Train Others to Reach Out
“Everyone that is perfectly instructed will be like his teacher.”—LUKE 6:40.
CONCLUDING his Gospel account, the apostle John wrote: “There are, in fact, many other things also which Jesus did, which, if ever they were written in full detail, I suppose, the world itself could not contain the scrolls written.” (John 21:25) Among all the things that Jesus accomplished during his short but dynamic ministry was the locating, training, and organizing of men who would take the lead after his earthly sojourn. When he returned to heaven in 33 C.E., Jesus left behind the foundation of a remarkable congregation that would quickly number into the thousands.—Acts 2:41, 42; 4:4; 6:7.
2 With more than seven million active Kingdom proclaimers in over 100,000 congregations worldwide today, there continues to be a need for men to take the lead in spiritual matters. For instance, Christian elders are greatly needed. Those who reach out for this privilege of service are to be commended, for they are “desirous of a fine work.”—1 Tim. 3:1.
3 However, men do not automatically qualify for privileges in the congregation. Mere secular education or life experience does not prepare a man for this kind of work. To serve properly in such a capacity, a man must qualify spiritually. More than abilities or accomplishments, he must have spiritual qualities. How can men in the congregation be helped to qualify? “Everyone that is perfectly instructed will be like his teacher,” said Jesus. (Luke 6:40) In this article, we will consider some of the ways in which the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ, helped his disciples to qualify for greater responsibility, and we will see what lessons we can draw from what he did.
“I Have Called You Friends”
4 Jesus treated his disciples as friends, not as inferiors. He spent time with them, took them into his confidence, and ‘made known to them all the things he had heard from his Father.’ (Read John 15:15.) Imagine how thrilled they were when Jesus answered their question: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3, 4) He also shared with his followers his private thoughts and feelings. On the night of his betrayal, for instance, Jesus took Peter, James, and John into the garden of Gethsemane, where he prayed earnestly from his troubled heart. The three apostles may not have heard what Jesus was saying in prayer, but they must have sensed the gravity of the occasion. (Mark 14:33-38) Think, too, of the impact that the transfiguration must have had earlier on the three. (Mark 9:2-8; 2 Pet. 1:16-18) The intimate friendship that Jesus forged with his disciples was an anchor for them as they later cared for weighty assignments.
5 Like Jesus, Christian elders today befriend and help others. They cultivate a warm, close relationship with their fellow believers by taking time to show personal interest in them. While elders recognize the importance of confidentiality, they are not secretive. Elders trust their brothers and share with them Scriptural truths they themselves have learned. By no means do elders treat as inferior a ministerial servant who may be comparatively young. Instead, they think of him as a spiritual man with potential who is performing a valuable service in behalf of the congregation.
“I Set the Pattern for You”
6 Although Jesus’ disciples had appreciation for spiritual things, their thinking was sometimes influenced by their background and culture. (Matt. 19:9, 10; Luke 9:46-48; John 4:27) However, Jesus did not lecture or threaten his disciples. He neither burdened them with unreasonable demands nor advised them to do one thing while he himself did something else. Rather, Jesus taught them by example.—Read John 13:15.
7 What kind of model did Jesus leave for his disciples? (1 Pet. 2:21) He kept his life simple so that he could freely minister to others. (Luke 9:58) Jesus was modest and always based his teaching on the Scriptures. (John 5:19; 17:14, 17) He was approachable and kind. Love was the motivation for everything he did. (Matt. 19:13-15; John 15:12) Jesus’ example had a positive influence on his apostles. For instance, James did not cower in the face of death but until he was executed, loyally served God. (Acts 12:1, 2) John faithfully followed in Jesus’ footsteps for more than 60 years.—Rev. 1:1, 2, 9.
8 Elders who are self-sacrificing, humble, and loving provide the kind of example that younger men need. (1 Pet. 5:2, 3) Moreover, elders who are exemplary in faith, in teaching, in Christian living, and in the ministry experience the satisfaction of knowing that others can imitate their faith.—Heb. 13:7.
‘Giving Them Orders, Jesus Sent Them Forth’
9 After zealously engaging in his ministry for about two years, Jesus expanded the preaching activity by sending out his 12 apostles to preach. First, though, he gave them instructions. (Matt. 10:5-14) When about to feed a crowd of thousands miraculously, Jesus told his disciples how he wanted them to organize the people and distribute the food. (Luke 9:12-17) Clearly, then, Jesus trained his disciples by giving them clear and specific direction. This pattern of training, coupled with the powerful influence of holy spirit, later equipped the apostles to organize the extensive preaching work that took place in 33 C.E. and thereafter.
10 Today, spiritual instruction begins when a man accepts a Bible study. We may need to help him to read well. Our assistance continues as we conduct Bible studies with him. When he starts to attend Christian meetings regularly, his spiritual training will progress as he participates in the Theocratic Ministry School, becomes an unbaptized publisher, and so forth. After baptism, his training can include such things as helping with Kingdom Hall maintenance. In time, a brother can be helped to see what he needs to do to qualify as a ministerial servant.
11 When giving a baptized brother an assignment, an elder gladly explains the relevant organizational procedures and provides needed instruction. The brother being trained must understand what is expected of him. If he is struggling with what he is asked to do, a loving elder does not quickly conclude that he is not qualified. Rather, the elder kindly points out the specific areas of concern and reviews the goals and procedures. Seeing men respond positively to such efforts and thus experience the joy that comes from serving others is a source of happiness to the elders.—Acts 20:35.
“The One Listening to Counsel Is Wise”
12 Jesus trained his disciples by providing personal counsel tailored to their needs. For example, he rebuked James and John for wanting to call down fire from heaven on some Samaritans who had not received him. (Luke 9:52-55) When the mother of James and John approached Jesus on their behalf to ask that they be granted favored positions in the Kingdom, Jesus addressed the brothers directly, saying: “This sitting down at my right hand and at my left is not mine to give, but it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Matt. 20:20-23) At all times, Jesus gave counsel that was clear, practical, and solidly based on godly principles. He taught his disciples to reason on such principles. (Matt. 17:24-27) Jesus also recognized the limitations of his followers and did not expect perfection from them. His counsel was motivated by genuine love.—John 13:1.
13 Every man who reaches out for responsibility in the Christian congregation needs counsel or Scriptural advice at one time or another. “The one listening to counsel is wise,” states Proverbs 12:15. “I found that my biggest challenge was dealing with my own imperfections,” says one young brother. “The advice of an elder put this into proper perspective for me.”
14 If elders observe that some questionable conduct is retarding a man’s spiritual progress, they take the initiative to readjust him in a spirit of mildness. (Gal. 6:1) At times, counsel is needed because of some personality trait. If a brother seems somewhat self-sparing, for example, an elder may find it helpful to point out that Jesus was a zealous Kingdom proclaimer who commissioned his followers to make disciples. (Matt. 28:19, 20; Luke 8:1) If a brother appears ambitious, an elder might show him how Jesus helped His disciples to see the dangers of seeking prominence. (Luke 22:24-27) What if a brother has a tendency to be unforgiving? The illustration of the slave who refused to forgive a small debt even though he himself had been forgiven much more would make a powerful point. (Matt. 18:21-35) When counsel is needed, it is good for the elders to provide it at the earliest opportunity.—Read Proverbs 27:9.
“Be Training Yourself”
15 The elders take the lead in training men to reach out, but others can support their efforts. For instance, a man’s family can and should help him to reach out. And if he already is an elder, he will benefit from the support of a loving wife and unselfish children. Their willingness to share him with the congregation is essential if he is to succeed in shouldering his responsibility. Their self-sacrificing spirit brings him joy and is greatly appreciated by others.—Prov. 15:20; 31:10, 23.
16 Although others can help and support him, the primary responsibility for reaching out rests with the man himself. (Read Galatians 6:5.) Of course, a brother does not have to be a ministerial servant or an elder in order to help others and have a full share in the ministry. However, reaching out for privileges in the congregation does mean striving to meet the qualifications set out in the Scriptures. (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-3) So if a man desires to serve as a ministerial servant or an elder but has not yet been appointed to be one, he should give attention to areas where he needs to make spiritual advancement. This calls for regular Bible reading, diligent personal study, serious meditation, heartfelt prayer, and zealous participation in the Christian ministry. In such ways, he can personally apply Paul’s counsel to Timothy: “Be training yourself with godly devotion as your aim.”—1 Tim. 4:7.
17 But what if a man is not reaching out because of anxiety or feelings of inadequacy? He would do well to consider how much Jehovah God and Jesus Christ do for us. Indeed, Jehovah “daily carries the load for us.” (Ps. 68:19) So our heavenly Father can help a brother to take on responsibility in the congregation. A brother who is not serving as a ministerial servant or an elder will also find it beneficial to consider the fact that there is a great need for mature men to accept privileges of service in God’s organization. Reflecting on such points may move a brother to put forth effort to overcome negative feelings. He can pray for holy spirit, bearing in mind that its fruitage includes peace and self-control—qualities needed to dispel anxiety or feelings of inadequacy. (Luke 11:13; Gal. 5:22, 23) And one can be fully confident that Jehovah blesses all who reach out with a proper motive.
18 Could it be that a lack of motivation is preventing a baptized man from reaching out? What can help a brother who lacks the desire to serve? The apostle Paul wrote: “[God], for the sake of his good pleasure, is acting within you in order for you both to will and to act.” (Phil. 2:13) The desire to serve is God-given, and Jehovah’s spirit can strengthen a person to render sacred service. (Phil. 4:13) Moreover, a Christian can pray that God will make him do what is right.—Ps. 25:4, 5.
19 Jehovah blesses the efforts of older men to train others. His blessing is also experienced by those who respond and reach out for privileges in the congregation. The Scriptures assure us that among God’s people “seven shepherds, yes, eight dukes”—the required number of capable men—will be raised up to take the lead in Jehovah’s organization. (Mic. 5:5) What a blessing it is that so many Christian men are being trained and are humbly reaching out for privileges of service to Jehovah’s praise!
How Would You Answer?
• How did Jesus help his disciples to qualify for greater responsibility?
• How can elders imitate Jesus as they help men in the congregation to take the lead?
• What part does a man’s family play in helping him to reach out?
• What can a man himself do to reach out for privileges?
1. During his earthly ministry, how did Jesus lay the foundation for a remarkable congregation?
2, 3. (a) Why is there a pressing need for baptized men to reach out? (b) What will be considered in this article?
4. How did Jesus show himself to be a real friend to his disciples?
5. What are some ways in which Christian elders can make themselves available to others?
6, 7. Describe the example Jesus set for his disciples and the effect this had on them.
8. What example do elders set for younger men and others?
9. How do we know that Jesus trained his disciples to carry out the evangelizing work?
10, 11. In what ways can progressive training be provided for new ones?
12. What made Jesus’ counsel effective?
13, 14. (a) Who needs counsel? (b) Give examples of what personal counsel an elder may offer to someone who is not progressing spiritually.
15. How can a man’s family help him to serve others?
16. (a) The primary responsibility to reach out rests with whom? (b) How can a man reach out for privileges in the congregation?
17, 18. What can a baptized brother do if anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, or a lack of motivation holds him back?
19. Of what does the raising up of “seven shepherds, yes, eight dukes” assure us?
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What training can you provide your Bible student as he seeks to make progress?
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How can men show that they are reaching out?