The elephant in the room must be introduced: gospel meetings are not what they once were. What’s different? Some of the more common observations are: less participation by members, less attendance by visitors, and fewer apparent “responses” to the preaching.
A couple observations are in order. First, we should ask ourselves, “What is the purpose of the gospel meeting?” Is it part of our evangelism efforts? Is it an effort mainly to edify the church? Is it an effort to open our doors to the community? Is it to inform on a specific issue? Is some combination of these? Has the congregation been clearly informed and unified around that purpose?
Second, we should be more concerned about facing reality than just dreaming about the ideal. The realities are symptoms of something, but what? If attendance is lower, then why? If less visitors attend, then why? If fewer responses, why? Do these things need fixed? If so, how? What will we do so that we can achieve, or even exceed, our expectations of the meeting?
If we want our gospel meetings to be successful, we are going to have to speak of expectations and define success. Surely as we aim at nothing, that’s precisely what we’ll hit. But if we establish goals and strive together to meet them, the numbers will mean far less. We’ll know that we’ve done our part in God’s work, and will remain confident that He’s doing his (cf. 1 Cor. 3:6).
People will usually live up to the realistic expectations set for them. If nothing’s expected, can we complain when we get it?
—Rick Kelley, Prestonsburg KY church bulletin