Art DeMoss was a teenager when he started gambling, first with cards innocently, then horses, dice, roulette, baseball and football games, and even elections. He loved the game of chance. He loved the possibility of winning big and making easy money. Art thought Las Vegas was heaven.
Before he graduated high school he left home to travel the country and upon finding Vegas he wrote home to his parents saying, “Don’t expect me back. I found what I’ve been looking for.”
Art’s goal was to get rich. So at nineteen years old he went against the advice of his parents and teachers and opened a couple of horse rooms to take people’s bets on horses. He soon found he was handling upwards of $10,000 a day in the 1940s.
“I was searching for something,” he would later say, “And I never realized at the time what I was really searching for.”
I Was Just A Fool
At the age of twenty-four, Art had four offices, three Cadillac convertibles, but no peace, joy or happiness.
No one had ever asked Art if he was a Christian or wanted to become one. He had been baptized as an infant and grown up with some church experience. Art believed in God. Even believed Jesus Christ was the Son of God and the Bible was the word of God, but he knew nothing of the power of Christ or of being born again.
But one Friday night Art attended an evangelistic meeting that he had seen widely advertised around town. He wasn’t sure why he went, other than that it would be a change of pace from the racetracks and nightclubs, something different than drinking, dancing and gambling.
As Art listened to an evangelist present the gospel he realized, “From God’s side I wasn’t such a smart guy after all. I was just a fool, a poor lost sinner on my way to hell. But God loved me, Jesus Christ had come here and suffered and bled and died on the cross for my sins and he wanted to save me. And all I had to do was to open my heart and invite him to come in.”
This was the first time Art DeMoss had ever heard the gospel and that night Jesus reached down and saved him. He knew something had happened to him because money had been dethroned in his heart. It didn’t control him like it used to. He not only quit cheating at cards and horses, but lost interest in playing. Art was a new creation in Christ.
A Legacy Larger Than Business Success
As a new Christian Art knew he needed a new profession. He began dreaming of selling insurance through direct-mail marketing. Art was a great marketer. He and his wife Nancy worked together to found National Liberty and their business and wealth grew quickly.
But as a businessman, Art DeMoss was a man of one purpose: to glorify God and to advance God’s kingdom here on earth.
His pastor in Philadelphia recalled an early conversation he had with Art when Art said to him, “I'm going to give my life to full-time Christian service.”
“Are you going to become a missionary?” his pastor asked
“Oh, no. We have enough missionaries,” Art said. “We need people who will make a huge amount of money to support missionaries.”
Art DeMoss was a man who lived in light of eternity. That was what really, really mattered to him. He wanted to leave a legacy that was infinitely larger than his business.
Invest Your Life
Art and Nancy leveraged their success in business to invite other business and professional men and women to hear the gospel. Nancy would send out invitations, first to small handfuls of people, but later to as many as 500 guests who would be invited to hear Christian celebrities and sports figures give testimonies about their faith.
They drew in people who could care less about church and many men and women were saved.
One thing Art said over and over again is: “Don’t spend your life, invest it!” He believed God has a purpose for each of our lives, and it was our responsibility to find that purpose and fulfill it. We should ask ourselves, “God has given me this life, this personality, these gifts, these abilities, this time, these opportunities. How can I invest them for the glory of God?”
His daughter Nancy Leigh was nineteen years old when their family was on a mission trip in Haiti. While they were worshiping in a small Haitian church, sitting on hard wooden benches, her father leaned over to her in the middle of the service and whispered, “Honey, what are your fifty-year goals?”
“Over and over again, Daddy impressed on our hearts that God wanted to use us, that our lives could be extraordinary, for His glory,” Nancy remembers.
Committed to the Great Commission
Art met a man named Bill Bright and the two of them got along right away. Bill had been a young businessman, converted in his twenties as well, who left business to start Campus Crusade for Christ.
Art loved Cru’s focus on soul-winning and joined the Board of Directors. For many years Art DeMoss was invested and involved to see millions of people around the world hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
Bill Bright once introduced Art before a speaking engagement by saying:
"I don’t know of any businessman anywhere in the world who has so dedicated his life and his treasure, thinking so strategically as he does, for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
There is no one we could possibly ask to this platform who is more one with us in Spirit and dedication, and committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. We do not speak often of this because of their modesty and their preference that we not do anything to glorify them, only their Savior who they love as much as we love him.
But it was Art and Nancy who have been responsible for the Involvement Now Challenge. Last year they offered us $1 million if we would raise a half million. And this year $1.5 million if we can raise $3 million and that goal was achieved. We thank God that only do they lead people to Christ, literally by the hundreds themselves in their home and in personal contact, but they are giving generously of that which God has made available to them to help reach the multitudes of the earth.”
Art died suddenly in 1979 at the age of 53, but to this day at Cru’s headquarters in Orlando, Florida there hangs an oil painting of Art DeMoss. Underneath it is a small plaque that mentions Art’s success as an innovative leader in business, but then it says simply,
His life was dedicated to Christ and his service.