It seems to be the same all over, with only a rare exception here and there. Gospel meetings are announced, Gospel tents are pitched, invitations are distributed, and newspaper ads are purchased. Homes are visited and people are invited. And yet, invariably, whether the series is long or short, the majority of visitors to the meetings are contacts of nearby Christians who bring a neighbor or friend.
I can only go back about 40 or so years, so please forgive my limited views. It seems to me that in the 1960s and 70s, “grass-roots religion” had a great appeal to people. Some would stop in to a tent meeting along with a child in hand and say, “I went to tent meetings when I was young and I wanted my son to see what it was like.” The desire for non-structured religious services created an appeal for meetings in a tent or in a simple building like the usually unadorned Gospel Hall.
But then came Jim Jones and his Kool-Aid potion, strangely dressed people selling flowers in airports, the Heaven’s Gate California cult with its en masse suicides, and the Branch Davidian ranch in Waco, TX. Bizarre cults centered on even more bizarre leaders. And the pendulum swung back toward the “safe,” structured, well-known denominations. Now, in this 21st century, added to apathy towards the preaching of God’s Word is a legion of other things: the effects of evolutionary teaching in the schools, modern man’s woeful lack of critical thinking, the influence of post-modernism, relativism, and a host of other insidious isms. Exhausted from working at high-pressure jobs and fighting endless traffic, modern urbanites return to the unassailable citadel of their homes, cross their moats, pull up the drawbridges, and ensconce themselves in their own private entertainment theaters – slippers on, recliners back, remotes in hand.
How, then, can we reach people who are increasingly making themselves unreachable? Although they may be reticent to travel a few miles to a hall or tent, is it possible that they might be more inclined to walk across the street to our houses to attend a Bible discussion? How valuable it might be if a couple of exercised brothers in an assembly were to begin having informal Bible readings in various Christian homes throughout a month – perhaps reaching into as many as 4 different neighborhoods (one a week)! If a family in the assembly were to open their home to such a meeting, and invite their neighbors, it might have a number of God-honoring results: the informal discussions might lead to a more formal gospel meeting in the home (what used to be called “cottage meetings” back when Christians lived in cottages). It might so pique an interest in the hearts of those neighbors that they begin to attend the regular assembly gospel meeting or a special series when it comes. Or, best of all, they might be reached by the gospel they hear right in the home.
Not everyone might be equipped to do this work – it would require wisdom from God, a love for souls, and a gracious tact in dealing with people. There would probably be great value in having more than one brother responsible so that their complement of Biblical knowledge and ability to answer questions would provide a wider scope of usefulness. But who can tell what value there might be in bringing the gospel to people before trying to bring them to the gospel? Any volunteers?