By Reuben Archer Torrey
Parlor meetings are much the same in thought and in method as cottage meetings, with this difference, that cottage meetings are intended to reach people of the middle classes and the poor, while parlor meetings are intended to reach the rich. There are many who think there is no use trying to reach the rich with the Gospel. This is a great mistake. Some of the most devoted and delightful Christians that I have ever known have been people of much wealth and high position. Indeed, perhaps the dearest Christian friend I ever had, and the one from whom I learned the most by personal contact, was a man who stood very high socially and politically in his country. I think this man more fully realized the meaning of Christ's words, "Except ye be converted and become as little children," than any other man I ever knew. I have known people of much wealth in our own country, and members of the nobility in England, Germany and Russia who were among the most humble Christians that I have ever met.
I. ADVANTAGES AND IMPORTANCE.
The principal advantage in parlor meetings is that they reach many who can be reached in no other way. It may be admitted that the rich are the hardest class to reach of any. It is much easier to bring the Gospel to people who live in the slums than to the people who live in palaces, but many of these latter have been reached by parlor meetings.
II. HOW TO CONDUCT.
1. GET SOME CHRISTIANS OF WEALTH AND POSITION TO OPEN THEIR PARLORS FOR THE MEETINGS. Rich Christians should make far larger use of their homes than they do, to reach people of their own class. Many of them do not open their homes simply because their attention has never been called to the fact that this is a way in which they can do good. Many of them show a great readiness to do this when it is suggested to them.
2. HAVE THE LADY OF THE HOUSE INVITE HER INTIMATE FRIENDS. Many of them will come out of curiosity, others will come out of friendship. Oftentimes it gets to be a fad to attend these meetings and people go scarcely knowing why. It does not matter so much why they go, so long as they go; for if the Gospel is presented in the power of the Holy Spirit after they get there some of them will be converted.
3. GET AN ATTRACTIVE AND SPIRIT- FILLED SPEAKER. Sometimes it is well to have the speaker himself a person of wealth or position, but there are many who have never known what it means to be rich themselves who still have a peculiar faculty for wining the confidence and esteem of wealthy people.
4. SOMETIMES TAKE UP SOME LINE OF BIBLE STUDY. Bible study under a wise teacher can be made exceedingly interesting for people of wealth and fashion. Indeed, many of these people hardly know how to use their time, and Bible study presents to them a pleasing novelty. Of course the teacher must be a wise man or a wise woman, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it is possible to have a regular class for systematic Bible instruction, extending through many weeks or months.
5. Sometimes have an address on some living religious topic by a Spirit-filled man or woman.
6. IT IS WELL OFTENTIMES TO INTEREST THOSE WHO ARE GATHERED TOGETHER FOR PARLOR MEETINGS IN SOME MISSIONARY WORK OR CHARITY. Many of them like to give, and it is a blessing to them to give. They should be educated to know just what the crying needs of the wide world are.
7. AIM DIRECTLY AT THE CONVERSION OF THOSE WHO ATTEND. Very little is accomplished after all in parlor meetings, unless the unsaved ones are brought to Christ. The probability is that they will be brought to Christ at the parlor meeting or else will never be brought to Him. If any man should have a profound sense that it is "now or never," it is the one who is addressing a company of wealthy men or women gathered together for a parlor meeting in a Christian home.
A woman of wealth once asked a Christian man who called at her home, "Are you a missionary?" "Yes," he replied. "Do you ever speak to people about their souls?" "I do." "Well," she replied, "I wish you would speak to me about my soul." He did, and led her to Christ. When the conversation was over, the lady said, "I have often wished I was poor; missionaries come and talk to my servants about Christ, but they never speak to me. My pastor calls upon me, but he never speaks about my own religious needs, and I have often wished that I were poor so that some one might speak to me about my soul."
Preparation for a parlor meeting need not be elaborate. The principal thing is to teach those who gather together the great fundamental truths of the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. If there is music, it should be of the very best, but should be spiritual, rather than classical. The class of people that you are aiming to reach are quite sated with high class music, but simple Gospel singing in the power of the Holy Ghost is a novelty to them, and will touch their hearts and lead to the conversion of many of them. An attractive young woman with a sweet voice, a true knowledge of Christ, a burden for souls, and the power of the Holy Spirit, will be greatly used of God.