulational dispensationalism gave rise to the idea that Christians must act quickly to save as many souls as possible before the world ends.'" With the founding of the Student Volunteer Movement by John Mott in 1888, a related idea sprang forth: "The evangelization of the world in one generation."' The "in one generation" watchword still lives and breathes in the church today.' Yet it does not map well with the mind-set of the first-century Christians who did not appear to be pressured into trying to get the entire world saved in one generation.'

lain H. Murray, The Invitational System (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1967). Murray distinguishes between "revival" which is an authentic, spontaneous work of God's Spirit and "revivalism" which is the human methods of obtaining (at least in appearance) the signs of conviction, repentance, and rebirth. The use of psychological and social pressures to bring converts is part of "revivalism" (pp. xvii—xix). See also Jim Ehrhard, "The Dangers of the Invitation System" (Parkville, MO: Christian Communicators Worldwide, 1999), Niebuhr and Williams, Ministry in Historical Perspectives, 256.

Sandra Sizer, Gospel Hymns and Social Religion (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978), 134.

Moody along with Great Awakening preachers like George Whitefield strongly appealed to the emotions. They were influenced by the philosophy of Romanticism, the body of thought stressing the will and emotions. This was a reaction to the stress on reason that marked earlier Christian thinking that was shaped by the Enlightenment (David W. Bebbington, "How Moody Changed Revivalism," Christian History no. 1 (1990): 23). The Awakening preachers' emphasis was the individual's heartfelt response to God. Conversion came to be viewed as the paramount goal of divine activities. As J. Stephen Lang and Mark A. Noll point out, "Because of the preaching of the Awakening, the sense of religious self intensified. The principle of individual choice became forever ingrained in American Protestantism and is still evident today among evangelicals and many others" (J. Stephen Lang and Mark A. Noll, "Colonial New England: An Old Order, A New Awakening," Christan History 4, no. 4 [1985): 9-10).

John Nelson Darby spawned this teaching. The origin of Darby's pretribulational doctrine is fascinating. See Dave MacPherson, The Incredible Cover-Up (Medford, OR: Omega Publications, 1975). Bebbington, "How Moody Changed Revivalism," 23-24.

Daniel G. Reid, Concise Dictionary of Christianity in America (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995), 330. Example: The AD 2000 and Beyond movement, etc.

The apostles stayed in Jerusalem for many years before they went "unto the uttermost parts of the earth" as Jesus predicted. They were in no hurry to evangelize the world. Equally, the church in Jerusalem did not evangelize anyone for the first four years of its life. They, too, were in no hurry to evangelize the world. Finally, there is not the faintest whisper in any of the New Testament epistles where an apostle tells a church to evangelize because "the hour is late and the days are few." (n short, there is nothing wrong with Christians having a burden to save as many souls as they can within a specific time frame. But there is no biblical justification or divine precedent to put that particular burden on all of God's people.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
The Power Of Charisma

The Power Of Charisma

You knowthere's something about you I like. I can't put my finger on it and it's not just the fact that you will download this ebook but there's something about you that makes you attractive.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment