Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
Introduction. "Brethren, pray for us", 1 Thess. 5. 25. "Pray without ceasing", v. 17.
In the following comprehensive report of the Lord's work, there is much to encourage. The Lord is at work. Consistent, assembly-orientated activity still bears its fruit. Yet every work of God cries out for a power that is beyond mere human skill and ability. Prayer draws on divine resources, and is the dynamic drive behind the word and the work of God's faithful servants. Let us never forget to pray!
Northern Ireland. News and reflections come from Jim Graham in BELFAST. He says that the closing months of 1979 were marked by the Lord blessing the preaching of the gospel. A notable fact was that quite a number of believers' children came to Christ. In BALLYNAHINCH, Co. Down, three such young people were saved during meetings with Sam Thompson and Reg Jordan. In BALLYMAGARRICK the Lord again saved a number as Jim Martin and Wilson Jennings preached. One notable case was a man who had been the subject of prayer for many years. At SHANAGHAN out in the country in County Down, John Hawthorne and Tom McNeill were encouraged in seeing the Lords hand opened in salvation. The assembly at NEWTOWNBREDA have commenced a meeting each Tuesday evening in the village of PURDYSBURN—a hard churchy area". Numbers have greatly encouraged and a man of around 80 years of age professed faith in Christ. Meetings mentioned earlier at CASTLEREAGH ended with large numbers attending and people interested in salvation waiting after meetings—yet no definite conversions known. Our brother speaks of the desire of the believers in BELFAST that the old days of freedom to preach anywhere, anytime in the open-air shall be recovered, its peace and security returning to this strife-torn and desperately sad area. Prayer is urgently requested to this end. One glimmer of encouragement shines— the willingness of some Catholic Secondary schools to receive Gideon Bibles. This opening could bring light to many children.
Southern Ireland. News of a series of gospel meetings held at Riverside Hall, BANDON, by Peter Brandon during October 1979. These were well attended, and there were those who accepted Christ. The regular Sunday afternoon children's services in BANDON and CORK still attract good attendances. Open-air meetings have continued in CORK and other towns in the county. Some Roman Catholics have been contacted, and some are believed to be converted. These need prayer that they may progress in assembly things. Over the recent years there has been a great increase in opportunities to distribute Bibles and New Testaments in schools and hospitals. There have been cases of lives being changed by the Lord through reading the Scriptures. There is a serious matter for prayer relating to the Scriptures entering the Republic. The quantities have led to hold-ups at customs, and claims for a considerable sum in duty. Let us pray that the authorities will look favourably upon the importation of Scriptures, and that the financial demands for the continuance of the work will be met.
Scotland. From LANARK comes news of the worthwhileness of Christmas activities. The attendance at several assemblies was excellent, and these compared favourably with previous years. It was a joy to see folks come into the meetings who had never been in before. Attendances at New Year Conferences were very good in spite of difficult road conditions. Some assemblies had their largest gatherings for years. There was an evident desire to hear the ministry of the Word.
Blessing has come during the past year to some of those contacts made through the post by James Aitken. Many names are on the Mailing List. Each month a copy of "Emergency Post", a simple gospel outline, and a personal letter is sent. At least four are known to have trusted Christ during the year. Two of these have been baptized and are now in assembly fellowship. We can join our brother in praising the Lord for such fruit to this ministry.
Assemblies have been benefited by servants of the Lord who have visited their area for a month, engaging in personal door-to-door work and being available to help at week-ends and other meetings. At PEEBLES and BOTHWELL such useful help was given by John Spiers. This reflects something of the apostolic method of pastoral work among believers. Two notes of joy from DUMFRIES. A young man has been baptized and received into fellowship. He has been used to lead his grandmother to trust in the Lord. A young man mentioned previously as having been baptized in AYR was thrilled to see his mother trust the Lord through this public witness to Christ.
It is encouraging to receive news of people who, having been converted during the past year, express something of their joy in the Lord. Stewart McKenzie sends us details of three such cases. An eight year old girl, saved in a campaign wrote, "This will be a very happy Christmas for me, because it will be my first Christmas since I trusted in the Lord Jesus. I have been very happy since I got saved". A couple in their 80s, both saved during a campaign in Heiensburgh, wrote. "We are so glad we made the decision—how much it means to us". After conducting a wedding service, the bridegroom having been saved during a campaign in Ayrshire, his grandfather said of him, "you've no idea the change in that young man's life". Reflecting on the work of the past year, our brother makes three good points. The relevance and value of the assembly-based Gospel campaign, where saints can work and pray together and an impact can be made on the community that will be felt not only during the campaign but after it is finished. Then converts can be given teaching regarding baptism and fellowship in a local church. We would all add our "Amen" to this.
North-West England. A very encouraging campaign with Basil Dean was held at David Street, LIVERPOOL, among young people. Up to 18 teenagers were saved, and as the campaign concluded the gospel hall was packed with parents and children—two sisters were baptized. 100 years of Christian witness were celebrated at NEWSHAM PARK Chapel. Over 400 past and present members gathered during the week-end, and a great time of blessing was enjoyed. At HUYTON, the New Year Conference at Bethany Hall proved a time of spiritual refreshment to the many who gathered for the ministry of the Word. The assembly at Crete Hall, LIVERPOOL, arranged a special gospel meeting for Spanish speaking people. The meeting was well attended as it was conducted by Ed. Jaminson. A repeat of this at regular intervals is planned.
New Year's Day was well spent at the Greater MANCHESTER Conference. W. Craig and A. Naismith conducted a morning Bible Reading and gave helpful ministry in afternoon and evening. The reading set the tone for the later Christ-exalting ministry. Reflecting on the 70's and future needs, Gerald Bourne speaks of the general shortage of true elders and the reluctance on the part of younger brethren to accept responsibility. Conveners of special projects such as tent work find that they have to canvass (i.e. publicise) the work, rather than find it is sought after by interested companies. He says, "The truth with which we have been identified over the years seems only to affect our intellects. We would hope that in the 80s there will be begotten a desire to become practical exponents of the truth in our lives". Here are matters for exercise and prayer.
North-Eastern England. The North-East Assemblies Outreach covered three centres during last year, FOREST HALL, NORMANBY and HARTLEPOOL. These will be re-visited (D.V.) this year, and the teams hope to renew contacts made, and to reach out to others who have not been contacted. There is a call for prayer that the Lord will guide and strengthen the work this year. The annual Sunday School Workers Conference was held in January. J. Anderson of Annbank gave practical talks on organisation and the future scope of this type of work. Reports from local assembly Sunday Schools suggests that there is a good activity among the children, and those involved in camp work found the hard work very rewarding with a good response from the campers.
East Anglia. An interesting item comes from DENSTON, Suffolk. A three-day Bible Reading was held at the assembly over the New Year. This was the fifth such series of readings and gave evidence of increasing interest in the study of God's Word. K. Morris of Southampton was responsible for the readings. Ephesians 4-6 was the portion for study. Readings were conducted from 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m., lunch and tea being served by the sisters. The evenings were taken up with a question time, and ministry was shared by E. Parmenter, A. C. Gooding and R. Dawes. Numbers were between 80-100 each day; a large proportion were under 25 years. Much wise spiritual counsel and sound Scriptural teaching was shared in an atmosphere of genuine love and fellowship.
Midlands. News comes from Roger Chilvers of a half-term Holiday Bible Club held at HUCCLECOTE, Glos., with David Iliffe. About 70 children attended, each child paying 30p. to come. For three hours each morning the children were occupied with hand-word evangelism and manual work. Three made professions of faith in Christ. David Iliffe also held three days teaching on work with children. At the final Sunday family service 170 attended— parents, friends and children. It proved to be a worthwhile venture. Two instances of people seeking and finding Christ are encouraging. A teenage girl sought for counsel and was eventually led to accept the Lord Jesus. Then a married couple asked to be visited; they were counselled, and are now wonderfully saved and attending the local church. These two cases give evidence of hunger of soul in the lives of many today. Roger Chilvers speaks of the way in which he has been made aware of problems of evangelism in inter-racial areas, especially among children and young people. Asian children often say how impossible it is for them to attend any meeting on a regular basis, because of religious and cultural pressure at home. Real wisdom is needed in advising them. A vital point for prayer! Three special Christmas services at HUCCLECOTE, including a Christmas morning service, were "packed out" occasions with great opportunities for giving the message.
At Charles Street, WORCESTER, Christmas gave a fine opportunity to pack the hall with children and parents. At the Sunday Carol Service the children gave items, and there were many unsaved who listened to the gospel message. On the last Sunday of the year, the staff and children from a local school joined in the evening service. Many were there for the first time and a clear gospel message was given. These occasions give encouragement to those working with children.
London and South-East. In a review of the work of the South-East London Mobile Unit, it is clear that the work is still in need of workers to operate the Units. Several activities merit a place in the report. COBHAM, LEAVES GREEN and TATSFIELD were revisited for the first time for many years. Literature was distributed in these areas. Although there were just two in the team when Cobham was visited, the hamlets of LUDDES-DOWN, HENLEY STREET and SOLE STREET were tracted. At HARTLEY just one worker was available, but a new development, not before visited, was tracted. At LONGFIELD, most of the village was covered for the first time. At the STRAND and CRYSTAL PALACE many passers-by heard the word, but many refused tracts and some jeered as they listened to The gospel. With an augmented team, the Unit visited BRIX-TON. Many listened, and one backslider was restored. Over the years here, several have professed salvation. Let us pray for the growth of this method of evangelism in populated areas.
S. Mountstevens sends one or two notes on the work in the RAMSGATE area. Follow-up meetings continue around the villages—numbers are normally encouraging. A 13 year old boy, who two years ago said he was an atheist, attends without fail. The Word seems to draw him. In a week's meetings in a small village, 50 children at least heard the gospel. On prize-giving night, about 70 attended, including parents. Locally the work continues, and the Lord blesses. There is much need of prayer, but our brother ends on a triumphant note—"Praise God-He is able".
South and West England. Some encouraging news of work in DORSET where Stephen Gillham is working. A Crusade at THREE CROSS in the autumn was interesting. A special effort was made to contact children and parents on a new housing estate. Response was small at first, but numbers rose during the second week to an average of over 40. Special evenings were also held for 'teens, and some new contacts were made to supplement the Thursday Youth work. The final service saw the hall packed to the doors with parents and children. A small regular children's meeting has recommenced. Plans are being made to reach out to the people in villages. A week's mission was held for the first time at SWANAGE, especially for the children. There are a large number of houses near to the hall, and a great potential for work among the children. Numbers grew during the week. Interest was good, and fellowship from the local assembly was worthwhile. The final night saw the hall filled with children and parents. Prayer is needed concerning a further visit in 1980. During 1979 there has been a great feeling of encouragement in all the different activities. In WEYMOUTH, overseas students' numbers showed a marked increase. A great many students from over a dozen different countries have heard the message of the gospel—many for the first time. Prayer is needed!
The assembly at WORLE, Weston-super-Mare, celebrates 50 years of testimony. It was in 1929 that the first believers, who were then meeting at Waterloo Street, launched out at Worle to meet once a month to remember the Lord, and to hold a weekly gospel meeting. The building became known as Worle Gospel Hall. In early 1930 the Lord's supper was celebrated weekly. Much has happened during the years. Christians moved into the assembly to help with the testimony. A prayer meeting and Bible reading commenced, and for a long time open-air meetings were held in the village. Soon after commencement, a Sunday School began with several helpers. Also there was a very thriving mid-week children's meeting. Just before the second world war the land upon which the present building stands was purchased, and eventually this building was erected. Most of the structure was built by the brethren. The present hall opened in June 1961. While there have been constant "comings and goings", the testimony continues. Saints are rejoicing in the goodness of God, and are praying that the witness will grow "until he come".
South Wales. News comes from SWANSEA of the possibilities of Radio Outreach. It was in 1973 that a young man had the vision of this work from the assemblies, and he began recording messages for broadcasting to hospitals. Another young Christian couple caught the vision, and together they developed a useful broadcasting unit. A room allocated by the elders of Treboeth assembly, Swansea, was suitably equipped. Personal messages, testimonies and congregational services were recorded weekly, and follow-up contacts were made with hospital patients for reading of the Scriptures and prayer. Progress has been made through dependence on the Lord, prayer fellowship and practical support of the assemblies. It was from the broadcasting unit that Telephone Evangelism developed, and was used in South Wales for some years; a good gospel tract has now been prepared giving details of Christian programmes broadcast weekly, with an invitation to send for a New Testament and Bible Study lesson for those who may be in hospital for a period. Permission was sought from one Swansea hospital to distribute 400 of these leaflets. A result was soon seen. A further 2000 have been prepared for distribution in three other local hospitals. A great door and effectual is opened in this way. Throughout the country there are others who are becoming aware of the potential in such work. Let us pray that many shall be reached and saved by these means.
A gospel campaign was conducted at TRETHOMAS with John Spiers of Scotland. Four thousand invitations were distributed. Posters and other publicity were used. There were quite a few unsaved who came in, and several backsliders attended. On the first special night for young people, 120 were present. The preaching was faithful, but there were no visible results. Follow-up work continues, and there is much prayer that a harvest will be reaped.
Devon. Some interesting items of news come from Tony Blackburn who is working in Devon. One day last year on the beach at EXMOUTH, a mother from Nottingham on holiday with her family told him a story. The year before she had come to the beach mission with her nephew who trusted the Lord at the meetings. The lad is quite deaf having to use two hearing aids. The special school which he attends in Nottingham was visited by local radio, and the children were asked to do different things on radio. The boy said that he could tell a story, and he told the story of David and Goliath. He used all the applications that he had heard on the beach—so the gospel came over the air to the listeners. God was able to use the voice of the young lad to do His work. A crusade was held at CHAGFORD and the attendances were good, six were eventually led to Christ. This village is needy—typical in its darkness of many of the villages in Devon.
Cornwall. The need in Cornwall is still great and as John Hadley launches out into another year in activity, solely with the fellowship of the Cornish assemblies, he needs very much our prayers. The assembly at BODMIN is still looking to the Lord for His guidance in its building programme. Original plans being too expensive, revised plans are before the authorities. The builder is ready to build. Costs are only partly met to date. The building will take nine months to build. In faith they go on, confident that God will provide. A review of the work in Cornwall will be given in next issue.