Assemblies that cease to reach out with the gospel are on a trajectory toward extinction. New believers are the lifeblood of a healthy assembly and will spare us from becoming introspective, petulant, or petty in our outlook. The darker conditions become, the brighter the gospel light will shine, despite our weakness and shortcomings. Every assembly might not have the resources, exercise, and opportunity to engage in every outreach suggested here, but we should all be doing what we can to carry out the great commission.
Children’s meetings and Sunday school
Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14, NKJV). Children are little sponges that soak up the gospel message and invariably they will spill some of the truth they learn to the rest of the family. Mom and Dad might hear them singing “Jesus Loves Me” or “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the Book for Me.” Sometimes, the grandma or the aunt that cares for them might attend a meeting at the child’s bidding. This is the best time to impart the basics – the Bible as the Word of God, sin, God’s love, and Jesus’ death on their behalf. All can be conveyed through the songs and verses they learn. It is only sensible to choose a time carefully, since children’s lives are often jam-packed with music, sports, and other interests. Whether it is every Tuesday night during the winter months or a special two-week series, it is vital to get the kids in. Sometimes you can utilize the local young brethren or bring in a full time “expert” so the believers can concentrate on bringing kids and learn a fresh approach to teaching children.
Consistent weekly or “special” gospel series
For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad (1Thes 1:8).
Whether held in the hall, a rented storefront, a hotel conference room, a tent, or the open air, there is a need to declare the gospel consistently, be it weekly, semiweekly, or in special series of gospel meetings. Next to the weekly Sunday night meeting, more people are saved in special series than any other venue. How long has it been since your assembly has hosted weeks of gospel meetings? It will most likely cost us considerable time, effort, and gas money to commit to bringing our children every night, or to take visitors for ice cream after a meeting to get acquainted and ask them what they thought of the gospel message they heard.
Tract and Seed Sower work
This is he of whom it is written, Behold I send my messenger before thy face… (Luke 7:27).
I grew up in a “tract band” assembly. One or two of the brethren organized the monthly event. We cut up sections of the local phone book; hand addressed and stuffed envelopes, swabbed the seal, and licked the stamps. While the means and methods have changed, the priority of getting the Word of God out in printed form is still an important part of gospel outreach. Similarly, Seed Sowers distributions are an opportunity for a shy person to hand out a text with a smile, or for a chatterbox to tell how she was saved. An important part of this work is the follow-up. In the case of our assembly, there was a brother who kept detailed notes of the responses to the tract band, and then he encouraged younger brethren to go with him on personal visits. There were a number of souls ultimately saved through these efforts. Many have been saved, and even assemblies established, through follow-up work of tract and seed sowing efforts.
Nursing homes, homeless shelters and jails
Then they also will answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer them, saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” (Matt 25:44-45, ESV).
Some may say that efforts to reach souls in these venues are a waste of time. Despite possible illnesses, mental disorders, substance abuse and a hardened outlook on life among this population, they are living souls that are in desperate need of the hope found in the gospel. The Word of God can break through these barriers, and sometimes even the staff in charge of these institutions listen in. If you have three or four staff members listening to the gospel message, this is often more visitors than we get in on our regular Sunday night gospel meeting.
Fairs, home shows and festivals
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37). Therefore disputed he [Paul] in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him (Acts 17:17).
This is hardly a new approach. Duncan Matheson, a Scottish revivalist, pitched his small tent at fairs and trading posts in the 1850s. The Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul could generate a crowd by their preaching, but also were found taking advantage of opportunities where there was already a crowd of people gathered. A rented booth set up with an attractive display of gospel banners, texts in various languages, Bibles, free tracts, bookmarks, keychains, and CDs containing a clear gospel message – all are ways to strike up a conversation with a person. If there are children present you can give them coloring books, pencils and other crafts and an invitation to your Sunday school.
Personal work and hospitality
But the word of God grew and multiplied (Acts 12:24).
This is likely the most effective way to spread the gospel in our time and culture, and yet it is often the most neglected. In our busy schedules, we are hardly seeing, much less taking, opportunities to invite people into our homes with the intention of showing Christ or speaking for Him. The Christian home can be a testimony to the saving and settling power that God gives to believers. Shown genuine care and concern for their souls, it will not be long before guests ask the reason for the hope that lies within you.