Rain pelted the car’s windshield as Dr. Erwin Lutzer made his way though the Chicago streets on a Sunday spring morning. It was early April, 1977. He served as senior pastor at Edgewater Baptist church (in Chicago) for the past five and a half years, but had recently resigned. During that time he had completed an M.A. in Philosophy from Loyola University in Chicago.
Previously Erwin had earned the Master of Theology (Th.M) from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1967. He now planned to work on his doctorate degree at Loyola University and to teach in the fall at Moody Bible Institute. This was the first Sunday the family did not have a specific church home.
He and his wife, Rebecca, were looking forward to sitting together for the first time in a long time in a church pew and just being part of a church congregation. Erwin had planned for the family to attend nearby Circle Church, but Rebecca felt led to go to the Moody Bible Church, located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. Erwin relented; he, Rebecca, and their two small children drove to Moody’s.
As parking around the church was scarce, Erwin let the family out at the church door telling them he would park the car and meet them in the lobby. He thought he might have to walk several blocks, but God provided what Erwin has called the “providential parking space”. He saw a man walking and fidgeting with his car keys. Sure enough, the man was leaving. So, when the car pulled out, Lutzer took the prime parking place - across the street from the church entrance!
It was just ten minutes before the church service was to begin, when In the church foyer Erwin was surprised to see Moody’s pastor, Warren W. Wiersbe, with his coat on and headed out the door. Erwin and Wiersbe had become friends over the years. Wiersbe said, "Erwin, I’m sick. I’m on my way home. Will you preach for me this morning?” If Lutzer had arrived a few moments earlier, or a few moments later, the two would have never met in the lobby! Erwin grabbed an envelope and composed a quick outline on it of his sermon. He preached on Psalm 1!
Not long after that, Warren W. Wiersbe left Moody Bible Church to spend full time at the Back to the Bible radio broadcast. Dr. Erwin Lutzer was asked to serve as the interim pastor while the congregation looked for and interviewed candidates to replace Wiersbe. In January, 1980, the church called Dr. Lutzer to officially assume the role of Senior Pastor.
Thirty-six years later, on May 22, 2016, he preached his last sermon as Senior Pastor and has assumed the role as the church’s “Pastor Emeritus”.
Dr. Lutzer serves as the featured speaker on three radio broadcasts:
“Songs in the Night” an evening program that has aired since 1943
“Running to Win” a daily Bible-teaching broadcast
“The Moody Church Hour” The Moody Church Sunday am service
He has written more than thirty books, including the bestseller, One Minute After You Die: A Preview of Your Final Destination.
In one of God’s Other Ways©, He calls us to serve. What a blessing when the call is willingly and successfully answered!
Note: Today’s Moody Bible Church was the result of the work of famed evangelist Dwight L. Moody in the mid-19th century. By 1860 it had become the largest and most well-known religious outreach of its kind and was even visited by President Abraham Lincoln one Sunday. Its first permanent home was formally dedicated on December 30, 1864, and was called the Illinois Street Church. This building was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire on October 8, 1871. The congregation then re-located to the corner of Chicago Avenue and LaSalle Street and the church was re-named the Chicago Avenue Church. The building could hold up to 10,000 people! Many Sundays it was filled to capacity, with others standing outside the church doors!
Dwight Moody served as the Senior Pastor until his death from an illness in 1899. In 1908, the church was formally renamed “The Moody Church” in his honor. The congregation moved to the church’s current location near Lincoln Park in 1925.
The list of pastors who have served at the church in recent years includes names you may recognize: Harry A. Ironside (1930-1948); Alan Redpath (1953-1962); George Sweeting (1966-1971); Warren W. Wiersbe (1971-1978). Dr. Erwin Lutzer had the longest tenure as Senior Pastor (1980-2016).
Please see stories about the Titanic (The Ship Began to Sink) and about past evangelists (Spiritual Dominoes) in my latest book, GOD’S OTHER WAYS© and how they relate to The Moody Bible Church.