Gospel Meetings - The Local Church
Charleston Heights, South Carolina
In religious terminology, the act of publically proclaiming the gospel is called "preaching." We usually use the term "Gospel Meeting" to apply to a special prolonged effort devoted to preaching the gospel. In this writing, we use the term "Gospel Meeting" to refer to a prolonged series of gospel sermons.
"Gospel Meetings and the Local Church" just naturally raises the question, "'why have a gospel meeting?" Some feel that it is simply the thing to do and so traditionally most churches have one or two meetings a year. Because it is accepted as a matter of fact routine, not much is done by way of preparation and consequently response is average or even poor on the part of the membership of the local church. In some areas the response in the form of turn-out to the meeting is so poor on the part of the church having the meeting, that were it not for the number of visitors from other congregations there would hardly be any attendance. This is a sad commentary on any church. There is definite room for improvement when it comes to gospel meetings. In this writing some suggestions on how to improve this area of the congregations' activity will be discussed.
Members Have to be Sold on the Idea
If the members of a given collective look upon the meeting as merely a custom, then they cannot help but be indifferent toward it. Those who are indifferent are usually the ones who question the effectiveness of gospel meetings. They do not believe that the meeting is a usable tool in teaching saints and aliens. Brethren must be sold on the fact that meetings can and will do three things:
(1) It will cause the gospel to be preached. The Bible says much about preaching. For example, one cannot read the book of Acts without seeing the fact that "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Cor. 1:21). The great commission commands us to "teach all nations" and after baptizing them, "teaching them to observe all things" (Matt. 28:19-20). The Apostle Paul commanded Timothy to "preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:2). Because the brethren of Thessalonica saw the real value of gospel preaching, Paul could commend them by saying, "for from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad: so that we need not to speak any thing" (1 Thess. 1:8). Gospel preaching is absolutely essential to the salvation of the lost (Rom. 10:8-17).
(2) Gospel meetings stir up the church and strengthens its faith. Christians are in constant danger of drifting (Heb. 2:1-2). They are in danger of leaving their first love (Rev. 2:4-5). Even now many are lukewarm and have a name that they live, but they are dead (Rev. 3:15-16, 1-2). All of us need to be stirred up from time to time. We need to be awakened and challenged to greater service for the Lord. The acquisition of conviction however, is dependent upon a hearing of the gospel (Rom. 10:17). In this age when there are so many diversionary activities in the form of sports, etc. the meeting may be one of the very few ways many people receive any instruction in the Bible. Gospel meetings also serve to off-set the lack of teaching in the home. We cannot under-estimate the power of the gospel meeting.
(3) The meeting will serve as a unified and concerted effort to save the lost. Without the salvation Christ offers, people are lost in sin and condemned to an eternal torment (Rom. 3:10, 23). Only the gospel can save them (Rom. 1:16-17), and that only when we get them interested (Rom. 10:11-15). Many obey the gospel during a gospel meeting. If a single soul is saved during a single gospel meeting, all the efforts that went into that meeting were worth it. Rest assured that a well planned and executed meeting will reinforce our hope, shore up our defenses and stimulate us to action. But only if we take advantage of it.
Plan Your Meeting Well
A good meeting is carefully planned. A church needs to carefully and very prayerfully decide upon the purpose and goal of the meeting. Seldom do brethren stop to think: is this meeting for the edification of the church, or is it to reach outsiders? The answer to this question determines who would be best suited to do the speaking and the course of action taken for the series. The time, effort and money spent on some meetings could be better spent elsewhere due to lack of forethought.
A well planned meeting is one where the speaker has been prayerfully selected, not because he has a big name or prestige. Some older preachers may not be what the church needs. A younger man might do a better job, especially where there are a large number of young people. The greatest mistake brethren make is in concluding that power, prestige or publicity is a sign of superior ability. Big name preachers sometimes fail to get the job done. Eloquence alone should not be the deciding factor.
How well in advance of the meeting do you plan and execute advertisement? How soon you begin announcing the meeting depends for the most part on the medium used. If a church has a bulletin then as soon as one meeting ends the other could be announced. Beginning several weeks before a meeting a bulletin should be used to its fullest extent. Large, nice looking newspaper ads pay handsome dividends. Do not forget the fact that most radio stations have"community reports" where one can get free spot announcements daily before a meeting and during a meeting. Printed handbills, cards and other forms of advertisement can be handed out from door to door in a community or even mailed. Seize every opportunity to publicize your meeting! Remember, the best advertisement is word of mouth. Sell your members on this fact.
Plan a Prospect Sheet
Another good factor in bringing about a good meeting is to have a prospect sheet. Some of these on this list can be visited and others can have advertisements mailed to them. About two or three weeks ahead of the meeting have the members of the church set a personal goal of how many they will try to influence to attend. Several days later have them make a list of names, whether they are prospects or not. Then list those most likely to attend. Having done this, personal letters can be written to be followed by personal phone calls. Always offer to provide transportation.
The "buddy" system works well too. Using this arrangement each couple selects another couple who are either apostate or non-members and concentrates on them throughout the meeting. Having them over for a meal during the meeting or over for refreshments after services will encourage them greatly.
Pray for the Meeting
There should be special prayers offered in behalf of the meeting. Brethren should pray individually and collectively. For example, about four weeks before the meeting brethren could meet in different homes each week for a discussion of the meeting and specific prayer in its behalf. In this way brethren are constantly reminded of the fact that they have a vital part to play in the preaching series. Prayer should be made in behalf of the meeting, for the speaker and for the brethren themselves. Certainly prayers should be offered in behalf of the prospects.
We repeat: the day of gospel meetings is not over. But we must apply ourselves to the tasks of planting and watering with the conviction that God will give the increase (1 Cor. 3:6-9). Let us sanctify ourselves as in the day of Joshua (Josh. 3:5). God will work the wonders of conversion among us. We must, however, do our part. Have a good meeting!
Truth Magazine XXI: 27, p. 429