A publication called India Newsletter crosses my desk each month. In a recent edition, I read an article entitled “Teamwork and Victory” which reported on the successes of evangelistic efforts in that nation. According to the report, in 2014 there were 358,320 Gospel Meetings held. Many were simply one-day events with two to five speakers. The net result was 704,415 baptisms. Of the almost three-quarters of a million who were baptized, 4,714 were denominational preachers. In the same year, there were 11,000 new congregations established. The article noted that “too many congregations in the USA are in retreat…often content with mediocrity. We do not expect to convert many souls…” (India Newsletter, Feb. 2015).
This morning I googled “Does evangelism still work?” which led me to billygraham.org. On that website I read an article published May 29, 2014, which reports that BGEA (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association) “will hold 28 large-scale evangelistic Festivals worldwide…[and] we will work with more than 2,000 churches worldwide in our Crusade ministry.”
Last Saturday the doorbell rang. My wife went to the door and was greeted by two men from the First Baptist Church who wanted to invite us to worship with them.
A Seventh Day Adventist preacher reported last year that after “four public evangelistic series” in the past three years his small congregation had increased by 29 people in a small town of 1,900 (ministrymagazine.org, “It still works: Why public evangelism remains essential to the church’s witness” by Shane Anderson, Feb. 2014).
I realize someone may be reading this and wondering why I am publishing quotes from denominational preachers who are suggesting that public evangelism (i.e., Gospel Meetings) still works. If you google the exact question that I did, you won’t find any articles from our brotherhood on the first two pages, which is as far as I looked.
That’s not to say that all Churches of Christ have abandoned the idea of Gospel Meetings. In April the Benton Church of Christ in Benton, KY, hosted a three-night Gospel Meeting which was rained out on the last night. They had a full house on Sunday night and an even larger group, well over 400 in attendance, on Monday night. They had restorations and baptisms, and their elders reported that members had made 12,000 invites in the days leading up to the three-night event. They were just lucky!
What does it all mean? I don’t know. I’ll admit it is a bit disturbing because, as we all know, Gospel Meetings don’t work anymore. They are a huge waste of resources! Why would any of us want to promote something so … so … inefficient? So what if it works in Benin, West Africa, or in India? That’s not the same! Those people aren’t like us! And so what if the Baptists or the Adventists are still using them? They’ve got deep pockets! Pearland is different! We know everyone here, and none of the folks we know are that interested. Oh! Wait a minute! I just read on the city webpage that as of September 2014 our estimated population is now 108,800.
We probably don’t really know all of those people. We might not know all of those living in our subdivision. We might not really know whether or not they would be interested in hearing the gospel. But that is a lot of “might nots,” and we probably shouldn’t let those things influence our thinking. After all, it’s the Lord’s church; and, if He wants it to grow, He will figure out a way that really does work. Because if there is one thing we do know, it’s this— evangelistic outreach just doesn’t work anymore!
Keep studying and keep serving! DC Brown ©2015