"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Isaiah 55:11
R.W. Mahan was the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Graves County, Ky., from 1867-1888.
A Civil War veteran who surrendered to preach right after the conflict, Mahan was a widely respected Baptist leader. He served as moderator of both the West Union and West Kentucky Baptist associations.
In 1881 he invited J.B. Moody to come to Liberty Baptist Church and hold a two-week revival meeting. It was an excellent choice. Moody was pastor of nearby First Baptist Church of Paducah and a powerful preacher of the Word. His sermons were described as "direct, doctrinal, pointed and practical." He would go on to help found the Hall-Moody Bible Institute in Martin, Tenn., which today exists as the University of Tennessee-Martin.
For two weeks Moody preached the Bible faithfully in this protracted revival meeting. The gospel was declared and Christ was glorified. Although the church house was full each night, there was not a single salvation during these two weeks. Moody returned to Paducah and both the pastor and evangelist were greatly discouraged.
Then an amazing thing happened. People began to be saved and come forward to join Liberty Baptist Church. When Pastor
Mahan talked to these individuals about their profession of faith, they all declared the same thing—God had revealed to them their need of salvation during the J.B. Moody revival meeting. For the next eight years there was a steady stream of people joining Liberty Baptist Church. Each convert declared his conviction of sin had begun during the Moody Revival!
Although there were no immediate results, Pastor Mahan would later declare this was the greatest meeting in his 21-year pastorate at Liberty Baptist Church!
May Kentucky Baptists boldly declare the same gospel today that J.B. Moody preached 140 years ago. As we do so, we remember the promise of God—His Word will never return void.
Ben Stratton is pastor of Farmington Baptist Church in Graves County and a Baptist historian with the J.H. Spencer Historical Society.