Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
"The signs of the times", Matt. 16. 3.
The context of this phrase is one of condemnation. Those who were custodians of the truth of God were the objects of such censure. They were seeking signs from heaven. No doubt their desires were for the dramatic and spectacular. This brought a sharp rebuke from the Saviour. He could judge their motives accurately. They could discern the meaning of natural phenomena, but the vital signs of their times were not recognized. This can teach us that, in any handling of the things of God, we should act in the light of the times in which the responsibility is entrusted to us. This responsibility is not related to days that are gone by—to a past generation. We may long for the "good times", for the giants of the past. Ours is to give dedicated service to God in our own times. The "signs" today are loaded with indications that the blessed hope of the church is soon to be realized—the Saviour will come to take us Home. Glorious day! Every report that we publish stresses the urgent demand that every one of us should "occupy" until He comes. Current attitudes and conditions indicate a growing antagonism from the powers of evil. Let us, like David, serve our own generation well!
Northern Ireland. Various items of news come from the difficult surroundings of BELFAST. In Parkgate Avenue, BELFAST, MULLAFERNAGHAN, and at BALLYLINTAGH, the Lord's blessing was enjoyed in gospel activities. In the small assembly at STUBBYHILL, outside Lisburn, Reg. Jordan and Lindsay Hunter held meetings. Numbers were few, but at least one came to the Lord. Meetings were held at DRUMANESS, near Ballynahinch— an almost 100% Roman Catholic community; pray that God will give an awakening ! Two young business brethren, John and Cecil Rodgers, held gospel meetings in BESSBROOK on the border— a village often in the headlines because of shootings, etc. The exercise was blessed and at least one professed conversion. At the beginning of meetings held in ANTRIM with Eric Wishart and Samuel Thompson, the hall was filled, many strangers coming in. Having finished in MULLAFERNAGHAN, Jim Allen began the New Year in COOKSTOWN and Jim Hutchinson in CLONKEEN with Mr. McKelvey. This brother needs prayer that the Lord will strengthen him physically as he engages in His service. News comes of quite a work being done among prisoners in the infamous Long Kesh prison and also at Crumlin Road Jail. A number of the inmates have been saved. Prayer is asked that a lasting work shall be done in their lives. The Christmas Conference, held in a new venue in BELFAST, was a most encouraging time with about 700 to 800 attending. Two Bible Readings were held on 1 Corinthians 15, with A. McShane and Jim Baker giving help. Messrs. Allen and Nesbitt also shared in the ministry which was felt to be of great profit and blessing. It is encouraging to be able to report that permission has again been granted to workers from Ormeau Road Hall, BELFAST, for use of the Botanic Gardens in the summer, August 16th-3Oth. Much prayer and wisdom will be needed in planning this important gospel effort.
Scotland. An interesting meeting was held by Peter Ferry with a group of young people at Prestonfield Gospel Centre, ANNAN. An illustrated talk was given on the Lord's work in Thailand. Questions invited and answered gave evidence of the interest aroused among the young people. Seasonal Conferences in the DUMFRIES area provided times of good fellowship for many who gathered, and Christ-exalting, edifying ministry was given. In what way would you celebrate retirement ? Here is an interesting item! A Christian man, as he was retiring from his firm, instead of taking the staff of fifty-one out to wine and dine, called each one separately into his office and presented them with a New Testament. Although resolved not to preach at them, many interesting conversations were held on spiritual matters. The Lord will honour this. Happy news from an assembly which, during 1980, saw three backsliders restored and six baptized. These evidences of blessing were seen without a special mission. The prevailing prayer of some young couples gave great weight to the assembly work. Conferences held in the Lanarkshire areas were well attended at New Year, with the challenging ministry being appreciated. Here is an interesting way of sharing the Word with others. Jim Munro and Jim Burnett tell of a gospel work which has been furthered through cassette tapes. A weekly cassette is prepared and is played on the local hospital network radios in DUNFERMLINE. Also a monthly gospel tape is sent out and played to blind people in the district. Now a ministry cassette is prepared to bring the ministry of the Word for the comfort and encouragement of elderly and housebound believers, who are unable to attend assembly gatherings. This work is done in fellowship with the Gospel Hall, Hospital Hill, DUNFERMLINE. Pray for the increase of this ministry.
North West England. There are some interesting reflections on the work of the LANCASHIRE GOSPEL TENT during the 1980 season. A month was spent at ECCLES, Cliff Goldfinch and John Burns being the evangelists. At least one third of the company each night were unsaved. An interesting fact was that most of the children—many came—have never attended Sunday School or week-night children's meetings before. A few showed special interest. Success was seen in a few of the personal contacts that were made. One shopkeeper, who vowed that she would never come, was in the tent during the last few evenings and showed great concern for her need. Two young men were especially blessed during the whole month and sent a letter to the Eccles Journal. This was printed by the paper. Opportunities were given to write columns for the local newspapers and to visit schools and homes in the area. Help was given to local assemblies, and individual Christians were counselled. Overall a great sense of the Lord's presence was felt and the prayers of many Christians were answered. BOLTON 1980—the tent in Queen's Park: this proved a time of blessing. Indians, Pakistanis, Americans, English and Scots—all gathered and heard the message of the gospel. Derick Bing-ham said that their hearts were often moved by stories told of sin and despair— many problems were raised. A march of witness through BOLTON streets, singing to hundreds of surprised onlookers, made quite an impact. The fellowship of the local Christians was wonderful and God gave a great blessing. Prayer is asked for plans for 1981—OLDHAM during July with Stan Ford. Also remember in prayer the many contacts made with people who deeply need the Lord Jesus Christ.
Midlands. News from Roger Chilvers of the work in Gloucester and district assemblies. During the autumn children's missions were held in BRISTOL, DURSLEY and GLOUCESTER. Interest was good and it was good to know of some who trusted the Saviour. In the small assembly of DURSLEY, help was given to strengthen and build up the existing work. New contacts were made in a hitherto untouched area of the town. A regular midweek work is continuing, with about 40 attending. A number of parents continue to come to special events, such as family services. At HILLVIEW, Hucclecote, several have accepted Christ as Saviour, mostly teenagers. Many come from the same school in Gloucester where there has been an evident work of God amongst the boys. Several people responded to an open invitation, which was given at the end of a baptismal service. At Christmas, many neighbours and friends joined together at special Carol Services. Thus the work goes on in this needy and large estate. The work at QUEDGELEY, Glos., continues. The devil is very busy in seeking to wreck the work among the believers who live in this district. Special guidance and help from the Lord is felt at this time to be needed. Prayer is asked that eventually a more permanent work will be established. From Ruth Bourne in BIRMINGHAM regarding work among Asian immigrants. In response to requests to visit homes to teach knitting, sewing, etc., links have been formed with women, and several men have received Gospels. One man was reading a Bengali New Testament for the third time, being disillusioned with his own religion and seeking the truth. Pray for Abdul, and also for Ranjar just released from hospital where he thought he would die. He asked, "How can I know God's blessing on my life", believing he now has a second chance.
London Area. Some interesting items of news from the South East London Evangelistic Mobile Unit. In spite of difficulties, this outreach work continues. At LEWISHAM, several good contacts were made. One young lady gladly accepted the tract offered, when she knew that it was Christian literature. One man said that he had lived in Carrington House for 12 years, during which time he had accepted Christ through the witness there. A young man, who had learned much about Christ during "A" level studies, said that he had lost faith, although he still attended church. All such need prayer. At BROCKWELL PARK, a man who was a Catholic was very concerned about the spiritual welfare of his sons. He accepted the message and showed some faith in Christ. The village of HORTON KIRBY was tracted throughout. A young lady showed much interest, and accepted a tract. At GROVE PARK quite a number of people were around. A Nigerian showed interest and accepted a New Testament. He said that he believed in God. No headway could be made with a group of punk-rockers—they showed no interest at all. Among a group of young people a young man named Paul seemed to have a good knowledge of the Scriptures. He was encouraged to make a commitment to Christ. At BECKENHAM, there was encouragement as several of the local assemblies had fellowship. Several people showed interest and many received tracts. On a bitterly cold night at BRIXTON, a team of six gave brief messages; here a young lady had a long conversation with one of the workers. She seemed bitterly opposed to Christians but accepted some literature. In each contact made, lies a need for prayer! Prayer is much desired for 1981 Plans for the Mobile Unit. From Reg Whittern comes an interesting item. "Signs of the Times" was used as a theme for six displays for the HERTFORDSHIRE Show 1980. One depicted sombre headlines in newspapers. Others drew attention to famine, earthquakes, war, etc. Backed by the Scriptures, these proved to be a great challenge and gave opportunities for testimony and also uses in other ways. How good to be able to present a message that is always relevant.
East Anglia. It is good to receive news of enthusiasm for the study of God's Word. At DENSTONE, Suffolk, a three-day session was held over the New Year. The subject for study was John 13-15, part of the Upper Room ministry. K. Morris, Southampton, gave useful help, both in the Bible readings and in ministry. Lunch and tea were provided each day and numbers were consistently between 90-100. Surrounding assemblies took advantage of the opportunities for fellowship. Perhaps most rewarding of all was the large percentage of young people—about 50%. We can give thanks to the Lord with our friends for this encouragement.
South East England. News from S. Mountstevens. Encouragement came at a mission at RAMSGATE. Good numbers of children, about 120, attended and the Sunday School has increased as a result of the mission. Much interest was shown at the teenage meetings, and a request has been made for the meetings to continue. A young mother, with her children, attended several meetings. Baptized with the Mormon church, she had become completely disillusioned with them. Showing a lot of interest, she sends her children to the assembly Sunday School. Here is a one-parent family in much need of prayer. A little girl of seven listened attentively to the story of the Lord's second coming. She then said that she wanted to trust in the Saviour and gladly accepted Him. The end of the mission was happy indeed when a young believer was baptized. For the occasion, her separated parents came together. The girl was born again through her stay in a Christian children's home. What a need for prayer! An interesting children's campaign was held at WAINSCOTT and the numbers were excellent. On the final prize-giving night, about 70 children with a good number of parents were present. Two girls of 12 accepted Christ during the mission. Weekly meetings for children are held in the home of S. Mountstevens with about 30 packed into the lounge. Pray for a lad of 14, confined to a wheelchair due to spina bifida. He mocked the children for coming, but now comes himself and was asking prayer for his 30th operation! His desire for believers' company has increased, and prayer is made earnestly for his conversion. Now a real problem for prayer! Three teenage converts, baptized recently, have been kept away from meetings by their parents. It seems that they have been challenged by their witness for Christ. One girl has suffered much for her faith, and has been in deep distress of mind. While we praise God for such triumphs of grace, how we need to pray for them.
South West England. Stephen Gill-ham reports on visits around Christmas time to 33 Dorset Schools, reaching children of ages 5-13 years. He speaks with sadness of a generation with an increasing ignorance concerning all that the Christmas story means. As many as 500 children at once sat quietly, watching a Christmas-story film and listening as the fact that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son was explained to them. Three different film presentations have been prepared. The welcome given in the schools to this means of presentation was most encouraging—it made all the hard work worthwhile. Stephen speaks of his deep concern, that the "Christ of Christmas " should be most clearly presented to the people. This, not only because of the "confusion of Christmas" in our materialistic society, but also because of the "chaos of the cults" and the denial of truth touching the Deity and Humanity of Christ. Surely this is to all Christians a matter for exercise and prayer. The work of Adventure Time Club (Postal Sunday School) continues, with 70-100 children doing monthly lessons. Prayer is sought for growth in this very important work. Hold-ups have been experienced regarding the purchase of land at TRICKETTS CROSS, but it is hoped to sign a contract shortly. Again the prayers of the Lord's people are asked.
South Wales. From John Baker comes a great item of news regarding the work at TREDEGAR. The occasion was the baptism of the mother of a young sister in the meeting. John Baker had visited her father in hospital and at his home, and had explained the gospel to him. He passed away quite suddenly. His wife accepted Christ as her Saviour, in the early hours of the morning following the funeral service. Now she has confessed her Lord publicly in her baptism. There were a good number of unsaved gathered in for the meeting. Our brother speaks of an encouraging year in 1980 in visitation work. Thousands of homes have been visited. Here is an interesting point about this work. A number of people, who had been saved at previous campaigns, etc., were met, and only then was it revealed that they had found Christ during the meetings. This highlights the fact that souls are often saved without the evangelist being aware of it. Counting "heads" is not always an indication of "hearts" being won for Christ! David Prosser mentions several items for praise from work in 1980. Especially, is the knowledge that those saved during the year are going on with the Lord. Since one man was saved, he has been going along to the weekly Bible Study in BRECON, where a few young people meet together to search the Scriptures. An army captain who came to the Lord, indirectly through the Royal Welsh Show, has settled into a local assembly and is looked after by them. A woman, contacted during visitation work in ABERTRIDWR, and who was counselled at length in further visits, has since been to the gospel hall. She has deep rooted problems and needs much prayer. The young people's work at TRETHOMAS progresses, but the numbers outstrip the available work force and the demands it makes are often difficult to cope with. Please pray for help to meet this opportunity.
From West Wales comes news from the recently formed assembly at NEW-QUAY, Dyfed. At present meeting in premises rented for the hours of the Lord's Day meetings, the small assembly put in a bid in December 1979for a chapel about to become disused. The goodness of the Lord rose above many uncertainties and difficulties, including a last minute higher bid from someone who wanted the chapel for non-church purposes. In the first week of February, the assembly learnt that their bid had been successful, so they will soon be meeting in Penuel Gospel Hall (formerly Penuel Chapel) on the main road between Synod Inn and Newquay. The assembly thank all those who have given practical help, and ask for prayer for the testimony, that people will come into the hall for the gospel meetings.
Devon. Two items of "crusade" news come from Tony Blackburn. At NORTH TAWTON, a crusade was held at the gospel hall. It was difficult at first to get the young people in. Schools and homes were visited but the first night was poor. Yet during the week the numbers increased, and on the Family Night the hall was packed out with people, more adults than children attending. Amongst them was the prison governor and his wife and family, and farmers and families from further away.
A real work appeared to be done, and prayer is asked for the follow-up work. A crusade for children and family nights were conducted at EXMOUTH chapel. A circle on a map was drawn around the chapel, and every home in the town centre and surrounding area was visited. Local schools were also visited. Attendances were good and on the final night the chapel was packed. Thirteen were led to Christ during the crusade. There was much encouragement, and the Sunday School has increased its numbers.
Cornwall. One item of rather sad news comes from NEWQUAY. The assembly which has been meeting at Marcus Road for over 40 years has had to close its doors. As the lease came up for renewal, the assembly was asked to relinquish it as the hall must be sold. The believers, all of whom have joined other places, need prayer. Here is a large seaside town now without an assembly.
On a much higher note comes news of building the new hall at BODMIN. Good progress is being made. The roof is on and being slated—the windows and the baptistry are in and the hall is already looking good. John Hadley says that the fact of progress being made thus far is a wonderful testimony to the wonderful love and grace of God and His faithfulness in His provision through His believing people. "We desire", he says, "to be able to finish worthily of the Lord and His gospel— clear of debt—so that the work of evangelism in Cornwall can go forward unhindered". Let us pray that this desire shall be realized.
For the two months December 1980 and January 1981 the Treasurers report the receipt of gifts totalling £2850.19 from assemblies and individual readers. Acknowledgement has been made to all except anonymous donors, and those who specifically requested no reply. All moneys received are devoted to the Magazine and no member of the Committee receives any remuneration for his services. Donations may be sent to either of the Treasurers and cheques should be made payable to the "Precious Seed Magazine Account".