5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The life of D. L. Moody is a quintessentially American and evangelical one.
Born in 1837 in Northfield, Massachusetts, Moody worked hard, moved west to Chicago, Illinois, and rose from poverty to prosperity in his early 20s. That’s the American part of his story. Had he stuck with business, he would today be remembered as a millionaire alongside Marshall Field, with whom he in fact lived at a boardinghouse on Michigan Ave.
But God had other plans for his life. Moody had converted to Christianity in Boston through the personal ministry of a Sunday school teacher named Edward Kimball. In Chicago, his landlord, Mrs. Peterson—known to boarders as Mother Peterson—encouraged him to get involved in Sunday school work. In the nineteenth century, Sunday school was part spiritual instruction and part social work. Moody didn’t feel qualified to teach, but he would round up young boys and bring them to the Wells Street Mission.
In due time, he and J. B. Stillson went to a slum known as Little Hell and started a Sunday school in an abandoned freight car on North State Street. The ministry grew, lives were changed, and Moody, though a layman, increasingly threw himself into the work of ministry. Moody declined armed service in the Civil War, due to his “Quaker” or pacifist beliefs, but he became a de facto chaplain to Union soldiers in Illinois and elsewhere, caring for the spiritual and physical needs.
By the end of the war, Moody, now married, realized that God wanted him to pursue gospel ministry full time. Giving up the 19th-century equivalent of a six-figure salary, Moody drew upon his abundant reserves of salesmanship and entrepreneurialism to evangelize Chicago for Christ. This led, in due time, to the formation of what is now Moody Bible Church, Moody Bible institute, and scores of other evangelistic and humanitarian missions. After the 1871 Chicago Fire, Moody moved his base of operations to his hometown of Northfield and there, without ever losing interest in Chicago or its ministries, started the Northfield Seminary and Mount Hermon School to provide, respectively, young women and young men without means the opportunity to have a decent education.
During this period, his effectiveness as an evangelist brought him grown renown, and he traveled throughout the United States and the United Kingdom, preaching Christ. His evangelistic work was innovative, interdenominational, and made effective use of music through his close cooperation with Ira Sankey. Their hymnals sold over a million copies in their lifetimes, the entire proceeds from which went to fund evangelistic and charitable enterprises.
Moody’s theology was of the “mere Christianity” variety. He worked across denominational lines and was respected, among evangelicals, by both Methodists (Arminians) and Presbyterians (Calvinists). Unlike some evangelicals of that day, he even had kind things to say about Catholics, many of whom held him in high regard. His sermons were simple, common-sense affairs, focused on the love of God and practical Christianity and illustrated with vignettes drawn from everyday life. He preached to society’s high and low alike, calling for conversion and reminding all to help the poor.
That’s the evangelical part of Moody’s story.
Kevin Belmonte’s new biography of D. L. Moody is a fast-moving character study of America’s most famous late-19th-century evangelist. In a bibliography, Belmonte points to several academic treatments of Moody’s life. His own work, however, is popular in character and inspiring to read. What a wonder Moody was, in his own day, and what an inspiration to our own!
Another publisher—InterVarsity Press—has a multivolume series entitled A History of Evangelicalism. Successive volumes focus on representative figures of evangelicalism across the agesVolume 3 focuses on Charles Spurgeon in the United Kingdom and Moody here in the States. At the start of the 21st century, and after reading Belmonte’s book, I wonder who will be American evangelicalism’s Moody today—the embodiment of its evangelistic zeal, entrepreneurial innovation, and social-reform tendencies?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2014
Kevin Belmonte has answered the call to provide a much needed and updated biography on the most famous evangelist of the 19th century, D. L. Moody. Belmonte's command of the primary and secondary sources relating to the life of Moody is exceptional. Creatively, Belmonte also weaves in aspects from earlier biography and interacts with the conclusions. I have read this book and now will re-read it. It is a book that must be on every Christian's book shelf. Unfortunately, in the Reformation protestants lost a knowledge of our Christian heroes (as a reaction to "saints") and with that a woeful ignorance has settled on the modern church in regards to what we can learn from our Christian ancestors. We need to recover that "old way" of thinking and know how God used the people of the past - in hopes he will use us today in the same way! Read prayerfully and read reflectively, this book will change your life.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Every era of church history is dominated by a handful of towering figures. While most of the work of ministry in any age is completed by the many and the unseen, there are always the few and the fascinating who continue to capture our attention even generations later. One of the towering figures of the second half of the nineteenth century was the great American evangelist D.L. Moody, the subject of a new biography from Kevin Belmonte: D.L. Moody — A Life.
Born in Northfield, Massachusetts in 1837, Moody lost his father at only four years of age and had to dedicate his younger years to supporting his family instead of to receiving an education. At seventeen he moved to Boston to pursue his fortune and began working in a store owned by his uncle. It was here, in Boston, that Moody heard and believed the gospel and became a Christian. Soon after his conversion Moody moved to Chicago where he became actively involved in ministry to children, gathering hundreds of children each week and teaching them about Jesus. This ministry led to the founding of a church—Illinois Street Church.
But Moody would soon find that his greatest strength lay not in pastoring but in evangelism. In the 1870s he began to travel through North America and Europe. Collaborating with gospel singer Ira Sankey, he held massive services where thousands or tens of thousands would attend and countless people were converted. Such crusades continued for three decades until his death in 1899. In his own way he was one of the most significant figures of his time in both the United States in Great Britain. Consider this write-up in the New York Times that followed a series of New York gatherings:
Whatever philosophical skeptics may say, the work accomplished this winter by Mr. Moody in this city for private and public morals will live. The drunken have become sober, the vicious virtuous, the worldly and self-seeking unselfish, the ignoble noble, the impure pure … The youth have started with more generous aims, the old have been stirred from grossness. A new hope has lifted up hundreds of human beings, a new consolation has come to the sorrowful, and a better principle has entered the sordid life of the day, through the labors of these plain men. Whatever the prejudiced may say against them, the honest-minded and just will not forget their labors of love.
D.L. Moody — A Life is the first substantial biography of Moody I’ve read and I enjoyed it tremendously. One thing that appeals about Moody is his normalcy. Where a man like his contemporary Charles Spurgeon was extraordinarily naturally gifted, Moody was not—at least, not to nearly the same degree. Belmonte portrays him as a normal person who was extraordinary mainly for the ways God chose to bless his ministry. If he did have amazing natural gifts, Belmonte does not dwell on them.
I was challenged by Moody’s passion and obedience. He believed the Lord had called him to preach the gospel, so that is exactly what he did. He preached it far and wide and preached it with great faith that the Lord would bring results. I was challenged by his love for people and his fervor in reaching them. I was challenged by the wide range of projects he founded and invested in.
With that said, the book left me a little bit dissatisfied. I wanted to know more of Moody and to know him better. I wanted to learn more about his friendship with Spurgeon, I wanted to know more about his marriage, I wanted to know him as a father, I wanted to know more about his sins and foibles. While Belmonte briefly mentions Moody’s overbearing leadership and the way he would sometimes hurt the people around him through force of personality and sharp words, he could have given us a more complete picture of the man by showing where he was prone to sin, where he led poorly, where his faith waned. With Belmonte’s skill as a biographer, the book could easily have been another sixty or eighty pages and I am convinced that the extra length would not have been wasted.
If I have a concern with the book, it is that Belmonte goes out of his way to prove Moody’s commitment to “mere Christianity”—a Christianity focused on the primary tenets of Christianity rather than being distracted by the minor and distinguishing points of doctrine. While this may be true, I tend to take the cautious approach when importing a popular and attractive modern term into an earlier period of history. While it is clear that Moody’s ministry transcended denominational boundaries, I am not as convinced that he had such a substantial focus on the “mere” and that his goal was ecumenism. It is possible, but I am not convinced.
Overall, D.L. Moody — A Life is a tremendous biography and a vivid, compelling look at a life lived for the glory of God. It is a powerful introduction to a man who was greatly used and whose legacy survives to this day.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2010
Kevin Belmonte has given his readers a well rounded and engaging portrait of D.L. Moody in this pleasantly presented book in the Christian Encounters Series from Thomas Nelson. Writing graciously within the constraints of his publishing requirements Belmonte offers us a warm, inviting look into the life of one of America's greatest evangelists and does so in a way that is reverent but also truthful. The author does not imply that this is a full "cradle-to-grave" treatment of Moody and the reader should not expect that here. What the reader can expect is a sound introduction to the crucial moments, decisive experiences and key relationships that defined Moody throughout his life followed with good directions to resources for further study.
From the first chapter the reader is quickly drawn into the story and the pace of interest is maintained to very last. I found it particularly refreshing that Belmonte doesn't succumb to the double sided temptation of either going out of his way to "expose" speculated flaws of his subject nor to swing the opposite and avoid discussing known and documented facts of his subject's character complexity. He uses the real drama of Moody's own life to move the story along exploring the issues Moody wrestled with along the way both in himself and in his circumstances. Throughout the text Belmonte does a wonderful job presenting Moody's passion for God, his deep, life-long commitment to obedience, his unflagging will to help the poor, uneducated, and oppressed. He paints a vivid picture of Moody's humility and yet spiritual audacity in evangelism and service, and brings to light the ever broadening reach of Moody's influence. I marveled reading about what Moody did with so few "advantages" and am humbled at what I have done with mine by comparison. Reading this deepened my sense of what a debt we owe to Moody as a man who followed the Lord obediently and boldly. The accounts of significant historic events - the Civil War, the Great Chicago Fire, the spiritual revival in England and Scotland at the time, encourage me to remember that the same God Who moved in those events is moving still in the midst of our own turbulent times and He can be trusted now just as Moody trusted Him completely in his day.
I cheerfully recommend this book and this author.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2014
Kevin Belmonte, in his new book, "D.L. Moody, A Life", has provided us with a long overdue reminder of one of the nineteenth century’s great luminaries. From a humble and obscure beginning, with little formal education and none of the technology advantages of our day for speaking to large gatherings, Dwight Lyman Moody, for decades, enraptured huge indoor and outdoor audiences with his simple, straight-forward Gospel messages centered on the Good News of Jesus Christ. Kevin Belmonte has written an important and entirely readable account of Moody’s life journey that should find its way onto every Christian’s bookshelf.
Former President and CEO of Burger King Corporation
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2014
Moody was a tremendous man. For a man with no real formal education, but a heart surrendered to God, he accomplished much for the kingdom of heaven. I don't know exactly what it was that I probably missing in the book, but I was a little bit disappointed after reading it. Perhaps because it had been so raved about because of the author. Informative, but for me, not really generating the passion and excitement that I believe was D.L. Moody.
on August 31, 2015
What makes a man great? Is it his eloquence as an orator? Does his character play a role in the successes or failures in culture? These questions and more are answered by Kevin Belmonte in his take on D.L. Moody in his newest biography, D.L. Moody - A Life: Innovator, Evangelist, World Changer. Not only does Belmonte give us an inside look at the man, but also a glance at how history has changed because of God's great mercy on men like Moody and the company he traveled with.
The value of this volume, historically, can be of great value to the church today. Not only do we see a man rise from nothing to the heights of popularity in the nineteenth century, but we see the graciousness of God to even the least of His people. This is less a story of Moody and much more a story of God's faithfulness to raise up men and women who have a passion to preach the gospel to the very ends of the earth.
That being said, I do have some reservations about the methodology and theology of Moody himself. This biography takes a very biased view towards Moody, in almost praise-like fashion, he hails Moody as one of the greatest souls Evangelicalism has seen. To be sure, Belmonte does include some of the flaws and shortcomings but for the most part this volume is a very positive view towards Moody. For that reason, I see the value of this volume not resting in uncovering the nuances of the man but in the fact that it covers much of the context of nineteenth century life.
As I peer deeper into the halls of that particular period of church history I am beginning to see a clearer division between the men who would fall between the blurry lines of Holiness Theology and those outside the lines. Moody as one of the largest influencers of the Higher-Life Movement, quickly aligned himself against the mainline Protestants and yet, at the same time, became almost an idol in the Pentecostal/Charismatic branches of the Church.
With all that in mind, this volume does take into view recent scholarship and tries its best to disseminate that information for the rest of us. Belmonte tells us a good story and brings the reader along with anticipation of what crazy thing God is going to do next. No matter what denominational lines we hide behind there is no easy way to hide the fact that Moody was passionate to evangelize the furthest reaches of the world, but not only that, he was passionate to share the gospel with his neighbor and all those he came in contact with.
Though I think this biography takes a high view of Moody and his cohorts, I like the story Belmonte tells. His writing is very engaging and he draws the reader in as the life of Moody unfolds before us. To completely dismiss Moody would be a mistake but there is an opposite error that is equally dangerous. To hold Moody up as a man God couldn't do without would raise him up to heights man was never meant to occupy.
Belmonte, Kevin. D.L. Moody - A Life: Innovator, Evangelist, World Changer. Chicago: Moody, 2014. 336. Print.
on June 11, 2015
As a Chicago resident, I was familiar with the name D.L. Moody. But I was not familiar with the extent of his ministry nor his backstory. Kevin Belmonte’s biography, D.L. Moody, A Life (2014) changed that.
The poverty of Moody’s background, necessitating his entry into the work force at 10 years old, plus “the ungovernable sides of his nature, coupled with sporadic attendance at school…meant that although Dwight went through as many as a dozen terms at the little district schoolhouse, very little of the schools ever went through him” (Kevin Belmonte, D. L. Moody, Moody Press, 2014, p. 28). Yet, his preaching and ministry deeply affected students from prestigious universities like Oxford and Cambridge to Princeton and Yale (p. 209). Although he was not a polished, eloquent speaker, his preaching was laced with “pointed applications to modern life [which] cut like a mighty plowshare through the sins of college life and society” (p.210). He was called “the great Apostle of common sense” (p. 123). But, he was also a visionary. When the World’s Fair came to Chicago in 1893, Moody organized a six month-long gospel campaign while other Christians were boycotting the Fair or enraged that the Fair would be open on Sundays. The gospel campaign reached nearly 2 million people (pp. 190, 197). A contemporary of Moody’s said, “If we may judge by results, there was no greater preacher in the closing decades of the nineteenth century” (p. 209).
Belmonte weaves these events in Moody’s life seamlessly through his biography in an easy-to-read, engaging style. His obvious intent to make the man Moody come alive to the reader is successful—probably because he allows the larger-than-life Moody to speak for himself. Moody was praised by presidents and people of stature in the history of America and England. Those commendations seem well earned. Yet, Moody would be the first to give all the credit to God. His humility and genuine concern for people are parts of his character that, combined with his business acumen, passion for souls, teachableness, and gifts in preaching, formed him into a history maker. A worthwhile read.
on October 15, 2014
Dwight L. Moody was an influential Christian evangelist in the nineteenth century. He started schools, preached, and worked to bring Christian literature to people. Kevin Belmonte tells the story of Moody from Moody’s birth to his death, drawing on primary sources, including the recollections of people who knew Moody.
A lot of the book read like a hagiography, and I was not always interested in certain details about Moody’s life (although Moody probably accomplished more in one lifetime than I would in two!). Moreover, while Belmonte’s prose was good, and he obviously communicated his enthusiasm for his subject, the prose did not always grab me as a reader.
I really started to get into the book, though, when I got to the last third of it. Belmonte was talking about Moody’s character, the type of man Moody reportedly was: humble notwithstanding his fame and renown, affable, a lover of learning, one who admitted his mistakes, and a builder of bridges. I admired Moody when I read the stories about how he positively influenced people who were indifferent towards or even mocked him and his religion. In Belmonte’s narration, Moody was a man who was making a lot of money as a businessman and walked away from that when he saw that God could use him.
My favorite passage in the book was on page 244. Belmonte was talking about how Moody would meet new students of his school when they arrived, and Belmonte speculated that perhaps Moody’s own humble background may have influenced him to do this: “Long years before, when he arrived at seventeen without a penny in Boston, there had been no one to collect him at the train station. He could be the friend to offer a welcome he never received.”
I suppose that the fact that Moody was admired by Presidents and heralded by major newspapers is impressive, but what made Belmonte’s book interesting and edifying was his descriptions of Moody’s character. Belmonte also quoted Moody’s insights about the spiritual life, and that, too, made the book worth reading.
My thanks to Moody Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
on August 4, 2014
Someone in Hollywood needs to stop everything and make this book into a movie. It has elements of Forrest Gump, Titanic and (believe it or not) C.S. Lewis in it. Who would have thought the life story presented in D.L. Moody - A Life by Kevin Belmonte would be as dramatic as it truly is. I was certainly surprised.
If you are like me your only knowledge of Moody is that he was a 19th century evangelist. But allow me to greatly broaden your awareness of a man who was so much more than that by suggesting an opening scene for a movie adaptation based on what I learn from Beltmonte's excellent biography.
There's a terrible storm and in the distant you see a ship (it's the SS Spree). As the thunder and lighting continues the camera zooms in on the Spree that is amist a group of frantic people crying and yelling, but the captain manages to calm them down. The scene changes to another part of the Spree and finds a man discussing with another whether or not he should ask the captain about holding a religious service to ask God to save the ship, but he doesn't want to stir any panic for those whose fears were already calmed. Ultimately he gets permission to hold a prayer service.
Soon after this the Spree is rescued by the steamer Lake Huron. It takes eight days for them to be towed back to land and during this journey various individuals catch up with D.L. Moody to either praise him for his boldness or scold him for being a fool that wanted to prey on the fears of the uneducated. Each person who approaches him learned of a humble man who not only grew up with hardly any education himself, but was one of NINE children that knew poverty first hand. As several others talk with him on the return rescue journey they go on to learn that he not only met Lincoln, but several other presidents, had been a successful businessman before devoting his life and a great deal of the money he earned to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ across denominations (essentially espousing "Mere Christianity" before C.S. Lewis made it a wellknown word), that Moody was a major part of the development of the YMCA chapter in Chicago, had lived through the terrible Chicago Fire and more, all before almost being drown at sea!
DISCLAIMER: Having said all this I must make you aware that I received a copy of the book from the author and I produced an interview for my podcast called All About Jack about the book. I was actually reluctance to do such an interview, but was told Moody advocated the idea of "Mere Christianity" and because Belmonte had previously been a guest on my show for other issues more directly related to C.S. Lewis I agreed. However, I actually had another individual do the interview while I merely directed and produced it. It was only after listening to what Belmonte said that I become convinced I would find D.L. Moody - A Life interesting.