DL Moody–He’s Why You Sing so Much in Church

I am reading a biography of Oswald Chambers. His dad was a pastor who was forced to resign from his church after DL Moody brought his revival to town.

Now, most revivalists in Church History have critics, people who must poke holes in their success. Some of this is sour grapes and some of it just has to do with human nature. Criticism is easy. Also, with every ministry, pretty bad people can claim to be part of it. In other words, I doubt any ministry has all good fruit. Jesus had Judas remember.

This is an important factor to keep in mind as we view ministries. If you’re looking for the idiot in the haystack, you can find them, but to use the idiot in the haystack as normative is when criticisms get carried away.

A couple of years ago I came across another criticism of Moody’s revivals and this Chamber’s biography includes another.

Apparently, after Moody brought his revival to town, many pastors lost their jobs. The reason was because Moody was exciting and had music. His services lasted one hour with only a 20-minute sermon, the rest was Mr. Sanky singing and leading singing.

When Moody and his excitement left town, everyone wanted Moody-like services. pastors who couldn’t pull it off got canned. The biography quotes the Aberdeen Journal of June 24, 1874 as saying:

“Laying aside the spiritual and moral aspects of the movement, we should say that the chief object which may be served by Messrs. Moody and Sanky’s visit maybe to import more life into our religious services; to elevate to a more sanctified place in the services of the sanctuary the divine gift of song; and to shorten the oratorical part of the service. The meetings of our American friends have been well attended by ministers of various denominations, and it will be for them to take the lead in instituting such reforms as will lead to a deeper personal interest on the part of the church members.”

In other words, Moody is right, all other ways are wrong, so change immediately. Life and music are not wrong things to have associated with church services. What is bothersome is the bandwagon hopping. If one guy gets success, whether DL Moody or Rick Warren, everyone feels they need to start doing church like the successful guys.

This is not a good thing. I have always been in favor of different churches and different ways of doing things. Variety is good and I don’t think choice is bad. Certain temperaments will gravitate to some churches over others. This is not bad, I believe this is the out working of the Spirit as He moves through the many members of the One Body.

As Paul says in Corinthians, if the eye wants to quit being an eye so he can be an ear, where will the seeing be? Let Moody have his success, but don’t change into Moody, as this is following a man, not the Spirit.

If you follow the Spirit and you end up looking like Moody, so be it (Replace “Moody” with any other celebrity preacher of any time to make the same point).

Outward success is no indicator of spiritual success. Stick with the Spirit and you’ll be fine, even if you don’t achieve world-wide popularity like some others have. Popularity is neither here nor there. Serving Christ is all.

4 thoughts on “DL Moody–He’s Why You Sing so Much in Church”

  1. “His services lasted one hour with only a 20-minute sermon, the rest was Mr. Sanky singing and leading singing”. Sounds like most church’s out there in today’s time. What you bring people to church with is what you will keep them with. In my opinion, if preaching is the shortest part of the service, there is a priority mix up.

  2. I don’t think having 40 minutes of singing with only 20 minutes of preaching is necessary wrong. Don’t forget that the songs that we sing are part of our worshiping and praising God. The songs can also be ones that contain words of confession of sin and a cry to God for revival. In fact you could say that many songs can actually be prayers too,

    If you look at some of the Charles Wesley songs they can also be rich in theology and God can speak to us through them.too.

    I’m saying this as someone who thinks that the sermon is the most important part of the service and my opinion of a service is normally based on the sermon.

  3. I think 40 minutes of songs to 20 minutes of sermon can be fine here and there, but if that’s the regular diet, I think it will result in unhealthiness. I don’t blame Moody for doing it, he was reaching out to the unsaved and using whatever means necessary to attract them. I would be uncomfortable using that method, but that’s me.

    But to then force all church services to reflect a Moody service, I believe is stumbling upon error. I believe Moody’s approach is today’s “seeker sensitive” churches that do indeed attract seekers, but also leave the regulars starving to death.

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