Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities
D. C. Hinton, Hayes, Middx.
In the May-June issue we referred to a portable hall which had been provided for the use of I. Munro in the North of Scotland. We have to apologise for referring to this hall as ‘well-worn’ when in fact it was entirely new. It is now in store until the autumn when it will be used in the Western Highlands. Meanwhile I. Munro is spending the summer in personal work in the villages and hamlets of the lonely glens.
‘A fruitful bough’
Before reading the following reports we would do well to ponder afresh these extracts from the first article in this issue.
‘The church planted in a given locality is primarily responsible to sound forth with clear and challenging notes, as of a herald’s trumpet, the word of the Lord. But what of the countryside around and the bordering counties? Are we so preoccupied and contented inside the church or do we have our hands so full outside the assembly’s work that our district is hardly aware of the gospel and our existence? What of the villages and hamlets of our beloved land, the vast areas where little or no proclaiming of Christ is heard?
If all the talents and resources of the saints were ploughed into the great variety and work and labour of the assembly, we would see the ever widening influence spread through town, countryside and to the uttermost part of the world.’
‘Where there is no vision the people perish’
In the light of the above how sad that an evangelist should be able to write concerning Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, that it contained no evangelical witness - this a large provincial town now being rapidly extended by a vast London overspill estate. Boys and girls crushed into his tent to hear the Gospel, but although there are four day schools on this estate there is not one Sunday School apart from that of the Roman Catholics. What a challenge this presents!
Again, quoting from the report of the South-East London Mobile Unit; ‘On several occasions the unit has not been able to operate as planned because of the fewness of the workers. To operate satisfactorily we need at least four or five workers but only two have reported for service’.
Yet again, one of the shire tents was pitched for the first half of the season within a few miles of several numerically strong assemblies, but on a number of evenings the total attendance was less than thirty.
Are we really serious about having a concern for the proclamation of the Gospel?
‘Whose branches run over the wall’
The large agricultural shows held in the various counties provide one of the few occasions when the inhabitants of the rural areas come together - thus giving an opportunity for those believers desirous of making known the glories of their Saviour. The Ayr Agricultural Show in April was the second largest in Scotland, and a Bible Stand was provided by the believers from the four assemblies in Ayr and Prestwick. The stand in itself was an effective witness to the passer-by, the whole frontage of twenty feet being used for the display of large, specially prepared posters emphasising the importance of the Word of God and the way of salvation contained therein.
Athough comparatively few Bibles and Testaments were sold, at least five and a half thousand people took home a booklet or leaflet printed specially for the occasion. A few words on the Gospel were included in the Show Catalogue and the assembly meetings were clearly made known. Thus the Word has been sown, which is the believer’s responsibility; the fruit we can safely leave in the hands of our Master.
Such a display is a sure way of reaching the farmers and farmworkers from the country areas who are seldom contacted by normal evangelical work. For years W. Scott of Galloway made a point of distributing tracts at the Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire Shows in order to ensure that the country folk received the Word of Truth.
Similar Shows - some large, some small - are held in most districts. Are we making use of the opportunity thus provided to sow the Seed of the Word?
‘My help cometh from the Lord’
Since 1958 believers from the assemblies in Ipswich, Suffolk, have carried on a Sunday School in the village of Martlesham. As the years have passed very good relationships have been established with many of the parents, the numbers of children attending being very satisfactory considering the limited population.
In March this year it was decided to commence a Gospel Meeting on Lord’s Day evenings, using the wooden hall which had been erected for the children’s work. The response has been very encouraging, for some ten people from the estate have attended consistently from the start. The opportunity has been taken to deal consecutively with the basic truths of the Gospel, whilst recently subjects have been taken from the Epistle to the Romans.
Just as there is a need for consecutive ministry of the Word to believers, so there is a need for a full presentation of the Gospel in the way that it is unfolded in the Roman Epistle.
‘O Lord, revive Thy work’
We should be especially exercised concerning those towns and villages where there was an assembly testimony in days gone by but which for some reason has ceased. One such place is Stewarton, in Ayrshire, where the assembly died out about fifty years ago. The shire tent has been pitched there for the whole of this summer, and J. Grant of Belfast has found some interest among the townsfolk, especially on Lord’s Day evenings. During the first half of the season a young married woman professed conversion and a backslider returned to the Lord. Some seventy youngsters attended the thrice-weekly children’s meetings, being absolutely ignorant of the Gospel when they first came. (There are thousands more, just as ignorant, in every part of this land).
We should not, however, think that such efforts must be left to full-time evangelists. Carricklongfield, Co. Tyrone, is a country district where the little Gospel Hall has been closed for some years. J. Wishart and M. Wishart, two young men in daily employment, held special Gospel meetings there and good numbers attended showing a keen interest.
‘They that have not heard shall understand’
There are many other places where there has never been an assembly testimony. Another two young brethren, W. Glenn and D. Goodwin, had a portable hall erected at Maralin, Co. Armagh, some miles across country from where they live, and proclaimed the Gospel there for several weeks. Attendances were encouraging and, while there were no known conversions, the good seed of the Word has been sown.
Rathfriland, a small town near the Mourne Mountains in Co. Down, was the scene of a special Gospel effort taken by J. Thompson and J. Milne. There is no assembly but believers from nearby gatherings supported the evangelists and a few professed to have accepted the Saviour.
In the same county is the little town of Killinchy, again with no assembly. Here T. McKelvey and J. G. Hutchinson held Gospel meetings in a canvas tent. It was evident that there was a desire for the word and they were much encouraged to know of some blessing.
In the North of Scotland H. Burness and S. Stewart have been making another attempt to reach the hitherto untouched villages of Aberdeenshire with the Gospel, and have pitched a tent at Strichen, a few miles from Fraserburgh. While many homes in this and surrounding villages have been visited with the Gospel, it is once again the children who have given encouragement. It is evident that these youngsters have not even had a smattering of knowledge concerning the way of salvation and our brethren have had much satisfaction in instructing them in the way of life.
‘In the shadow of death’
The need for bringing the Gospel before elderly folk living in ‘Old People’s Homes’ was laid upon the hearts of a brother and sister in fellowship with the assembly at Hesters Way, Cheltenham, through reading of similar activities in previous reports. At first the residents of three homes were invited to the hall once a month, and this brought a response from about twenty-five of these elderly ones. Later another home was contacted and now about forty attend regularly. The old people themselves soon requested that the meetings be held more often, so now they come once a fortnight. The first half hour is given over mainly to singing, followed by a Gospel message lasting some twenty-five minutes. After this, they chat over light refreshments and then are taken back to their respective ‘homes’.
It was found essential to provide refreshments as the residents have to forego their evening meal to attend the meeting. The effort throws a strain on the sisters, as does the provision of transport on the brethren, but the assembly deeply feel the responsibility of presenting the Gospel to those so near to eternity.
Are those living in similar homes in the area where we live being told of the Saviour?
‘I have given them Thy word’
There is cause for praise in that our God has maintained an open door for His servants in Eire. Some six brethren who visit the towns in Leinster each Saturday evening have been encouraged by the willingness of many not only to listen to the spoken word but also to receive copies of the Scriptures. As they spoke in one town, some eighty people listened throughout the meeting, whilst in another centre one thousand Gospels were distributed.
Teams of young brethren have been distributing Gospel literature in the west of Eire. Two of these met with much difficulty, but the others have been greatly encouraged by the reception offered to them; sales of Scripture portions have been higher than last year.
Special efforts have been made in Dublin to spread the printed Word. A team of young brethren made Merrion Hall their residence for some days while visiting the residential areas of the city with tracts. The contacts made have given the assembly much cause for rejoicing.
The value of distributing the printed Word is shown in the case of two young men who have trusted the Saviour during the past year. Both were brought up as Roman Catholics; both had been reading the Scriptures, one for a number of years, the other for a few months. The first visited F. Pontin of Cork for some months to discuss his problems before he finally trusted the Lord. The second had been given a Bible by the Mormons and through reading the Scriptures realised the heresy they were teaching, accepted the Saviour and told the Mormons to visit him no more.
‘In Thy name shall they rejoice all the day’
Some readers may recall that we reported in 1961 on the start of a new work at Beacon Heath, Exeter, where a new hall had been erected. This was situated on a large housing estate and gave unlimited scope for evangelism. The small assembly (there were only fifteen believers at the commencement), responded to the challenge presented to them and has rejoiced to see the Lord blessing during subsequent years.
The Sunday School and Bible Classes have proved the most fruitful section of the work so that now, with numbers well over two hundred and fifty, the hall is far too small. Three sessions have to be held for the younger ones in addition to Bible Classes in nearby homes. From this harvest field, many have been brought to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus as Saviour, and some have been baptised and brought into fellowship. The result is that, although some believers have moved elsewhere, the assembly now numbers over forty.
The desire of the saints has been that sufficient accommodation might be provided to enable all the young people to come together at the same time, and also for the provision of a baptistry. This would enable baptisms to be carried out in the area where the new converts live, thus adding to the effectiveness of their testimony as they carry out their Lord’s command in this way. Work has now begun on the construction of a side hall and classrooms, together with a baptistry.
‘I meditate on all Thy works’
‘Tell Yorkshire’ activities this summer commenced with a campaign in the new hall at Rawcliffe, G. Tryon being responsible. The start was slow, the children being away from school and difficult to contact, but as the days went by so the numbers increased. The Women’s Meeting, which was an innovation, was well attended by many from the village who had never been inside the hall.
During this period D. Illiffe commenced a tent campaign at Garforth, Leeds. This was a follow-up of last years effort which had resulted in cottage and children’s meetings being carried on during the winter months. There was much to encourage, for those who came last year as children returned again to receive further instruction in the Scriptures.
Meanwhile G. Tryon had moved to Huddersfield for a tent campaign on a new housing estate where the believers had distributed much literature in preparation for the effort. Over a hundred children came to the first meeting and a similar number to the first for teenagers. Attendances have continued to be good and blessing has been received by many.
‘I hoped in Thy word’
The Fifeshire tent was pitched at Cowdenbeath in the care of J. Noble and R. Jordon. The first meeting was packed and this interest was maintained to the close of the first part of the season with many unsaved attending. Though there was not a great response from the immediate neighbourhood quite a number of unsaved came from further afield. Two made profession of faith in the Lord Jesus. Over one hundred children were present at times and their attentiveness was outstanding. Many of these had never attended Sunday School and had no knowledge of the Gospel, and some spoke of receiving the Saviour.
S. Lewis was with the Lanarkshire tent at Annathill, Coatbridge. Here again the local people were indifferent, but some unsaved were present and a young Roman Catholic woman was saved, rejoicing in the emancipating power of the Gospel.
In the country of Renfrew the summer’s Gospel work began with a campaign in the Gospel Hall at Gourock where the Lord gave blessing and some of the young folk were saved. In June the campaign was centred on Kilbarchan where the church hall was packed to capacity on the Lord’s Day evening, many of the villagers being present. Several souls made a profession of faith and baptismal services were held on two consecutive weeks when three young men obeyed their Lord in this way.
‘He sendeth out His word’
In the West Country a series of Gospel meetings was held in a tent at Cullompton by H. German and signs of blessing were seen. Two Bible Class girls made a profession of faith and a backslider was restored. The evangelist then went to Rackenford, a scattered country district some twelve miles north-west of Tiverton, and very dark spiritually. Interest grew here as the campaign proceeded.
The final pitch for the season was at Ashburton in South Devon. Many readers will have passed near this country town and will probably have been unaware that for many years there has been a small assembly here. An opportunity recently arose for the purchase of more suitable premises and these have now been acquired. Although the assembly is numerically small, there has been a good Sunday School and it is hoped that the tent work will result in the consolidation of the testimony.
‘As for me’
As we come to the close of another Reports Section, how has it affected us individually? Have I received the message of a Saviour who died for sinners? If not, then now is the time to do so without further delay. Have I a concern for those who know nothing of this message, both young and old? Then let us seek the mind of our Father as to what He would have us to do, so that in all things His great Name may be glorified and the heart of our Saviour rejoiced.