Chapter 24 - Revival Conventions

Table of Contents

A Typical Convention - What is Evangelistic Service? - We Want New hymns - Apt Replies to Questions.

In the early days of Mr. Moody's evangelistic experience, frequent revival conventions were held, when questions were asked by the people and answered by the great leader, as a result of which hundreds of Christian workers were instructed in the special conduct of evangelistic services, and many ministers went out to do the work which they felt themselves before unable to perform. No wiser counsel was ever given. I remember in one of these conventions, Mr. Moody spoke as follows:


"Some one said to me, 'What do you mean by evangelistic services? Is not all service evangelistic? And what do you mean by preaching the Gospel? Are not all services in the churches and all meetings preaching the Gospel?' "By no means. There is the greatest difference. There are really three services in every church; at least there ought to be; there is worshipping God; this is not preaching the Gospel at all. We come to the house of God to worship at times when we meet around the Lord's table. Then there is teaching, that is building up the church, but it is not preaching the Gospel. Then there is the proclaiming the good news to the world, that is, to the unsaved; that is really Gospel preaching. Now the question we have before us is how can these services be conducted to make them profitable? Well, I should say first of all, you must make them interesting. If people go to sleep in church, they certainly need to be roused up, and if one method fails, try another, but I think we ought to use our common sense in all this work. We talk a great deal about this, but I think it is about the least sense we have, especially in the Lord's work. This preaching to empty seats don't pay. If people do not come to hear us, let us go where they are, and I have come to this conclusion, that if we are going to have successful Gospel meetings, we have got to have a little more life in them. Life is found in singing new hymns. For instance, I know some churches that have been singing about a dozen hymns for the last twenty years, such hymns as "Rock of Ages" "Jesus, Lover of my Soul." These hymns are always good, but we want a variety. We want new hymns as well as old ones.


I find it wakes up a congregation tremendously to bring in now and then a new hymn, and if we cannot wake them up by preaching, let us sing the Gospel into them. I believe the secret of John Wesley's success was that he sent every man to work as soon as he was converted, and if people cannot speak, let us make them sing.

Then, again, the question is asked as to whether we ought, in holding revival services, to change the minister every evening? I frequently receive letters telling me about special meetings, how the people turned out well, but there were no results, and I found out that they had a Methodist minister one night, a Baptist minister another, an Episcopal minister another, a Congregational minister another, in order to keep all denominations in, and the result was, they preached everybody out of doors. One man gets the people all interested, and just at the point where he needs to continue his own ministrations, another steps in, he goes out, and the people frequently go out with him. Then these meetings ought to be made short. I find a great many are killed because they are too long. The minister speaks five minutes, and a minister's five minutes is generally ten, and his ten minutes quite often twenty, and the result is often long sermons drive people out of the spirit before the meeting is over. When the people leave they are glad to go home, and ought to go home. Now, you send the people away hungry and they will want to come back. There was a man in London who preached in the open air until everybody left him, and somebody said, "Why did you preach so long?" and he said, " I thought it would be a pity to stop while anybody was listening." It is a great deal better to cut right off. Then the people will want to come back.


At this point, Mr. Moody paused for questions, and he was always at his best when answering these questions in such services. He had the keenest mind and the most apt replies possible.

Q:- - Would you start a meeting where there is no special interest in the church?

Mr. Moody: - Certainly I would. So many people are saying to-day that they are waiting for God to favor Zion, and the fact is God has been waiting to favor Zion ever since Pentecost. They have no calendar in Heaven. God can work one month as well as another, and he is always ready when we are ready.

Q:- - Suppose a minister is interested, and there is no special feeling among the people. Would you call in outside help?

Mr. Moody: - That is a very important question. If I were a minister in a community or a church, and could not get more than one or two to sympathize with me, I would just get them around to my study, and we would pray and go forth in the name of the Lord, and say, "We are going to have a meeting." Three men filled with the Spirit of God can move any town in this country.

Q:- -Suppose the congregation is alive and the minister is dead?

Mr. Moody: - Then let the congregation go on without the minister.

Q:- -Suppose the minister wont permit them?

Mr. Moody: - He cannot prevent it. A man that wants to work for God can do so; nobody can stop him.

Q:- - Suppose there is a difficulty in the church which cannot be removed?

Mr. Moody: - I do not know of anything that is too difficult for God. The trouble is we are trying to remove these difficulties ourselves instead of going to God in prayer.

Q:- - Why was it the Lord Jesus could not do anything at Nazareth?

Mr. Moody: - On account of their unbelief, but that was the world, not the Church.

Q:- -Is it best to put the test question in a church, asking those who are anxious to arise, or rather to go to another room?

Mr. Moody: - I think so. If any man is going to be saved, he is going to take up his cross, and if it is a cross, I would like to ask him to do it. What you want is to get them to do something they don't want to do, and it is a great cross generally for people to rise for prayer, but in the very act of doing it, they are very often blessed. I do not think I should attempt to have meetings without the inquiry-room. People are impressed tinder the sermon, but what you want is to deal with them personally. Here and there one is converted under the sermon, but for every one converted under the sermon, hundreds are converted in the inquiry room.

Q:- - Do you advocate "anxious seats?"

Mr. Moody: - I would rather call it seats of decision; but in union meetings you know we have to lay aside a good many of the different denominational peculiarities. The "anxious seat" is known to the Methodists, but if we should call it that, the Presbyterians would be afraid, and the Episcopalians would be so shocked that they would leave, and I find in the union meetings, it is best to ask them to go right into the other room, and talk to them there.

Q:- - What would you say to a person who replies, "I can be a Christian without rising for prayer"?

Mr. Moody:- I should say, most certainly he could, but as a general thing, he won't.

Q:- - What method would you recommend to get people on their feet to testify for Christ?

Mr. Moody:- In the first place, I would bury all stiffness. If a meeting has a formal manner, it throws a stiffness over it, so that it would take almost an earthquake to get a man up, but if it is free and social, just as you would go into a man's house and talk with him, you will find people will appreciate it and get up.

Q:- - If the world has got in and is stronger than the church, what then?

Mr. Moody:- Then I would organize another church The mistake in all this is in taking unconverted people into the church. We really must be more careful.

Q:- How far is it wise to encourage young converts to labor with inquirers in the inquiry-room?

Mr. Moody:- I always encourage them. I believe a man who has been a great drunkard, for instance, and been reclaimed, is just the man to go to work among his class.

Q:- -When a man feels he must preach the Gospel, and the church doesn't want to hear it, must he go out?

Mr. Moody:- A great many have got the idea that they can preach the Gospel, when they cannot, and some have got the idea that they cannot preach the Gospel, and they can to a certain class, and then they are just the ones to speak in that church. Now, I have tried that. When I was first converted, I thought I must talk to them about Christ, but I saw they did not like it, and finally they came and told me, I could serve the Lord better by keeping still. Then I went out into the street, and God blessed me, and I got to preaching before I knew it. If the people don't want you, don't force yourself upon them. Go out and preach to the ragged and the destitute.

Then some question was asked about the inquiry-meeting, in the conduct of which Dwight L. Moody was a master. To this inquiry Mr. Moody made answer: "If the ministers would encourage their members to be scattered among the audience, to never mind their pew, but sit back by the door if need be, or in the gallery, where they can watch the faces of the audience, it would be a good thing. In Scotland I met a man who, with his wife, would go and sit among the people, as they said, to watch for souls. When they saw anyone who seemed impressed, they would go to him after tire meeting and talk with him. Nearly all the conversions in that church during the last fifteen months had been made through that influence. Now, if we could only have from thirty to fifty members of the church, whose business it is just to watch for those who are impressed, and lead them into an inquiry meeting when the pastor announces it, the results would be magnificent. The best way in our regular churches is to let the workers all help pull the net in. When the people have come into the after-service, let some one who knows his Bible sit down beside them and give them God's Word. I have very little confidence in the man who simply states his own experience, for, as a rule, that experience might discourage the one to whom he speaks, but if he points out God's Word, the Spirit is pledged to apply that word to the seeking soul, and the result is salvation.

It is an awful thing for a man to preach a sermon on coming to Jesus and then dismiss his audience without giving them a chance to come. Instruct your people in the knowledge of God's Word, and teach them how to explain that word to the man who is saying, "What must I do to be saved?"

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