D.L. Moody’s Publishing Houses
- June 9, 2021
Did you know that D.L. Moody, known for evangelism, also helped to establish two Christian publishing houses? Moody founded Moody Publishers to provide Christian literature at a low cost and also played a critical role in forming Fleming Revell (today Revell is a division of Baker Publishing).
Fleming Revell was Moody’s brother-in-law. At Moody’s urging, Revell established a publishing company in 1870, which initially published primarily Sunday school papers.
But as Moody grew in popularity, unauthorized collections of his sermons were being published by others. Moody was concerned about both the quality of these pirated books and who benefited financially. Moody approached Revell about becoming his official publisher. The enterprise was wildly successful, and by 1900, Fleming Revell became the largest publisher of Christian books in America.
Meanwhile, Moody started his own publishing company in 1894, after frustrated efforts to locate inexpensive Christian literature. Moody Publishers was originally known as the Bible Institute Colportage Association. A year later he opened an eastern branch in Northfield, Massachusetts. Colportage associations were formed to distribute religious books and tracts, typically through traveling salespeople (colporteurs). Moody’s association focused on people of limited means and making low-cost literature available to the working poor.
The association also provided jobs, advertising that “employment is presented you at the smallest outlay of money and the least possible risk of failure or loss. The remuneration is in accordance with interest, time and energy expended.” Many of the students at Moody’s two schools in Massachusetts worked as colporteurs to help pay for their schooling. Moody also used the association to provide for undertakings such as free libraries for prisons and poorhouses.
Moody was an innovator. While it is true that Moody was not the first in Christian publishing, he was instrumental in putting it on the map. He made Christian literature available to the masses. The next time you are inspired by what you read in a Christian paperback, thank the Lord for D.L. Moody.
Dr. Gregg Quiggle is the D.L. Moody Professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute.