Our Relation to Other Churches - Part 1
It were well for every domestic household to know its own family genealogy. The Moody Church ought to be much more familiar than it is with its genesis. The few historical sketches of the church found here and there are necessarily so brief, so fragmentary and incomplete as to be little more than misleading.
It is no marvel that Christian men and women outside our flock should be interested to know our relationship to the churches about us. Our own membership should be able without confusion to give intelligently this information. D.L. Moody in his mature years was without doubt conceded to be one of the most, if not the most marked of men in his century. The characteristics that made him famous in later years were, to those who know him, clearly manifest in his young manhood. While yet in his early twenties, Mr. Moody established a Sunday School in North Market Hall, where our jail is now situated.
Though for wise and prudential reasons, other were made nominally superintendents, yet from its beginning Mr. Moody was practically at its head.
The unseen and yet unexplained powers of the great evangelist that attracted men and women to him, began their development in this beardless youth. The guileless simplicity of the lad was as attractive and refreshing as it was unusual. His unstudied genuine realness, with his indomitable zeal inspired confidence, and brought to his aid the most consecrated and devout men and women from the various denominations in the city. There is no doubt but that the teachers and officers in the North Market Hall Sunday School in the early sixties [1860’s], were the cream of Chicago’s churches. They assembled there for the one purpose of uplifting through the gospel the depraved classes. But one result could follow such consecration. God gave large fruitage to their united labors. There were many converts—fathers, mothers and their children. What was to be done with them? Parents required further instruction than they could get during the Sunday School hour. The bleating lambs needed the tender care of a shepherd. None of the converts seemed willing to be separated from the superintendent who had been so largely used in their salvation. Mr. Moody at that time belonged to a denominational church. Would it be wise or right for him to take the entire fruitage of these united denominational labors to his own church?
Wise man that he always was, he summoned all his workers for a conference, and laid the matter before them. Without division they saw the need of, and recommended an organization. Then came the question as to its name? Not one had the temerity to suggest his own favorite denomination, but with one voice it was determined to name the as yet unborn child The Illinois Street Independent Church, and it was done. By special request of Mr. Moody a council of pastors and laymen representing the evangelical churches of the city met and organized on Friday evening, December 30th, 1864, what is now known as the Chicago Avenue Church.
These seem to be the succinct unvarnished facts in reference to the origin of our church. This history is so brief and so simple, that it may be easily told when asked, “To what denomination do you belong?” When these simple facts are known each may classify us as he pleases. One may say—and not without reason—that we are as much a denomination as any other church. Another may claim—and with some reason—that we are undenominational, because we are not allied to the lengthy chain of churches, which answer to the same name; while still another will insist—and with excellent reasons for it—that our doctrines and our sympathies plainly classify us with interdenominational churches.
It may be best for us to avoid drawing hair lines. Sam Jones said, “Abe Lincoln was paid fifty cents a hundred for splitting rails, but God will not pay ten cents a million for splitting hairs, and you can split them from one end to the other.”
Unless I have over-vexed the editor by consuming too much room I shall hope in the next issue to give some quotations from the first manual ever published of our church and deduce from these quotations some practical lessons.