Called and Committed: William Evans


Originally published in Pulpit Helps, February 2004.

The great evangelist D.L. Moody was preaching at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York City. One of his hearers was William Evans, a young typesetter for the New York World. Forcefully, Moody spoke from Luke 5 on the subject, "Surrender All to Jesus Christ." Then he appealed, in his powerful, unique way, for young men to give their lives for His service. Looking down at Evans, he announced abruptly, "Young man, I mean you!" After the meeting, Moody declared, "Somehow or other God told me He meant you. Have you never been called to give your life to the service of Jesus Christ?"

Evans, a young convert, was "getting a comfortable salary," but had given weeks of anxious thought to the ministry, and had been helping in mission work. He wrestled with the thought of giving up his salary and position, living a life of self-denial, "and I was not willing."

After he got his breath, he replied, "I don't know; I have been thinking about it." Moody charged him to "go and prepare yourself for Christian work," and urged him to attend the Bible Institute in Chicago without delay.

To the objection that he had no money for such a venture, Moody countered, "Did I say anything about money? Young man, you pack up your trunk and go to my school in Chicago."

Moody was a man of action who sought and got results. A few days later, Evans found himself on a train to Chicago with Moody's promise ringing in his ears: "If God has called you He will take care of you." When he arrived he found an allowance of $25 a month had been provided for him. He was able to supplement this sum (which went much farther then than it would now!) from other sources by part-time work.

So, in 1892, he became the first graduate of what is today Moody Bible Institute, also known as the West Point of Christian Service. He went on to become an outstanding author, pastor, and lecturer. Moody's vision was wonderfully fulfilled.

Born at Liverpool in 1870, Evans came to the U.S. seeking newspaper employment. After graduation from the Bible Institute, he attended the University of Chicago as well as other schools. Eventually he earned a number of college and seminary degrees, including Ph.D.

He joined the Moody Institute faculty and became director of the Bible course for 11 years. Students recalled that his voice "sometimes rose to a roar." Though he was stern, they found him kind and sympathetic; many would linger after class to ask questions.

Especially as a result of the teaching of Dr. R. A. Torrey, he became "somewhat of a walking Bible." As years went by, he added to the Torrey system some memory gymnastics of his own. Thus in later years Evans would stand before vast audiences and quote "whole chapters of the Bible without difficulty."

Next he became associate dean of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola University). After 1918 he traveled widely, ministering at Bible conferences in many parts of Africa and Asia. He was offered a number of famous pulpits, but preferred to have the world as his parish.

Most of his 40 books are out of print, but may be found in second hand stores and libraries. Outstanding titles still available include Great Doctrines of the Bible, How to Prepare Sermons, and What Every Christian Should Believe.

Evans went to be with the Lord in 1950, at age 80. His funeral was held at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, where his son, Dr. Louis Evans, was pastor.

"Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord...and their works do follow them" (Rev. 14:13).

Bernard R. DeRemer chronicled the lives of dozens of heroes of the faith in more than a decade of writing for Pulpit Helps Magazine. He continues to serve in this capacity as a volunteer contributor to Disciple. He lives in West Liberty, Ohio.

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