Gospel meetings are a long-standing tradition in the church. And I might add, a good one. But, are we being as effective as we could be with them as a method of outreach? We have all heard stories of how old brother so and so would baptize 50-100 people every meeting. Those times are gone for a number of reasons. Today, we are lucky if we get one visitor from the community, let alone baptize anyone. When someone asks how many visitors there were at a gospel meeting, the usual answer refers to the number of Christians visiting from other churches. We don't even think in terms of non-Christian visitors any more.
We have two choices. We can view the meetings strictly as a time for edifying the saints and close the doors to the public, or we can change our approach to effectively reach non-Christians again.
In a recent gospel meeting in which I was involved, we mailed 1900 invitations, placed 1800 on windshields of cars, mailed about 110 to correspondence course students, placed a one-eighth page ad in the news-paper, and had a reporter do a news release on our meeting.
Also, we had three personal column ads and a newspaper community calendar notice each evening the meeting ran, public-service announcements on three radio stations, and 110 posters displayed at the university and around town. We had a rented four- by eight-foot lighted message board on the church property. What was the result of all this effort and money spent? Only one visitor! (A strong Pentecostal type person responded from the mailing.) It is obvious that traditional methods of advertising do not draw many visitors out to our meetings. Should we give up on meetings? What we need is the personal touch!
I learned of a couple of churches who had gospel meetings that had many non-Christian visitors. When I inquired of each, I discovered a common approach. Here is the way I would describe the method. Each member compiles a list of five to ten non-Christian friends, neighbors, work mates, family, etc. The week before the meeting begins they send a handwritten letter (no typewriters, etc.) to each person on the list. Give each member a copy of a form letter to use as a guide. For an example of a form letter, see the inset.
The members' personal letters are followed by personal letters from the local evangelist on the church's stationery. A computer is of great help in generating the 100 to 500 personalized letters. The letter from the evangelist should arrive about 2 days before the meeting begins. On the day before the meeting, each member phones their contacts and personally invites them to attend.
Each member who commits to participate should have at least five good prospects. The results should be that every Christian who participates will have one visitor attend some night of the meeting. The meeting I was involved in had 19 non-Christian visitors. About eight of these were from the letter-writing campaign. I have known of churches to have 40 visitors at a meeting. The costs are for a little postage and envelopes. That is less than one ad in the newspaper! But, in order for the meeting to be successful, there must be a personal effort put forth by the majority of the church.
Since the meetings are for non-Christians, create a marketable title for the gospel meeting. Rather than calling it a gospel meeting, describe it as A Seminar On The Family or Coping In Today's World. Long before the meeting, get the preacher to specify the lessons he will preach each night. Be equally creative with the sermon titles.
1, First complete the attached information list of people.
2. Write this letter by hand in ink on a paper or card of your choice.
3. Change or adapt it as you see fit.
4. Be personal where ever possible, remember this is personal letter from you.
5. Re-read each letter for flow and appropriateness.
6. Put letter in envelope of your choice. Address, and return address it.
7. Bring letters back as soon as possible.
8. We will add postage and mail all letters together on the predetermined day.
9. If you have any questions just phone.
====sample letter begin =====
20 February 1988
When good things happen I/we like to share them with others.
On March 12-16, 1988 Mr. and Mrs. Norman of Alabama will be visiting my/our church to present ~ special series of Bible lessons on the family. The series is called, "Seminar On The Family". As it says on the brochure, this seminar will
(IF MARRIED: "improve an already great marriage or provide Bible medicine for hurting homes".) (IF SINGLE: provide "practical advice before you marry". Often people don't give marriage and family life much thought until after their wedding day. They will give more thought to choosing a car than they do to choosing a lifetime marriage partner!) (IF SINGLE PARENT: provide 'Bible answers to the every day struggles" between a mother/father and his/her children. Raising kids all alone is a tough Job )
(End the paragraph with the following) There are separate classes for the ladies and the men. I/We expect to benefit from this series and hope that you will too. For this reason I/we wanted to share it with you.
xx, please accept my/our personal invitation to attend one or all the lessons in the seminar at my/our church. I/We have enclosed a brochure which explains the "Seminar On The Family" in more detail. Look forward to seeing you there!
=====sample letter end =====
This is to certify that
has been officially invited to attend
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