LETTERS have improved the lives and behavior of millions of people. Most of the books of the Christian Greek Scriptures were originally letters. We today can write letters in order to build up new believers, keep in touch with friends, encourage brothers and sisters who have taken on special responsibilities, fortify those who are facing hardships, and relay information needed to care for congregation activities.—1 Thess. 1:1-7; 5:27; 2 Pet. 3:1, 2.
Letter writing is also an effective way to witness. In some areas, many people live in high-security apartment buildings or residence hotels that cannot be worked freely. Some are away from home most of the time, so we miss them when we witness from house to house. Others live in isolated places.
Sickness, bad weather, or a curfew may at times confine you to your home. Might you be able to write a letter to give a further witness to a relative or to someone you talked to informally? Has one of your Bible students moved? A letter from you might be just what he needs to keep his spiritual interest alive. Or perhaps you can share appropriate Scriptural information with those who have recently got married, become parents, or lost loved ones in death.
Witnessing by Letter
When writing to witness to someone you have never met, first introduce yourself. You might explain that you are participating in an international volunteer work. If it seems appropriate to do so, mention that you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Let the person know why you are writing instead of making a personal visit. Write as if you were talking to the person face-to-face. Still, in line with the direction to “prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves,” give serious thought to how much information you should divulge about yourself.—Matt. 10:16.
Include in the letter what you would have said to the person if you could have visited him. You might adapt an introduction from the Reasoning book or use a Scriptural presentation from a recent issue of Our Kingdom Ministry. You could pose a question and encourage the person to think about it. Some publishers simply explain that we have a free program for answering Bible questions and then cite some of the chapter titles from one of our study aids. A sample letter written to give a witness appears on page 73. It may give you some ideas, but it is good to vary the content. Otherwise, people may, in time, get the same letter repeatedly.
Some people are reluctant to read a long letter from a stranger. So it may be the course of wisdom to keep your letter brief. Bring your letter to a close before the recipient might tire of reading it. It would be appropriate to enclose a printed invitation to meetings at the Kingdom Hall. You could include a tract, a brochure, or an issue of The Watchtower or Awake! and explain that these can be provided on a regular basis if desired. Or you could ask if a visit may be made to the recipient’s home to speak with him further on the subject discussed.
A Word About Form
Take a look now at the sample letter. Notice the following: (1) It looks tidy, not cluttered. (2) Even if the envelope gets misplaced, the recipient will still have the sender’s name and postal address. (3) The purpose of the letter is stated simply and directly in the first paragraph. (4) Each main thought is dealt with in a separate paragraph. (5) In view of its purpose, the letter is neither too casual nor too formal.
In a more formal letter, such as one that the congregation secretary might send to the branch office, the name of the congregation would be included, along with the secretary’s own name, his postal address, and the date. The name and address of the person or organization to whom the letter is being sent would also appear. This is followed by an appropriate salutation. To close the letter, in some languages an expression such as “Very truly yours” or “Sincerely” appears above the signature. The signature itself should be handwritten.
In any letter, give attention to proper spelling, grammar, punctuation and, of course, neatness. Doing so will lend dignity to your letter and the message that it contains.
On the outside of the envelope, always provide a return address—preferably your own postal address. If you feel that it would be unwise to give your own address when witnessing by letter to strangers, ask the elders if they would approve of your using the return address of the local Kingdom Hall. The Watch Tower Society’s address should never be used for this purpose, as this would improperly indicate that your correspondence was sent from the Society’s offices and would cause confusion. If no return address is provided and literature is included, this too may give the wrong impression that the Society is the sender.
Make sure that you affix sufficient postage, especially if you have enclosed literature. If the postage is inadequate, the recipient may be charged for the amount due, and this would detract from your message. Remember that in many countries when a brochure or a magazine is enclosed, the postal rate is more than that required for just a letter.
The Right Tone
Once you have completed your letter, read it to evaluate the content. How does it sound? Is it friendly and tactful? Love and kindness are among the qualities that we endeavor to manifest in our dealings with others. (Gal. 5:22, 23) If you detect a negative tone or a hint of pessimism, adjust the wording.
A letter can go places that you cannot. This fact alone makes it a significant tool for the ministry. Since your letter represents you and the things you stand for, give thought to what it says, how it looks, and how it sounds. It may provide just what is needed to start, strengthen, or encourage a precious soul on the road to life.