Heroes of the Christian Faith: Edward Kimball

by Ron Hutchcraft

(Editor’s note: This is the 5th post in a series on Heroes of the Christian Faith.)


heroes of the Christian faith, Ron Hutchcraft, evangelism, Dwight L. MoodyYou’ve probably never heard his name. But he left a legacy that rocked the world. Including mine.

Edward Kimball wasn’t a pastor or preaching evangelist. He was a dry goods salesman who agreed to teach a Sunday School class of teenage boys. Including—including a biblically-clueless young man named Dwight.

But Kimball wasn’t content just to see those boys once a week in his class. He got to know their interests and backgrounds.

Feeling especially burdened for a very lost Dwight, he determined to visit him at the shoe store where he worked. He was feeling the tug of the Spirit to tell Dwight what Jesus had done for him on the cross.

Kimball’s fears flared up at the door as he thought of reasons not to pursue his mission. However, he did go in and found young Dwight in the back room. Later, Kimball would say: “I simply told him of Christ’s love for him and the love Christ wanted in return.”

And there, in the back room of that shoe store, Dwight experienced that love for himself. Years later, he reflected, “I had not felt that I had a soul till then.”

In subsequent years, Dwight would share that Calvary love with multitudes across America and beyond. And the world would know him as the leading evangelist of the 19th century, D. L. Moody! And Edward Kimball’s legacy reached all the way to my wife and me: we were trained for Christ’s service at the school that reborn shoe salesman founded—Moody Bible Institute.

Thank God for an ordinary guy named Edward Kimball. Humanly speaking, no Edward Kimball would have meant no D. L. Moody, who introduced countless thousands to the Savior.

I want to be like Kimball because of the ways he was like my Jesus. Let me share just a few.

First, he went where the lost were. He was like Jesus, who went to Samaria to reach Samaritans, to the lake to reach fishermen, to the dinner party to reach street people. Jesus didn’t hold a meeting at the temple and say, “Y’all come!” He left His comfort zone to come to ours. And He commanded us, “Y’all go!” Most lost folks aren’t going to come to where we are. We’ll need to show them Jesus in their world. Even in a shoe store.

Second, he didn’t let his fear decide. Kimball was afraid to go in for the rescue. Courage is not the absence of fear, however. It’s the disregard of it. Even Paul “came to you in…fear…with much trembling.” However, instead of retreating, his fear caused him to come “with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Cor. 2:3-5).  The fears that keep us from telling someone about Jesus have one thing in common—they are all about ‘me’. Spiritual rescue is all about ‘them’.

Third, he focused on Jesus. He was like Paul, who “resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2)—not church, not religion, not a lost person’s lifestyle, but “simply Christ’s love for him.” The gospel is Jesus and His cross and resurrection. Don’t encumber it or dilute it. Jesus is the message. The cross is the magnet.

Finally, he came with a broken heart. Kimball said, “There were tears in my eyes.” Moody said, “Here is a man who never saw me till lately, and he is weeping over my sins.” That’s the heart of Jesus who “saw the city and wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Something powerful happens when you dare to pray: “Go ahead, God, and break my heart for the lost people all around me.” You will go in for the rescue because you cannot leave them lost.

Years later, D. L. Moody said of Kimball and the day he came looking for a lost young man: “I can still feel the power of that man’s hand on my shoulder.”

That is the extraordinary impact of one ordinary life—a life like yours.

Ron-Hutchcraft2Ron Hutchcraft (@ronhutchcraft) is an international speaker, radio host, and bestselling author. As president of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, Ron and his team specialize in developing, authentic, relevant, and creative tools to reach people with the message of Jesus. Ron’s closest partner in life and work is his wife, Karen. They are the parents of three grown children and have nine grandchildren.