Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities
D. C. Hinton, Hayes, Middx.
We would remind readers that the brethren whose names appear in the following reports are in no way responsible to the committee of Precious Seed, neither should it be assumed that the committee is necessarily in agreement with all the methods mentioned.
We would also record our thanks to those correspondents by whose labours this section is maintained.
Go, stand and speak Acts 5. 20
Go ... and tell Mark 5. 19
Go ... and teach Matthew 28. 19
Go work today Matthew 21. 28
Go ... I send you Luke 10. 3
An increasing concern has been evident in many assemblies that, in times when the need for Christian witness is urgent and vital, our activities in the Gospel are both inadequate and ineffective; often we are preaching almost exclusively to the converted. "One in tonight" has become a major event in many assemblies.
In view of this concern a conference was held in Fareham, Hants., in July to examine methods and means generally used to communicate the Gospel. The message itself, being perfect, is incapable of improvement, but its presentation must be in terms understood by the present generation.
The conference commenced with an address on practical evangelism by D. Meadows which was followed by lively discussion. Many brethren, representing twenty assemblies in southern Hampshire, took part and a number of useful suggestions were made. Clearly there is concern and exercise in this matter, and this is a good thing; but exercise must be translated into positive action if assemblies are to evangelise their neighbourhoods effectively and discharge the responsibility their Lord has laid upon them.
The need for involvement with the people of the locality was Stressed. Christianity must be seen to be concerned with the whole man, his ordinary everyday needs as well as his soul. One assembly has sent letters to the houses around it asking "Can we help you?". As a result various helps have been given by the believers and new faces seen at the evening services. Another asks its Sunday School children to tell their teachers of any sickness at home and arranges visits accordingly.
A Family Service on Lord's Day mornings had proved successful; monthly intervals were considered best, and addresses kept to 15 minutes with a careful choice of speakers.
Several brethren urged the need to return to apostolic methods and fervour, particularly in "going from house to house" holding group discussions with friends and neighbours invited. This type of outreach may well reach more than the conventional service.
A monthly tea for older folk had been run successfully for some time in at least one or two assemblies. Similarly meetings for "young wives" and luncheons for businessmen or women have proved profitable, some being converted.
It is essential that we use "all means to save some", and progress must be made from the frequently extremely limited notions as to what constitutes evangelism.
Small Assemblies. There are many small assemblies of believers up and down the land that have struggled for years and whose existence, humanly speaking, is precarious. For instance, the gatherings at Maybole in Ayrshire and Dunbar in East Lothian are no longer in existence. In others the need for help is great, such as in St. Andrews, Fife, where there is only one brother left. Often in the cities the larger gatherings are becoming larger and the smaller ones smaller. Sometimes there are justifiable reasons, but so often believers are passing small gatherings to meet with larger companies. Are we afraid to meet with a small company? Or are we unwilling to take our share of the work that this would entail? How shall we account to God, who has caused us to live in a certain place so that we may fulfil His purpose in the local gathering?
Personal Work. A brother in fellowship in a new and small assembly in Southern Scotland holds a children's meeting each week in his garden. He stands a board advertising the meetings in his front garden and the children have responded well. Is it surprising that, with such a spirit, this assembly has doubled in number since its commencement?
Other brethren, retired from work, spend much time in going from door to door in isolated villages with the Word of God.
Ministry of the Word. It is only by the teaching of the Scriptures that the elders in an assembly discharge their responsibility to see that the flock is fed. How sad, therefore, that in some gatherings there is now no meeting for either Bible Study or the Ministry of the Word. How can such gatherings be according to the mind of God?
Following the annual conference in Kinross in September, F. Cundick continued in ministry for a week. The assembly is small but believers came from neighbouring assemblies and the hall was well filled.
In Central Hall, Bangor, Northern Ireland, large numbers attended two weeks of ministry meetings conducted by J. Hunter. Helpful and practical messages were expounded from 2 Timothy.
Isle of Lewis. The little assembly in Stornaway has been sadly depleted by believers moving away, yet T. Meeney had some encouraging meetings during the summer.
Northern Scotland. Dufftown, in the heart of Banffshire, has been the sphere of the labours of H. Burness and R. Soutar. Meetings started at the beginning of June and continued until the end of August. Once again the younger ones responded well but adults were difficult to interest. One young man from some distance away professed salvation.
The assembly at Dufftown has been established for a century but it is sad to record that it has never been so weak as it is now. The assemblies on the Moray Firth coast, nevertheless, have rallied to the aid of this small testimony.
In the main street of Aberdeen open air meetings have been held as usual during the summer. Many have heard the Word and a number have been spoken to individually.
G. Miller spent over one year in the Kingussie-Aviemore area of the Central Highlands, helped by a number of brethren. There are prospects that a little assembly may be started.
Wales. There are few assembly gatherings in West Wales. P. Harding held tent meetings in Pembroke during the summer when interest was shown and even during the last two weeks the number of adults increased. Several professed to have been saved and two testified to this by their obedience to their Lord in baptism. One was a woman who obtained assurance of salvation by coming to the tent, the other being a man of 81 years of age who had been saved for a number of years. A number of the parents often came to the Gospel Meetings. Five women came at least twice a week during the last month, three of them having come every week during the summer, yet none of them spoke of repenting of their sins and accepting the Saviour.
The small assembly in Johnstown, North Wales, are very active in door to door visitation. Although only nine in fellowship they have visited a good number of the large estates within about seven miles. Personal visitation resulted in fresh faces being seen at the Gospel Meeting.
Northern Ireland. Newtonstewart is a little town in the heart of Co. Tyrone. A. Lyttle and J. Hawthorne held two months of well attended meetings in a tent near a small housing estate. A number of strangers came through the influence of believers, and several from the estate professed faith in Christ. After years of plodding the assembly has been greatly encouraged by this season of blessing.
J. Brown and J. Lennox also had good tent meetings which lasted for two months in a country district of Co. Derry near to the assembly at Tivaconaway. Believers from several small assemblies around gave good support and all were encouraged to know of a number who spoke of having accepted the Saviour.
In Co. Down, A. McShane and J. Turkington found it difficult to get local folk interested in gospel meetings in a tent near Rathfriland. One elderly woman professed salvation and this alone made the whole effort worth while.
Ballywatermoy is just a country district of Co. Antrim but for many years there has been a thriving assembly there with a good Gospel testimony. T. McKelvey and J. G. Hutchinson preached for six weeks followed by a week of ministry for believers. Attendances were good and some professed conversion. Some believers came who were not associated with the assembly and expressed conviction regarding the doctrine of baptism by immersion following conversion.
J. Thompson and S. Ferguson had good numbers during Gospel meetings at Maralin, a few miles from Lurgan, Co. Armagh. Local people came along and God honoured His Word in the salvation of several.
Mid-Scotland. Blessing was seen during a visit by J. Smyth to Grangemouth earlier this year, and the believers are still living in the good of it. Of the women who were saved one is now baptised and in fellowship. Her husband, two other women and three children also made professions of faith whilst backsliders were restored. It was demonstrated that the simple Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation.
Southern Scotland. The summer work which started in Inner-leithen in 1967 and was extended to Walkerburn the following year, was this summer enlarged further to include Peebles. Three teams were responsible for daily children's services in each town for two weeks, and the response was encouraging. A bookstall was arranged outside the hired hall in Peebles and this proved a source of contact with the local people. Parents' Nights were successful, particularly in Peebles. Many teenagers were contacted and some nine young folk professed to have accepted the Saviour. Some who had been converted in earlier summers gave valuable help this year.
R. McPheat was in Pathhead, Midlothian with a tent. There is no assembly in this large village but there was sufficient encouragement for a regular Lord's Day evening meeting to be planned.
B. Smith visited from door to door in Mid-Calder and held meetings. After three weeks in this village he had not met a single believer.
The Lanarkshire portable hall was erected in the village of Chaple-ton where there is no assembly testimony, H. German being the evangelist. The work was hard with only a few unsaved from the village attending. However a lady and gentleman were saved, both brought by believing friends. The child in the house where the evangelist lived was also saved.
There were some professions of faith among young people during the visit of Ayrshire believers to Locharbriggs, Dumfries, and a Gospel witness was continued during September in the village hall.
Republic of Ireland. The troubles in the north did not generally affect the work of literature distribution. There was a much greater readiness to discuss spiritual matters which resulted in greater emphasis on conversations rather than sales of literature.
In Galway City a property was obtained in a central position which was used as a centre by a team engaged in personal work, particularly with young people. The latter proved willing to discuss spiritual matters and several came to the house each evening. Two of the workers are remaining in the city, having obtained employment there. Three separate camps were held for the Postal Sunday School scholars. The weather was not always good but all seemed to enjoy their holiday, whilst spiritual blessing was also experienced.
Lancashire. The assembly at Maghull still meets in the local school for its public meetings whilst the weeknight gatherings are held in various homes. There is a large Sunday School, and the great concern of the believers is for the purchase of a site where they can erect a hall. The local authority does not own any and privately held land is very expensive. Recently a plot of land containing a house, ideal for the purposes of the assembly, was made known and those responsible are seeking to know the mind of the Lord regarding the necessary finance.
The shire Tent at Skelmersdale was filled three nights each week by children who showed good behaviour and began to understand a little of the Gospel. R. Walker was able to have a number of conversations with local folk and a few of these attended the meetings.
Camps. The assembly at Shuttle Street, Paisley, held their young peoples' camp at Blairgowrie with G. Hanlon responsible for their spiritual instruction. Seven young folk made professions of salvation.
The Port Glasgow assembly held their camp at Perth during August with over one hundred present. J. Campbell was responsible for the Gospel preaching and M. Newman for ministering the Word. About five young lads told of accepting the Saviour.
The same two brethren were at the first Perthshire Bible Class camp at Pitlochry where quite a number of teenagers professed conversion together with one married woman from Aberfeldy who visited the camp several times.