How Moody Changed Revivalism
It was as a successful evangelist in Britain—among (according to The New York Observer) “men who are not emotional or enthusiastic, who are the furthest removed from religious fanaticism”—that D.L. Moody first achieved fame. With his campaigns in 1873 and succeeding years, he was catapulted into the foremost place in the transatlantic revivalist world.
It was an opportune time, for society was changing in broadly parallel ways on the two sides of the Atlantic. Industrialization was gathering force; by 1880 nearly half the American and well over half the British workforces were employed in industry. The ups and downs of the business cycle meant that unemployment, with its attendant misery and discontent, was a serious threat. More strikingly, however, industry had brought prosperity. In both countries real wages roughly doubled between 1860 and 1890. With increased leisure time and improved transport, working people had money to spend on entertainment—in saloons and music halls, billiard parlors and sports grounds. And more of them lived in urban areas—by 1870 a quarter of the American population and already more than half the people of Britain. Chicago and Glasgow—the two cities Moody knew best—experienced a mushroom growth and felt proud of their modernity. Could evangelical religion flourish in the new urban-industrial age as it had in the less-developed past?
It was Moody’s achievement to help ensure the future of evangelicalism by adaptation. Already, before Moody’s rise to prominence, revivalism had been altering its character. Moody observed the direction of change, identified himself with it, organized it, and accelerated it.
Moody’s impact was felt in six key ways.
In the previous generation the ...