[b]God used Moody despite the mans flaws.[/b]
By Lyle W. Dorsett
ONE OF THE MOST ENCOURAGING THEMES IN THE BIBLE IS GODS WILLINGNESS TO WORK THROUGH FLAWED PEOPLE IF THEY ARE HUMBLE ENOUGH TO CONFESS THEIR SINS AND REPENT. King David loved and served God, but also he committed grievous sins. Yet in each instance David confessed and genuinely repented. Consequently God forgave him and used him mightily.
Dwight L. Moody, like King David, manifested a passionate love for God
and like the ancient king, he sinned boldly and made his share of mistakes. Although he neither committed adultery nor caused anyone to be murdered, at times he displayed violent outbursts of temper, and on occasion he pridefully disregarded the interests and feelings of others.
One night during the early 1870s, for example, he had been preaching day and night for several weeks. After an afternoon session, a critic followed Moody and heckled him all the way to the back of the auditorium. Moodys temper flared, he turned on the man, and pushed him down a flight of stairs. Greatly distressed by his anger, a humiliated D.L. Moody apologized on the spot. Then he confessed his sin to God and made a public apology to the entire congregation at the evening service. God honored Moodys contrition and used him powerfully.
D.L. Moodys stature as a giant of 19th-century evangelicalism is beyond question. The positive effects of his ministry are still being felt. Nonetheless, like other strong leaders throughout Christian history, he had his imperfections.
OVERWORK BRINGS STRESS
One of the persistent sins that beset Moody was overwork. Tempted to see every need as a call, this energetic preacher would often push himself to extremes that would have killed most men. As early as the late 1860s, when his evangelistic ministry was still in its infancy, Moody pursued a grinding schedule. Sometimes he became so overworked that he went to the brink of emotional collapse. Flaring temper, forgetfulness, and neglect of family became the telltale marks of impending collapse. In 1866, he got so busy that he failed to get home from Iowa for Christmas in Chicago with his wife, Emma, and their first child. During one particularly stressful period in the 1860s he even forgot to buy food for his wife and little girl.
D.L. Moody would always pull out of these wilderness times when he slowed down enough to take a few days or weeks off to visit the family homestead in western Massachusetts.
HOT TEMPER, REMORSE
Still, he lost his poise occasionally and would irrationally launch a verbal assault on friends or colleagues and then repent in genuine remorse and humiliation.
One such instance occurred in New York City in spring 1876. Moody had scheduled a campaign of several weeks at the Hippodrome in Manhattan. Many people were coming, and the meetings were going well, but everyones endurance was taxed to the limit. Just before Holy Week, a sizeable group of local pastors excused themselves for a week, no doubt so they could handle the heavy responsibilities in their churches. Moody took their absences as a personal affront and as a dereliction of duty for the Lords work. Consequently he chastised the departed ministers and abruptly canceled the remainder of the schedule. What particularly offended everyone was the fact that buildings were rented, staff members were hired, and thousands of people from out of town were stranded with no services to attend.
"I lost my good sense," Moody admitted in the aftermath of his tantrum. "I closed this meeting in the Hippodrome. In doing so I grieved the Holy Spirit."
Internationally famous by the middle 1870s, Moody amazed people by his humility. He always publicly confessed his sins of anger. Then he followed up with apologies and reconciliation wherever possible. Nevertheless, a hot temper haunted him throughout his life.
LEADING VS. MEDDLING
Some of the most regrettable eruptions came in board meetings. His wife seemed the only person able to restrain him. At one meeting in Chicago, he rebuked his faithful board of directors for not going along with one of his plans. Then he resigned telling them to take over and run it themselves. Only a devastatingly sharp letter from Emma Dryer and the intervention of Emma Moody kept the impetuous visionary from destroying his relationship with the Cyrus McCormick family.
Moodys meddling in everything he started, plus his inability to delegate authority to his trustees, was nowhere more pronounced than in the church he planted. The Chicago Avenue Church always attracted large crowds, and countless thousands of souls were rescued and nurtured within its doors. Yet during the 33 years between its founding and D.L. Moodys death, probably no church in Chicago underwent so many pastoral changes. At least a dozen men served as regular or interim pastor in the last two decades of his life.
Charles Blanchard, president of Wheaton College and one of the interim pastors, bemoaned that in those days, "the church was a good deal shattered." The reason: Moody would never leave the pastors alone. He tried to run the church from England or Massachusetts. When he came to Chicago, he expected to have control of the pulpit. In short, no pastor found the freedom to develop his own vision without Moody interfering and upsetting the program.
Ironically, this man who inadvertently hurt people with his temper, authoritarian methods, and domineering personality caused other problems because he so feared causing offense. C.I. Scofield, whom Moody got appointed to the pastorate of the Northfield Congregational Church, was a case in point. When Scofield tried to take over the theology and biblical studies curriculum at the Northfield Seminary, Moody refused to intervene.
Scofield totally overstepped his authority because he was a part-time teacher. Yet when the principal appealed to Moody to support her in her rightful role, he dodged the fight. Consequently the seminary lost a valuable top administrator and teacher.
Because Moody wanted to find areas of agreement among representatives of different denominations and traditions, he did much to further Christian unity. On the other hand, Moody determined to avoid conflicts, in the name of allowing the work of missions and evangelism to go forward. Consequently, he sometimes left other people with the task of making decisions he should have made.
For example, Moody never made it perfectly clear that he would not tolerate a drift away from conservative, biblical Christianity. Despite words of caution and admonition from conservative administrators, Moody insisted on keeping men like George Adam Smith and Henry Drummond on the Northfield speakers roster long after their theology shifted outside the mainstream of orthodox Christianity.
ABLE TO BE USED
In looking back at his life, it is obvious that Dwight L. Moody was a man used powerfully by God to reach the lost and train up a long line of men and women to work in the great harvest.
He preached the gospel to more than 100 million people. His energy and vision gave birth to an urban Sunday school movement among the poor. He founded four Christian schools, inspired two Christian book publishing houses, built a church, and personally discipled a host of men and women who carried the gospel to the ends of the earth.
As exceptional and admirable as he was, Moody still exhibited enough flaws to remind us that our Lord uses people who are willing to confess their sins and truly repent.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon