The story exists today in numerous versions on the internet. I first encountered it years ago in a book about the life of D. L. Moody by J. Wilburn Chapman. My immediate source for my message this past Sunday was a version titled A Nobody Named Kimball by C. Sumner Wemp. It can be found at: http://sumnerwemp.com/witnessing/a_n
obody_named_kimball.htm. I took the title, “Spiritual Dominoes”, from another version with a bit more detail, found at: http://www.raptureready.com/rr-sd.html.
Here is the story:
Edward Kimball was concerned about one of his young Sunday school students who worked at a shoe store in town. One day Kimball visited him at the store, found the student working in the back stocking shelves, and led him to Christ then and there. Dwight L. Moody eventually left the shoe store to become one of the greatest preachers and evangelists of all time.
Moody, whose international speaking took him to the British Isles, preached in a little chapel pastored by a young man with the imposing name of Frederic Brotherton Meyer. In his sermon Moody told an emotionally charged story about a Sunday school teacher who personally went to every student in his class and let each of them to Christ.
That message changed Pastor Meyer’s ministry, inspiring him to become an evangelist like Moody. Over the years Meyer came to America. While speaking in Northfield, MA a young preacher heard Meyer say, “If you are not willing to give up everything for Christ, are you willing to be made willing?” That remark led J. Wilbur Chapman to respond to the call of God on his life.
Chapman went on to become one of the most effective evangelists of his time. A volunteer by the name of Billy Sunday helped set up his crusades and learned how to preach by watching Chapman. Billy Sunday eventually took over Chapman’s ministry becoming one of the most dynamic evangelists of this century. Billy Sunday’s preaching brought thousands to Christ.
Inspired by a 1924 Billy Sunday crusade in Charlotte, NC a group of Christians dedicated themselves to reaching their city for Christ. The group invited the evangelist Mordecai Ham to come and hold a series of evangelistic meetings in 1932. A lanky 16 year old sat in the huge crowd one evening, spellbound by the message the white-haired preacher gave. Each evening the preacher seemed to be shouting and waving his finger at the young man. Night after night the teen came and finally went forward to give his life to Christ.
That teenager was Billy Graham. Billy Graham has communicated the gospel to more people than any other person in history. And it all started with a Sunday school teacher named Kimball. Millions have been affected by his decision to go into a shoe store and share Christ with one person. Millions more will continue to feel his impact.
Can something like this happen today? Of course! God wants to use you to change the world. Make an eternal difference by sharing the gospel with those around you and by supporting others who do God’s work around the world.
Note: The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College gives additional information on the chain of events which famously led to Billy Graham’s conversion experience. Cf.: http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/faq/13.htm.
However, the same Wilburn Chapman referenced in the story above later wrote a book and gives direct quotations from both Kimball and Moody regarding the authenticity of Kimball’s involvement in Moody’s conversion experience. Cf.: http://www.biblebelievers.com/moody/05.html.
Lastly, it is important not to confuse the historical Edward D. Kimball of this story, who was a layman in Boston and who led Dwight L. Moody to faith in Jesus Christ, with either the Edward Kimball who was a silent picture era film star or the Edward L. Kimball who is a Mormon and a retired professor at Brigham Young University.