Many brethren no longer depend on nonChristians filling the seats during a meeting. Instead, these brethren depend on members from other churches filling those seats. In some places the effort of getting out in the streets and seeking the lost is replaced by a flyer mailed to the cross-town churches. While it is wonderful to have Christians from other churches visiting the meeting, we shouldn't forget that this meeting is the responsibility of the local church, and the lost should be the major concern. Yes, people who are not Christians should be the ones that we seek to bring to our meetings and cross-town saints should be secondary. Sometimes a church may devise a meeting with only the saved in mind, and that is fine because the converted need strengthening as well. However, when such isn't the case, let us never fail to seek the lost because we shouldn't be depending on Christians from other places.
So what about the brethren who always telling other churches about attending their meeting, but will rarely or not go at all when the other church has a meeting? I have been to cities to preach in meetings where the local brethren tell me right away, "don't expect visitors from area churches because they never support us in our meetings." Because of autonomy, it certainly isn't the responsibility of one church to be concerned about the meeting of the next church—that is the responsibility of the host church and that church must be liable for the meeting. Christians from cross-town churches are in no way obligated to come, and when they are there it is more of a favor to the host church. Yet, it is always encouraging to the host church when others come, and it also helps the visitor. This kind of spirit is what all saints should have. It isn't fair for brethren to remind other churches about their upcoming meeting and then refuse to return the same when the other church has a meeting. So when brethren behave like that they are in reality saying, "you come to our meeting, but we won't come to yours."
Some of the excuses brethren give is, "I'm too busy." Well, so are cross-town churches. They have lives and things to be done just like others do. However, it is unfair for one group to expect the next group to drop everything and come to their meeting, but refuse to do the same (Matthew 7:12). "It's too far." We get that a lot in the U.S. northeast, because faithful churches are far apart. Well, if it’s too far for one church to visit, then that church making the excuse should remember that the same mileage stopping them from supporting the other church in a meeting, is the same mileage that church has to drive to get to their meeting. How can one church use mileage as an excuse and the other one cannot? If it is too far for one church, it is too far for the other and none of them should be mailing invitations.
With this writing, I certainly hope that two things can be learned and put into practice.
1. Brethren, should support area churches in their meetings.
2. Host churches shouldn't depend on visiting saints to fill the seats.
It is certainly the right thing for meetings to continue because we need them, and the church can have the opportunity to show all that it is busy doing what it was devised to do, and that is teach the "manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:9-10). Tracts, radio preaching, newspaper advertisements, and gospel meetings are good tools to accomplish this work, so let us all roll up our sleeves and go.
The gospel meeting has always been a special time. The brother from another place is there. Interesting topics are selected. There is good singing and praying. This all makes a wonderful night in the Lord.
With such good being done, one would wonder why so many choose to avoid these gatherings. Just imagine how wonderful it must have been for Cornelius and his family. They had all gathered together, awaiting the arrival of Peter, so that they could listen to the words that the Lord had given him to speak (Acts 10:24, 33).
In Acts 13:42-44, we read that the people of Antioch turned out in droves to hear the message to be preached by Paul and Barnabas at a specially arranged time. In Acts 28:22-24, we read about Paul having a special chance to teach Christ to the Romans officials.
So, brethren, let us take advantage of any chance to hear the gospel as long as it is within decent traveling distance. Remember that others could use your presence at their meeting, so don't just ask brethren for their support to meetings, be willing to give your support as well.