Sermon Illustrations

During Cyrus McCormick’s boyhood, farmers faced the unwieldy task of harvesting increasingly larger crops of grain. McCormick inherited his father’s dream to perfect a mechanical reaping machine. When he did (assisted by a slave named Jo Anderson), Cyrus McCormick made history. In 1847 McCormick moved to Chicago to oversee manufacture of his reaper, and in one year he sold 1,500 machines. At age 40, McCormick was heralded as a captain of industry.

A Presbyterian layman, McCormick lived by the creed that business and Christianity are compatible; the latter ought to serve the former. In that context, he enticed the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of the Northwest to move to Chicago by promising to endow a chair if it relocated. The seminary not only moved, but also adopted McCormick’s name.

It took an extraordinary man to convince McCormick to invest in projects outside his own denomination. Dwight L. Moody succeeded. When the young revivalist described his vision for a Chicago YMCA building that would be larger than the Crosby Opera House, McCormick warmed to his tenacity.

Moody boldly asked McCormick for an initial investment of $10,000. His plan was to raise $125,000 by selling stocks in the YMCA association. The association then hoped to repay investors from its paying boarders. McCormick’s name, Moody said, would start the ball rolling. Two years later, in 1866, the full sum was pledged.

The building was hardly built when it burned down. McCormick again purchased $10,000 in stocks, and in 1869 the new hall was dedicated to him.

McCormick contributed yearly to the YMCA and periodically to Moody’s campaigns in Chicago. In 1886, when Moody began raising funds for the Bible Institute, McCormick offered $50,000. "Better make it a hundred," Moody told him. "That will require some consideration," McCormick replied with a smile, ending the conversation. But he later consented to give the larger amount.

SOURCE: "Dwight Moody," Christianity Today, no. 25.

quoted by Ken Alford in "Building to Burn."

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