Moody, Chicago, and heritage

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Some cheap plane tickets popped up last week to Chicago, so I decided to take my son David for the weekend.  We were there Sunday morning and I decided we would go to Moody Church (founded by D. L. Moody).

I enjoyed it immensely.  Perception may be different from reality, but Moody seems to have a lot of things together. Their philosophy is quite unique I think and it resonates with me.  There were probably 2500 people there of many different cultures.  Some people were dressed in suits and others (like me) were wearing shorts.  The music ranged from fairly conservative (organ-driven) to fairly upbeat (rhythm driven).  Their theology is sound and while they take strong, unpopular stands, they still are known for their love and caring in that part of Chicago.
I appreciate churches and ministries who are truly independent, unswayed by what some university might think or what some group of preachers might think.  That is my impression of how Moody operates. I might be wrong but I hope not.
That being said, there are dozens of churches in Chicago that we could have gone to, and many of them might be a little closer to where I am in philosophy and theology.  I know there were many that were closer to our hotel for sure.
But I chose Moody because I wanted David to experience a bit of history and understand his heritage. Moody has had a profound impact on Christianity in America and around the world.  That includes me and it likely includes you too.
Now, I know that it has become fashionable in recent years to bash Moody and his fellow evangelists from that period (late 1800′s – early 1900′s).  I get it–Moody was hardly perfect.  Don’t tell me his problems because I have almost certainly already heard them.
But here is something else I know.  There are a lot of heroes in Christian history over the past few hundred years.  But there are very few if any with the lasting impact of D. L. Moody.  Over a century after his death, his church is still flourishing and orthodox.  Moody Bible Institute is still flourishing and orthodox.  Moody was instrumental in starting the YMCA and helped with the Pacific Garden Mission, which also stand strong to this day (though of course the YMCA is not really Christian anymore).
Since this blog is geared toward Christian church pianists, I need to go one step further.  If you play the piano today in church, you almost certainly have been strongly influenced by Moody Bible Institute.  In the past, I have talked about the influential pianists who developed the style that church pianists use to this day.  Almost every one of them taught or studied at Moody.  One of them, John Innes, is one of my most influential mentors.  I hear from older pianists constantly who tell me about their experiences at Moody, studying with teachers that have published arrangements that many of you now play.
So, walking into Moody Church is something special.  It feels special.  For an American Christian, it is like walking into history.  And that is why I took David there.

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  • Greg, thanks for sharing your experience about Moody. You are right, it is like walking into history. My freshman year in college (1987) I was in downtown Chicago, and I happened to wander onto the campus and into the church itself. It was empty and very quiet, but as I looked around there was a profound feeling that came over me. I could almost hear the activity of the past buzzing in my ears. The preaching, the music, the revivals, and the souls that were saved. It’s a powerful memory that will always stay with me.

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