Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities
D. C. Hinton, Hayes, Middx.
‘making mention of thee always in my prayers’
It is important that we should always remember that importunate prayer is the basis of all blessing.
The assembly at Dunmurry, a new and developing district on the outskirts of Belfast, had a time of blessing when J. Noble and R. Jordan were the preachers. The most encouraging feature was the prayer meeting preceding the Gospel meeting each evening, large numbers of believers gathering to wait upon God for blessing. Interest was shown by the local residents and a number professed to have accepted the Saviour.
Believers in many parts of Northern Ireland have enjoyed the ministry of T. E. Wilson, of Angola. Just over forty years ago he left his home assembly in Belfast for Africa, and the believers were able to say when he returned that in all those years there had not been a single assembly prayer meeting in which his name had not been mentioned.
‘Trust in Him at all times’
The faith of many assemblies has been tested over the years in the matter of accommodation. At King’s Lynn, Norfolk, there has been an assembly testimony for some seventy years, but suitable accommodation has always been a problem. From the start of the last war until the present time the believers have met in four different buildings, three of which were not really suitable.
Although numbers had not been large - sometimes there were thirty in fellowship, sometimes half that number - there was a desire to erect a hall on a suitable site. This became a necessity in January, 1953, when the East Coast floods not only rendered Coronation Hall unusable but also ruined all the furnishings, hymnbooks, etc. The temporary use was obtained of a room in a building scheduled as of historic interest whilst negotiations were in progress with the local authority for the purchase of a site. (It is greatly encouraging to note that the tenancy of this room came to an end the very week that the new hall was ready).
The Corporation offered a site on the extreme edge of a new housing estate, and after much prayer this was accepted. This estate has now been developed to an extent not previously contemplated, and the site is now in the centre of it. To this estate have come many of the families from the flooded area around the old hall.
The necessary finance was forthcoming in a remarkable way, and in the autumn of last year the new Seabank Hall was opened. Numbers are low at the moment which restricts the work which can be carried on, but already the baptistry has been in use. In reaching out with
the Gospel, monthly visits are made to old people in two localities. One is a normal home for the elderly; the other is held in a room in a community centre, and the residents from a nearby group of aged-persons’ dwellings are gathered in.
‘I have not concealed Thy loving kindness’
Going from door to door and seeking to engage souls in profitable conversation is still a very successful method of spreading the Gospel. At Hounslow, Middlesex, this has been one way of preparing for a campaign this autumn. The believers have gone forth in pairs, and out of the first five hundred houses visited they have received over one hundred requests to call again. This systematic work not only carries the Gospel to the people, but also makes them aware of the existence of the assembly and gives them an insight into the truths we believe. Has such a ministry been attempted in your district?
Similar methods have been adopted by believers working in Gorforth, an expanding township some six miles from Leeds, Yorkshire. Throughout the past winter one of the assemblies in Leeds has maintained a work among the children in Gorforth, the average number being thirty. In preparation for special meetings during this summer, it is planned that the four assemblies in Leeds should take the responsibility of visiting some five hundred houses each. At least two visits will be made with the definite aim of making personal contacts. It is hoped that through such contacts it will be possible to hold meetings in some of the homes to which their neighbours will be invited.
‘let them hear’
In contrast to these built-up areas, a portable hall has been erected in the country district of Pookeen, near Dunmanway, Co. Cork, for the past year. G. Stewart and A. Gray have held two special efforts during that time, and at present they hold a meeting for young people every Lord’s Day. When they are unable to be present, two brethren from the assembly at Skibbereen take the responsibility. Results are beginning to be seen in the salvation of some, and the workers trust that these are but the firstfruits.
‘Go and gather’
Two years ago we referred to the special efforts made by the believers meeting at Gerston Hall, Paignton, to reach the elderly folk who are specially catered for in that town during the early summer. For some years, the assembly has arranged after-church meetings for such, providing transport and supplying light refreshments. This year the period for these arrangements was extended, so that for eight consecutive Lord’s Days the hall was filled with Old Age Pensioners, usually about two hundred each night. As the Gospel was faithfully presented they listened with evident interest. Whilst few towns present an opportunity exactly like this, it behoves us all to be constantly looking for ways to reach others with the message of salvation.
‘Gather the people together’
P. Brandon conducted two weeks of special Gospel meetings at Dartmouth, Devon, in the spring. The Lord blessed the message to the salvation of souls. These not only included some townsfolk, but also a husband and wife on holiday from the north brought by their recently converted son. Some from local churches attended, including a curate, and expressed their interest. A feature of this campaign was the number of house meetings held, some folk coming who would not visit the hall.
‘By the word of truth’
The Lord’s people should be continually exercised about the spiritual needs of Eire. This year, nearly 3,000 Irish young people will cross from Ireland to this country in an attempt to spread Romanism here - are we as concerned in spreading the worth of Christ in Eire? Moreover about 1,700 priests, monks and nuns will leave that land in 1964 to spread the evils of the Roman religion abroad, including this land. In contrast, Eire is today less evangelized than ever it was, and many still have not had the opportunity of hearing the simple and pure truth of the Gospel.
A number of believers have been concerned about the lack of door-to-door evangelism. At the present time the way is open and it is felt that the opportunity should be taken before it is too late. So, after prayerful consideration, it has been decided to make a concentrated effort this summer to reach the mass of the people by this means. As the workers themselves are too few to carry out this project, they would welcome the help of young men of seventeen years of age and over who are in assembly fellowship and feel that the Lord would have them spend a week or more helping in this effort. The proposed dates are from June 27th to August 15th, 1964.
It is envisaged that there will be teams of eight to ten brethren under the leadership of experienced workers and they will be accommodated in caravans or tents. The aim will be to place a portion of Scripture or some other Gospel literature in every home visited, either by sale or gift. It will be serious business - neither a picnic nor a Cook’s tour - and the interest will be in souls not scenery. Brethren interested should write to T. Gilpin, 116 Princetown Road, Bangor, Co. Down, N. Ireland.
If we are unable to join this work physically we can still pray for it, and also make sure that every house in the district in which we live has received a portion of Gospel literature.
‘He abideth faithful’
Toward the end of the first world war, believers began to meet at North Hill, Plymouth, in a wooden army hut on rented ground. Over the years they prospered and weakened from time to time, but the hut holds happy memories for many, especially service men and women. Recently the assembly received notice to quit, and the almost immediate opportunity to purchase a suitable hall seemed to indicate that this was the Lord’s doing. The new hall, to be known as West Hill Gospel Hall, is in a densely populated district. It is near enough to the former hall for there to be little disturbance to the existing work and yet is so placed as to be convenient for many others who would not previously have been reached. Thus it is hoped that a new impetus will be given to the work.
‘I have not concealed the words of the Holy One’
Reports of three special Gospel efforts come from Lanarkshire, Scotland. In the county town of Lanark, well-attended meetings were taken by J. Aitken at the end of March, unsaved being present each evening. A number of these came as the result of invitations given out in the streets by young people during open air meetings. Fruit was also seen from the evangelist’s visits to those known to have been in the hall on previous occasions. One such call resulted in a married couple attending the meetings and eventually confessing the Lord as Saviour. A special youth gathering held on Lord’s Days after the normal service brought a large number of young people, many entering the hall for the first time.
At Hebron Hall, Airdrie, H. Burness and S. Stewart had five weeks of Gospel meetings earlier in the year. Six professed faith in Christ, and when seven believers were baptized one Lord’s Day evening the hall was packed with many standing and with many unsaved present.
Special meetings at Chapelhall were also well attended, quite a few of the villagers coming nightly. While there were only two known cases of conversion, three believers have been exercised about baptism as a result of the closing message which was on the Lord’s coming for His saints.
‘we also believe and therefore speak’
In the neighbouring county of Renfrew, R. Walker held a series of Gospel meetings at Kilmalcolm. Although there was a good interest, there was no evident result. However, as a result of ministry of the Word on the Saturday evenings on the subjects of baptism and the breaking of bread, a few young people were baptized and received into fellowship. In addition two young girls who came from Glasgow to attend these meetings took the same step of obedience.
The Gospel was proclaimed in Cruden Hall, Greenock, by S. Ford during May, and quite a number professed faith in the Saviour.
‘by their fruits ye shall know them’
One of the firstfruits we should look for after a profession of salvation has been made is that of baptism. Therefore it was a source of joy to the believers comprising the assembly at Newmilns, Ayrshire, when they witnessed recently the baptism of four persons. Their joy was the greater in that this assembly has been depleted during the past year or two by removals from the district. Two of those who obeyed their Lord were an uncle and nephew. The story of the blessing in their family goes back a few years to a Gospel effort taken by R. Walker, when a middle-aged couple were converted. Since then, their married son and his wife have been saved and added to the small assembly in Kirkcudbright. In Castle Douglas their boy is among the young folk added to the assembly there since their new hall was opened last October, and now back in Newmilns a further two members of the family have been saved.
In Glenburn, Prestwick, five young folk, mainly the gleanings from the homes of believers, have been baptized and added to the assembly.
‘I know that the Lord is great’
About the year 1885, an assembly testimony commenced in Chester in the home of two believers, one of their daughters still being in happy and active fellowship. Over the years numbers have fluctuated, there being about sixty in fellowship at the present time. There were several changes in the place of meeting until in 1918 an ex-army hut was erected on a site rented from the railway near the main station and this was known as Brownhill Gospel Hall.
After forty-five years of continual use, it became obvious that the facilities, or rather the lack of them, had become an embarrassment and a hindrance to any extension of the work, especially as the assembly was growing numerically. Apart from this, the redevelopment of the area was shifting the populace to new housing estates.
Prayerful exercise resulted in a building fund, and in subsequent years various places were viewed but for one reason or another were always deemed unsuitable. In 1958 an application was made to the City Surveyor for a site on one of the new estates within one mile of the hall. Eventually the believers were told that only one site was available and that they had been granted this. After much prayer, it was decided to ask the Corporation if this was indeed the only site available, and the result was that a much better plot was offered at comparatively little extra cost. Thus did the Lord overrule the decisions of men.
After many delays building began in March, 1963. While the erection proceeded, special prayer meetings were held to seek guidance as to the best way in which the neighbourhood could be reached with the Gospel. The decision reached was to visit the surrounding homes even before the hall was open, so that all would know the aims of the assembly. Thus when the hall, known as Kingsway Chapel, was opened in January this year, instead of the normal conference of believers, invitations were sent to the residents in the area. The result was gratifying, for over two hundred listened to a suitable message from J. Ostell of Bebington.
Since the move, the Sunday School has trebled in number, the average attendance now being one hundred and fifty. A Parents-Teachers Fellowship has been formed, with the object of letting the parents know what their children are taught. Films, tapes and visual aids are used to this end.
Here also the baptistry has already been in use when two believers brought joy to their Lord by identifying themselves with Him in His death, burial and resurrection.
‘Serve the Lord with gladness’
Lighter evenings have seen a renewal of open air work in many parts. While this is often at the weekend, the believers from Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, and neighbouring assemblies use Monday evenings for this purpose. When making their first visit, which was to Garelochhead, they were encouraged by the good reception and the attention given to the spoken word.
The West London Village Workers, who in previous years have visited a different area each week, have decided to concentrate this summer on the district of Harefield in West Middlesex. By making repeated visits, it is hoped to arouse a real interest in the area. The first occasion saw over twenty believers joining in this work, which enabled many houses to be visited.
While these are but two of the many parties of open air workers, there is yet much ground to be covered, many homes still waiting to be told of the Saviour.
‘the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts’
Often to our shame we forget the spiritual needs of those who are physically handicapped, such as the deaf and the dumb. A deaf brother in fellowship with the assembly at Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, has been exercised for some time about the needs of those who are both deaf and dumb, and for whom no provision is normally made to preach the Gospel using means they can understand. After prayerful consideration and with the full sympathy of the assembly at Ammanford, those interested have been coming together on a weekday evening to be taught the deaf and dumb alphabet. The object is to fit them to interpret to the deaf what is being said at the services they attend.
‘commit thy way unto the Lord’
The opening meeting of the Counties Evangelistic Work for this summer was held in London in May. There were encouraging reports on the labours of the past winter. The conversion of a lad of sixteen in the Midlands was followed by that of his mother, father and aunt and also of a young couple. Believers rejoiced to hear that one new assembly had been established. During the winter, several workers had been encouraged to learn of instances of blessing resulting from last summer’s work. In some places, indoor meetings had been held last winter which will be followed up with tent meetings this summer.
It was of interest to note the varied approach to the task. Some brethren felt that the most effective way was to win the adults and so, through converted parents, to reach the children. Others are devoting most of their time to the children and through them seeking to reach the rest of the family.
‘teaching them to observe all things’
We must not ignore the spiritual needs of the many who are saved but have never received any teaching and whose spiritual growth has therefore been slow.
A young married woman in South Wales came to know the Lord as Saviour. She sought the company of believers in a small Baptist mission, but looking back afterwards she realized that instruction in the Scriptures had been negligible.
As her husband and children were unsaved, she sought to bring the way of salvation before them and soon had the joy of seeing her eldest child saved. She took her husband to evangelical meetings so that he might hear the Gospel, on occasions travelling many miles to hear well-known preachers.
A believer in assembly fellowship came into contact with her. They had many conversations together, and after discussing New Testament principles of gathering he left her suitable literature to peruse. She read the literature, looked up every scripture referred to and within a few days sought an interview with the elders of the local assembly. A fortnight later she was received into fellowship.
Her swift obedience to the Word was soon honoured by God. Her husband was saved during special Gospel meetings, and their second child confessed the Saviour the same week. A few weeks later, the husband and eldest child were baptized and received into fellowship together, a cause for rejoicing in the small assembly.
There are many such believers waiting for instruction in divine truths. In Birmingham, the opportunity given by special ministry meetings is often used to invite believers who are not in assembly fellowship. We would do well to be more active in this sphere.
‘to testify the Gospel of the grace of God’
Reports are often included of Gospel work in hospitals but the following is written from a different angle.
Following a car crash in which his legs were broken, a believer found himself in a Sidcup hospital miles away from his wife and family. A day or two later, being somewhat recovered from the shock and hearing derogatory remarks made about hymns, he publicly declared his allegiance to the Lord and gave his testimony to all in the ward. This proved a blessing to an old man in the next bed awaiting a serious operation. Further conversation with this patient was listened to by a nurse who subsequently confessed that she would like to be sure of going to heaven. A boy of 15 then came to our brother’s bedside in his wheelchair and asked to be told about God. Then came another in a wheelchair, a baptized believer who had seriously backslidden but had been stirred by what he had heard. This account should encourage each reader not to be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.
‘He sendeth forth’
Ebenezer Hall, Belfast, is one of the old and large meetings in that city. When J. Hutchinson held Gospel meetings there for six weeks in the spring, the number of local people attending was greater than for some time. Some professed salvation and some backsliders were restored.
J. Martin used a portable hall for a special effort at Annaghmore, Co. Armagh. Well-attended meetings continued for two months before any professed faith in the Saviour, but then all were encouraged as some, long-prayed for, confessed their faith.
Gospel work is not always so encouraging. A. Lyttle and E. Allen preached the Word for eleven weeks at Drumlough, but although numbers were fairly good, there were no evident results. Faith still believes that the good seed will yet bear fruit. At Dromore the assembly invited H. Paisley for a special effort which lasted some weeks. The local people came in good numbers but little blessing was seen among them, but some who came from a distance professed conversion.