Saturday, October 03, 2009

Thoughts on Gospel Meetings

I went to gospel meetings as a child. I very vaguely remember one when I was four when my father told me the preacher was named N.B. Hardeman. I also heard Guy Woods and a host of others. I remember sitting in congregations where Christians expected someone to come down the aisle for baptism. I confess that I took my infant daughter to two gospel meetings in the first month of her life. Reuel Lemmons held her in his arms; Guy Woods shook her little hand. I know about the RVers who sacrifice their time and give it to the Lord. I was part of a congregation last year that though known as a progressive church regressed (I'm joking here) in having them and had more baptisms that week than in the rest of year: people who weren’t going to church anywhere, who came from very different economic strata, and were of various races. Those gospel meetings of my youth, if nothing else, added to my knowledge of the God’s word, and to my love for congregational singing, and to my awareness that there are people in the world who truly are lost, who need an excuse and a venue to hear good news, who sometimes are the people who are there every time the church door opens, looking for a crumb of gospel. It troubles me that some people disparage congregations who give their members and their community extra opportunities to hear a message about Jesus. I truly regret that some belittle Christians who travel hundreds of miles (when perhaps older in poor health themselves) to walk down the streets of strange cities and talk to people they don't know about Jesus. Let’s look for the grace of God at work in our churches and our history. Let's give our neighbors a chance to know Jesus and how we relate to him. Gospel Meetings or Revivals may not be the best way to present the Gospel in our time. They are however one method that can strengthen congregations by renewing evangelistic zeal, by increasing the biblical knowledge of members as well as visitors, and by introducing preachers from other places (which might actually build unity).

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