Saturday, 28 July 2012

D. L. Moody

While in Chicago recently we worshipped in the Moody Church in Chicago. It is a very imposing building capable of seating 4000 people. There were probably about 2500 in the morning service. The Lord's Supper was held during it and although the congregation was large, it only took about ten minutes for the bread and wine to be passed round the rows of seats.

We heard an excellent sermon on the differences between a Christian and every other type of person. A Christian travels via the cross of Calvary, and because he has been there he has different values (coming from his new heart) and a different destination (heaven). The preacher stressed the necessity of a changed life before a person can be regarded as a true Christian.

After the morning service, one of the staff introduced visitors to some of the features of Moody Church. It is not the building in which D. L. Moody preached, but was built about twenty-five years after he died. Because it was constructed before the age of microphones, it had to be designed in such a way that every word from the preacher could be heard in every inch of the building. The member of staff illustrated that this was the case with the building, although now they use microphones.

Our guide told us several stories about D. L. Moody. It is reckoned that he preached to twenty million people all over the world; on one occasion he preached to a crowd of over 15000 in Glasgow. Although he preached several times a day at times, and was often exhausted by the evening, Moody resolved never to let a day pass in which he did not speak personally to a new individual about Jesus. So if he did not manage to do so during the day, he would not go to bed until he had found a new individual to tell about Jesus.

On one occasion, Moody preached a two-part sermon. He planned to use the first sermon to explain the gospel and to use the second sermon to apply it. So at the end of the first sermon, after he had explained the gospel, Moody told his congregation to go home and think about the gospel, expecting to see them the following Sunday. Yet many of them did not live to hear the next sermon because shortly after the first sermon was over, a fire began which burned the entire city to the ground. Some of Moody's hearers perished. His response was to insist from then on in every sermon that his hearers make an immediate response to the gospel offer. And he was right to do so. Nobody knows what lies between one sermon and the next.

Moody had a great love for young people. He held special services for the many who had been left to wander the streets. Some of his methods were regarded as unbecoming by some of the more snooty churchgoers and they looked down upon his efforts, calling him Crazy Moody. The Lord arranged for Moody to be vindicated however. Shortly afterwards, a visitor to Chicago insisted on being introduced to Moody because he had heard about his methods. The visitor was Abraham Lincoln, who was on his way to Washington to become President. He did not ask to see the critics, but he did want to see the man who was trying to do something about the spiritual needs of the lost.

What was the secret of Moody's power? He had little education, was devoid of grammar (his wife had to write letters for him), and did not plan to be a preacher. One day he heard a preacher say, 'The world has yet to see what God can do with a man who is totally devoted to him.' Moody said in his heart, 'I would like to be that man.' So he devoted himself to serving God and little by little God opened doors for him to serve. Beginning with the young people and the down and outs in Chicago, eventually he found himself preaching all over the world. Through Moody's influence, God led countless others to serve him in an incredible number of ways. But the secret was that Moody was willing to serve God in places that others refused to go to. And he now has his reward.

I know that we have problems with some aspects of Moody's theology and evangelistic methods. I have been reading again the estimations expressed of Moody by Spurgeon and Andrew Bonar. No doubt, they could see flaws because no-one is perfect. Yet they rejoiced to see his zeal for Jesus.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Writing about Jesus

Recently I started reading a book with a rather uninspiring title called Sermons on Important Doctrines. We are told not to judge a book by its cover; neither should we judge one by its title, at least not this one. Mind you, I bought it because I have benefitted greatly from other books by the author, John Colquhoun, who was a much-loved minister in Edinburgh a couple of centuries ago.

This book could be summarised as describing what Jesus did for and can do for each of his followers. It begins with his person and moves on to his actions. Whenever I look at a book, I ask myself, 'What are the qualifications that the author will need for writing such a book?' Here are five that I would say are necessary for writing about Jesus:

An understanding of doctrine is essential because it is easy to go wrong; fortunately, Colquhoun understood what the Bible says about Jesus and is a sure guide.

A longing for his listeners and his readers to grasp what he had to say is also essential (it is an interesting subjective experience to realise that this preacher, who was dead long before I was born, was concerned for all who would read his words). 

 A third essential qualification for preaching and writing about Jesus is a warm love for him, and Colquhoun certainly had such a love.

Connected to the third qualification is a fourth, which is that the preacher/writer should enjoy speaking/writing about his Master. And Colquhoun lets us know his enjoyment when he says at the beginning, 'In elucidating this delightful subject...'

The fifth essential qualification is dependence on the Holy Spirit, which Colquhoun admits was his outlook.

As I made my way through the book, it remained obvious that the author possessed these qualifications.