Studying The Watchtower
SOME will dismiss the Watchtower magazine with the words, I have the Bible and that is all I need. Yet they attend church and listen to sermons. Why bother? Why do they not stay at home and read their Bible, if that is all they need? Because few understand what they read in the Bible. They seek clarification by going to hear sermons. But is not a printed sermon as good as an oral one? Better, in fact, since they can refer to it frequently for careful study? The articles in The Watchtower may be viewed as printed sermons, and they merit careful and frequent study.
Taken alone The Watchtower would be of little value. Taken along with the Bible it is invaluable. It is a timesaver. The Bible, for example, has texts on a certain subject scattered here and there throughout its hundreds of pages. We do not have time to read the Bible through from cover to cover to learn what it says on this one subject. Surely every time a new subject arises we cannot read the entire Bible to take into our view all the texts relating to that topic. However, within the few pages of a Watchtower article many texts on certain subjects are brought together. Truly it is a timesaver.
Not only does this method save time, but it makes for systematic teaching, for rapid learning. Basic truths are called to notice, and upon these additional truths are built up to complete the picture. Then events and conditions in the world today are placed alongside Bible prophecies and it becomes clear that the former are fulfillments of the latter. This lets us know where we are in the stream of time, that we live in the last days, that soon Armageddon will sweep aside this old world of wickedness to make way for God’s new world of righteousness. The divine requirements for preservation through this battle of God Almighty are given, and thus The Watchtower shows the Bible to be the one practical guide for modern times. It is all-important to study the Bible, and since The Watchtower assists in understanding the Bible, its study is also essential.
CONGREGATIONAL STUDY OF “THE WATCHTOWER”
Private study of the magazine is essential. We should set aside sufficient time to digest its contents. Just as we take time to eat temporal food and allow it to digest properly, so we should set aside sufficient time to not only read but also reflect upon the Watchtower’s contents. Food bolted down on the run does us little good, and the same applies to spiritual food. We must allow time for our minds to dwell upon it and assimilate it completely. That applies to the magazine’s entire contents, not just the leading study articles. We eat from all the dishes of a temporal meal in order to get variety and a balanced diet. We should also read and digest all the articles in The Watchtower. This will equip us more completely for speaking to others the truths it contains. Just because time does not permit a congregational study of all the articles in the magazine does not mean they are unimportant. They should be studied as diligently as the leading articles provided for congregational study. But our present purpose is consideration of the group study of the articles provided for that purpose. How should such a study be conducted for the greatest benefit to all?
The conductor should make brief preliminary remarks highlighting the main points that will be developed during the study. He may do this by raising three or four questions that the study will answer, questions that capture the theme of the assignment for study. If the study is a continuation of an article started the week previous, he might very briefly restate the high points established in that previous study and connect it up with what is to be next considered. His opening comments should not be lengthy; no more than two or three minutes.
Starting the study itself, he will propound the printed question found at the bottom of the page provided for the first paragraph of the assigned study. Those in the audience may volunteer by raising their hands, and answering when called upon by the conductor. However, the conductor may call upon someone in the congregation without that one’s volunteering.
It is assumed that all have studied the lesson in advance and know the answers as contained in the paragraphs. There are many who hesitate to volunteer a comment, but who will speak when called upon. This method may also cause some who have become negligent in advance study of the lesson to recover from the bad habit they have drifted into. It may act as a spur to move all of us to a more thorough advance preparation for the congregational study. If so, it will make the meeting more profitable for everyone there. Hence starting with the congregational study of this issue of the magazine, the conductor may call on persons whether they volunteer or not.
However, the conductor should use good judgment in doing so. He should seek to avoid embarrassing anyone. He should not call on newcomers not in the truth. If a publisher is new and still immature and has never volunteered to comment, it would be well not to call on that one. Even if one has volunteered and commented but is rather new, the conductor should not call on him to answer the more difficult questions. For the newer ones or those backward about speaking, select the easier questions, the ones with simple and short answers. Call upon the mature witnesses for answering the more involved questions. And remember the volunteer method is still a part of the procedure. The conductor may call on only those who volunteer by raising their hands, or he may call on some who do not raise their hands, or he may call on one who has not volunteered and then on one or two who have, all on the same paragraph. So on some paragraphs maybe only volunteers will speak, on others only those called on without volunteering will speak, and on still other paragraphs perhaps both volunteers and nonvolunteers will answer. But the conductor must at all times use good judgment and avoid embarrassing those in attendance.
After the question or questions on the paragraph are answered by the congregation, then the paragraph under consideration will be read by a competent reader. The conductor of the study will then ask the question on the next paragraph, and so on for the hour’s study. When necessary, the conductor of the study may make a comment himself or enlarge on an expression made, to clarify the subject matter; but this would be necessary maybe only once or twice in the hour.
The conductor should also conclude the study within the allotted time of one hour, and lengthy announcements should be avoided. An hour for the actual study, plus no more than ten minutes for the opening and closing prayers, songs and announcements, should be sufficient. If the conductor will regulate the study, marking off the amount that should be covered by the fifteen-minute mark, the thirty-minute mark and the forty-five-minute mark, and holding to that schedule, he should have no difficulty in concluding on time. He will not lag during the first part of the study and have to speed through the latter part, but can keep a good steady pace throughout. And those who comment can help by speaking briefly and to the point.
This brings up the matter of commenting. It is a privilege. It should be viewed as such. It should also be viewed as a duty to be performed for the welfare of the meeting. If the attendance is large, perhaps no one person need comment more than once. Even if the group is small and several comments are needed from each one, if the commenting is generally distributed one or a few will not be doing all the commenting. As many as possible should participate. Some never comment because they do not study enough to be sure of themselves. Some are nervous. All speakers feel initial nervousness, but it passes when we get to speaking. That is why the second comment you make in a meeting is easier than the first one. Whatever the problem, overcome it and make yourself give at least one answer. You will have contributed to the meeting, and will feel better for it. You will get more out of the study. And when you comment, speak loud enough for all in the hall to hear.
If all study diligently in advance, they will be full of the answers, so that when the conductor draws upon them during the study they will be prepared to contribute to the meeting. (Prov. 20:5) They will be able to share one with another the good things during this period of oral teaching. (Gal. 6:6, NW) Each one will sharpen the others by this discussion, and all will benefit. As Proverbs 27:17 (AT) states: “As iron sharpens iron, a man sharpens the face of his friend.” So let each one do his part at the congregational study of The Watchtower, edifying one another and whetting one another so that all will be that much sharper for preaching when we go from door to door.