Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Part 10—Modern Restoration of True Worship (1919-1932)
LIKE the ancient Pentecostal outpouring of holy spirit upon the Jewish remnant to revive the witness work that had been commenced by Jehovah’s Chief Witness, Jesus—then to expand on a global scale—so now in the spring of 1919 there was an outpouring of Jehovah’s holy spirit organizationally upon the Christian remnant. This revived them for a new, highly organized world-wide preaching of the good news of the established kingdom.* (Acts 1:8; Matt. 24:14) Three and a half years after Pentecost, or A.D. 36, to enlarge the preaching personnel holy spirit came upon the Italian Cornelius and his non-Jewish associates to add Gentiles to the then-starting international preaching campaign. Thus, in parallel, in 1922 a further outpouring of spirit organizationally occurred, stirring thousands of new anointed witnesses (known then as the “Ruth” and “Esther” class) to join in the preaching campaign under advanced organized procedures.* As the A.D. 33 Pentecost revival meant speaking in many tongues, so after 1919 the preaching work proceeds in more than a hundred languages.
Restoration of genuine worship of the living God in 1919 did not mean gathering together throngs of native or natural “orthodox” Jews in a so-called “Holy Land” (Palestine) under the slogan of “Zionism.” (John 4:21-23) Indeed, such a long-expected and popularly heralded event the earnest students of the Bible came to understand by 1932 as being not Jehovah’s way but only the way of self-serving men subtly stirred into action for creatures’ purposes and benefits. By the publication of Volume 2 of the book Vindication that year, Jehovah’s witnesses came to see that such a “back to Palestine” movement was by the spirit of Jehovah’s archfoe, Satan, who has deceived the entire inhabited earth. From the Scriptural viewpoint Jehovah’s anointed praisers, his singing watchmen “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” were spiritual Jews, Israelites indeed, and were the ones restored to the holy place of Jehovah’s favor. Energized and emboldened by His freshly outpoured spirit (Joel 2:28; Isa. 52:7, 8; 60:1-3), they had willingly, unselfishly and unitedly assembled round His King, the “Signal” invisibly and irremovably set by Jehovah himself on heavenly Zion’s hill, to rule, irresistibly, among his enemies, earth-wide. (Isa. 11:10, AT; Ps. 2:1-12; 1 Cor. 15:24-28) Attainment of the correct understanding by such assembled genuine worshipers, in the face of the progress of the worldly Zionist movement, was due to God’s real restoration of his spiritual Israel, which began in 1919.*
The years 1919-1922 proved to be years of new organizational building for Jehovah’s anointed remnant. The Watch Tower Society decided for the first time to do all its own printing, even the printing of bound Bible study books. Factory space was engaged on Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, and large printing equipment was installed for such independent operations. Additional volunteers were brought in to Bethel, making a total of 107 full-time workers to undertake the production of better and more and cheaper publications. The Watch Tower for February 1, 1920, was this journal’s first issue to be printed on the Society’s own press. In 1920 thirty-eight carloads of paper were used in producing four million copies of the new magazine, The Golden Age, not counting much other printing accomplished that year.* The campaign with the new book Millions Now Living Will Never Die! was vigorously carried on at this time, necessitating the printing and distribution of large quantities of copies of it. On this same subject public lectures, together with much newspaper advertising, were conducted the world over.* In fact the campaign was so impressive that the title itself is still a byword among many in America and Europe to this day.
In November, 1921, the release of the first of a new series of bound books by Judge J. F. Rutherford was announced, entitled The Harp of God.* This book, produced outside at first and later in the Society’s Brooklyn factory, was well received by the public and, over the years, enjoyed a wide distribution into the millions. Other books in this series were Deliverance, appearing in 1926, Creation in 1927, and Reconciliation and Government in 1928. The 1927 Yearbook was the first in the Yearbook series that has continued till now. These new printing operations, ever expanding, required larger and larger quarters, first in 1922 by moving the Watch Tower Society’s factory into a six-story building at 18 Concord Street, Brooklyn, New York, and then in 1927 by the Society’s moving the factory into its own new large modern eight-story structure at 117 Adams Street.* The Bethel home also was rebuilt and enlarged at this time.*
Press censorship upon Watch Tower literature was removed in Canada January 1, 1920. This enabled Bible Students in Canada to commence an energetic campaign of Kingdom announcing.* Soon thereafter, when the United States government finally withdrew its prosecution against Rutherford and his seven associates, thus exonerating them on May 5, 1920, the Society’s president was enabled to visit Europe to reorganize vigorously the witness in that part of Jehovah’s vineyard.* Large assemblies were held in London, Glasgow and other British centers.* There and at later American conventions Scriptural arguments were given to show that a preliminary work had been completed by 1918. Now a new work was to be taken up by Jehovah’s people in a campaign of still greater proportions. Inasmuch as the Gentile times had ended in 1914 and the heavenly Kingdom then had been set up, it was now more urgent than ever to preach “this gospel of the kingdom.” There was shown to be “work for all” and “the work before us” was made clear.*
In the advancing of the new witness work and the building of a more centralized organization necessary to weld the witnesses together into one solid working force, considerable resistance was encountered from unprogressive “elective elders” in the local congregations of Jehovah’s people. Many of these insisted on living in the past—in the time of Pastor Russell, who by them was claimed to be the sole channel of Scriptural enlightenment and whom they called “that servant” of Matthew 24:45. The Watch Tower of April 1, 1920 (page 100), and subsequent studies showed clearly that even Brother Russell in 1884 and subsequently kept urging that the Watch Tower Society was the instrument or channel being used by Jehovah to teach his people on earth.* Now that there was much new spiritual light being flashed from Jehovah’s heavenly temple these “elective elders” should not retard or prevent the local congregations from keeping abreast with the accelerating witness work.* It was correctly argued that the Society was the publisher in Brother Russell’s time and would continue to be the publisher used now by Jehovah. Warning was given not to accept private interpretations and blindly follow self-styled leaders into darkness. Rather, all should keep together with the Society originally used so phenomenally in the past. Men-pleasing must be avoided.* However, at this time the Society in its right position as Jehovah’s instrumentality did not extend its full jurisdiction over the ruling affairs of the local congregations.*
The germ of theocratic direction really began in the fall of 1919 with the launching of the work of “The Golden Age,” which new magazine was released in October, 1919.
“The Golden Age work is a house-to-house canvass with the kingdom message, proclaiming the day of vengeance of our God and comforting them that mourn. In addition to the canvass, a copy of The Golden Age is to be left at each home, whether a subscription is taken or not. . . . Class workers will procure their samples from the Director.”*
Congregations desiring to participate in the new field service now opening up with the Golden Age campaign were asked to register as a service organization with the Society. Upon receiving such request the Society theocratically appointed one of the local number to serve as the Society’s appointee known as the “director,” not subject to local yearly election. Now for the first time authority began to be taken from the democratically controlled congregations under their “elective elders,” to reside more directly under the Society’s international supervision. Thus there began a partial theocratic supervision by the Society of the congregation’s field service, operating alongside the body of “elective elders” who continued to control congregational studies and lectures in a democratic manner.
In 1921 the Society began to discourage the idea that some local “elective elders” were advancing to the effect that they comprised a local “board of directors” that could pursue independent democratic ways apart from the headquarters organization. An effort was made to define more clearly the relationship of the local elders to the congregation.* Furthermore, a plea was made for world-wide unity and uniformity of Jehovah’s people in performing the preaching work. The British associates were counseled to undertake the work in the same manner as the work was developing in America.* A tightening up of preaching responsibility began in 1920 by requiring every one in the congregation who participated in the witness work to turn in a weekly report. Prior to 1918 only the pioneers were required to report their service activities. Definite territory assignments were now being made to the congregations for their field activity. Truly the congregations were being “yoked” for service. For the first year of such reporting, 1920, there were 8,052 “class workers” and 350 pioneers.* Of the more than 1,200 affiliated congregations 980 were reported by 1922 as being fully reorganized to engage in the field service with 8,270 “class workers.”* Beginning in 1923 several Sundays were set aside for “world-wide witness,” to encourage united efforts all over the world in holding simultaneous public meetings using the subject “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” and also for united participation in advertising the lectures.*
Beginning May 1, 1923, the first Tuesday of each month was set aside as a “service day,” on which all congregation publishers were to spend some few hours “selling books” under the direction of the “service director.”* From this time forward the congregational prayer meetings were to devote a half of the weekly Wednesday night meeting to testimonies relating to the service work. Incidentally, the designation “service director” was changed in 1936 to “company servant”* and then in 1953 to “congregation servant.”* Thus the appearance in 1919 of centralized and partial theocratic direction of Jehovah’s people began to bear fruit just in time to harness the growing numbers world-wide for strenuous declaration of Jehovah’s written judgments. The service sheet of instructions entitled “Bulletin” appeared now monthly after October, 1922, encouraging all as “valiant warriors” to memorize Society-prepared testimonies, first called a “canvass,” in offering the Bible literature. (In October, 1935, this monthly service instrument was named “Director,” and finally in July, 1936, was given its present title “Informant.”) These organizational instruments have done much to produce a uniform world campaign and to supply centralized theocratic direction.
Gradually over a twenty-year period from 1919 the witnesses were schooled and trained to accept a theocratic system of congregational organization. All along the way certain “elective elders” manifested themselves as opposers to the new divinely provided leadership. They failed to see that Jehovah’s holy spirit or active force was working organizationally in bringing about a governmental transformation leading to a theocratic or God-directed New World society. In almost every year’s report after 1922 the subject “organization” was mentioned, keeping the Kingdom publishers conscious of this matter.* They were also made to see that Satan has a mighty opposing organization. Then in 1932 the August 15 and September 1 issues of The Watchtower published a series of two articles entitled “Jehovah’s Organization,” wherein it was proved that the offices of “elder” and “deacon” filled by congregational elective vote do not Scripturally exist. Rather all spiritually mature ones in God’s sight are elders or older ones and may and should act as overseers (epískopoi) and ministerial servants (diákonoi). From all over the world the spiritually awake congregations sent to the Society’s headquarters resolutions abolishing these “offices” from their midst. They immediately expressed confidence in the service director appointed by the Society, and they selected by vote a company chairman and a service committee of not more than ten to replace the “elective elders” and to assist the local service director of the Society.* Many of the former “elective elders” who had refused to participate in the expanding field service (instead confining their activities merely to local congregational preaching) left the ranks of the witnesses at this time.
(To be continued)
Watch Tower 1920, p. 200; W 1946, p. 235.
“The Kingdom Is at Hand”, p. 312.
With Millennial Dawn, Vol. 3 (1891) pp. 243-300, compare W 1910, pp. 329, 330 (picture); W 1921, pp. 9-15; Vindication, Book 2, pp. 266-271, 347, 348; W 1949, pp. 243-253.
W 1920, p. 371; W 1921, p. 371.
W 1920, p. 127.
W 1921, p. 351.
W 1922, p. 98, 1928 Yearbook, p. 42; Messenger, August 12, 1946, p. 15.
1928 Yearbook, pp. 25-28. 37-44.
W 1920, p. 36.
W 1920, p. 162.
W 1920, pp. 242, 307-311.
W 1920, pp. 195-200.
W 1909, p. 293; W 1923, p. 72.
W 1920, pp. 99-103.
W 1920, p. 5.
W 1920, p. 104.
To Whom the Work Is Entrusted (1919, pamphlet of the Watch Tower Society), p. 1.
W 1921, pp. 265, 343.
W 1921, p. 343.
W 1920, p. 372.
W 1922, p. 389.
W 1923, pp. 24. 50.
W 1923, pp. 104, 105.
Informant, July, 1936.
Informant, May, 1953.
W 1922, 389; W 1923, p. 371.
W 1932, p. 266; Bulletin, November, 1932.