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Sowing Seeds in Urban Soil

Serving in inner-city ministries was one of Gary Chapman’s most formative experiences as a student at Moody
  • Jeff Smith
  • May 20, 2022

Gary Chapman with some of the children he taught in an afternoon Sunday school program through Moody's Practical Christian Ministry.

Gary Chapman with some of the children he taught in an afternoon Sunday school program through Moody's Practical Christian Ministry.This is the last of a three-part series on bestselling author Gary Chapman’s experience as a student at Moody Bible Institute. Part 1 | Part 2

Hailing from China Grove, North Carolina, a rural town of 2,000 residents, it would be easy to assume that Gary Chapman ’58 would be reluctant to serve in ministries to prisoners, the homeless, the poor, and a range of racial and ethnic groups as a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

Reflecting on his six decades of ministry—from authoring the Love Languages™ book series to biblical counseling—Dr. Chapman says Moody’s Christian service requirement for students was one of the most effective tools that prepared him for God’s calling on his life.

Practical Christian ministry

Just as it does today, Moody directed students during Dr. Chapman’s time at the school to fulfill a weekly Christian service assignment each semester. Now known as Practical Christian Ministry, students scattered across Chicago to volunteer in a variety of Christ-centered ministries. The objective was to provide students with tangible ministry experience that complemented their classroom education. It also exposed them to different people, situations, environments, and needs than most were accustomed to seeing and addressing back home, teaching students how to share and live out the gospel.

“I worked in jails, hospitals, boys’ clubs, rescue missions, and Sunday schools,” Dr. Chapman said. “I still have vivid memories of these opportunities to serve in the ‘real world.’ I am deeply grateful for the impact these experiences had on my life.”

Introducing kids to Jesus

Dr. Chapman’s favorite memory from his service assignments with Moody was assisting an afternoon Sunday school program for inner-city youth, most of whom were black.

“As students we walked the neighborhood from apartment to apartment gathering children and walking them to our meeting place,” he said. “Then we would teach them stories from the Bible and what we could learn from those stories.”

Dr. Chapman and the other students constantly looked for opportunities to weave the gospel message into their presentations. They prayed before each assignment that God would open doors for the children to hear and respond to His plan of salvation.

“For those who were old enough to understand, we taught them how God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to show us how much He loved us,” Dr. Chapman said. “We explained the good news that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we could become God’s children and live forever with Him.”

Leaving the results to the Lord

Even though more than 60 years have passed since he attended Moody, Dr. Chapman still remembers the boys and girls he was honored to serve in Chicago—and who continue to influence his passion for ministry to this day.

“I have often wondered what happened to each of those children,” he said. “I am reminded of the story that Jesus told about planting seeds. Some seeds fell along the path and were trampled; others were eaten by birds; others fell on the rocks and among thorns. But some fell on good ground and yielded ‘a hundred times more than was sown’ [Luke 8:8]. I hope some of our gospel seeds fell on ‘good ground’ in the hearts of those children.

“Only Heaven will reveal the fruit of our seed planting. This side of Heaven, we will never know the full results of our efforts to love others as Christ has loved us. But I have learned to leave the results to Him and rejoice in the privilege of sowing seed in His name.”

Dr. Chapman’s quotes are excerpted from his book Life Lessons and Love Languages: What I’ve Learned on My Unexpected Journey.

About the Author

  • Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith is editorial manager for Marketing Communications with Moody Bible Institute.