As we were driving back to Rio from a conference we had attended, Edgar Hallock, head of Southern Baptist publishing in Brazil, and I got to reminiscing, as people do on a long trip. We found that both of us had spent the summer of 1938 in New York City.
“What did you do that summer?”
“Aside from working in a bread factory, a lot of street-meeting work. What did you do?”
“Helped at a mission, and I did a lot of street-meeting work, too.”
“Funny how the street meeting has almost passed out of North American church life.”
This is one change in evangelism during the past thirty or forty years. Another is the near demise, in most of the United States outside the South, of local church evangelistic meetings.
These meetings were often, but not always, specifically evangelistic. Some followed a Bible-exposition pattern, which, while not advertised as evangelistic, usually brought some unbelievers to Christian faith. Peter W. Philpott, Lewis Sperry Chafer, and Arno C. Gaebelein were three who held such series, one or two weeks in length, at our Presbyterian church in New York City.
The church of my high-school days, along with hundreds of other metropolitan-area churches, cooperated in Billy Graham’s New York crusade last month. For most of these churches, this was the first series of evangelistic meetings they had been involved in since Mr. Graham held his previous New York crusade twelve years ago. Summer tent meetings, winter Bible conferences, prophetic conferences, street meetings, and similar limited efforts on a single-church level, or even with several churches cooperating, are no longer held.
Thank God for Billy Graham. But in giving Mr. Graham his unique gift, did God intend to phase out other evangelistic efforts? Should churches ...1
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