In bringing Covid 19 to the shores of the UK, Amos 3. 6, the Lord has provided many and varied ways for the gospel to go beyond its usual precincts. ‘The word of God is not bound’, 2 Tim. 2. 9, is a text that has had special poignancy for the past year or so.
During the first official lockdown of 2020, we began live streaming the gospel meeting each Sunday. Especially in the early days, the numbers of viewers on Facebook were very encouraging. Long lost friends who would not dream of coming to the hall heard the gospel from the virtual pulpit. Although Facebook has a very loose definition of what constitutes ‘a view’, hundreds of people heard something of the gospel. The Lord is good!
We also conducted a fortnight of virtual gospel meetings during this period. Unsaved friends and relatives continued to listen in. The saints were also encouraged to hear the word of God. Time and again, gospel outreach has proved to warm the hearts of God’s people and unify them in prayer. Evangelism is a preservative of sorts.
Live streaming via Facebook is a two-edged sword, however. Although it brings the gospel to where people are, it also awards a woefully short attention span. After all, Facebook records ‘three second views’ as a metric. Many people flicked by for a few seconds, whilst others stayed for minutes and full sessions. As weeks and months continued, we enjoyed the virtual attendance of many different people. Eternity alone will show the fruit of this work.
As lockdown eased and people made their way out again, we were prayerful in the matter of gospel outreach. The psalmist ably summarizes our experience on the commencement of drive-in gospel meetings, ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it’, Ps. 127. 1. It was not methods or programmes or special ingenuity that began this work. Rather, it was the sovereign hand of God, bringing many divergent people and opportunities together for drivein gospel meetings to commence. This is the essence of it all - apart from the Lord we could do nothing.
After time in prayer, we began making enquiries for car parks via email and phone calls. Some flatly refused whilst others presented bureaucratic hurdles. In the end the Lord provided a Morrison’s and a Happy Home Furnishers car park to us. He opened the door and made it very easy.
Around the same time, Stuart Scammell had an exercise to obtain a trailer and use it for potential drive-in work. Stuart has generously lent the assembly the trailer for many months and we stand in his debt.
People were invited to hear the gospel via word of mouth, leaflets and ‘virtual seed sowing’ (Facebook advertising). Without exaggeration, thousands have been invited and had the opportunity to hear the gospel. The Lord is longsuffering.
Over the course of weeks and months, we have met dozens of different unbelievers that have come to hear the gospel. Some only came once whilst others attended regularly. We have sought to be faithful in the commission and now wait for the Lord to bless in salvation. We sow and He saves. We gladly rest in this.
Whilst Covid has impinged on assembly gatherings, it has provided fertile conditions for the spread of the gospel. The commission, after all, implies that we are to go out with the gospel. There has been a freshness and enthusiasm in the work as a result, and we pray that this will continue. Whilst the commission says, ‘go out’, the word of God reminds us that the assembly must gather together, Heb. 10. 25. Zoom meetings had their place for a short time, but they are not a long-term option. Perhaps Covid is teaching us two very elementary lessons - go out with the gospel and gather together as an assembly. This has been our imperfect but happy experience.