I love Gospel Meetings. I know not everyone does but they made such an impact on my heart growing up. I remember Eddie Cloer, Mid McKnight, V.P. Black, Charles Coil, Jerry Humphries, Grover Ship, Jimmy Allen and others preaching in the old Woodlawn building. They were powerhouses. I remember evangelistic door-knocking campaigns before each meeting and souls being reached. It has been roughly 35 years since I first remember seeing someone roll their eyes and proclaim that Gospel Meetings were passe.
I hold plenty and love preaching them and am still learning how to do that effectively. There are still MANY churches who have them in fact in our unscientific but significant poll only 33% of our churches no longer have Meetings or their equivalents. And when done with purpose and preparation the meetings I have been a part of the last few years seem to be heralding a dramatic and significant comeback. PURPOSELESS meetings just to check off the list so they can say they had a meeting this year should end. About six months ago I spent a morning with one of the five men who preach more meetings today than any other preacher in the south and he with a degree of destress proclaimed he was in the process of canceling any such meeting. They won’t be effective, are a drain, make people believe the REAL Gospel Meetings don’t work, and leave the church more discouraged than encouraged. Meetings without focus and meetings that do not purposefully reach out to lost people with love and an inviting spirit should be relabeled.
All of that said there are probably fewer churches having an annual Gospel Meeting than at any time in the last 100-150 years. It is NOT a sin to NOT have a Gospel Meeting but I want to share with you three unintended and maybe unconsidered consequences of NOT having a Gospel Meeting. And perhaps why you should consider having one next year:
- Churches don’t know each other: Once upon a time when every church had an annual meeting there was sort of this unspoken quid pro quo of, we expect your to support our meeting so we had better support yours. In fact, sometimes it was even spoken. In many areas (and still in some) churches would dismiss their services on a Sunday evening or have them early so everyone could go support or be a part of the meeting of the church up the road or in a nearby town. As a result, there are relatively few times when congregations interact. Interestingly because of Christian Camps, Bible Bowl, and events like CYC, EYC, Lads to Leaders, our KIDS are now better at this than the adults are. The unexpected result is that it becomes very easy when you don’t know someone or a congregation to become suspicious or isolated. An outlier to this is that we sometimes become so inwardly focused we forget our mission is NOT to build OUR Kingdom (i.e. congregation) but the LORD’S Kingdom and congregations end up in competition for members rather than reaching lost people.
- We do not hear the voice of multiple preachers/styles and are less effective: We begin to believe that our preacher's style is the only one that works or, in extreme cases, faithful. God uses earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7), containers (2 Timothy 2:2) and they look and sound different and that is a good plan (because it’s God’s plan). Bob’s style may reach someone’s heart that Jim’s can’t. As a result, we also do not often have the senior voices that we had in the past. Voices that were respected because of their respect for and ability in the Word.
- Churches made the mistake of not replacing them with another evangelistic effort: Again, it’s OK to not have a Gospel Meeting but it is not OK to stop spreading the Gospel. It appears a significant number of churches gave up on meetings but didn’t replace them with anything purposefully evangelistic. Yes, it may be true for your congregation that meetings were not effective but even if they were a poor attempt to reach out they were an outreach. Every local church needs to gear directed efforts toward reaching their community and region. The unintended result is simple here. There is less outreach and that is unacceptable. We strive to be purposeful with events directed to the heart of reaching our area as their primary emphasis.
I pray this might be a springboard for some churches to get back in the outreach business whether through Gospel Meetings or some other Gospel effort. May God bless you.