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History of Moody Bible Institute

From their beginnings, Moody’s core education, publishing and broadcasting ministries focused on taking God’s Word and applying it to life.

Moody Bible Institute

D.L. Moody’s interest in educational endeavors took root in the summer of 1870, when he met Miss Emma Dryer, principal and teacher at Illinois State Normal University. The following year, while ministering to the needs of thousands who were left homeless by the Chicago Fire, Dryer began developing a program of Bible study, teaching and home visitation for young women. Historic entrance to Moody Bible InstituteMr. Moody persuaded Dryer to stay in Chicago and carry on her Bible work under the auspices of his church. During the next decade, Moody continued his involvement in evangelistic work, and Dryer developed the training program among women in Chicago. At every opportunity she encouraged Moody to start a training school for young men and women.

Early in 1883, several Chicago residents began meeting weekly with Dryer to pray that Moody would return to Chicago and develop the new school. During a Jan. 22, 1886 meeting in Chicago to discuss city evangelization, the subject of a training school again came up. By this time Dryer’s persistent message had taken hold in Moody’s heart. Moody addressed the gathering: “I tell you what I want, and what I have on my heart. I believe we have got to have gap-men to stand between the laity and the ministers; men who are trained to do city mission work. Take men that have the gifts and train them for the work of reaching the people.” Thus the Chicago Evangelization Society, later renamed the Moody Bible Institute, was born.

Moody Correspondence School

In January 1901, the Moody Correspondence School was established for “the benefit of those of both sexes who cannot, for financial or other reasons, attend the Institute personally. The purpose is to give them, as far as possible, all the advantages of the systematic methods of study pursued here.” 

The school started with two courses: Bible Doctrine and Practical Christian Work. Both courses were written by Moody’s second president, R.A. Torrey. The number of courses grew steadily from 1901 to 1945, and by the end of 1945, there were 17 courses available.

Today, correspondence courses are known as Independent Studies, and can be taken for personal enrichment or for credit towards a college degree. Moody Distance Learning offers almost 70 Independent Studies for either personal enrichment or college credit. In spring 2009, Moody Distance Learning offered Web-based Independent Studies for the first time.

In January 2000, Moody Distance Learning pioneered a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies degree available completely online. Since 2000, an online Associate of Biblical Studies degree and an online Certificate of Biblical Studies for graduate and undergraduate students have also been offered.

Moody Evening School

In October 1903, Moody’s Evening School was created. The school offered classes four nights a week and averaged 125 students during the first term. Its objective was similar to the day program, but it sought to train lay workers who would become effective in their churches, instead of students who would work full-time in the church.  

The Evening and Day Schools offered the same programs from 1918 to 1924. From 1925 to 1930, the Evening School curriculum was narrowed and only offered one course of study that matched the Day School: the General Course. In 1959, a new Basic Bible Course was created to allow students with academic deficiencies to receive Bible instruction.

In 1982, the Evening School began offering students an Adult Bible Studies Certificate. Two years later, students taking college credit courses could earn an Associate of Arts degree, later changed to the Associate of Science in Biblical Studies degree. In 1997, Moody Distance Learning, formerly Moody Correspondence School, began offering a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies degree.

The Evening School tradition continues today through Moody Distance Learning’s Regional Classrooms. Currently operating in Chicago and its suburbs, northwest Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida, Regional Classrooms offer college credit and continuing education courses to non-resident students during evening hours or Saturday mornings. 

Moody Publishers

As D.L. Moody toured North America and Europe, he noticed a lack of Christian books in bookstores. He surveyed the state of Wisconsin and found that only one bookstore sold Christian books, and even then it was a small quantity and too expensive for the average American. This concerned Moody deeply, and out of this concern he founded the Bible Institute Colportage Association (BICA) in 1894.

Historic Moody Employees working in an officeMoody insisted the books they publish cost no more than 25 cents per copy, as he thought it important for Christians to have these books for their spiritual growth and for non-Christians to be introduced to the gospel. This was revolutionary for the time, but like many of his endeavors, it was very successful.

BICA was formally incorporated in October 1899, and by the time Moody died that December, more than 1.5 million books had been sold. In 1941, BICA became Moody Press, and it more recently changed its name to Moody Publishers. To this day, it still operates as the publishing arm of Moody Bible Institute. In fact, profits from Moody Publishers are funneled back to Moody Bible Institute to support the students’ tuition-paid education.

MOODY Magazine

Started in September 1900 as The Institute Tie, the magazine gradually evolved into Christian Workers' Magazine (1910), then became Moody Bible Institute Monthly (1920), Moody Monthly (1938), and finally MOODY magazine in 1990.

The magazine reached thousands of readers around the United States, teaching and encouraging them from Scripture. In 2003, MOODY magazine was honored with the Award of Excellence by the Evangelical Press Association.

In August 2003, after 103 years of publication, the magazine came to a close, due in part to the increasing number of Christian magazines on the market and the growing accessibility of information online. In the magazine's final edition, Joseph M. Stowell, former president of Moody Bible Institute, said MOODY magazine expressed the very heart of Moody's ministry. MOODY came alongside Christians, challenging them to think biblically, serve faithfully, and share their faith effectively.

Today in the Word

Moody Bible Institute continues to publish Today in the Word, a free monthly devotional guide that began in 1988 as a gift thanking the supporters of Moody Bible Institute and Moody Radio. Today in the Word has now been provided for over 20 years and is designed to encourage and grow an individual's faith.

Each edition of Today in the Word includes readings from Scripture, a daily verse, illustrations and practical application. The devotional is distributed to prisons, shelters, churches and to anyone who requests a monthly copy.

Moody Radio

In October 1925, a storm prevented the scheduled talent for Chicago radio station WGES from arriving. This opened the door for two cornet-playing Moody Bible Instititue students, who happened to be on site and could fill the time slot. Few would have thought this chance encounter would result in a weekly show. Less than a year later, this helped launch Moody Bible Institute-sponsored radio station WMBI, Historic image of Moody musiciansthe oldest non-commercial Christian radio station in the country. In spite of changing technology, audiences and formats, the station has maintained a familiar presence on the air for eight decades.

WMBI was just the beginning of what would come to be known as Moody Radio. In 1958, Moody purchased WCRF in Cleveland, Ohio and shortly thereafter, WDLM in Moline, Ill. These purchases were the catalyst for a network that would grow to include 35 stations in the continental U.S. In 1982, Moody Radio began a satellite-fed network enabling communications across America. Today, the network’s potential audience has increased to well over 30 million people and more than one million listeners each week.

Moody Presidents

R.A. TorreyDr. R.A. Torrey succeeded D.L. Moody as president of Moody Bible Institute in 1899. His leadership led to developing a resident faculty, as well as establishing the curriculum and Practical Christian Ministries program. Under his administration, the correspondence and evening school programs were also developed. He was responsible for reintroducing a publication called The Institute Tie, which throughout the years grew into MOODY magazine.

James GrayIn 1904, leadership of the Institute passed to Dr. James M. Gray, who had been a frequent lecturer at the school and had been personally associated with Moody. Gray guided Moody through the years of World War I and the subsequent Depression era. A high school diploma became an entrance requirement for the first time during his term and Moody’s first radio station, WMBI, signed on the air July 28, 1926.

Will HoughtonDr. Will H. Houghton succeeded Gray in 1934. Houghton’s leadership was marked by an expanding ministry that included construction of the 12-story Crowell Hall and the Torrey-Gray Auditorium. Moody Institute of Science, with its appealing demonstrations of biblical truth, was born. The Bible Institute Colportage Association, also founded by D.L. Moody in 1894, merged with the Institute and became Moody Press, later renamed Moody Publishers.

William CulbertsonUpon the death of Houghton in 1947, Moody trustees turned to Dr. William Culbertson, then dean, to become president. Under Culbertson, the school curriculum was strengthened, a degree program was adopted, and an extensive building program was undertaken. Missionary technical courses, including aviation and radio, took their place in the curriculum.

George SweetingIn 1971, the mantle of leadership passed to Dr. George Sweeting, the first and only president to have also attended the school. Sweeting led Moody in its goal of meeting the spiritual needs of a changing society. During his administration, the evening school opened 21 off-campus locations, the Pastors’ Conference began, the number of Moody-owned radio stations increased, and Moody Broadcasting Network and Moody Graduate School became part of the Institute.

Joseph StowellDr. Joseph M. Stowell became president in 1987. Dedicated to equipping the next generation of Christian leaders, Moody added several strategic undergraduate programs, including majors in Applied Linguistics, Family Ministry, Sports Ministry, Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages (TESOL), Urban Ministry and Women’s Ministry. Moody received regional accreditation in 1989. During Stowell’s tenure, applications for enrollment moved to record levels and efforts were made to increase minority representation in the Moody faculty, student body and employee population. The undergraduate school underwent a comprehensive curriculum revision to prepare students for ministry in a changing world. The Moody Graduate School continued to grow, online education was launched and Moody Broadcasting Network expanded from 11 to 33 owned and operated radio stations.

Michael Easley

Dr. Michael J. Easley became the eighth president of Moody Bible Institute on March 1, 2005. In June 2008, he resigned from the position due to health concerns. A gifted Bible teacher and church leader, Easley shared the same passion for ministry, heart for people and love for God that have distinguished previous Moody presidents for more than 120 years. His commitment to the word of God in an ever-shifting world was evident in the development of Easley’s 24-minute daily radio program, inContext with Michael Easley. inContext was designed to help listeners take a fresh approach to grapple with truth through sound biblical exposition, tangible illustrations and real-life insights. He also served as host of Moody Presents, a 26-minute teaching program featuring the music of Moody Bible Institute student groups.

Dr. Paul NyquistDr. Paul Nyquist was unanimously appointed as the ninth president of Moody Bible Institute on April 15, 2009. Possessing more than 18 years of strong ministry and leadership experience, Nyquist previously served as president and CEO of Avant Ministries. Prior to Avant, he pastored two churches in the Midwest and taught as an adjunct professor at Grace University and Phoenix Seminary. He was also a member of the board of directors for Avant (formerly Gospel Missionary Union), Philadelphia Biblical University and CrossGlobal Link (formerly IFMA). His first book, There Is No Time, was published in 2007. It is written as a missionary fable to help communicate the concept of short-cycle church planting, a new missionary philosophy currently implemented by Avant Ministries. 

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