In successful soul-winning work the after meeting is of the highest importance. Every tent meeting, mission meeting and revival service should be followed by an after meeting. The wise and active pastor will also follow up every Sunday evening service with an after meeting. Many a mighty preacher fails to get the results he might from his preaching because he does not know how to draw the net. He is successful at hooking fish, but does not know how to land them. A friend told me a short time ago that he heard a man one evening preach to a large congregation of men one of the best sermons he ever heard, and continued my friend, "I believe there would have been fifty decisions just then but just at the critical moment the evangelist did not know what to do, and let the meeting slip through his fingers." He asked them to stand up and sing some hymn and the men began to go out in crowds. He tried to get them together again, and there were some inquirers, but nothing like the results there should have been. Much good preaching comes to nothing because it is not driven home to the individual, and the individual brought then and there to an acceptance and confession of Jesus as Savior and Lord.
1. THE FIRST ADVANTAGE OF THE AFTER MEETING IS THAT IT GETS RID OF THAT PORTION OF THE AUDIENCE WHICH IS NOT IN SYMPATHY AND IS A HINDRANCE TO CLOSE WORK. It enables us to get near to the inquirer and meet his immediate need. Many things that it is impossible to do in the general meeting are very easily done in the smaller meeting which follows it. Some workers are very anxious to have every one stay to the after meeting, but frequently it is very fortunate that all do not stay. The smaller gathering is not only easier to handle, on account of its size, but it is also more sympathetic and more in keeping with the purpose of soul saving which is now in view.
2. THE SECOND ADVANTAGE OF THE AFTER MEETING IS THAT MEN ARE BROUGHT TO AN IMMEDIATE DECISION FOR CHRIST. This advantage rises partly out of the first. In almost every wisely conducted evangelistic service there will be some who have not really decided for Christ, but who are on the verge of a decision. Of course some of those, if allowed to go home, will decide for Christ in the home; but there will be many others, who, unless the impressions are followed up then and there, will lose their interest before another meeting is held. There is great need in all soul-winning work that we strike while the iron is hot. A wise worker and one of much experience recently wrote substantially as follows about a meeting which she had attended in the East: "The sermon was grand, the Holy Spirit was manifestly present in power, and I could not help feeling if some experienced person was only present to conduct an after meeting then and there, we should have had great results, but the benediction was pronounced and the students allowed to go to their rooms. We have been trying to follow up the work since, and many have come out positively, but we could have had much larger results, with much less labor on our part, if an after meeting had been held at once." It would be difficult to put too much emphasis upon the after meeting.
II. HOW TO CONDUCT AN AFTER MEETING.
1. THE FIRST POINT OF IMPORTANCE IN THE CONDUCT OF AN AFTER MEETING IS THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE MEETING. The number who attend the after meeting and the character of those who attend, will depend very much upon the announcement. The announcement should be very clear and definite so there can be no mistaking what is meant. The announcement should also be earnest. If this announcement is indifferent, people will think that the after meeting is of little consequence, and therefore will not stay to it. If the announcement is earnest, the people will think that the minister or evangelist thinks the meeting is of some importance, and will be likely to think so also. The announcement should be given in a winning and attractive way; it should also be urgent, but in our urgency we should avoid the impression that we think that any Christian who does not stay to the after meeting is necessarily committing some great sin. Many Christians have good reasons why they cannot stay to the after meeting, and if we are indiscreet in our urgency in giving the invitation to it, they will either stay to the after meeting when they ought not, or they will go away with the morbid sense that they have done something wrong, or worse yet, we shall bring them under the condemnation of the irreligious people who go away, and thus injure the cause of Christ. Sometimes an indiscreet urgency in the invitation to the after meeting keeps people away from the first meeting. The way we put the invitation, even in seemingly insignificant matters, is oftentimes of great consequence. For example, if we say, "Now, if there are any here tonight who are interested, we should be glad to have them stay to the after meeting," this will cause some person who may be interested to think that probably he is the only one in the whole audience who is, and as few people like to be considered singular, he will not be likely to stay. If on the other hand we say, "We hope that every one here tonight with whom the Spirit is working will stay to the after meeting," this will cause those who are somewhat interested to think, "Well, I am not alone, there are others interested besides myself," and so they will be likely to stay to the after meeting.
We do well to put our invitation in such a way that those who are not wanted in the after meeting will not feel at liberty to stay. For example, there are those who crowd after meetings out of mere curiosity, and are a great hindrance. If possible the invitation should be so worded as to shut this class out. There are others who go to oppose the work. The invitation should be so put as to shut this class out. It will not be possible to do it altogether in whatever way the invitation is put, and if the invitation does not succeed in doing it, other means will sometimes have to be taken. There are a third class who are very angry if you deal with them personally, but if the invitation has been wisely put, when any of them get angry when you approach them personally you can call their attention to what was said in the invitation, and show them courteously that, by coming to the after meeting, they expressed a willingness to be dealt with.
2. THE SECOND MATTER OF IMPORTANCE IN THE CONDUCT OF AN AFTER MEETING IS AS TO WHERE IT SHALL BE HELD. As a rule it is better to hold it in another room from that in which the general meeting is held. If the after meeting is held in the same room as the general service, when the invitation is given for the general audience to withdraw, many that might have stayed to the after meeting are carried out with the tide, whereas if the meeting is held in another room, they see the tide setting in there, and are carried in with it. Of course oftentimes there is no other room that is available, and the after meeting has to be held in the same room as the general service; and there are times when it is better to hold it in the same room even when another room is available.
If the meeting is to be held in another room, it is very desirable that it should be a room that the people have to pass as they go out. Workers should be posted at every door of this room, to invite and urge the people to go in as they pass. It is exceedingly important that these workers be wise men and women. I have heard workers shouting out invitations to this second meeting as if it were a side show to a circus. Oftentimes the best way to give the invitation is to quietly slip up beside the one that you wish to get into the after meeting, hold out your hand and engage him in a few minutes' conversation, and almost imperceptibly draw him into the meeting. Gentleness and courtesy and winsomeness in this matter are of great importance.
When the interest is very deep, you can have the second meeting in another building. Have the singing begin at once, just as soon as the people begin to pass the door.
3. MAKE MUCH OF PRAYER IN THE AFTER MEETING. The meeting should be begun with prayer. Wait until every one is in and all is quiet. Insist upon absolute silence, then have all the Christians engage in silent prayer. It is well to suggest to them objects of prayer, as for example, that they pray for those who have gone to their homes undecided, then that they pray for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the meeting, then for the unsaved who are in the room. Two or three or more audible prayers by men and women whom you can trust should follow. Do not take any chances at this point, and let any crank spoil the meeting. Unless you know your people very well, it is usually best to name those who shall lead in prayer. Of course one can trust the Holy Spirit to take change of the meeting, and should, but this does not mean that we should not exercise a wise control over the meeting. There will also be places for prayer later in the meeting, but there should certainly be prayer at the opening. If it should turn out in any meeting that there are no unsaved people there, it is oftentimes well to give the entire meeting up to prayer. A few months ago it turned out in an after meeting that there were only two or three unsaved people in the whole audience. These were taken to another room to be dealt with, and then I urged it upon the people that there must be something wrong with us or with the work because there were so few coming to Christ. The Holy Spirit carried the message home, and then we got down on our knees before God in prayer. The next night, largely as an outcome of that season of prayer, we had a meeting of great power.
4. WHEN THE OPENING PRAYERS ARE OVER, IT IS OFTENTIMES WISE TO EXPLAIN THE WAY OF LIFE IN AS PLAIN AND SIMPLE A MANNER AS POSSIBLE. This is especially important if there are few workers present to deal with individuals. After explaining the way of life, and the steps one must take to be saved then and there, an invitation can be given to those who are willing to take these steps at once. They should be asked to rise, hold up their hands, come forward, or in some other definite way express their desire to begin the Christian life.
5. FIND OUT JUST AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE IN THE MEETING WHERE ALL THE PEOPLE PRESENT STAND. Then you will know what to do next. It is frequently desirable to take some sort of an expression in the general meeting, though this should usually be done in such a way as not to put those who are not Christians in an awkward position. Indeed, as a rule, the moment the last word of the sermon is uttered there should be an opportunity for decision. This opportunity may be given in a variety of ways. You may ask the audience to bow a few moments in silent prayer, insisting courteously but firmly that no one go out for a few moments. If the interest is deep enough, you can then ask all those who wish to be saved, or all who have made up their minds "now and here" to accept Christ as their personal Savior, to surrender to Him as their Lord and Master, and to begin to confess Him as such before the world, to rise, or to "come forward and give me your hand," or come and kneel at the altar. If the interest hardly warrants that, you can ask all in the audience who are burdened for unsaved friends, or all who are anxious for the salvation of some friend in the audience, to rise, and when they have risen, invite all who wish to be saved "right now" to rise. It is not well usually in the general meeting to ask all Christians to rise, as this makes it awkward for the unsaved, and they may not come back again.
Another good way is to say, "We are going to sing a hymn, and I do not wish any one to go out until it is finished. The Holy Spirit is evidently working in this meeting (don't say this unless it is true), and any one moving about may distract some one who is on the verge of a decision for Christ. Now, while we are singing the second verse, let all who will accept Christ (don't say if any ONE will accept Christ) arise." Stop when the second verse is sung and call for decisions, and then sing the third and fourth in a similar way. If there is an altar in the church where you are preaching, it is often better to have them come to the altar. If there is no altar, you can have the front seats emptied and use them for an altar. A solo may often be used in the place of the congregational hymn, but be sure of your soloist and the solo which has been selected. It is safer as a rule to select the solo yourself.
Still another way is to say as you close your sermon, "We are going to have a second meeting, and all those who have been converted here tonight, and who desire to enter the joy of the Christian life, are invited to remain. We also want every one who is interested in his soul's salvation, and all Christians, to stay to that second meeting -- you cannot afford to go away." Once in the second meeting, there are a variety of ways of finding out where the people stand. If the interest is very deep, call at once for those who wish to accept Christ to rise and come forward. On other occasions ask all who have accepted Christ and know that they are saved, and are walking in fellowship with Him, to rise. Now you and your workers can readily see who the persons are with whom you ought to deal. They are for the most part those who are still seated. Next ask those who wish to become Christians to arise. It may be well to sing one or several verses as this is done. One and then another and then many at once will often rise.
Whenever it is possible, it is well to have now still a third room into which those who have risen and desire to become Christians shall go. Have a wise man in charge of this room until you get there yourself. Have him put one worker, and one only, with each inquirer. These workers should be trained for the work. Every church and mission should have a training class for this purpose. When you have gotten all you can into the inside room, turn the outside meeting into a meeting for testimony and prayer, which either you or some wise worker manages. It is a great advantage to have a choir leader who can do that. The unconverted ones who have not gone into the inside room can be gotten hold of personally in this testimony meeting or afterward. Do not have any holes anywhere in your net if you can avoid it.
Sometimes it is well in the second meeting to ask all who were converted after they were fifty to rise, and then those who were converted after they were forty, thirty, twenty, ten, before they were ten; then ask all who will accept Jesus "tonight" to rise, and then all who really desire to know the way of life. In other meetings, all who have been Christians fifty years may be asked to stand, and those who have been Christians forty years, thirty, twenty, and so on down. A good method to use occasionally in the second meeting is to ask all who were converted after they were fifty to come forward and gather about the platform, and then those who were converted after they were forty, and so on. This will gradually thin out those who are seated, and the unconverted will begin to feel that they are left in the minority, and it may lead them to desire to be saved also. Especially will this be true if a man sees his wife leaving him, or a son his mother. Some may say there is to much method or maneuvering in all this, but it wins souls and this is worth maneuvering for. Jesus Himself told us to be wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16), and again we are told that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. Evidently Jesus would have us exercise all honest ingenuity in accomplishing His work, especially the work of soul- winning. The methods suggested will suggest others. The great purpose of all these methods is to get many to commit themselves, and to bring them to a decision to accept Christ.
6. THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE AFTER MEETING IS THE HAND TO HAND DEALING WITH INDIVIDUALS. There has already been a suggestion as to how this should be done, but the hand to hand work should not be limited to those who go into the third room. Trained personal workers should be scattered all over the meeting, each worker having his own assigned place, and feeling his responsibility for that section of the room. He should be on the lookout for persons with whom he can deal either during the testimony meeting, or after the formal meeting is over. These workers, however, should be instructed to obey at once any suggestion of the leader of the meeting. I have been in meetings where the leader requested absolute silence, but indiscreet workers would go on talking to those with whom they were dealing. I have heard other workers talking with an inquirer when there has been a call for prayer. Such irreverence does much harm.
7. THERE SHOULD ALWAYS BE WORKERS NEAR THE DOOR OF THE MEETING TO FOLLOW OUT ANY ONE WHO GOES BEFORE THE MEETING IS OVER. They should approach such a one personally and deal with him about his soul. Much of the best work that is done is done with people who have become so deeply interested that they try to run away from the meeting, but are followed out by some wise worker. It may be necessary for the worker to follow the fugitive down the street. I knew of one case where a very successful worker tried to engage a young man in conversation, and he started off on a run. The worker followed, and having better wind than the runaway, caught him after two or three blocks. The young man was so amazed, and so awakened by the worker's earnestness, and afterwards so instructed by his wisdom, that he accepted Christ then and there on the street. This would probably not be a wise method under ordinary circumstances.
8. A GOOD USE MAY BE MADE OF THE TESTIMONY OF SAVED PEOPLE IN THE AFTER MEETING. As a rule, however, there should not be a call for testimonies until those who are ripe for hand to hand work are taken into another room. Great caution needs to be exercised in the use of testimony. In almost every community there are men and women who are always willing to give their testimony at the first opportunity, but who kill any meeting where they are allowed to speak. It may be that they have no sense, or it may be that there is something crooked in their lives, and their testimony simply brings reproach on the cause which they pretend to represent. You must manage somehow to keep these people silent. You need to be on your guard, too, that the testimonies are not stereotyped or unreal. They should be short, to the point, real, and, above all, in the power of the Holy Ghost. There is a special power in the testimonies of those who have been recently saved. It is always a great help to the young converts themselves to be trained to give their testimony.
It is well oftentimes to have the Christians testify as to the Scripture which led them to Christ, or into a deeper experience of Christ's saving power. Dr. Dixon gives the following description of what was done and said in an after meeting which he attended:
"As soon as quiet was restored, there was an earnest prayer for guidance. The leader then arose and said: 'We will now hear from as many as can speak in five minutes the Scriptures which God used in showing them the way of life. We want simply the Word of God without comment. Rise and speak distinctly, with a prayer that God will bless others through the truth as He has blessed you.' The first one to respond was a young woman who quoted with a clear voice: 'Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.' The leader said: "That invitation is also a promise; it implies that all who come to Christ He will receive, but it says very much more. He will receive and never cast out. There is in it saving and keeping power. It is the Scripture for those of you who are afraid that you may not hold out.' The next witness was a man of middle age, who said: 'He is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him.' The leader: 'God is all-powerful, but you make Him able by accepting the Lord Jesus Christ, and this ability is based upon the fact that He ever liveth to make intercession for us.' Third witness: 'Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' Leader: 'Do you want rest of heart? Come to Jesus for it now.' Fourth witness: 'Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.' Leader: 'Looking is not a long process. You can look as quick as a lightning flash; look this moment and live.' Fifth witness: 'There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.' Leader: 'We who have accepted Christ need not fear the judgment day. Our case has been settled in the court of mercy where Jesus Christ is the Advocate.' Sixth witness: 'To as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God.' Leader: 'And if sons, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Will you not accept this rich inheritance through Christ this evening?' Seventh witness: 'The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.' Leader: 'Then do not try to cleanse yourself, and do not divide your trust between the blood and ordinances. The Blood is all-sufficient; accept Jesus Christ and the Blood cleanses at once.
"There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel's veins, And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains."
"Eighth witness 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.' Leader: 'It does not say believe on Jesus, nor believe on Christ, nor believe on the Lord. Jesus means Savior, and a Savior from sin we need. Christ means the anointed one, the high priest and an intercessor, an advocate we need. Lord means Master, and the Master we need to rule our lives. You cannot accept Him as Savior while you reject Him as Lord, nor can you follow Him as Lord while you reject Him as Savior. His intercession is for those who accept Him as both Savior and Lord. So you see, Paul preached to the jailer the full Gospel when he said, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.' The little word ON is very important; it does not say believe ABOUT the Lord Jesus Christ; you may believe all ABOUT Him without believing ON Him. I believe much about Washington, Lincoln, and Grant, but I am not conscious of believing on any of them in the sense that I am depending upon them for anything. When your faith ABOUT Christ has been translated into faith ON Christ, you are saved.' The invitation was then given, and a number came forward and gave the leader their hands, confessing Christ as their Savior and Lord, the leader remarking that it was well to begin the Christian life with a handshake and pass it on to others."
9. WHEN ANY ONE HAS CLEARLY AND FULLY ACCEPTED CHRIST, INSIST UPON AN OPEN CONFESSION OF CHRIST. If it can be done without disturbing other workers, have them stand right up then and there and confess Jesus as their Lord, and their acceptance of Him. If the inquirer has been taken into an inside room, ask him out into the room where the general after meeting is going on, and have him give his confession there. Many a young Christian does not come out into the clear light for many days, if ever, because he is not shown the necessity of a public confession of Christ with his mouth. There is nothing more important for a young Christian's life than a constant confession of the Lord.
10. DO NOT HOLD THE GENERAL AFTER MEETING TOO LONG. Oftentimes it is well to tell the people in the first meeting that the after meeting will only be fifteen or twenty minutes long, or whatever you have decided upon. Many will be encouraged to stay by this, who would not think it possible to stay if it were to be a long meeting. When you have made a promise of this kind, be sure you keep it.