It’s been 7 years since I last attended a session of Moody Bible Institute’s Founder’s Week, a free conference commemorating the birthday of the school’s Founder, Dwight L. Moody. I carved a morning and afternoon out of my schedule today to hear Al Mohler – it seemed appropriate participate in this joining of my alma maters. As I drove downtown, listening to Caedmon’s Call’s 40 Acres, the soundtrack of my college years, I thought about how influential this annual conference has been in my life.

My first Founder’s Week experience was in 1999 via radio when I was a junior in High School. I can remember hearing James Meeks talk about “donkey heads and dove’s dung” and evangelism, along with Henry Blackaby, Erwin Lutzer, and Ravi Zacharias. There was such power in every person who spoke, and I found myself tuned-in to WCRF as much as possible, soaking in the truth of God’s word proclaimed from the pulpit of the Moody Church. God used that conference to awaken in me a desire to go to Moody Bible Institute for my undergraduate education as I prepared to serve in the church as my vocation.

My first Founder’s Week as a student was in 2001. I was filled with awe that classes were canceled and I was “required” to attend the morning and evening sessions at Moody Church. Sure, there were times when my eyes were heavy during the second morning session or when I despised the cold walk or long shuttle bus lines, but I counted it a privilege to soak in, in person this time, the beauty of God’s word proclaimed. John Piper spoke twice that week. I can still seem him standing behind the ornate wood pulpit of Moody Church, almost visibly filled with God’s Spirit, speaking on the issue of race and Christian community. I can still feel what it was like after that sermon to sing the hauntingly beautiful hymn, “We Are One in the Spirit,” as everyone present spontaneously reached for the hand of the person next to them and we all raised them in unity to God. I remember the conversation my roommate, Nate, and I had after the night, and the renewed commitment to following hard after God that we made. The beauty of Founder’s Week is that the next morning, I sat under the teaching of Dr. Piper again, and saw what theology applied looked like.

Beyond John Piper, over the three Founder’s Week’s I attended, I soaked in masterful illustrations from Tony Evans, beautiful exegesis from Alistair Begg and Howard Hendricks, and messages of truth from Franklin Graham, Elisabeth Elliott, Joni Eareckson Tada, Chuck Colson, Joe Stowell, and too many others to name. People whose books I had read, who I had listened to on Moody radio for much of my life, stood before me and proclaimed God’s Word in the power of God’s Spirit.

The most significant change Founder’s Week wrought in my life happened in the last one I attended as a student in 2003. Andrea, my wife, and I were still dating at the time, and she had come up from Cedarville University for the week to spend Founder’s Week with me. At this point in our relationship we were fairly serious, having talked about the increasing possibility of marriage, but we had pragmatically relegated that step to a much later date. It just seemed too soon, especially because our relationship had been long-distance for its entire existence. Well, God used Andy Stanley’s message one evening to change our plans. We left Moody Church and headed to 3rd Coast Café, where we opened our hearts to each other in a way we had not up to that point. I remember dropping her off at our mutual friends’ apartment, where she was staying for the week, and simply saying, “Why are we waiting?” The next month we were engaged, and less than 6 months later we were married. Founder’s Week strikes again!

To sit in Moody Church today, was somewhat surreal. I thought back to the close brothers I had sat in that sanctuary with many times over, soaking in God’s messages to us. I thought about how blessed I have been to receive the education I have, first from Moody, and then from Southern Seminary. And I thought about how God used Founder’s Week to aide in my decision about where to attend college, to deepen my walk with him and my fellowship with others, and to determine when I would marry my wife! I know it’s just a conference, but Founder’s Week feels like an old friend to me; the kind of friend that is by your side, encouraging you through major decisions in life, challenging you at others. Even as I write this, I wonder how many other lives have been forever changed by a week at Moody Church in February. Of course, the strength of Founder’s Week simply points to a deeper truth: the power of God’s Word proclaimed in the power of His Spirit.