I recently spent a whirlwind day driving to Siloam Springs, in Northwest Arkansas for our first “Free Grace Evening”—basically, a mini-regional.
We do one national conference a year in Dallas and have been doing anywhere between three to four regionals a year, involving multiple speakers (for future events, see here). Organizing a regional takes a lot of preparation and organization and money. We only do it in places where it is easy to fly to and where we’re likely to get a high number of attendees.
As an alternative, we thought of trying a single speaker “Free Grace Evening.” The idea is that one speaker could travel to someone’s house during the week and give three or four messages in the evening. That would keep costs to a minimum. It would allow us to travel to smaller areas of the country. And if it worked out, we could duplicate it, i.e., different speakers could be speaking in different areas of the country at the same time. That means Bob, Ken, and I could speak. But ideally, I’d like to sign up other speakers, too, and develop a network of Free Grace talent. We could also develop a standard curriculum of basic truths and frequently asked questions. I’m thinking John Wesley and how he preached thousands of times and traveled hundreds of thousands of miles in his lifetime. But he had 52 standard sermons covering basic topics that he would deliver over and over again. That makes the work of teaching a little easier.
The goal of these meetings is to educate and to encourage.
In terms of education, there’s only so much Bible teaching you can communicate in one evening. But even a little is valuable. I went over the subjects of “Faith, Hope, and Love.” Explaining that faith is the one and only condition to have eternal life. That our hope is in Christ’s soon return when He will give us rewards according to our works. And that we can love—by loving the Word with our mind, by loving our neighbors in our different roles in life, and by showing hospitality. I hope I struck a balance between going over some basic truths, while also suggesting some fresh practical insights.
But encouragement and connection are just as important as education. People in areas without Free Grace churches need to know, “I’m not alone!”
I chose to start in NW Arkansas because, frankly, Diane Boring and her daughter Nancy Jackson were enthusiastic about GES coming there and offered to host us in their house. They did an excellent job of getting the word out, inviting friends, and making their home an open and accessible place to meet to hear the Word. That is essential to the success of these meetings. My thanks to Diane and the Jacksons, for being a great example of Christian hospitality.
In terms of encouragement, several people came up to me and thanked me for coming to NW Arkansas because they hadn’t been able to attend the National Conference in a few years, but they could attend this. It was good to reconnect with those familiar faces.
I think it was a good first try. One of the attendees suggested doing a string of evenings in different towns. If I did one in Siloam Springs, I could drive to St. Louis the next day. And then maybe drive to another town the next day, before going back home. That’s a good idea.
I am currently working with Brad Bell to hold a Free Grace Evening in the Laramie, WY, area, sometime in March. I’m excited to see how this new area of ministry will develop.