In 1886 D.L. Moody established the Chicago Evangelization Society, for the "education and training of Christian workers, including teachers, ministers, missionaries and musicians who may completely and effectively proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ."
In 1870, four years after opening a church on Illinois Street (the forerunner of today's Moody Church), Dwight Moody was introduced to Emma Dryer. Emma was a principal and teacher at Illinois State Normal University. Dryer was also deeply devoted to teaching the youth of Chicago about Christian doctrine and Scripture. In 1871, after the Great Chicago Fire devastated much of the Chicago area, Moody began to simultaneously minister to the needs of those damaged financially and physically by the fire. Moody invited all the youth to his Church, and Dryer was invited to teach Bible Study classes to these masses of people. This fueled Moody's interest in educational purposes, which would later lead to the birth of the Institute.
In 1883, Dryer, with the permission of Moody, organized and headed what was known as the "May Institute." These were weekly meetings in which church members would meet and pray. Most importantly however, would be the open discussions facilitated among the church members. Many of the church members began to request that Moody open up a new school. This school would serve as a training school for the youth of the Church, a place where future evangelists could learn the skills necessary to carry on in the Revivalist tradition. On January 22, 1886, Moody addressed church members with the following, "I tell you what, and what I have on my heart I believe we have got to have gap-men, men to stand between the laity and the ministers; men who are trained to do city mission work. Take men that have the gifts and train them for the work of reaching the people." This formal meeting, held at Farwell Hall, resulted in the group founding the Chicago Evangelization Society, which was later renamed the Moody Bible Institute after Moody's death.
Shortly after MBI was established, in 1894, Moody Publishers was founded under the name Bible Institute Colportage Association (BICA). This publishing house made Moody’s vision real by publishing books to reach a larger audience of Christians and non-Christians.
Before 1900, Moody was the main force for fund raising to support MBI. But since he passed away, the Institute struggled financially. At the time, James M. Gray, president of the school, invited Henry Parsons Crowell to restructure the Institute to become more financially self-sustainable. Under Henry Parsons Crowell, the school was built on business priniples and a foundation of productivity and performance. The MBI Executive Committee met on Tuesdays, nearly every week for the next 40 years. An administration building took years to complete, but when the building was dedicated, there was no mortgage, and only $50,000 left to pay.
In 1926, the Institute expanded its reach beyond education and publishing by sponsoring the first non-commercial Christian radio station in America, WMBI. Over time, MBI’s radio outreach grew to the Moody Broadcasting Network (MBN) which now owns and operates 35 commercial-free stations and provides programming via satellite to more than 700 outlets.
Moody Bible Institute's flagship ministry and founding purpose is education. Its goal is to train students specifically for full-time ministry in churches and parachurch organizations. Ministry intent is a necessary prerequisite for admission. All undergraduate school tuition is funded by outside donations. Undergraduates are only responsible for room, board, certain fees (parking, building use, activity, library) and books. The Institute has chosen to remain independent of Federal Title IV educational financial aid programs, therefore leaving the student with a need to find an alternative way to fund their end of the financial responsibilities of attending the Institute. In 2008, Nellie Mae and other major student loan companies refused to give any funds to Moody students because of this. The school offers both undergraduate and graduate-level education in both traditional and distance-learning models.
In addition to the BA, MBI also offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Biblical Studies, a two-year Associates of Biblical Studies degree (ABS), and a five-year Bachelor of Music degree (BMus) in Sacred Music. Furthermore, a non-degree TESOL certificate is also available, which takes one year to complete.
The graduate certificate is a one-year program designed for non-degree-seeking students desiring to study at the graduate level. The Master of Arts program is a standard 2-year MA degree. The Master of Ministry is designed specifically for students already actively involved in full-time ministry, and is a 60-hour program spread across three years (including summers). The Master of Divinity, Moody Bible Institute's flagship degree program, is a 96-hour program designed to prepare students specifically for full-time church ministry.
Moody Graduate School is currently developing a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program, which it plans to inaugurate in 2010.
All students are expected to adhere to a Student Life Guide (SLG) that provides guidelines for living while on and off campus. Some of the concessions that students make in order to attend the Institute include abstaining from tobacco, drinking alcohol, and social dancing. Freshmen and sophomores under age 21 have a curfew on campus. In the spring of 2006, the student body voted to keep a prohibition on DVD viewing in the dorms. While a majority of the student body was in favor of the change, the proposal did not receive the two-thirds majority required. Students living in Jenkins Hall (generally married and graduate school students) are exempt from this rule. All students are allowed to attend movies in theaters or other off-campus venues.
A wide variety of student organizations, four music groups, two award-winning student publications (the Arch yearbook and the Moody Student newspaper), and a student radio station all provide outlets for student ministry, community, and creativity. Moody's varsity athletic teams include men’s soccer, men’s and women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball. Moody also hosts intramural athletics including flag football, ultimate Frisbee, basketball, volleyball, soccer, water polo, and softball.
Residence Life sponsors the Brother/Sister floor program (Bro/Sis), which provides opportunities for students to interact with other male and female students of diverse backgrounds. Shared meals, times of prayer and worship, open houses, city outings, and other activities are all a part of the Bro/Sis.
Undergraduate students are required to attend chapel at 10 am every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesdays are generally President's Chapel, in which the school's president addresses students and employees. Friday's chapels are generally are not required. Chapel is optional but encouraged for the graduate student body.
As part of the Practical Christian Ministry (PCM) program, each undergraduate student participates in a mandatory weekly ministry assignment. Students serve in dozens of ministries in the Chicago area. Each student’s PCM assignment is a mandatory part of the academic requirements at Moody.
(see History and accreditation above)
After Moody's death in 1899, Dr. Torrey became president of MBI. He developed a resident faculty and established the curriculum and Practical Christian Ministries program. His administration developed the correspondence and evening school programs. He also initiated production of The Institute Tie, later developed into MOODY magazine, which was published for 103 years.
In 1904, leadership of the Institute passed to Dr. James M. Gray, who had been a frequent lecturer at the school and had been personally associated with Moody. Dr. Gray guided MBI through the years of World War I and the subsequent Depression. A high school diploma became an entrance requirement for the first time during his term, and MBI's first radio station, WMBI, signed on the air July 28, 1926.
Dr. Will H. Houghton succeeded Dr. Gray in 1935. Dr. Houghton's leadership was marked by an expanding ministry that included construction of the 12-story Crowell Hall, a portion of Torrey-Gray Auditorium, and the founding of the Moody Institute of Science. During Houghton's tenure, the Bible Institute Colportage Association, founded by Moody, also merged with MBI and became Moody Publishers.
Upon the death of Dr. Houghton in 1947, the Institute trustees turned to Dr. William Culbertson, then dean, to become president. Dr. Culbertson and his administration strengthened the school curriculum, adopted a degree program, and implemented an extensive building progam. MBI also added missionary technical courses such as aviation and radio to its course list.
In 1971, the mantle of leadership passed to Dr. George Sweeting, the only president of the Institute to have attended the school. During Dr. Sweeting's administration, the evening school opened 21 off-campus locations, the MBI pastor's conference began, the number of radio stations owned by MBI increased, and the Moody Broadcasting Network and Moody Graduate School were born.
Dr. Joseph Stowell became president of MBI in 1987. Under his leadership, Moody Broadcasting added 13 radio stations and the number of network affiliates grew to more than 600. The graduate school also started several new master's degree programs, including the Master of Divinity, and the Moody Distance Learning Center began offering the Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies entirely through off-campus coursework. Stowell left in 2005 to join Pastor James MacDonald's staff, as a teaching pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, IL. As of February 1, 2008, Stowell accepted the position of president at the Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich.
On 2008-05-28, Dr. Michael J. Easley announced his resignation as president of Moody Bible Institute, effective June 30, 2008. He will continue to serve as President Emeritus through the end of 2008. In his absence, Provost Charles Dyer will provide spiritual and theological leadership to the institute, and COO Ed Cannon will oversee its business affairs. Easley explained in a letter to the Moody community, "Surgery [for my back condition] has already once interrupted my tenure for several weeks, and unfortunately it has become clear that more treatment is required. I have come to the difficult conclusion that under the circumstances I cannot be as effective a President as the Institute deserves.
MBN got its start seemingly by accident. A violent storm in October 1925 prevented the talent for WGES’ scheduled broadcast from performing on the radio. This opened the door for two cornet-playing MBI students, who happened to be on-site and could fill the time slot.
With the support of businessman Henry Parsons Crowell, less than a year later WMBI was launched with the state of the art, with a high-powered transmitter, tower, studios and staff. Now the oldest Christian radio station in the country. Despite changing technology, audiences and formats, the station has maintained a presence on the air for eight decades.
This station was the beginning of what would come to be known as the Moody Broadcasting Network (MBN). By the end of the 1960s, the network’s potential audience had increased to 30 million listeners.