Jehovah’s Word Keeps Moving Speedily (1976-1992)
“Finally, brothers, carry on prayer for us, that the word of Jehovah may keep moving speedily [or, ‘may be running’] and being glorified just as it is in fact with you.”—2 Thess. 3:1, “Kingdom Interlinear.”
WITH those words the apostle Paul asked his fellow believers in Thessalonica to pray that he and his companions might be successful in proclaiming Jehovah’s word without hindrance. Jehovah answered that prayer. But this does not mean that the apostle did not have to deal with problems. He faced severe opposition from the world and had to reckon with false brothers who dealt deceitfully. (2 Cor. 11:23-27; Gal. 2:4, 5) Yet, in spite of this, after about ten years, Paul could write that as a result of God’s blessing, the good news was “bearing fruit and increasing in all the world.”—Col. 1:6.
In a similar way in our day—but on a scale never before experienced—the good news is bearing fruit. More people are being reached with the good news and are embracing it than at any time in the past. The accomplishment of what God’s Word foretold is moving speedily, like a runner in a race.—Isa. 60:22.
By 1976, Brother Knorr had worked diligently as president of the Watch Tower Society for over three decades. He had traveled the globe many times over, visiting and encouraging missionaries, teaching and instructing branch-office personnel. He was privileged to see the number of active Witnesses increase from 117,209 in 1942 to 2,248,390 in 1976.
But by the summer of 1976, 71-year-old N. H. Knorr had noticed that he had a tendency to bump into things. Subsequent tests indicated that he was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. He struggled to continue to carry a work load for some months, but his physical prognosis was poor. Would his failing health impede the forward movement of the work?
Enlargement of the Governing Body had already begun in 1971. During 1975, there were 17 members. Throughout much of that year, the Governing Body had given serious and prayerful consideration to how they could best care for all that is involved in the global preaching and teaching work outlined in God’s Word for our day. (Matt. 28:19, 20) On December 4, 1975, the Governing Body had unanimously approved one of the most significant organizational readjustments in the modern-day history of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Starting January 1, 1976, all the activities of the Watch Tower Society and of the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the earth had been brought under the supervision of six administrative committees of the Governing Body. In harmony with that arrangement, on February 1, 1976, changes had been put into effect in all branch offices of the Society around the earth. No longer was each branch supervised by one branch overseer, but three or more mature men served as a Branch Committee, with one member serving as the permanent coordinator.a After the committees had been operating for some months, the Governing Body observed: “It has proved beneficial to have a number of brothers taking counsel together to consider the interests of the Kingdom work.—Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6.”
In the fall of 1976, despite the fact that his physical prognosis remained poor, Brother Knorr shared in giving instruction at meetings held at headquarters with Branch Committee members and other branch personnel from around the world. In addition to sharing in the meetings during the day, Brother Knorr invited these brothers, in small groups, to his room in the evenings. In this way he and his wife, Audrey, shared close fellowship with the men who knew and loved him and with whom he had had such close dealings over the years. Following these meetings, Brother Knorr’s health deteriorated steadily until his death on June 8, 1977.
On June 22, 1977, two weeks after Brother Knorr’s death, 83-year-old Frederick W. Franz was elected president of the Watch Tower Society. Regarding Brother Franz, The Watchtower of August 1, 1977, stated: “His outstanding reputation as an eminent Bible scholar and his tireless work in behalf of Kingdom interests has won him the confidence and loyal support of Jehovah’s Witnesses everywhere.”
By the time of this transition, new organizational arrangements were already in operation that ensured the forward movement of the work.
Filling Spiritual Needs With Bible Literature
Jehovah’s Witnesses were well fed spiritually before 1976. But an examination of what has taken place since then under the direction of the Governing Body and its Writing Committee reveals that the waters of truth have flowed out in ever greater quantities and in more diversified forms.
Many of the publications produced have filled specific needs of the Witnesses themselves. Special concern was shown for young people. To help them to apply Bible principles to the situations they face in life, Your Youth—Getting the Best Out Of It was published in 1976, and Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, in 1989. The illustrated publication My Book of Bible Stories, prepared with children in mind, was released in 1978. That same year practical counsel and guidance for strengthening families was presented in Making Your Family Life Happy.
At times, specific needs of Jehovah’s people have been addressed by means of timely counsel in the pages of The Watchtower. For example, the worldwide report of the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses for 1977/78 reflected a decrease in the number sharing in the preaching work. Was the decrease at least partly due to disappointed expectations concerning 1975? Perhaps. But there were other influencing factors. What could be done?
The Governing Body took steps to strengthen the conviction among Jehovah’s Witnesses that there was a need to continue zealously proclaiming the Kingdom from house to house. The Watchtower of July 15, 1979, contained the articles “Zeal for Jehovah’s House,” “Preaching in a Lawless World,” “They Preached From House to House,” and “What Others Have Said About House-to-House Witnessing.” These and other articles reaffirmed that house-to-house preaching has a solid Scriptural basis and urged zealous and whole-souled participation in this important activity.b—Acts 20:20; Col. 3:23.
Another situation also needed attention. By 1980, a number of persons who had shared in the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses for some years, including some who had served prominently in the organization, had been in various ways trying to cause division and oppose the work Jehovah’s Witnesses were doing. To fortify Jehovah’s people against such apostate influence, The Watchtower carried such articles as “Remain ‘Solid in the Faith’” (August 1, 1980), “Quietly Bringing in Destructive Sects” (September 15, 1983), and “Reject Apostasy, Cling to the Truth!” (April 1, 1983), while the book “Let Your Kingdom Come” (1981) emphasized the reality that the Kingdom is at hand, having been established in the heavens in 1914. The Governing Body did not allow the efforts of opposers to distract it from the primary objective of Jehovah’s Witnesses—proclaiming God’s Kingdom!
However, what of the need of Jehovah’s Witnesses to continue to broaden their knowledge of Bible truth? For serious Bible study, in 1984 a revised reference edition of the New World Translation was issued, containing extensive marginal references, footnotes, and appendix material. Four years later, in 1988, Jehovah’s people were thrilled to receive an up-to-date commentary on every verse in Revelation, in the book Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand!, also the two-volume Bible encyclopedia Insight on the Scriptures. Then, in 1991, there was published the beautifully illustrated book The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, a thorough study of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
But what about the needs of persons who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses? As an instrument to instruct newly interested ones, the publication You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth was released in 1982. It was designed to help Bible students to meet Jehovah’s requirements for life in an earthly paradise. To help people who may have questions about the origin and purpose of life on earth, the book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? was provided in 1985. This was followed, in 1989, by the faith-strengthening book The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s?
Attention was also given to humble persons who might need special help because of their cultural or religious background. To teach the truth about Jehovah’s Kingdom to those who are illiterate or who read poorly, the 32-page brochure Enjoy Life on Earth Forever! was released in 1982. By 1992, over 76,000,000 copies had been printed, and it was being distributed in 200 languages around the world, making it the most widely translated of any publication of the Watch Tower Society.
In 1983, three booklets were produced for the special purpose of helping Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus. To reach people with these and other religious backgrounds, it is helpful to understand something about their religion—its teachings and history. To fill this need, the book Mankind’s Search for God was released in 1990.
The Governing Body was keenly interested in reaching as many people as possible with the Kingdom message—people “of all nations and tribes and . . . tongues.” (Rev. 7:9) To that end, arrangements were made to translate the literature into many more languages. For example, from 1976 to 1992, there was an increase of about 42 percent in the number of languages in which The Watchtower was produced. In October 1992, the number was 111. To make speedy translation possible, that same year over 800 translators around the world were sharing in the work.
Programs of Education Enriched and Diversified
Under the direction of the Governing Body and its Teaching Committee, programs of instruction for the headquarters staff and for Bethel families in the branches around the world were enriched and given greater variety. In addition to reading the Bible and the Yearbook as part of their morning worship, there was introduced an in-depth analysis of the portion of the Bible read during the preceding week, with application of the material to those serving at Bethel. Regular reports from various Bethel departments as well as more frequent reports from zone overseers were also introduced.
To meet the needs of those with added responsibilities within the organization, further educational programs were designed and put into operation. During 1977, arrangements were made for all elders to attend a 15-hour course of the Kingdom Ministry School. (Acts 20:28) Since then, similar sessions of varying lengths have been arranged every few years; and beginning in 1984, ministerial servants also received training in the Kingdom Ministry School. In Brooklyn, starting in December 1977, a special five-week school for Branch Committee members began.
Special concern was also shown for those who were expending themselves in the full-time ministry as pioneers. In December 1977 the Pioneer Service School, a two-week course of training for pioneer ministers, was inaugurated in the United States and eventually extended to all parts of the earth. During the next 14 years, the number of pioneers increased more than fivefold—from 115,389 to 605,610!
In the fall of 1987, another new school was opened—the Ministerial Training School. This school was established to train qualified single brothers who had some experience as elders or ministerial servants and who were willing to serve wherever there was a need in the worldwide field. By 1992, classes had been held in Australia, Austria, Britain, El Salvador, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. The result has been, not a class of individuals who are viewed as superior to others in the congregation, but rather an increase in the number of men well qualified to serve their brothers.
To further the global work of Bible education, international conventions were scheduled in strategically located cities—some in lands where Jehovah’s Witnesses had been under ban. These conventions served to strengthen the brothers in those areas and to give strong impetus to the preaching of the good news in those lands.c
Facilities to Care for the Growth
As the word of Jehovah continued to move speedily, some thrilling developments became necessary in construction and printing—fields under the supervision of the Governing Body and its Publishing Committee.
Witnesses with experience in construction volunteered their services, and their efforts were coordinated to assist in building new and larger branch facilities around the world. From 1976 to 1992, the building of completely new branch facilities was undertaken in some 60 lands. In addition to that, projects to expand existing facilities got under way in 30 lands. The way the work was done (with volunteers coming from many congregations—sometimes from other lands) served to strengthen the bonds of love and unity among Jehovah’s people.d
In order to meet the Society’s expanding multilanguage printing needs, Witnesses with experience in the computer field developed a computerized prepress system called MEPS (Multilanguage Electronic Phototypesetting System). The project was completed in 1986. As a result, by 1992, The Watchtower was being printed simultaneously in 66 languages. The vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses were thus able to receive the same spiritual food at the same time.e
As the facilities of the Watch Tower Society continued to expand, more volunteers were needed at the headquarters in Brooklyn as well as in the branch offices around the world. From 1976 to 1992, the international Bethel family tripled in size, from about 4,000 to over 12,900 members serving throughout the earth. The Governing Body and its Personnel Committee have looked after the personal and spiritual needs of this large army of full-time volunteers.
Caring for Congregations and the Work of Evangelizing
As the word of Jehovah moved ahead speedily, the Governing Body and its Service Committee directed their energies to building up the congregations worldwide and to expanding the global evangelizing work.
Was there more that could be done to help the many new ones who were getting baptized each year? Early in 1977, arrangements were made to strengthen new Witnesses spiritually. Explained Our Kingdom Service: “We believe that at least two books should be studied with all persons who come into the truth. . . . So the study should continue after baptism until the second book has been completed.” In this way newly baptized Witnesses were given a fuller opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding and to have a growing appreciation for what it means to be baptized. The new arrangement also encouraged further close association between new ones and the Witnesses who helped them in their home Bible study.
To care for those streaming into Jehovah’s organization, over 29,000 new congregations were formed worldwide between 1976 and 1992. (Mic. 4:1) More circuit and district overseers were appointed by the Governing Body and sent out to help. The number of these traveling overseers went from about 2,600 in 1976 to some 3,900 in 1992.
As the number of congregations increased, there was also a growing need for more meeting halls. Was there a quicker way to build Kingdom Halls? In the 1970’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States organized a building program whereby skilled construction workers from neighboring parts of the country were invited to help local Witnesses build a Kingdom Hall. With hundreds assisting, a hall could be completed quickly—often in just two or three days. By the 1980’s, quickly built Kingdom Halls were going up in other parts of the earth.
Political changes in Eastern Europe also affected Jehovah’s Witnesses. What a thrill for our brothers in such countries as East Germany (as it was then known), Hungary, Poland, Romania, and what was then called the Soviet Union to learn that they had been granted legal recognition, in some cases after 40 years of ban! The increased freedom in those countries now made it easier for them to reach some 380,000,000 persons with the good news! Jehovah’s Witnesses wasted no time in availing themselves of their newfound freedom to share in their public preaching activity.
And the results? The word of Jehovah has moved speedily! For example, in April 1992 the number of Kingdom proclaimers reporting in Poland was 106,915. And the prospects for future growth were outstanding: That same month the attendance at the Memorial of Christ’s death was 214,218. Similarly, in the lands that formerly made up the Soviet Union, a total of 173,473 attended the Memorial in 1992, an increase of 60 percent over the year before.
In some lands, however, continued persecution and natural disasters have presented obstacles. In 1992 the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses were still under government restrictions in 24 lands. The Chairman’s Committee of the Governing Body does what is possible to provide assistance and to inform the international brotherhood of ways that they can come to the aid of fellow Witnesses serving under adversity. (Compare 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.) Neither campaigns of persecution nor natural disasters have been able to stop the preaching of the word of Jehovah!
“A People Peculiarly His Own”
So, in the years from 1976 to 1992, Jehovah’s word has indeed moved ahead speedily. The organization nearly doubled in size, to over 4,470,000 Kingdom publishers!
Jehovah’s people have continued to zealously proclaim God’s Kingdom, now in more languages than ever before. Using the publications that have been provided, they have deepened their knowledge of the Bible and helped interested ones to learn Bible truths. They have benefited from the educational programs that have been instituted for those with added responsibilities within the organization. Jehovah has without doubt blessed their proclamation of his Kingdom.
From the 1870’s down to the present, certain men have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of the Kingdom work, men such as Charles T. Russell, Joseph F. Rutherford, Nathan H. Knorr, and Frederick W. Franz, as well as others who have served as members of the Governing Body. But in no way have Jehovah’s Witnesses become a sect built around the personalities of any of these men. Instead, they have but one leader, “the Christ.” (Matt. 23:10) He is the Head of these organized Witnesses of Jehovah, the one to whom “all authority has been given” for directing this work “all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:18-20) They are determined to submit to Christ’s headship, keep close to God’s Word, and cooperate with the leading of the holy spirit, that they may continue moving ahead in the worship of the only true God and in proving themselves to be “a people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.”—Titus 2:14.
But what are some of the basic teachings and standards of conduct that distinguish Jehovah’s Witnesses from all other religions? How did they come to be known as Jehovah’s Witnesses? How are their activities financed? Why do they maintain strict separateness from other churches and from the world in general? Why have they been the objects of intense persecution in so many parts of the earth? These and many other questions will be answered in the chapters that follow.
a See Chapter 15, “Development of the Organization Structure.”
b From 1980 to 1985, there was a 33-percent increase in the number sharing in the preaching work, and from 1985 to 1992, there was a further 47.9-percent increase.
c See Chapter 17, “Conventions—Proof of Our Brotherhood.”
d See Chapter 20, “Building Together on a Global Scale.”
e See Chapter 26, “Producing Bible Literature for Use in the Ministry.”
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Not a sect built around the personalities of any men
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From 1976 to 1992, there was an increase of 42 percent in the number of languages in which “The Watchtower” was produced
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Background of F. W. Franz
Frederick William Franz was born in Covington, Kentucky, U.S.A., on September 12, 1893. In 1899 the family moved to Cincinnati, where Frederick graduated from high school in 1911. He then entered the University of Cincinnati, taking a liberal arts course. He had decided that he would become a Presbyterian preacher, so he vigorously applied himself to the study of Bible Greek. At the university Frederick was chosen to receive a Rhodes scholarship, qualifying him for admission to Oxford University in England. However, before an announcement could be made, Frederick lost all interest in the scholarship and asked that his name be dropped from the list of contestants.
Previously, his brother Albert had sent him a booklet that he had obtained from the International Bible Students. Later Albert gave him the first three volumes of “Studies in the Scriptures.” Frederick was delighted with what he was learning and decided to sever his connection with the Presbyterian Church and associate with the congregation of Bible Students. On November 30, 1913, he was baptized. In May 1914 he left the university, and he immediately made arrangements to become a colporteur (pioneer).
In June 1920 he became a member of the Bethel family in Brooklyn. Following the death of N. H. Knorr, in June 1977, Brother Franz was elected to the office of president of the Society. He served faithfully as a member of the Governing Body down till his death, on December 22, 1992, at the age of 99.
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Expanding Ranks of Pioneers
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Growing Worldwide Bethel Family
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Increase of Kingdom Proclaimers
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Each branch office of the Society is supervised by a committee of brothers, like this one that oversees the work in Nigeria
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The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses January 1992
Carey W. Barber
John E. Barr
W. Lloyd Barry
John C. Booth
Frederick W. Franz
George D. Gangas
Milton G. Henschel
Karl F. Klein
Albert D. Schroeder
Lyman A. Swingle