Gospel Meetings

Click to View

The Edification vs. The Evangelistic types

Gospel Meetings

When many Christians think of evangelism, the first thing that comes to mind is, Well, let's have a gospel meeting! Let me tell you about a gospel meeting that had 70 baptisms, 25 identifications, and 10 restorations. The meeting was conducted in 1891 and lasted 10 weeks. All that was done to get these results was to put up a tent. Masses of non-Christians flocked to hear the Word preached. During those days, a small ad in the local newspaper brought many visitors. Today, 99 years later, a total of $1,000 can be spent on a wide range of well chosen media without drawing a single visitor. Interestingly, our technique for drawing visitors is virtually unchanged since the 1890s.

Click to View

Yesterday vs. Today

What has changed is almost every aspect of society. Gospel meetings today will never bring the responses of the good old days because of the following reasons:

  1. Religion is no longer the focus of society that it once was. Today, it is socially acceptable to be an atheist.
  2. People have much less free time in the 1990s and spending an evening at church is low on the list of priorities.
  3. Gospel meetings were a form of community entertainment in the 1890s. Today we are entertained by television.
  4. The quality of local preaching has dramatically improved to the point that there is little difference between the local preacher and the visiting big name preacher.
  5. Today, the supply of sermons far exceeds the demand. People can tune into radio or television any day and hear countless sermons. Additionally, local churches offer several sermons in their own buildings each week. Why would someone from another church attend your meeting when they already have a glut of such meetings to choose from at their own church? Each week the religious section of the newspaper offers hundreds of meetings to choose from! The bottom line is this: Regardless of how special we view our gospel meeting, outsiders view them as a series of ordinary sermons sponsored by an unknown religious group. Chances are very slim that they will respond to any form of paid media advertising or even just drop-in.

Today, the only way we will get any non-Christian visitors to attend our meetings is through a personal invitation extended by a member of the church. Ask yourself this question: When was the last time we had one non-Christian visitor from outside the church to attend our meeting? Sure, you had an unbelieving spouse, but that doesn't count. We're talking about true outsiders. The clincher comes when we announce the results of the meeting: We had 22 visitors to our meeting last week! Great! But all of them were Christians visiting from other churches! We don't even think in terms of non-Christian visitors any more.

Click to View

Two Kinds of Meetings

The verdict is in! Gospel meetings, as we are currently conducting them, fail to accomplish what they are designed to do. However, with a little rethinking, we can bring back true success. We need to understand that there are two distinct kinds of gospel meetings. One, the edification meeting, is for the edification of the members and the other, the evangelistic meeting, is for recruiting new members. Both are equally important to any church. Our traditional gospel meetings are actually a hybrid of the two. Yet, I do not believe it is possible to successfully combine the two into one meeting. Until we clearly see the vast differences in every aspect of these two kinds of meetings, we will continue to have disappointing results.


Edification Meetings

Evangelistic Meetings

Focus or Purpose

Meet specific needs of mature Christians in local churches

Contact and teach non-Christians


Invite area churches and not local community. Do no media advertising.

Invite friends and community by personal letter. Do no media advertising with exception of first class letter to area denominations. Do not invite area churches of Christ.


Meaty, doctrinal, motivational

Christ and Him crucified, meeting human needs with Christ.


One week or longer

One Sunday AM only

preacher Choice

Outside preacher

Local preacher

Primary Success Standard

Attendance by Christians

Attendance by non-Christians

The Edification Meeting

The best example of this kind of meeting is what we call a lectureship. Subjects are meaty and designed to address the needs of mature Christians. The book of Romans or The Work of the Holy Spirit are typical choices. We, therefore, never advertise these meetings to the general public but only to neighboring churches.

In our meetings, we have traditionally left it up to the visiting preacher to choose the subjects for his lessons. If the meeting is designed to edify the local church, how can an outside preacher really know the needs of a church he has never visited? Ideally, the local elders and the local preacher choose the subjects first and then seek the best man to do the job. Always have the visiting preacher send an outline of the proposed subjects for the meeting so there will be no surprises and to ensure that the material is what you want.

A typical lectureship may last a week or longer. One or more outside preachers are brought in to do all the preaching. This is good because it gives the church a change of preaching style from the local preacher, who joins the church in the feast. A change is as good as a rest!

Success with an edification meeting is not measured by the number of visitors but by the number of local Christians who were built up and motivated by the preaching of the Word.

Most of our meetings today are for edification, even though we proclaim them to be evangelistic. If we therefore judged all our meetings according to the purposes of an edification meeting, we would receive a passing grade. It is with the evangelistic meeting where we fail miserably.

Handout form for edification meetings:

Simply take an 8.5 x 11 inch paper and in large letters type these three phrases on the page so that each takes up about 1/3 of the space.

  1. Questions this talk has raised:
  2. New ideas this talk has given me:
  3. Things this talk has reminded/taught that I can start doing:

Click to View

The Evangelistic Meeting

Almost everything about an evangelistic meeting is opposite to that of an edification meeting. The entire focus is to meet the needs of first-time visitors to the assembly. The ultimate purpose is to motivate the visitors to examine themselves in light of the gospel and to get them to return the following Sunday or be willing to study one-on-one.

Subjects like If you died tonight, would you go to heaven? or Bible answers for a hurting home are excellent because they deal with immediate human needs and show the Bible to be relevant in people's lives. Subjects like Why do you believe the doctrines you believe? are also excellent. The idea here is not to deal with any specific false doctrines but to show that false doctrine is prevalent and encourage them to examine their own beliefs. Denominations bashing doesn't go over well with first-time visitors and should be reserved for one-on-one Bible studies.

An evangelistic meeting is strictly a local church effort. The local community is invited but neighboring churches are not. To get non-Christians to come, you use a letter-writing campaign as outlined below. The letter writing campaign of personal inviting is quite effective in getting visitors to attend. The members make up lists of anyone they know and then write a letter inviting them to the meeting. I am aware of three churches that have used this method, and the results were the same all records were broken! And remember, we're talking first-time visitors!!

Another necessary departure from tradition is that the evangelistic meeting is ideally held on a single Sunday morning during the worship period. Make sure the Bible class (auditorium) ends 30 minutes before worship so visitors arriving will not feel out of place. This will also allow members to leave and pick up visitors by car. One advantage of a single session meeting is that it is a lot more exciting to have 10 visitors all at once rather than one or two each night of a week-long meeting. The meeting tends to be a climax of the effort and work of individual Christians. Excitement and expectation run high 15 minutes before the worship service when the members, who have worked hard for the last month inviting their friends, begin to see the visitors arriving.

It is important to use your evangelist to preach the meeting. The reasons are almost endless. Being a local church effort, the evangelist knows the situation best and is able to tailor his lessons to the pulse of the church and the local community. When the meeting is successful, members will have a deepened respect for him and a feeling of team spirit will be fostered. Using an outside big name preacher means nothing to visitors. It seems counter-productive that visitors gain respect for a man they meet only once and will probably never see again. So, use your local preacher. You won't have any traveling expenses or additional wages. In fact, about the only expenses incurred are the printing of a flier (advertising the meeting) to be included with each member's personal letter and postage. Other expenses will be minimal. Work by the church is what makes the difference not money.

Don't waste your money on any paid media advertising or the mailing of the meeting flier without the personal letters. These expenditures rarely draw even one visitor. The only way we will get any visitors is by the personal effort of each member! God will always bless the laborers with some results. We can safely say that the only measure of success with an evangelistic meeting is the number of first-time non-Christian visitors. If no visitors were present, chances are that little personal effort was put forth by the church.

Click to View


Now that we have defined the two kinds of meetings, take a second look at the last meeting you attended at your church. Every one was encouraged to bring their friends to hear the gospel and that was the extent of the effort to have visitors. How many non-Christian visitors attended? We often announce to the church that we are going to have an evangelistic meeting, but we end up having the very opposite: an edification meeting.

Gospel meeting time is again approaching. The first thing the church needs to do is to choose which kind of meeting to prepare for. Both are worthwhile. Then, follow through with the right decisions to ensure that an edification meeting truly edifies and an evangelistic meeting truly evangelizes.

Steve Rudd

Click Your Choice

Go to Interactive Bible Websight

Go back to Evangelism Websight