WHY might a Christian make a statement that is not true? He might simply be repeating something that he has heard, without taking time to check the facts. Or he might overstate a matter because, without realizing it, he misread his source material. When we give careful attention to accuracy even in minor matters, our listeners will see that they can have confidence in the veracity of the more important aspects of our message.
In the Field Ministry. Realizing that they still have much to learn, many feel apprehensive about starting in the field ministry. Yet, these quickly find that they are able to give an effective witness, even with only a basic knowledge of the truth. How? The key is preparation.
Before going out in the field service, become familiar with the subject that you want to discuss. Try to anticipate questions that your listeners might raise. Search for satisfying Bible-based answers. This will prepare you to give accurate answers in a relaxed frame of mind. Are you going to conduct a Bible study? Review the study material carefully. Make sure that you understand the Scriptural basis for the answers to the printed questions.
What if a householder or a workmate asks a question that you are not prepared to answer? If you are not sure of the facts, resist the temptation to guess. “The heart of the righteous one meditates so as to answer.” (Prov. 15:28) You may find the help you need in the book Reasoning From the Scriptures or in “Bible Topics for Discussion” if they are available in your language. If you have neither of these with you, offer to do some research and return. If the one who posed the question is sincere, he will not mind waiting for the correct answer. He may, in fact, be favorably impressed by your humility.
Working in the field ministry with experienced publishers can help you to develop skill in handling God’s Word aright. Observe which scriptures they use and how they reason on them. Humbly accept any suggestions or correction they offer. The zealous disciple Apollos benefited from help received from others. Luke described Apollos as “eloquent,” “well versed,” and “aglow with the spirit,” a man “speaking and teaching with correctness the things about Jesus.” Yet, there was a gap in his understanding. When Priscilla and Aquila noted this, they “took him into their company and expounded the way of God more correctly to him.”—Acts 18:24-28.
“Holding Firmly to the Faithful Word.” Our presentations at meetings should reflect high regard for the congregation’s role as “a pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15) In order to uphold the truth, it is important that we get the sense of scriptures that we plan to use in talks. Take into account their context and intent.
What you say at a congregation meeting may be repeated. Of course, “we all stumble many times.” (Jas. 3:2) But you will benefit by developing habits that contribute to accurate speech. Many brothers enrolled in the Theocratic Ministry School will, in time, become elders. “More than usual” is expected of those entrusted with such responsibility. (Luke 12:48) If an elder carelessly gives wrong advice that results in serious problems for members of the congregation, the elder could incur God’s displeasure. (Matt. 12:36, 37) Thus, a brother who qualifies as an elder must be known for “holding firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching.”—Titus 1:9.
Be careful that your conclusions agree with “the pattern of healthful words” that is manifest in the entire body of Scriptural truth. (2 Tim. 1:13) This should not intimidate you. Perhaps you have yet to complete reading the entire Bible. Continue working at it. But in the meantime, note how the following suggestions can assist you to analyze material that you are thinking about using in your teaching.
First, ask yourself: ‘Is this material in harmony with what I have already learned from the Bible? Will it draw my listeners to Jehovah, or does it put the wisdom of the world on a pedestal, encouraging people to be guided by it?’ Jesus said: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17; Deut. 13:1-5; 1 Cor. 1:19-21) Next, make good use of study tools provided by the faithful and discreet slave class. These will help you not only to understand scriptures correctly but also to apply them with balance and reasonableness. If you base your talks on “the pattern of healthful words” and rely on Jehovah’s channel when explaining and applying scriptures, your statements will be accurate.
Checking the Accuracy of Information. Current events, quotations, and experiences can be helpful when you are illustrating and applying certain points. How can you be sure that they are accurate? One way is by extracting such items from reliable sources. Remember to check that the information is up-to-date. Statistics become obsolete; scientific discoveries are quickly surpassed; and as man grows in understanding of history and ancient languages, conclusions based on previous knowledge need to be revised. Exercise great caution if you are thinking of using information from newspapers, television, radio, electronic mail, or the Internet. Proverbs 14:15 counsels: “Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.” Ask yourself: ‘Does the source have a reputation for accuracy? Can the information be verified by some other means?’ If you doubt the truthfulness of an item, discard it.
In addition to checking the reliability of the sources, consider carefully how you plan to use the information. Make sure that your use of quotations and statistics harmonizes with the context from which they are taken. In an effort to express yourself forcefully, be careful that “some people” does not become “the majority of people,” that “many people” does not become “everyone,” and that “in some cases” does not become “always.” Overstating matters or exaggerating reports involving number, extent, or seriousness raises questions of credibility.
When you are consistently accurate in what you say, you will come to be known as a person who respects truth. This reflects well on Jehovah’s Witnesses as a group. More important, it honors “Jehovah the God of truth.”—Ps. 31:5.