Becoming Less

I spent the last two days in Northfield, MA, feeling the weight of the spiritual heritage of New England and of Northfield in particular. After this visit to Northfield, I have a better understanding of Northfield’s magnetism. It is a place from which God has blessed generations of men and women because D.L. and Emma Moody gave themselves over to the work God had for them.

Over the past two days, the board and staff of Moody Center engaged in the delicate task of designing a ministry that would continue the work of D.L. Moody without making much of D.L. Moody. We all recognized the contribution that D.L. and Emma made to the kingdom, yet their contribution needed to be overshadowed by honoring God as the empowering and guiding presence behind their work. In some ways it felt odd to temper the contribution of D.L. and Emma Moody. Their work impacted so many people in so many ways. At the same time, I recalled John the Baptist’s comment to his followers, “He [Christ] must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:30).

As I observed the events of the past two days, I noted four practices that seem crucial to understanding how D.L. and Emma Moody were able to become less as they mad much of God from a little, out-of-the-way town in Massachusetts.

Prayer. Many of the insights D.L. Moody offers on prayer in Prevailing Prayer were exhibited not only by the Moody Center leadership, but in the stories of…

…the Powell’s (descendants of D.L. Moody) who called on God to make a way to preserve not only the Northfield property, but the godly legacy D.L. and Emma sought to leave.

…the New England Alliance who has interceded for the New England area for more than a decade.

…the many visitors to Northfield who have paved the way for Moody Center and other ministries with their prayers.

…and I’m sure countless others whose prayers were felt though not mentioned as we dedicated Northfield and the work if Moody Center.

Bold Speech. Eloquence is often overrated. The simple message of the gospel is powerful and does not require a trained orator to have an impact on those who hear it. D.L. Moody was not a great speaker by most standards. God does not require eloquence, but willingness. A willingness to share the gospel and continue sharing it with a zeal for God and a heart for the lost. D.L. was certainly not short on zeal, heart, or boldness.

Unity. D.L. Moody often brought speakers to his Northfield conferences. He was aware that some of his speakers had theological disagreements. Instead of bringing those speakers in on separate days or holding a debate on stage, he challenged them to come together and to focus on what they had in common…the gospel message. Our differences would not be as divisive if we focused on our common Savior and his message of salvation.

Impartiality. In a time when it was not common to do so, D.L. and Emma sought out men and women from among the marginalized of society and participated with them in the ministry of the gospel. Earning the nickname “Crazy Moody” for his work with kids in the slums of Chicago, D.L. could not have looked any more sane to many of those in his day who would have preferred to hold the underprivileged of society at arms length. D.L. and Emma welcomed them as fellow members of God’s kingdom.

We, like D.L. and Emma, are participants in what God is doing in the world. God works in, through, and (too often) despite us. Our stories, our lives, our efforts are all swept up into His story so God is seen through us. We need only become less so that He becomes more. And, if you need the inspiration to do so, find the time to visit the home of God’s servants D.l. and Emma Moody in Northfield…it’s worth the trip.