The year was 1858. The city was Chicago, Illinois. A certain man prayed before going to a shoe store to speak with the young sales clerk who worked there: “I’m concerned about you. Can we talk?” A short time later, the two men knelt in the stockroom of that store and the clerk asked Jesus to save him from his sins. The young salesman was Dwight Lyman Moody. Years later he wrote this about that encounter: “Here was a man who had known me only two weeks and yet he was concerned enough to confront me.” D. L. Moody quickly became recognized throughout the United States as a gifted evangelist. In 1879, because of his growing reputation, Moody was invited to preach in England by a well-known pastor, F. B. Meyer. No sooner had Meyer heard Moody preach than he regretted ever inviting him to deliver a series of sermons to his congregation. He viewed Moody’s style as uncouth, and his use of the English language as unlearned.
As soon as Moody departed, Meyer set out to assess the damage he was sure Moody had done. He spoke first to the teacher of the girls’ Sunday School class. As soon as he mentioned Moody’s name, she said “Oh Dr. Meyer, I have been under such conviction since I heard Mr. Moody speak. His messages encouraged me to visit each girl in my class personally – and I have led everyone of them to Christ.”
Meyer went home and prayed for God to forgive his judging attitude and give him more of a heart for the lost. God answered his prayers and his preaching took on an evangelistic tone; souls were saved and his congregation began to grow. Meyer’s reputation as an evangelist spread throughout England. Before long he was invited to America. Among his engagements was a series of meetings on college campuses, no doubt because of his intellectual style. At one college meeting a student named J. Wilbur Chapman responded to his gospel message and accepted Christ.
Soon after that, Chapman went to work for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). When it came time to increase his staff, he made sure he hired “on-fire” Christians. One of them was a new believer named Billy Sunday.
Sunday soon began doing the work of an evangelist in and through the YMCA. On one occasion, he spoke to a group of businessmen in Charlotte, North Carolina about the power of prayer. They were so inspired by his message that they began to pray for revival. Some months later they were led by the Holy Spirit to invite Mordecai Hamm to come to Charlotte for a series of evangelistic meetings.
During one of Hamm’s evening tent meetings, a young man in the audience felt that the evangelist was pointing his sermons directly at him. The next night he joined the choir so he would be behind Hamm instead of in his line of sight. That night, the Holy Spirit led Hamm to turn around and preach his entire message to the choir. When the invitation came, without hesitation the young man named Billy Graham went forth and gave his life to Christ. And so goes the story of evangelistic succession. Well, most of it anyway, as we’re not quite finished.
We’ve heard of Graham, Hamm, Sunday, Chapman, Meyer and Moody. But do we know who led Moody to Christ? As a young man Moody moved from Boston, Massachusetts to Chicago, Illinois where he took a job as a salesman in a shoe store. His employer insisted that all employees attend Sunday School, so Moody began attending a class led by Edward Kimball. It was Kimball who went to see Moody that afternoon in the shoe store. We’ve heard the names of the great evangelists, but who ever heard of Edward Kimball? Who is the greater evangelist?
Unfortunately, in this world the few well-known evangelists get all the attention. But the true unsung heroes of the Church are the millions of unknown Sunday School teachers who prayerfully prepare their lessons and faithfully show up every Sunday to present the Good News and lead young souls to Christ. Ask any of the well-known evangelists and they will tell you that the greater evangelist is the one who introduced them to the greatest evangelist of all, the Lord Jesus Christ.
By Larry Ondrejack
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org