Giants of the Faith - A Christian History Podcast

Episode 64 - Chain, Chain, Chain: Edward Kimball

July 13, 2023 Robert Daniels Season 5 Episode 64
Episode 64 - Chain, Chain, Chain: Edward Kimball
Giants of the Faith - A Christian History Podcast
Show Notes Transcript


Hi and welcome to episode 64 of the Giants of the Faith podcast. My name is Robert Daniels and I'm the host of this show where we look at the lives of Christians that have made an impact for the Kingdom of God over the last 2,000 years. Over the next five episodes we're going to be tracing the chain of faith from a little-known Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball, to the most impactful Christian evangelist of the 20th century, Billy Graham. I hope you enjoy.


Edward Kimball was born on July 29, 1823, in Rowley, Massachusetts to parents Richard and Elizabeth Kimball. As a boy Kimball considered a career in the church but eventually followed his father into the family business - as a public school teacher in Rowley. In 1846 Kimball moved to Boston and setup shop with two other men and formed the Kimball, Felt, & Wentworth carpet company. In this capacity, he became the first traveling salesman for a carpet dealer in the US.


While in Boston Kimball married Emma Jane Henchman in 1850. The couple had four children. The Kimballs also joined the Mount Vernon Congregational Church and Edward took up the role of a church officer. He also served as a Sunday School teacher to teenage boys. And this is where Kimball intersects with our story.


One day in 1854 his class was visited by a young Dwight Lyman Moody. Dwight's father had died when Dwight was only four and, though he'd been to church throughout his childhood, it was always of the non-orthodox Unitarian variety and he was not particularly interested nor was he a particularly good student. Kimball asked the class to turn to a chapter in John but Dwight did not know where John was so he just opened it to the beginning of the Bible. The class laughed at his ignorance but Kimball took pity on the boy and handed him his own Bible, opened to the correct page, and asked Dwight to read the passage. This small act of kindness really impacted Moody, he would later say, and it is what encouraged him to continue attending the Sunday School class.


Kimball was a man dedicated to his students and he determined to be intentional with each one of them. He prayed over them and took a personal interest in them. In April of 1855 he visited Dwight at the Holton Shoe Store where he was stocking packages. Kimball told Dwight how much God loved him and how the gospel was personal for him. And it was during this conversation between a concerned Sunday School teacher and a 17 year-old kid that DL Moody became a Christian. We'll hear more of his story in the next episode but just know that Moody went on to preach to over 100 million people worldwide through his various ministries.


Kimball's story of faith doesn't end there, however. In 1868 he and his family moved to New York for work. Tragedy struck in 1870 when Emma Jane died. Two years later Kimball married Laura Harris. Then, after the Great Chicago Fire Kimball moved to Chicago in 1872 where he took a job as an office furniture salesman. This job led him to travel and it was during a work trip to northern California in 1877 that the course for the rest of Kimball's life was set.


Kimball's spirit was troubled when he heard that several area churches were suffering under tremendous debt. And inspiration struck. He devised a plan to help churches rid themselves of debt. Kimball presented his idea to the congregations of these churches. He told them how debt was a hinderance to Christian work and ministry. And showed them that, by faith, they could bring their churches out of the debt that so bogged it down. He took the total amount of the debt and divided it up into reasonable chunks, then took those chunks and turned them into subscriptions that individual church members agreed to pay on. Thus he spread the load of the debt among the whole congregation over time and so the whole of a church's debt would be accounted for in a single afternoon. He used the same method for church debts of anywhere from $2,000 to $110,000. And it worked.


It worked so well and Kimball was so committed to the cause that he quit his job in 1879 and took up the work full-time. Dozens of churches all over the US became debt free thanks to the exhortation and methods of Edward Kimball. He worked at the problem until his death, raising over $15,000,000 during that time and was hailed by newspapers as the Modern Moses, leading churches out of the wilderness of debt.


Kimball died on June 5, 1901, in his son's home at the age of 77. Through the impact he had on DL Moody and his work with church finances Kimball did great things for the Kingdom. And he is definitely a Giant of the Faith. Next episode we'll look at Moody's life as we continue the march toward Billy Graham. Thanks for listening and God bless.









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