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Sunday, October 3, 2010 am            Listen to this lesson

WHY SHOULD I BE HERE?
(Our Gospel Meeting)

                Beginning next week, our Gospel Meeting with Danny Gardner begins.  Final preparations are underway and it is my hope that each of us is making the necessary preparations to be here as much as possible.  This morning’s lesson is nothing new.  In fact, it could be described as somewhat of an annual ritual – presenting a lesson about our upcoming Gospel Meeting.    But I preach this because there are always some that need to be reminded about what we are doing and why. 

                There are some who will see next week no different than any other week.  They will put forth no extra efforts and in many instances not even give it a second thought.  In other words, they will move forward with their lives as if this event wasn’t happening.   I understand that things happen which present challenges during these efforts – people have to work, there may be commitments such as school or other uncontrollable events that have to be addressed.  But far too often, people simply make NO efforts OR sacrifices to support gospel meetings.  They use whatever activities or plans they have as an EXCUSE to excuse them from supporting this effort.   And that is why I present lessons such as this.  I want each of us to HONESTLY examine the efforts we are making to support this Gospel Meeting and if we find that we are not truly seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33) that we will make the necessary changes.

                A brief history of Gospel Meetings. Those who are older have seen changes in Gospel meetings over the past several decades.  H.E. Phillips observed in an article entitled, A Brief History of Gospel Meetings, that during the first half of the 20th century (1900s) Gospel meetings used to last two weeks or longer, often with both day and evening messages.  They were called, “Evangelistic meetings” (because the goal was to evangelize the community), “Tent meetings” (because they would held in a large tent that attracted large crowds), “Protracted meetings” (because you didn’t know how long it would last).  The focus was upon reaching the lost in denominations and those who did not attend any church.  Lessons on authority, morality and doctrinal issues were addressed without compromise.  These were often well attended and many souls were converted as a result of them.  Many debates were scheduled within communities to discuss doctrinal differences that were introduced in these efforts.    In the 1960’s meetings began to be reduced to the 6 day format.  In the 70s and 80s the three day format began to become popular.  Somewhere in this time, preaching began to shift in many places from seeking to reach the lost of the community to lessons designed simply to edify the saints (often times more about some self-improvement type of theme that ensuring saints are grounded in the whole truth).   This was done as “outsiders” became fewer and fewer, and those who attended Gospel meetings were usually from neighboring congregations.  (Some details thanks to H.E. Phillips, A Brief History of Gospel Meetings, http://www.hephillips.org/articles/preaching/brief-history-of-gospel-meetings-a.htm)  BUT even with the shortening of such efforts, there are many places where there is great struggles even getting the members to support the effort.  As a result, some churches are simply doing away with Gospel meetings all together. 

                Such efforts ARE authorized by the great commission (Mark 16:15-16, Matt. 28:18-20) and examples of preaching found in scripture (Philip went to Samaria – Acts 8, Barnabas is sent to Antioch – Acts 11:22, etc.). One author correctly noted: When is it NOT appropriate to preach the gospel?

                BUT it must be noted that there is nothing in scripture that obligates a congregation to have two Gospel meetings a year, nor that regulates the length of such efforts.  Therefore, many of the above changes are within the bound of the authority of a local congregation.  BUT, my concern is WHY are such changes being made?  Is it because these efforts are no longer effective?  If so, WHY are they no longer effective?  Is it because no one wants to hear the gospel anymore?  Or is it because we do not want to put forth the necessary effort to bring the lost to hear the gospel AND make the necessary efforts to be here as much as possible ourselves?

                My lesson this morning will focus on three reasons WHY we should attend this Gospel Meeting.

 I.                    To Support a Great Message

a.        It is a message that has the power to change lives -
In 1 Thess. 1:5-6, Paul noted that the gospel he preached came to them in power.  2 Thess. 2:13 speaks of the word of God which they received and which worked effectively in them.
Hebrews 4:12 speaks of the power of the word of God – it is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

b.       It is a message that saves souls –
1 Cor. 1:18-24notes that it is through the “foolishness of the message preached” that the souls of those who believe will be saved (vs. 21).
Romans 1:16 – the power of God UNTO salvation.

c.        It is a message that produces faith – Romans 10:17

d.       It is a message about God’s love for us – John 3:16, Romans 1:17, Ephesians 1:7-9, “In Him we have redemption through His blood…”

e.       IT IS THE GOAL OF THIS CONGREGATION, that anytime the Gospel is preached, even in efforts such as this gospel meeting that the TRUTH be preached without compromise.  We have confidence that what will be presented IS the message of God.   IF we truly believe that the message of the Bible is a great message, will we support it when it is being preached?  ESPECIALLY when it is being presented by the congregation we are a part of!  IF our presence shows support of God’ great message, WHAT DOES OUR ABSENCES say about our support of this message?

 

II.                  To Receive a Great Message

a.        The message of the Bible is GREAT, but it is only effective if it is received. 

b.       Our purpose in this Gospel meeting is two-fold:

                                                   i.      To evangelize to the lost.  The ONLY way the lost will be reached is through preaching – Rom. 10:14-16, cf. Mark. 16:15, etc. 
In this effort we have another opportunity to invite our friends, family and neighbors, acquaintances, and perhaps even strangers to come hear the gospel (note the topics).

                                                  ii.      To edify (build up) the saved.   Contrary to what some think, we ALL need to be built up a little more.  Heb. 10:24-25, challenges us to consider one another.
 One way that we are built up is through the word – Acts 20:32,So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

c.        This gospel meeting will offer something for everyone:

                                                   i.      Sinners will hear the gospel plan of salvation and other portions of God’s word designed to introduce them to the truth and expose common errors being taught in the religious world.

                                                  ii.      The saved will hear messages that encourage us to grow in grace and knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18), that will stabilize us (Eph. 4:13-14) and strengthen our hope (1 Pet. 5:10, Col. 1:10-11)

d.       The message delivered will be great, as it accords with God’s word, but will YOU receive it by being here?  NOTE: Sometimes there are concerns about HOW the message is delivered.  And such ought to be a concern – because a proper attitude is just as important as the message presented by the preacher.  He is accountable to God for both. HOWEVER, regardless of how the message is presented, what we learn from it is up to us.  If our heart is right, we will glean the truth out of the message, regardless of the manner in which it is presented.  We need to think about this!  If the gospel is preached and what is said applies – APPLY IT!

 

III.                To Send a Great Message

a.        Gospel Meetings today are an “endangered species”.  The reason is tragic – people are just too busy to commit to a full week of Gospel sermons.  The solution for many is to discontinue such efforts or to reduce them. While such efforts are matters of individual discretion within local congregations (each church needs to weigh its situation and respond based upon its own needs) the truth is, the reason Gospel meetings are being discontinued in many places is simply a lack of adequate support by the congregation.  It is often a sad commentary of a change in attitudes about our society.  In other words, NO MEETING – NO GUILT!  We give lip service to putting God first, but what do our actions say?  WHAT message are we sending to others by our attendance?

b.       How you attend a gospel meeting can demonstrate many things:

                                                   i.      Where your priorities are – Matt. 6:33.  Is the kingdom of God TRULY first in your life?

                                                  ii.      What is your attitude toward the gospel? ARE you ashamed of it? Rom. 1:16

                                                iii.      Your concern for the lost – Matt. 9:35-38

                                                iv.      You support of your own brethren – Heb. 3:13, 10:24-25, Col. 3:16

c.        Truly we can see in this effort that we have opportunity to influence others.  In fact, we WILL be influencing others by every decision we make about this Gospel meeting and anything else we do.  The question is: Is it for good or for evil? This applies both to our presence AND our absence.

 

My goal in presenting this lesson is to for each of us to think seriously about our upcoming Gospel meeting.  Let us support our elders and one another in this work.  I have confidence in you that you will do the right thing.  Perhaps I will be disappointed by the actions of some.  But if truth be known, that doesn’t matter.  But what does matter: IS GOD DISAPPOINTED IN YOU?  Think about that!