Back around 1966 WA Bradfield published a listing of his best 10 churches to hold meetings in the Gospel Advocate. For some reason as a young preacher, that list fascinated me. As I hear many loud voices decrying the day of the Great Gospel Meeting I am stuck by the simple fact, “the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). According to TJI Research roughly 66% of our congregations still have a Gospel Meeting type event at least once a year. There are reasons why Gospel Meetings OUGHT to still be effective and there are reasons that so many are NOT effective, but neither of those are because of the power of the Gospel. Do you still believe in the power of the Gospel? It does change things!
Throw away what you can’t or won’t or don’t agree with but I do implore you to try to get something out of this. Here are 15 observations designed to help you think about how to have an effective Gospel Meeting:
Select a speaker who makes an effort to connect with the listeners and is passionate in his presentation of the Gospel. He needs to talk with the listeners not at them! Find agreement, bring them along in the lesson, enlist their help in learning how to do God’s Will. We must not just be preaching to check boxes or to appease ourselves but to build up the Kingdom. I remember the story of two preachers who visited a church. Both preached about hell, a stubborn old sinner who had eschewed the Gospel responded to the second. Someone asked him what made the difference. The second (T.B. Larimore) told me I was going to hell, but I could tell that made him sad.
Know the times! I’ve heard plenty of preachers complain about how people no longer respond to the Gospel and say “I’m not sure what changed, I’m preaching the same sermons I did 30 years ago, people just aren’t responding.” We need to ask what spiritually and RIGHT and true will people respond to TODAY. While in the 50’s and 60’s many were motivated by a fear that the Communists would drop a bomb on us, that day is passed. What motivates people, that we can use for the advancement of the Gospel or to draw attention to it in a good way today?
Teach people how to invite others: There are ways to invite and ways not to invite. The best invitations are specific. Think of how you would invite a couple of friends to get together with you to eat pizza. It would be specific (Tuesday at 7), it would be positive (we’ll have a great time).
Update your advertising: If you are just reproducing the same old flyer you’ve used for 30 years without success it might be time for a change. Use some color (we’re not Amish), have a designer design something. AND, use Facebook advertising. It is powerful.
Focus on WHO will actually invite: From our experience it seems that children and teens are much better at getting their friends to church services than adults. Why not capitalize on that? It would be good to also remember that is the age group most easy to change or influence.
Make it a fun night: We all agree that what changed is not Gospel Meetings. You’ve heard it a 1000 times - it’s what people did for entertainment and then TV, sports, other things. We fear “entertainment” so much that it sounds like a disease. Listen folks, Jesus used humor - He created it. I’m not suggesting being disrespectful but emotion is not a sin. It was in the first Gospel Meeting that Peter and the other 11 spoke at in Acts 2. If you start the service like a funeral dirge, if the welcomer has not energy or skills welcoming, if the song leader acts like he being tortured while he directs, who would want to come back? And how about some ice cream or something like that together afterward. Certainly any effort of this nature should be wonderfully enjoyable, fun, something that glorifies God!
Target groups: Marketing guru Seth Gooden talks about how person specific products are becoming. One of my best meetings I can remember was when the congregation had different services for different groups. Friday night was for Parents, Saturday night for High School students, etc.
Make the most of the guests that are there: Come on, stop visiting with just each other. Be friendly. A church that is friendly to each other thinks they are a friendly church but they are not. Yes, it does have to be said. Why not test your congregations friendliness. Invite a friend to come visit the service, tell them you will not speak to them till after the service. Let them walk in, normal attire, just see how many people are friendly, how many give them the stare down, how many nod but make no effort - I dare you!
They need to see God’s People who love - each other, them. Work out your problems as a local body, mature, get healthy.
IGNORE, shoot down those who are there just to find any fault they can: We have a long history dating back decades now of individuals who try to elevate matters of opinion into matters of doctrine. The reason this happens is that if we can make something a matter of doctrine then the church HAS to do it because of our high view of Scripture. So make it a matter of doctrine and what you like/don’t like has to happen. The problem is when we so behave we are NOT honoring God, Christ, His Body, or the text. The bigger problem is that often church leaders give traction to those who so behave and thereby give them their energy stifling way.
Prepare - not one week: If you have to get in the pulpit the Sunday of the meeting and say, “we want to remind you all that this week begins our Gospel Meeting,” you are not ready to have one. I remember at Woodlawn, growing up, where we always had amazing Gospel Meetings that we would start 6 or more weeks before getting ready for it. We’d knock doors. Do we know that won’t work anymore if we haven’t tried it in 20 years? Here’s a new spin on door knocking. “We just want our community to know we love them and that we are here. Is there anything we can do for you?” Or, “We are out in our community praying for people. Is there anything we can pray for you about?” Write down the request. With any of those leave an attractive, inviting flyer with them about the Gospel Meeting. I had one preacher friend (you’d know him) who preaches MANY Gospel Meeting tell me not long ago that he is cancelling all of his meetings where they were just having one to have one! Listen, if that is your church, then you are probably more discouraging than encouraging, doing more harm (unintentionally) than good. Figure out a plan. Put some work into it.
Understand the principles of doors and windows: If the only time your community hears from you is when you invite them to a Gospel Meeting that is possibly why they won’t come. Imagine you are out and a stranger comes up to you and your grandchildren and says, “Hey, I want to invite you to go to a movie and supper.” You’d certainly refuse it. But when a friend does the same, you will react differently. If all we do is have “door events” (where we invite people in) and never “window events” (where people can look in and see who we are) then we won’t get much traction. Learn more about doors and windows HERE
Serve your community: We are “created in Christ Jesus to love and good works.” When did your congregation last make an effort to do something good I the community. Maybe a major service event pre-meeting that get some coverage on media or social networks and then follow it with a time to recognize, honor, etc the event, or those affected by it as a part of one of the services? (Acts 2:47).
Try to do something different: Listen, I know for some of you restarting Gospel Meetings is a stretch for whatever reason. A church doesn’t have to have an annual Gospel Meeting to be pleasing to God. BUT, what evangelistically have your replaced it with? If nothing, what are you doing to reach your community? Matthew 28 does not go unanswered. How about a 12 Questions weekend, H2H, a special seminar or event that attracts the lost? DO SOMETHING!
Pray: Pray for the growth of the Lord’s Family, pray for the lost, pray for open doors, pray for your communities and those around you.
I am blessed to be able to preach in a good number of Gospel Meetings each year and I love doing it, but I’m still striving to learn how to be more effective to this end. I hope you are too.
I don’t claim there are magic. The only thing for sure is that preaching the Gospel is the true secret to any effort to reach people who are lost. These are just some thoughts.