Have you ever heard of Edward Kimball? Probably not. You might have heard of Dwight L. Moody, though. Dwight L. Moody was a famous Christian itinerant preacher from the late 1800’s. He started the Moody Institute in Chicago and preached the gospel to hundreds of thousands of people in his lifetime.
Edward Kimball, on the other hand, was a simple Sunday School teacher at Mt. Vernon Church in Boston, Massachusetts. In his autobiography, however, Dwight Moody credits Edward Kimball’s Sunday School class with bringing him to faith in Jesus.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Dwight Moody came to have a profound influence on another Christian preacher named J. Wilbur Chapman. Chapman in turn greatly influenced the faith of a former professional baseball player named Billy Sunday.
You might have heard of Billy Sunday. At the beginning of the 20th century, he was the most famous Christian preacher in the United States. In fact, many historians say that, after Charles Lindbergh, he was the most famous person in America at the time. Billy Sunday’s preaching is credited with over one million conversions in his lifetime.
In 1924, Billy Sunday helped establish a Christian organization in Charlotte, North Carolina which later became known as the Charlotte Businessmen’s Club (CBMC). In 1934, the CBMC invited a Baptist preacher named Mordecai Ham to come lead their revival. A curious 17 year old kid attended one of those revivals and came to believe in Jesus.
You might have heard of him. His name was Billy Graham. He is credited with preaching the gospel to more people than any other person in the history of the world – all of which can be traced back to a seed planted by an unknown Sunday School teacher named Edward Kimball.
Jesus once compared the gospel – the good news of his love – with a mustard seed. A mustard seed was the tiniest seed found in Palestine at the time, but it grew into one of the largest plants. In the same way, the good news of Jesus and how he saved us can have very humble beginnings, but can grow and spread and accomplish great things.
The first people to plant that seed were Jesus’ 12 disciples, a group of poor, uneducated fishermen and social outcasts. Yet, through them the Bible was written and the good news of God’s love spread to the known world.
On October 31, 1517, a poor German monk named Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper to a church door. It listed concerns he had with the Christian Church and the corruption found within it. The good news about Jesus and the forgiveness he won was no longer being preached.
Every Protestant Christian church in the world can trace its roots back to that moment. Even Roman Catholics owe a debt of gratitude to Martin Luther. Because of him, the Bible was translated so they can now read the good news of God’s love in their own native tongues and even worship in their own languages.
The tiny seed of the gospel changes hearts and lives. It spreads like a spark in a dry prairie. And the amazing thing is that anyone can plant that seed. Anyone can light that spark.
Even if you never become a great preacher like Dwight L. Moody or Billy Sunday or Billy Graham, even if you never change the world like Peter or Paul or Martin Luther, you can be an Edward Kimball. You can tell others of Jesus’ love, because anyone can plant a seed.