My perspective of gospel meetings in past days comes from various different perspectives. Being that I was a preacher’s kid, gospel meetings were as much a part of life as anything else we did as a family. From my earliest days, I can recall hearing men like Gus Nichols, Guy N. Woods, Alan Bryan, B.C. Goodpasture, Jack Exum, Flavil Nichols, Franklin Camp, Bob Hare, Wendell Winkler, my dad Richard T. Harp, and so many more. One time I went to a meeting where there were two preachers, one was a white preacher by the name of V.P. Black, and the other was a black preacher by the name of I.V. White.
During those summer meetings, I recall hoping to get to the church building early enough to get a seat by a window. For during those hot evenings there was no such thing as central air-conditioning. If you had a funeral fan, you were pretty lucky. You could hear the crickets chirping outside while the preacher did his best to preach up a storm, or at least you hoped he would. Pews were not padded in those days like they are now, and a kid sure better sit up and listen, or he could count on a visit to the nearest outhouse for a good switching.
I will never forget going with my granddaddy one night to hear V.P. Black preach. Brother Black could always be counted on to get the heart pumping fast in your chest. I will never forget seeing him in a solid white three-piece suit. We sat about mid-way of the auditorium in that little church house out in the country of North Alabama and heard that brother “wax an elephant,” as they say. That preacher got so worked up in his sermon that night that his face turned as red as a beet. I am sure it was not as bad as all that, but contrasted against that white suit he was wearing it looked like the veins in his neck were going to pop right out of his body.
When I was a kid, those summer meeting preachers preached loud! And, long! But, you see, people did not mind it at all. In fact, they expected it. If you got out of a gospel meeting in an hour you pretty well felt like you were gipped a little. No, when you went to gospel meetings it was all about hearing the sincere milk of the Word! It was about bathing in righteousness. Church houses were filled with sound at the singing of the saints, and seldom if ever did people leave without a good dose of Scriptures to contemplate.
Back in those days there was no such thing as PowerPoint, or songs being flashed upon a screen. There were visuals though. Many of the preachers of yesteryear brought chart sermons that had been painted onto a bed sheet. They would set those outlines up well before the worship service began, and when they preached they intended to go through every part of it. I recall seeing so many Scriptures and points on those old sheets that I was sure we would be there all night. And, a lot of times we were.
And, those invitations! Sometimes they went on forever! But, you know, it was alright. People were being saved. Prodigals were coming home. It was start over time for so many. I remember one meeting my dad preached where over fifty responded to the invitation. What a night of rejoicing it was!
You know, sometimes I hear that some believe the day of gospel meetings is long passed, and that the effectiveness is not what it use to be. It is certainly more difficult to attract a large group on a Monday or Tuesday night in a gospel meeting, but I have always found that people who want to hear the gospel will make time for it. We sometimes sing that great old song, “Take Time To Be Holy.” It is true, you know! We must take time to increase our awareness of the Lord’s place in our lives.
This week, I get to hear one of my favorite preachers of all time, Dan Winkler. He is a scholar and a great soldier of the cross. He and his brother Mike, who preaches over in Madison, Alabama are third-generation preachers—a great heritage, for certain! If you make it your plans to be here for every session, no end of good will come of it, I promise! Invite your friends, and help us make this gospel meeting one never to be forgotten.