The life of Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) is a powerful testimony to the saving work of Jesus Christ.
Moody converted to Christ as a humble shoe salesman in Massachusetts and soon decided to give his life to Christian work, eventually pioneering many different types of ministry.
Here are some different areas in which Moody served:
- Christian work with the YMCA (that started off as the Young Man’s Christian Association)
- Starting Sunday School programs in Chicago and across the nation
- Starting what is now Moody Church in Chicago, IL
- Journeying overseas and leading evangelistic campaigns (specifically in England and Scotland)
- Starting several ministry training schools including what is now Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL
- Publishing evangelistic Christian literature through what is now called Moody Publishers
All of the areas of Moody’s ministry thrived under his leadership – it seemed like Moody had the Midas Touch.
Many different times in his life he was stretched very thin because of his participation in so many different ministries—but God blessed the work that he did, and many of the fruits of his labor continue to this day.
So why was Dwight L. Moody so successful? Lyle Dorsett in A Passion for Souls: The Life of D.L. Moody offers ten reasons why he was so effective:
Moody’s commitment was described by some as being excessive. Moody’s son, William Moody, had this to say about his father’s commitment: “nothing could swerve him from this deep rooted purpose of his life [the proclamation of the gospel] (388).”
How could any man work for so long with one purpose in mind without a deep and resolved commitment?
The words of British evangelist Henry Varley seemed to be seared in the mind and heart of D. L. Moody:
“It remains for the world to see what the Lord can do with a man wholly consecrated to Christ.” —Henry Varley
2. A Willingness to Take Risks
Moody firmly believed that “God never worked mightily through people until they were willing to risk everything for His glory.”
Whether it be large building projects, choosing a diversity of ministry partners, or large evangelistic undertakings (like his international preaching tours or an extensive plan for evangelizing guests at the 1893 World’s Fair), Moody was willing to take risks.
And God blessed the risks he took.
Only a visionary leader could be the catalyst behind several ministry schools, lead international evangelistic campaigns, start a Sunday school movement, plant a church (almost by accident), and start a publishing company.
Dorsett describes how Moody would develop his vision: “[Moody] read the Scriptures, prayed, and listened to God. Then, as soon as he had a vision, he went forth with confidence that a path would open and provisions would follow” (390).
4. Sense of the Holy Spirit
Early in Moody’s ministry, Moody would do whatever ministry work he desired and thought best, then he would ask God to bless it. Later on he learned to seek where the Holy Spirit desired to work and then he would follow the Lord’s leading.
Moody’s “secret power” of following the Spirit’s call led him to say,
“Without this power [of the Holy Spirit], our work will be drudgery. With it, it becomes a joyful task, a refreshing service” (393).
5. A High View of Scripture
Moody did not question the Bible’s direct and special revelation and saw it as God’s message to humanity. Although Moody never had formal theological training, he committed himself to be a lifelong student of the Bible.
Due to his packed schedule, the only Bible time Moody was able to have consistently was very early in the morning. Moody’s life reflected the truth of his friend and hero, Charles Spurgeon’s quote on God’s word,
“You do not need to bring life to the Scriptures, you draw life from the Scriptures.” Charles Spurgeon
6. A Christ-Centered Life
Moody knew deep down the truth that Jesus Christ is the key to the Old Testament and The One revealed in the New (as Jesus explained to His disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24).
In all that Moody did and established, he sought to make Christ the center and focus, exhorting those under his influence to “make Christ the cornerstone of your lives.”
7. A Confidence in Young People
Dwight Moody made it a goal of his life to pour into younger generations, mainly in the schools that he opened in Mount Hermon and Northfield, MA, and also the school that later became known as Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL. Moody himself would make sure that the tuition of poorer and less-privileged students was taken care of out of his own pocket.
His ministry in Chicago started serving the poorest children in Chicago, and eventually would leave an impact on students at Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia, and Cornell.
Moody, a minister without any formal theological education, placed himself before great Christians who could impart wisdom.
He would pick the brains of George Mueller, Charles Spurgeon, C.H. MacIntosh, and others, asking them questions so he could glean ministry wisdom from them. Moody knew that there is always something to learn and areas to improve in, even if you are “successful” in the eyes of the world.
This important leadership quality shows the ninth key to Moody’s effectiveness.
Related Post: Characteristics of a Teachable Spirit
Before Lecrae made it cool, Moody loved to play the background. One example of Moody’s humility comes from the conferences organized by Moody that featured prominent Bible teachers and evangelists.
Some of the world’s best Bible teachers and evangelists ministered at conferences organized by Moody, and Moody would keep himself out of the limelight, humbly attending sessions and making no spectacle of his presence.
10. A Love for Souls
Moody’s love for the souls of those he ministered to under lied all of Moody’s ministry. Moody’s evangelistic strategy stressed the love of God, which is what deeply influenced Moody to grow in his faith and serve in ministry.
Moody would seek out individuals to counsel and lead into salvation, something many high profile ministers try and avoid. He would always try and communicate the gospel and plan of salvation as clearly as possible, knowing that some who had never yet heard or believed may be present.
The great preacher F. B. Meyer once asked D. L. Moody, “What is the secret of your success?” Moody replied, “For many years I have never given an address without the consciousness that the Lord may come before I have finished.”
In the end, these 10 characteristics led to Moody’s effectiveness. Moody knew that God had called him to work, and that his work would be effective:
“If God calls a man to work, He will be with him in that work, and he will succeed no matter what the obstacles may be.” – D.L. Moody