Dwight L. Moody asks and answers ...

How Can Non-church-goers Be Reached?

D. L. Moody: I would like to say one word before we close this question. I don't believe there is a minister in this congregation but would have a full house if he would just work for it.

A few years ago, before I thought I could preach, we built a hall in Chicago for the Young Men's Christian Association, and our plan was to get the different ministers to go there every Sunday night and preach, but we failed in that; we couldn't get many to come, and the ministers didn't like to go there to preach, and so one night they came to me and wanted me to go down there and preach.

It was pretty hard to preach to empty chairs. But I got a few interested in the meeting and then we got out some hand-bills that cost about sixty cents a thousand, and then we took some of the young men and got them to come together every night in the hall, and we gave them some tea and they prayed together; and they took these handbills and went out on the street, and every man had a district, and they visited every saloon and billiard hall and bowling alley, and there was not a man who came within a mile of the building but got from one to half a dozen of these invitations to come to that meeting. And when a man was converted we yoked him up with another, two and two, and sent them out to bring others, and that is the way we did it, and we have always had an audience ever since.

Now if people won't come to our churches, let us go for them in that way and keep the church awake. If a man goes out on the street trying to get people to come into the church and he gets another man to come in, he will not go to sleep. He will try to have that man interested in the exercises; and if he does not like the sermon, he will go to the minister afterwards and say, "You must make that sermon plainer; that man that I brought didn't understand it."

There was a man we converted in Chicago who couldn't speak a word of English, and we had to make use of an interpreter, and what to do with that man after he became a Christian I didn't know. He wanted to do something for the Lord, and, finally, I stationed him at the corner of Clark and Madison streets to give out these handbills. And when the Lord converted him the man was so happy! His face was just lit up, and to every man that went by - and there were some pretty hard cases - he just gave a handbill. And some thanked him and some swore at him, but he kept smiling all the time. He couldn't tell the difference between thanks and curses. And for two months he stood there, without a hat part of the time, and every night he was there; when it got to be dark in the short days he would have a transparency all lighted up right there on the corner; and there he would stand, and he stood there months and months, and the Lord gave him a good many souls.

You can say that may be done in the cities, but what can we do in the country towns? Well, we can try something else in the country towns. I remember in one country town where the people did not attend the meetings, they went out into the mountains and fields and had meetings there, and the church soon became four or five times larger than it was. That gave them an interest. If people will not come to the churches, why not send others out after them, and why not have meetings outside? That will soon give them an interest so that they will come to the house of God.

Another way is to have prayer-meetings in the homes. A good many mothers cannot come out to church; but we can go down to their homes, and have four or five families come together, and pray with them and get them interested. Many a mother cannot go to the house of God for years, they have no servants to take care of their children, and they have to stay at home and look after their families, and the only way to reach them is to have cottage prayer-meetings. There must be a personal interest taken in them. These young converts coming to Christ want something to do. Let them have the privilege, the glorious luxury of carrying the water of life to them that are perishing.

Another thing - have good singing. In some of these churches they have been singing the same old hymns for the last twenty years, and instead of the organ being up in the gallery with two or three singers about it doing all the singing, bring the organ right down among the people and let them gather right round it and sing themselves. And if some of the people don't know how to sing, have a meeting once a week, where the people can go and learn.

If the church will only set the young converts to work, why we can reach a great many homes; but if we just take them into the church and leave them there, and not teach them how to work, the homes are never going to be reached. Some young converts during the past weeks have been to work, and they have already brought, some eight, some ten, and some twelve of their friends to Christ. If we keep on in that way how long will it be before we have hundreds and thousands of converts in this city?

The church makes a woeful mistake in not setting these young converts to work. Those men who have been drunkards, let them just set out and work among their old friends. No man can reach a drunkard better than one who has been a drunkard himself. I don't know any work so blessed in Chicago as the going out into the billiard saloons and preaching the gospel there. If they will not come to church, go down where they are, in the name of our God, and you will reach them. If you say, "Oh, they will put you out," I say, "No, I have never been turned out of a saloon in my life."

Go down in a saloon where there are thirty or forty men playing, and ask them if they don't want a little singing. They say, "Yes, we don't mind your singing." "Well, what will you have?" And perhaps they ask you to sing a comic song. "But we don't know any. We don't know how to sing comic songs. Wouldn't you like to have us sing the 'Star Spangled Banner,' or 'My Country, 'tis of Thee.'" And so you sing "My Country, 'tis of Thee," and they stop playing cards. "Now boys, wouldn't you like to have us sing a hymn our mothers taught us when we were boys?" And then you can sing

"There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains."
Or give out "Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me," and it won't be long before the hats will be coming off, and they will remember how their mothers sung that to them once when they were in bed, and the tears will begin to run down their cheeks, and it won't be long before they will want you to read a few verses out of the Bible, and then they will ask you to pray with them, and you will be having a prayer-meeting there before you know it. We took sixteen out of a saloon in that way one night, and nine of them went into the inquiry-room.

What we need in Boston is to go out and get these men. If men will not come out to hear the glorious Gospel of the Son of God, let us take and carry it into these attic homes and saloons. Thank God! Boston is going to be visited. Let every man, woman and child help us a little and we pray that as they go into these attics and these households, the Holy Spirit may help them to present Christ in all His glory and loveliness. Let all take hold and help; and then religion will be like a red-hot ball rolling over the earth and nothing can stand against it. The churches can be crowded full and the masses reached if we go about it in the Spirit of the Master.

excerpted from To All People by Dwight L. Moody, New York, 1877

Dwight L. Moody (d. 1899) said "I don't find any place where God says that the world is to grow better and better ... I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel, God has given me a lifeboat and said to me, `Moody, save all you can.' "

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