By Steve Wolfgang
Footnote S. H. Bingman, “From the Field,” Christian Standard XXIV: 50 (December 14, 1889, p. 830 (12).
“December 3 – Closed a very unsatisfactory meeting with the church at Union Center. . . . Rain almost daily, deep mud and dark nights; divided brethren, poor preaching, good singing and plenty of babies. We would have had a houseful every session, if enough people had come to fill up, and there would have been a larger number of additions, if we could have persuaded the people to obey the Lord. That the meeting was no worse, we ‘thank God and take courage,’ and intend to try again.”‘
With the end of the “meeting season” for 1987, we found this quotation intriguing, and hope our readers enjoy it as much as we did. I don’t know who S.H. Bingman was, but I would like to shake his hand! He gets my vote for “honest meeting report” of the century!
However, lest we take either ourselves or our counterparts from last century too lightly, let me hasten to add that we do not share the pessimism expressed by some regarding the demise of gospel meetings or the alleged lack of good resulting thereby. To be sure, the results may occasionally be “less than sensational” (as a report we saw recently put it). However, there are positive results from such meetings which are not found in written reports or expressed in tangible statistics.
I count it a privilege to have expended some of my efforts in meetings among small churches, several of which (particularly in the Northeast and upper Midwest) were without a “full-time preacher.” There is certainly nothing at all wrong with an established congregation, with an evangelist already present, inviting another preacher to come for a special teaching effort (Acts 11:20-24 provides an example of this). However, there is a great need for work to be done in edifying smaller congregations which are not receiving regular and systematic teaching. The good resulting from such efforts, while not subject to quantification in statistical reports, is nonetheless well worth the effort.
Of course, we “thank God and take courage” that not all meetings are like the one described above. Some of them result in visible, yea, vivid responses: baptisms, emotional restorations, congregations with large and attentive audiences. We emphatically reject any suggestion that “meetings do no good.”
A final thought is suggested by the anonymity of the correspondent. As I said, I had never before heard of S.H. Bingman, though I have an active interest in “Restoration History.” Yet, even though we may never have known them, there are literally thousands of persevering souls like this man, working diligently in their section of the Lord’s vineyard, undaunted by less than sensational results, unrelenting in their labors despite discouraging circumstances or apparently insurmountable obstacles. Their kind is legion even today: unknown by face to most churches, unrecorded by brotherhood reports, shunning prominence, choosing rather to work in the obscurity of difficult fields. Truly, from their example we “thank God and take courage.”
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 4, p. 107
February 18, 1988