Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 24, 1958

Gospel Meeting Or Ringling Bros. Circus?

Gary A Swaim Hempstead, Texas

Recently I received a bulletin published by a church of Christ in the great metropolis of Dallas. Much attention was given to an "area-wide gospel meeting" to be held. The following quotation discusses the — three-ring events "The largest audience of the Church of Christ ever assembled under one roof for a service of the Church will be held on Sunday afternoon, June 29th, at 2:30 P. M. in Dallas Memorial Auditorium An audience of 7,500 persons is expected. Brother Bobby Morrow, outstanding Christian and winner of three gold medals at the Australian Olympics, will bring a message; also, Brother George Bailey, a seasoned and splendid evangelist with the College Congregation in Abilene, Texas, will conclude the services with a sermon and extend the Gospel invitation. Brother Pat Boone of the Manhattan Church of Christ in New York City, will lead the congregational singing and make a devotional talk. Young and old are cordially invited; however, the sermons, with a theme "Living For Christ," will be directed to the young people. About 2,000 non-Christians are expected in attendance. Brother Oliver Jackson, head-coach at A. C. C. and a wonderful Christian; Will introduce Bobby Morrow. Though it is not yet definite, Brothers Eddie Southern, Baron Nelson, Sonny James and others will be present if their schedules will permit. Make your plans to be present, and bring along someone who needs to hear the Gospel."

It seems as though my brethren have long forgotten what power God uses to draw men unto Him. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me." (Jno. 6:44-45) During my life as a Christian I have frequently heard stated in all sincerity: "We offer nothing save God's word." Yet the tide of time seems to change the disposition of many; we now offer God's word plus Pat Boone, Bobby Morrow, and a host of other celebrities. What is the purpose of such parading by these renowned figures? Is it to attain and retain the interest of many in the Church of Jesus Christ? I think the familiar clich might well apply here — "get them there with pink lemonade and cookies, and you'll have to KEEP them there with pink lemonade and cookies"! If you think the above to be an unfair evaluation, you might consider the happenings in Norfolk, Virginia. Such a meeting was held with Pat Boone directing the singing for the opening service. The crowd was estimated at 1,700. At the second service (in the absence of Pat Boone) the attendance was estimated to be 250. From that point forward it is said the attendance ranged in the 100's. POSSIBLY the brethren of Norfolk have learned their lesson.

It is difficult for me to imagine the apostles calling in the idol of their day that they might have a "successful" study of God's word. On the first Pentecost after the resurrection of the Christ, God's power was sufficient to retain the presence of many souls, and through obedience to this power many were added to the body of Jesus Christ. Let us well remember that our knowledge of and obedience to God's word is based upon love for Him -- not for a present-day idol. The appeal of such a meeting as has been described is obviously directed to the flesh and not the spirit. This Hollywood-type production is reminiscent of the Pharisees (Matt. 23:5) and might be compared to present-day salvation army tactics. Do not misunderstand; we impugn the motives of none, but we must recall that the road to apostasy is paved with good intentions.

I suppose one of the underlying factors in so much sensationalism is the obsession to be popular. Why this is such a prevalent desire I am at a loss to know. However, I do know this: Paul, Stephen, Peter and even Christ himself were not possessed with the intent to be popular except with God the Father. "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets". (Lk. 6:26) Should we successfully instill the love of God's word in the hearts of men today by sound teaching, the seemingly insurmountable craze for popularity among men will have been conquered.

All that has been said by this writer has been said in sincerity and love with the earnest hope that my brethren shall turn away from their present direction. More likely than not some will say "Bro. Swaim must be ANTI-gospel meetings". Nothing would be further from truth. I stand highly in favor of gospel meetings — just less circuses, please.