Have you ever wanted to change the world for the better, but have no idea how to go about it, because you are just an average “unknown” person in this big wide world?
Let me share an account about an unknown person who did change the world back in 1855 by doing one little thing, and that was sharing the gospel message with a teenage shoe salesman in Boston. You may or may not have heard about this story before, but it is worth repeating.
The result of that one solitary action by a previously unknown Sunday school teacher is still having a yet unbroken chain ‘ripple affect’ of evangelism right up to the present day in 2017.
There aren’t many people who could tell you the historical significance of a man named Edward Kimball (1823-1901). After all, he is so unknown that he doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page. But through his simple service to God, he has had a worldwide impact.
In 1855, Kimball was a 31 year-old lay Sunday school teacher, who one day went to visit an 18 year-old boy who had visited his Sunday school class, but obviously had little interest in God or religion.
But during a visit with this young man at his job in a shoe store, Kimball led the boy to an eventual saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The young man in the shoe store was Dwight L. Moody.
Kimball “felt constrained to call on Dwight Moody and inquire about the condition of his soul.”
Kimball felt the Lord leading him, yet he feared the encounter and was so absorbed with debating whether or not he should actually go talk to Moody that he walked right past the store and had to circle back.
Mustering up the courage he decided to “have it over at once” and talk to Moody. While Moody was shelving shoes Kimball remembered “I went up to him and put my hand on his shoulder, and as I leaned over…I made my plea, and I feel that it was really a weak one. I don’t know just what the words were I used…I simply told him of Christ’s love for him and the love Christ wanted in return.”
Moody described later how Kimball’s love was used to lead him to Christ:
I recollect that my teacher came around behind the counter of the shop I was at work in, and put his hand upon my shoulder, and talked to me about Christ and my soul. I had not felt that I had a soul until then. I said to myself: ‘this is a very strange thing. Here is a man, who never saw me till lately, and he is weeping over my sins, and I never shed a tear for them.’ But I understand it now, and know what it is to have a passion for men’s souls and weep over their sins. I don’t remember what he said, but I can feel the power of that man’s hand on my shoulder. It was not long after that I was brought into the Kingdom of God on April 21, 1855.
Dwight Moody (1837-1899) went on to become one of the greatest evangelists in the world, sharing the gospel with over 100 million people, as well as founding the Moody Bible Institute and the Moody Church in Chicago.
But the story doesn’t end there. Through his ministry, Moody was responsible for a famous Baptist evangelist in London, England, named Frederick Brotherton Meyer (1847-1929), coming to the Christian faith in 1872. The two men remained lifelong friends.
Meyer in turn was responsible for the popular New York Presbyterian evangelist, John Wilbur Chapman (1859-1918) accepting Christianity in 1876.
Chapman influenced Billy Sunday (1862-1935), another prominent evangelist of the 20th century. Sunday had been a professional baseball player. In 1886 he met his future wife, a Christian girl, and he soon became a Christian. In 1893 he became an assistant to J. Wilbur Chapman and soon learned how to be an effective Presbyterian evangelist beginning in 1896.
Billy Sunday in turn was integral in a man’s life named Mordecai Ham (1877-1961) coming to faith. Ham became a longtime notable Baptist evangelist in 1901 and he was the preacher responsible for leading a young man named Billy Graham to Christ in 1934 at a Charlotte, North Carolina revival meeting.
Billy Graham, born in 1918, has preached the gospel in person more people than anyone else in the history of Christianity through his crusades. It is also estimated that Graham has reached well over 2 billion people worldwide with the gospel via radio and television broadcasts.
Billy’s son, Franklin Graham, born in 1952, became a Christian in 1974, and is now the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
And so the evangelism began in a simple gospel message given to Dwight L. Moody by an unknown Sunday school teacher in 1855 continues on to this very day 162 years later.
If you want to change the world for the better, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with another person is a good way to begin. We just never know how God may use us to influence others in coming to the saving grace found in Jesus Christ and spreading the Christian faith around the world to future generations of people.