The Tenth in a Series on Revival
Dwight L. Moody: Evangelism, the Heart of Revival
By Ken Horn
Revival is glorious. It is wonderful when God sovereignly
touches a church that has been dry and lukewarm, and it leaps to spiritual
life. Worship is energized, there is an air of expectancy and faith, gifts of
the Holy Spirit operate, pews are filled, believers repent, and their
But there is another sign necessary to validate any revival.
When God is truly moving, souls are being saved.
Turning unbelievers into believers is what revival is all
about. How should this happen? Should we await a dynamic, sovereign move of God
that catapults a slumbering congregation into spiritual vitality? That’s great
when it happens. But it’s not the biblical norm.
There is nothing more valuable than a human soul. This truth
is repeatedly driven home to those enveloped by genuine revival. Spiritual
excitement pales into insignificance where no sinners come to the Cross. Lack
of evangelism brands the most spirited worship service mere human enthusiasm.
The church does indeed need revival. But it also needs more
of this basic ingredient of revival — evangelism. It doesn’t take a
professional minister to evangelize. In fact, laypeople can often be more
effective at evangelism than their pastors — because unbelievers are more
likely to listen to them.
Great revivals can begin years before they are noticed. Some
faithful Christian, little known or unnamed by history, leads a soul into the
Kingdom — a new believer who later is used by God as a spark for revival.
Such was the case of Sunday School teacher Edward Kimball, who hesitantly
stopped at a shoe store and led a young clerk to the Lord. We know little of
Kimball. Few even recognize his name. But church history abounds with
information about the young man — Dwight L. Moody. He was one of the
greatest revivalists ever, used by God for the salvation of multiplied
thousands in America and overseas.
Moody was truly an evangelist, in the most basic sense of
the word. He had a lifelong commitment to soul winning. He saw the big picture,
with hundreds at a time coming to Christ in his mass meetings. And he saw the
small picture, regularly sharing his faith and leading souls one at a time to
the Lord. Moody lived to share the good news, the evangel, the gospel of Jesus
Christ. He lived to tell others of their need for a Savior and to bring them to
History is hard-pressed to find another individual so
devoted and effective at personal evangelism.
Moody’s heart had been stirred by another revivalist, Henry
Varley, when Varley said to him, “Moody, the world has yet to see what God can
do with a man fully consecrated to Him.”
Later, Moody would say, “I aim to be that man.”
Moody looked at large cities as a key to nationwide
awakening. “If we can stir [America’s cities], we can stir the whole country,”
he once said.
Moody walked the streets of Chicago, reaching out to the
lost and needy, doing his part in the stirring.
He made a personal commitment to share Christ with at least
one person every day. One evening he wearily slipped into bed, and it dawned on
him that he had not witnessed that day. Though tired in body, he quickly arose,
dressed, and walked to Chicago’s skid row, where he spent time talking to an
alcoholic about his soul. He led the man to Jesus.
Moody was technically a layman. Born in poverty and forced
to drop out of school to work at a young age, it seemed he had nothing going
for him. He never had formal seminary training and was never ordained. Yet he
traveled a million miles and preached to 100 million people. He saw hundreds of
Moody stressed the need to involve laypeople in evangelism.
He had only been a Christian for three years when the Prayer Meeting Revival of
1858 provided him the example.
He also stressed the connection between revival and good
works, providing a model of involvement and social reform as necessary outcomes
of any move of God. He founded schools, orphanages … even book companies.
Moody probably took the greatest leaps of any revivalist in
standardizing revival efforts. Perhaps his greatest innovation was a fully
focused music program. He recognized that music could move the human soul. Ira
Sankey pioneered this role for Moody’s meetings. One writer opined that Sankey
had become as effective at preaching the gospel by song as Moody was by sermon.
Moody gave Sankey and his music a full 30 minutes at the beginning of each
In 1871 the Great Chicago Fire took Moody’s home, church,
and the YMCA he served. After a brief time of depression, he returned to
ministry with a new fervor. Moody ministered to the practical needs of the
teeming throngs in the inner city, yet he never put social work above the
gospel. His burden for the city was translated into souls for the Kingdom.
Many Christians await “the day” when revival will hit their
church, when unbelievers will start showing up and getting saved. But as
believers pray for revival, they must not ignore what they can do now: witness
in the power of the Holy Spirit. If Christians took this to heart, more
churches would be in revival.
When revival comes, it may seem sudden. But it really brings
to fruition seeds that have been planted, watered and cultivated over a period
of years. Where Moody’s shoe store once stood, a plaque now reads, “In a shop
on this site D.L. Moody was converted in 1855.” It could as well say, “In a
shop on this site, Edward Kimball started a revival.” Few of us can be another
Moody. But most of us can be another Kimball. Your personal revival awaits. And
so do unsaved millions.
KEN HORN is editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and blogs at
This series began in the Jan. 11 issue.
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