Gospel Meetings

By Connie W. Adams

In spite of the claim of some that “the days of gospel meetings are over”, congregations continue to have them. Reports in bulletins and other periodicals indicate that some meetings are productive of much good while others seem to have little good effect. It seems that in the last few years there has been an upswing in the number of people obeying the gospel in meetings. I do not claim to be an expert on the subject, nor to have had the amount of experience in meeting work that others have had. Over the past twenty years I have been privileged to work in a good many meetings in various sections of the country I and within the last four years have preached in sixty meetings. From these experiences some observations have been made, and some judgments formed which I wish to pass along to the reader.

Why the Difference?

You can go to a place for a meeting and preach your heart out to empty seats, with half or less of the members making any attempt to attend, and very few visitors and be chilled to the bone from the indifference. You spend a week trying to revive an almost dead church, while in your heart you wonder if you would not have done more good at home. Then you close there, and the next nights begin somewhere else and right away you sense the difference. Here the meeting house is clean; the tract rack is neat and filled with a good selection. There is warmth and friendliness about the people, the house is comfortably filled the first night and the crowds, interest and enthusiasm mount throughout the week. You preach along the Mme general lines as in the last meeting and several people obey the gospel. You close and go home with a feeling of accomplishment. What makes the difference?

(1) Some brethren have a meeting as a matter of tradition. They have always had a meeting every year, whether they needed it or not! They get a preacher lined up to come, run his picture, in the paper, have some handbills printed (and usually wind up with half of them left over), and think they are ready for a meeting. The members of some of these congregations act like they have just enough religion to make them miserable,

(2) Successful meetings are the result of much planning, prayer and effort. They do not just “happen.” A congregation with a lively program of personal evangelism will nearly always have a few people about ready to obey the gospel when the meeting time comes. The members talk the meeting up. There is an air of expectancy and enthusiasm. I used to hear older preachers talk about a meeting having a good “tone” and did not know what they meant. Now I do. You see members come in all smiles as they introduce you to their neighbor, or a relative, or a co-worker from the office or factory. You see them with the same person when the service is over looking over the tracts and trying to steer their friend into selecting two or three that would be a big help to him in learning the truth. Often zealous members make arrangements for you to come and talk with their friends. In short, the congregations which have good meetings have done their homework.

(3) The preachers responsibility in a meeting is serious. If he is a sour apple by nature, this will be reflected both in and out of the pulpit and will cause some whom he could help to feel that he is unapproachable. He must come fully prepared to preach the truth without fear or favor of man, yet with a genuine warmth and spirit of kindness. He must resolve to preach what is needed. This will not always be appreciated. There may be serious problems in the congregation which require teaching. There may be pressures in a given area which afflict the church. Sometimes the church may be in a battle with institutionalism or the social gospel movement, and need some help. There may be prospects almost ready to obey the truth that need to be taught on certain subjects and persuaded to become Christians. Nearly every congregation has a problem with members being afflicted with the spirit of the world. There are devout saints who need encouragement. There are mature and advanced Bible students who need meat, as well as babes who need milk.

I cannot speak for other preachers, but I cannot spend all day long socializing, or on a golf course, or making an endless round of calls on people who are not really prospects at all, calls that are more social than anything else, then rush to a big meal somewhere, and finally get to the meeting house worn out, get up to preach and do my best work. Regardless of how many times a man has spoken on a subject, he ought to have Some time fo-ponder his lesson, refresh his mind on the passages to be used and recheck the sequence of points he plans to make. Before all the golfers descend on my head, let me add that I have nothing against a man getting a little exercise during a meeting, and if he can find time for a round or two, then that is fine with me. But I have worked with preachers in meetings who played every day and have seen some of them get up and make a flop in the pulpit when I knew they were capable of much better.

The preacher’s private conduct in a meeting can help or hinder not only the meeting but the work in general at that place after he is gone. Some fall into the trap of hearing one side of a dispute and then at, tempt to grind someone’s axe for him. It is not uncommon for members to ask questions of visiting preachers and this often affords opportunity to do much good teaching. Sometimes this may involve close study and even argumentation. Some delight in asking loaded questions, or in trying to see if a difference can be discovered between the visiting and local preacher. I have known of preachers bringing up questions in private homes that raised more doubt than anything else, so that the local preacher would have his hands full for several months putting out the brush fires so carelessly caused. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6).

Bring a faithful preacher who practices what he preaches, together with a zealous congregation which has made adequate preparation, and you will have a good meeting. The truth will be preached, sinners will be instructed in the way of righteousness, and the saints will be edified. Whether they are “visible” or not there will be good results from such an effort.

TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV: 2, pp. 23-24
November 13, 1969

 

 

The Value of Gospel Meetings

The apostle Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel message is the power that God has decided to use to work on the hearts and lives of men and women in order to draw them to Himself. But in order for the gospel to do any good, it must be preached (10:13-14).

The book of Acts demonstrates that the gospel was preached to those who were already Christians, as well as to those who were not, by preachers who traveled to various places. The Scriptures describe various preachers traveling and preaching for various congregations for short periods of time in order to reach the lost and build up the saved with the gospel of Christ (Acts 14:21-22; 15:36, 40-41; 20:6-7). An incredible amount of good was accomplished through the efforts of these churches and preachers as the saving message was spread. Many local churches and preachers engage in something similar today. We commonly refer to these modern efforts as “gospel meetings.” It seems that many brethren have grown weary of “gospel meetings.” Meetings are becoming shorter in length, less frequent in number, and are not as well attended as they used to be. Furthermore, for those that have not abandoned the practice of having gospel meetings altogether, there exists the danger of continuing to have meetings each year simply out of habit. In addition to these concerns, the question is sometimes raised as to whether or not there is really any value in having gospel meetings anymore. For these reasons, we would do well to give some much needed consideration to the subject of gospel meetings.

What is the value of a gospel meeting?

1. The value of reaching the lost with the gospel of Christ. Jesus is the only hope of salvation for the sinner (John 14:6; 8:24). In fact, the apostle Paul states that the Lord will one day come “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8). In order for a lost sinner to obey the gospel he must first hear the gospel. Many of our religious friends regularly attend religious groups in which they hear the opinions and doctrines of men, rather than the gospel. They may never visit the services of a church that is serving as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) in their community on a Sunday morning due to obligations already in place. But they may be willing to come visit one of our services during a gospel meeting, since the gospel meeting presents opportunities in addition to our normal meeting times on Sunday. There are people all around us who are in dire need of hearing the gospel and, contrary to what many seem to believe, lost sinners do still attend gospel meetings when invited by members of the church. A gospel meeting is used as a valuable tool for evangelism when the lost are invited to hear the good news.

2. The value of spending more time together worshiping God. It is obvious that the early disciples of Christ spent as much time as possible together praising the Lord and studying His word (Acts 2:42, 46-47). Gospel meetings provide an opportunity to take time out of our busy schedules in order to spend some more time worshiping God and studying His word together. Are you interested in doing that? Gospel meetings provide those who have a sincere interest in spiritual things with a great opportunity to meet together more often in order to glorify God. Time spent stirring one another up to “love and good works” is valuable time (Heb. 10:24).

3. The value of edifying the members of the church. One of the primary responsibilities of each local church is to edify, or build up its members (Eph. 4:14-16; cf. 1 Cor. 14:26). Each local church of Christ is responsible for seeing to it that each of its members is built up and strengthened spiritually. Edification takes place when we worship together in spirit and truth and study God’s word together. Gospel meetings provide a great opportunity for edification as the members of the church gather each night to sing, pray, and listen to God’s word being taught. Those who are bored with gospel meetings, or who ignore gospel meetings are sure to discourage their brothers and sisters in Christ. Any time spent in the interest of edifying the saints is time that is spent in a valuable pursuit.

4. The value of learning and growing. The apostle Peter charges God’s people with the responsibility to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). A gospel meeting provides a great opportunity for the local church to hear a faithful man preach the word of God. While we may have the opportunity to hear eight or ten sermons in an average month, a gospel meeting may present the opportunity to hear that many lessons over the course of only one week. Do not forget that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). What value can be placed upon an opportunity to learn and grow by hearing the word of God proclaimed?

5. The value of putting spiritual things ahead of worldly matters. Jesus expects those who follow Him to seek the kingdom of God first in life (Matt. 6:33). A gospel meeting provides a unique opportunity to focus on spiritual matters and to put the kingdom of God ahead of other things. In many ways, a gospel meeting also exposes one’s priorities in life. We will prepare for social occasions, weddings, fun events, and holidays and circle them on our calendars so that we will be sure to set time aside for them even if it means booking time off of work. How many of us place the same emphasis on setting time aside to attend a gospel meeting? There is inestimable value in laying aside worldly matters in order to focus on things of eternal importance.

Conclusion

Gospel meetings are certainly not the only method by which the local church may seek to reach the lost and edify the saved. But at the same time, gospel meetings can be used as a very effective tool in accomplishing the Lord’s work once we recognize the potential value of such concentrated efforts to “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Don’t give up on gospel meetings!

David Dann

2108 Amherst Dr.

Lewisville, TX