THROUGHOUT the centuries, Jehovah’s people have met together in an organized way. In ancient Israel, all males traveled to Jerusalem for the three great festivals. (Deut. 16:16) In the first century, Christians congregated regularly, often in someone’s home. (Philem. 1, 2) Today, we enjoy meetings, assemblies, and conventions. Why do God’s servants meet together? Primarily because it is an important part of our worship.—Ps. 95:6; Col. 3:16.
2 Meetings also benefit those who attend. Regarding every seventh Festival of Booths, the Israelites were told: “Gather the people together, the men, the women, the children, and your foreign resident who is within your cities, in order that they may listen and learn and fear Jehovah your God and take care to carry out all the words of this Law.” (Deut. 31:12) Clearly, an important reason for meeting together is to be “taught by Jehovah.” (Isa. 54:13) Meetings also provide the opportunity to get to know one another, to receive encouragement, and to gain strength through association.
3 Disciples who were gathered together after Pentecost 33 C.E. devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, and “day after day they were in constant attendance in the temple with a united purpose.” (Acts 2:42, 46) Later, when Christians came together for worship, they read from inspired writings, including letters written by the apostles and other Christian disciples. (1 Cor. 1:1, 2; Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 1:1; Jas. 1:1) There was also congregation prayer. (Acts 4:24-29; 20:36) At times, experiences from the missionary field were related. (Acts 11:5-18; 14:27, 28) Bible doctrines and the fulfillment of inspired prophecies were considered. Instruction was given in matters of approved Christian conduct and godly devotion. All were encouraged to be zealous proclaimers of the good news.—Rom. 10:9, 10; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; 15:58; Eph. 5:1-33.
During these difficult last days, we need the encouragement that comes from meeting together regularly
4 In our day, Christian meetings follow the pattern set in apostolic times. We heed the inspired exhortation found at Hebrews 10:24, 25: “Let us consider one another . . . , not forsaking our meeting together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you see the day drawing near.” During these difficult last days, we need the added encouragement that comes from meeting together regularly so that we can maintain spiritual strength and Christian integrity. (Rom. 1:11, 12) As Christians, we live among a crooked and twisted generation. We have rejected ungodliness and worldly desires. (Phil. 2:15, 16; Titus 2:12-14) Really, where would we rather be than in association with Jehovah’s people? (Ps. 84:10) And what could be more beneficial than the study and discussion of the Word of God? Consider the various meetings that have been arranged for our benefit.
5 The first part of the weekend meeting consists of a Bible discourse that is especially designed for the general public, some of whom may be attending a meeting for the first time. The public talk plays an important part in filling the spiritual needs of both newly associated ones and congregation publishers.—Acts 18:4; 19:9, 10.
6 Christ Jesus, his apostles, and their associates conducted public meetings similar to those enjoyed today by the congregations of Jehovah’s people. Without question, Jesus was the greatest public speaker ever on earth. It was said of him: “Never has any man spoken like this.” (John 7:46) Jesus spoke with authority, astounding his audiences. (Matt. 7:28, 29) Many were the benefits received by those who took his message to heart. (Matt. 13:16, 17) The apostles followed his example. At Acts 2:14-36, we read Peter’s powerful discourse on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. Thousands were motivated to act as a result of what they heard. Later, individuals became believers after listening to Paul’s discourse in Athens.—Acts 17:22-34.
7 Similarly in our day, millions have benefited from the weekly public talks held in congregations as well as the public talks presented at assemblies and conventions. Such talks help us to remain alert to Christian teachings and to be steadfast in Kingdom service. By inviting interested ones and the public in general, we may accomplish much to acquaint people with basic Bible teachings.
8 The subjects considered in public talks are varied. Talks cover Bible doctrine and prophecy, Scriptural principles and counsel regarding family life and marital matters, situations confronting youths, and Christian morals. Some talks center on Jehovah’s marvelous works of creation. Others highlight the exemplary faith, courage, and integrity of Bible characters, focusing on lessons for our day.
9 To benefit fully from public talks, it is essential that we pay close attention, look up the scriptures referred to by the speaker, and follow along as he reads and explains them. (Luke 8:18) As we thus make sure of the things discussed, we will be determined to hold fast to what we learn and to apply it.—1 Thess. 5:21.
10 If speakers are available, the congregation will no doubt have a public talk every week. This is often accomplished by having speakers visit from nearby congregations. If there is a shortage of speakers, these talks are given as often as possible.
11 The second part of the weekend meeting is the Watchtower Study, a question-and-answer discussion of articles published in the study edition of The Watchtower. By means of The Watchtower, Jehovah provides us with timely spiritual food.
12 The study articles frequently deal with the application of Bible principles in daily living. They fortify Christians against “the spirit of the world” and unclean conduct. (1 Cor. 2:12) Through The Watchtower comes increased light on Bible doctrine and prophecy, enabling all to keep abreast of the truth and stay on the path of the righteous ones. (Ps. 97:11; Prov. 4:18) Attending the Watchtower Study and participating in it can help us to rejoice in the hope of Jehovah’s righteous new world. (Rom. 12:12; 2 Pet. 3:13) Our Christian association helps us to cultivate the fruitage of the spirit and strengthens our desire to serve Jehovah zealously. (Gal. 5:22, 23) We are fortified to endure trials and to build “a fine foundation for the future” so that we “may get a firm hold on the real life.”—1 Tim. 6:19; 1 Pet. 1:6, 7.
13 How can we take full advantage of this provision for spiritual feeding? We should prepare the lesson in advance, either separately or as a family, look up the cited scriptures, and during the meeting comment in our own words. This will sound down the truth into our heart, and others will benefit as they hear our expressions of faith. By listening carefully to the comments of others, we will benefit from the lesson each week.
14 The congregation meets each week at the Kingdom Hall for a program entitled Our Christian Life and Ministry. This meeting has three parts designed to help us to be “adequately qualified” as ministers of God. (2 Cor. 3:5, 6) The schedule and material will be provided in a monthly Our Christian Life and Ministry—Meeting Workbook. The Life and Ministry Meeting Workbook also contains sample conversations for use in the ministry.
15 The first part of this meeting, called Treasures From God’s Word, will help us to become familiar with the background and context of Bible accounts and to learn how they can be applied. The meeting includes a talk, a reading, and a discussion based on the weekly Bible reading. Visual aids and worksheets to help teach these accounts are included in the Life and Ministry Meeting Workbook. This in-depth consideration of the Bible benefits us in our personal life and in our teaching, so that we “may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Tim. 3:16, 17.
16 The second part of the meeting, Apply Yourself to the Field Ministry, is designed to give all the opportunity to practice for the ministry and to improve in their ability to preach and teach. In addition to student assignments, videos of sample conversations are considered. This section of the meeting helps us to acquire “the tongue of those taught” so that we “may know how to answer the tired one with the right word.”—Isa. 50:4.
17 The third part, Living as Christians, considers the practical application of Bible principles in day-to-day life. (Ps. 119:105) A primary feature of this part of the meeting is the Congregation Bible Study. Like the Watchtower Study, the Congregation Bible Study is a question-and-answer discussion.
18 Every month when a new Life and Ministry Meeting Workbook is received, the coordinator of the body of elders, or an elder assisting him, carefully analyzes it and makes a schedule. Each week, an elder who is a capable teacher and approved by the body of elders will serve as the meeting chairman. His duties include ensuring that the meeting begins and ends on time and giving commendation and counsel to those who have student assignments.
19 As we regularly prepare for, attend, and participate in the Life and Ministry Meeting, we gain knowledge of the Scriptures, understanding of Bible principles, confidence to preach the good news, and skill in making disciples. Those attending who are not yet baptized Witnesses also benefit from the warm association and spiritually upbuilding discussions. To help us prepare for this meeting and others, we can make use of Watchtower Library, JW Library®, Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY™ (if available in your language), and the library at the Kingdom Hall. The Kingdom Hall library contains the available publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watch Tower Publications Index or the Research Guide for Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as a number of Bible translations, a concordance, a dictionary, and other helpful reference works. This library may be used by anyone before or after the meetings.
MEETINGS FOR FIELD SERVICE
20 At various times during the week and on weekends, groups of publishers will briefly assemble at meetings for field service. These meetings are usually held in private homes or at other convenient places. The Kingdom Hall may also be used for this purpose. Having smaller groups gather in several locations in the territory may make it easier for publishers to travel to the meeting for service and to the territory. Publishers can be organized quickly and head to the territory without delay. The group overseer may also be able to give closer attention to those in his care. While there are advantages to having groups meet separately, circumstances may dictate that several groups meet together. For example, if fewer publishers go in the ministry midweek, it may be advantageous to combine groups or to have all meet together at the Kingdom Hall or another suitable location. This way, publishers will have someone to work with. The congregation may also find it convenient to meet at the Kingdom Hall on worldly holidays. Or the congregation may choose to have a combined meeting for field service after the Watchtower Study.
21 If groups meet separately, the group overseer takes the lead in conducting the meeting for field service. Periodically, a group overseer may assign his assistant or another qualified brother to conduct such meetings. The conductor should be prepared to discuss something that will be practical and helpful for the field ministry. Field service arrangements are made, and one of the group offers a prayer. The group will then promptly depart for the territory. Such meetings last from five to seven minutes but should be shorter if they follow a congregation meeting. They should provide encouragement, practical instruction, and direction for those going out in the preaching work. Newer ones or others who may need assistance can work with experienced publishers to receive training.
MEETING ARRANGEMENTS FOR NEW OR SMALL CONGREGATIONS
22 As more become disciples, the number of congregations increases. An application for a new congregation is usually submitted by the circuit overseer. However, in some cases, small groups may find it more advantageous to be associated with the nearest congregation.
23 At times, small congregations may be composed entirely of sisters. When that is the case, a sister who prays in the congregation or conducts meetings does so with her head covered, in harmony with the Scriptural arrangement. (1 Cor. 11:3-16) In most cases, she remains seated, facing the group. Sisters do not give discourses at meetings. Instead, they read the material provided by the organization and comment on it, or for variety, they may consider it by means of a discussion or a demonstration. The branch office will ask one of the sisters to handle correspondence with the office and to care for meetings. In time, when brothers qualify to do so, they will care for these responsibilities.
24 Each year, arrangements are made for congregations assigned to the same circuit to gather for two one-day circuit assemblies. These joyous occasions afford all in attendance opportunities to “open [their] hearts wide” in Christian association. (2 Cor. 6:11-13) With a special need in mind, Jehovah’s organization prepares the Scriptural themes and various parts of these programs. The information is presented by means of discourses, demonstrations, reenactments, soliloquies, and interviews. Such timely instruction builds up all who attend. These assemblies provide an opportunity for new disciples to get baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah.
25 Once each year, larger gatherings are held. These are usually three-day regional conventions, combining congregations from a number of circuits. Smaller branches may find it more practical for all congregations in the branch territory to assemble at one location. In some lands, arrangements for these gatherings may vary according to circumstances or on the basis of direction from the organization. Periodically, international or special conventions are held in some countries and may be attended by tens of thousands of Witnesses from a number of different lands. Over the years, many have learned about the good news of the Kingdom because of the publicity given to these large gatherings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
26 For Jehovah’s dedicated people, conventions are joyous occasions of united worship. They have provided the setting for revealing increased light on the truth. At some conventions, new publications are released for personal and congregation study or for use in the field ministry. Conventions also feature baptisms. Conventions are of particular importance in promoting spiritual growth. They give evidence that Jehovah’s people indeed form an international brotherhood of dedicated Christians who bear the identifying mark of the disciples of Jesus Christ.—John 13:35.
27 By attending local congregation meetings as well as assemblies and conventions of Jehovah’s people, we are strengthened to do Jehovah’s will. We are also protected against worldly influences that could undermine our Christian faith. Such gatherings all bring glory and praise to Jehovah. (Ps. 35:18; Prov. 14:28) We can be thankful that Jehovah has provided these occasions of spiritual refreshment for his dedicated people in this time of the end.
THE LORD’S EVENING MEAL
28 Once each year on the anniversary of the death of Jesus Christ, congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the world observe the Memorial of Christ’s death, or the Lord’s Evening Meal. (1 Cor. 11:20, 23, 24) This is the most important meeting of the year for Jehovah’s people. We are specifically commanded to observe the Memorial.—Luke 22:19.
29 The date of the Memorial corresponds with the date of the Biblical Passover, which is indicated in the Scriptures. (Ex. 12:2, 6; Matt. 26:17, 20, 26) The Passover was the annual commemoration of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt in the year 1513 B.C.E. At that time, Jehovah marked the 14th day of their first lunar month as the date for them to eat the Passover lamb and to leave their captivity in Egypt. (Ex. 12:1-51) The date is determined by counting 13 days from the appearance of the new moon nearest the spring equinox as visible in Jerusalem. Generally, the Memorial observance falls at the first full moon following the spring equinox.
30 Matthew 26:26-28 outlines in Jesus’ own words the way that the Memorial is to be observed. It is not a ritual with mystical overtones but a symbolic meal that is shared by those who have been called to be joint heirs with Jesus Christ in his heavenly Kingdom. (Luke 22:28-30) All other dedicated Christians and interested people are encouraged to attend the Lord’s Evening Meal as observers. By their attendance, they show their appreciation for the provision Jehovah God has made for the benefit of all mankind through his Son, Jesus Christ. Prior to the Memorial, a special public talk is given that is designed to generate enthusiasm for this event and stimulate further interest in Bible study.
31 Jehovah’s Witnesses joyfully anticipate occasions for assembling together at meetings, where we “consider one another so as to incite to love and fine works.” (Heb. 10:24) The faithful and discreet slave is alert to provide such meetings according to our spiritual need. All of Jehovah’s servants as well as interested people are urged to take full advantage of the arrangements for regularly assembling together. By showing heartfelt appreciation for Jehovah’s provisions through his organization, God’s servants are bound together in unity. More important, we praise and glorify Jehovah.—Ps. 111:1.