The Growth Factor

Taken from my book, Waiting for Your Ministry




    When I read that throughout his life George Muller ‘never stopped learning’ and ‘was always willing to change’ I knew I had found a vital root to his fruitfulness. While laboring in close association with Henry Craik, Muller discovered that Henry’s sermons were saving more souls than his own. I’d have assumed my mix of gifts was different and resigned myself to smaller yields. Muller was smarter. Careful observation revealed that Henry was more spiritually-minded, more fervent in prayer for soul-winning power and had a more direct approach. George prayerfully and humbly appropriated these elements into his own life and became an equally effective evangelist.

    John Pollock writes of D. L. Moody’s amazing ‘capacity for growth right until the end.’

    When eighteen-year-old Moody was interviewed for church membership he was asked ‘what has Christ done for us all – for you – which entitles him to our love?’

    ‘I don’t know,’ confessed Moody, ‘I think Christ has done a good deal for us. But I don’t think of anything particular as I know of.’

    Two deacons were assigned to instruct him. Nearly a full year passed before he was finally accepted into membership and even then, commented his kindly Sunday School teacher, ‘little more light appeared.’

    After about another year his ungrammatical attempts at prayer made people so uncomfortable that he was asked to keep silent in future.

    Eventually he decided that although he could not possibly teach children, he could at least bribe them with sweets and kindness to lure them to Sunday School. Once, to his horror, he found himself with a small group of children and no speaker. He was forced to stumble through a Bible story. He gradually discovered he could tell a story to children, provided no minister was within earshot. Addressing adults was unthinkable.

    At age twenty-eight he would invite seminary students to preach at a church. One day a student failed to arrive and he felt obligated to act as an inadequate substitute. Slowly, year after year, decade after decade, he developed into an outstanding evangelist.

    He once invited theologian Henry Weston to address his conference. Moody could draw far bigger audiences, and, through Christ, save thousands more souls than this man. In fact, it is conservatively estimated that in an era before microphones, not to mention radio or television or jets, 100 million people seized the opportunity to hear Moody. Of the eight encyclopedias, biographical and Christian dictionaries I consulted, all devoted space to Moody; Weston did not rate a mention. So vast was Moody’s influence that Weston’s own students challenged his views on the basis of what they had heard from Moody. Yet when Weston rose to speak, Moody carried his chair off the platform, placed it literally at Weston’s feet and sat there soaking in every word. Suddenly he shouted, ‘There goes one of my sermons!’ Startled, Weston asked for an explanation. Moody replied that he would now have to dump one of his favorite sermons because Weston had just proved to him that it was based on a misconception. Weston recommenced his address only to be interrupted a little later by, ‘There goes another . . . ’

    Small wonder that like a towering tree, Moody kept growing and growing, eventually making those who had originally outstripped him look like stunted bushes. He developed gifts so vast that it is said he could have run for President of the United States.

    To turn a vibrant, growing Christian into a tragedy, convince him he has already learned all that he needs to know. It’s not where you start that matters; it’s where you end.