Expert Instruction in the Art of Witness-making
“Go therefore and make disciples.”—Matt. 28:19.
1. For what purpose did Jehovah make Israel a nation, and how did Israel fail to live up to that purpose?
JEHOVAH has had his witnesses on this earth almost as long as man has existed, Abel the son of Adam being the first of them. They were not always many. Mostly they were only a few, a thin line running down through the pages of history. At times, however, Jehovah chose to have comparatively many of them. Thus the whole nation of Israel was made up of Jehovah’s witnesses. (Isa. 44:8) But they did not live up to that lofty calling of representing him among the nations of the earth. So after Jehovah had shown his long-suffering toward them for centuries he finally rejected them completely as his witnesses, although he had made Israel a nation just for that purpose. The rejecting or casting off of that nation took place when the people of Israel had Christ Jesus killed, but a new nation of witnesses of Jehovah was then already in the process of being formed.—Heb. 11:4 to 12:1; Ex. 19:5, 6.
2. What is one difference in the way the new nation of witnesses was made as compared to how the nation of Israel was made?
2 In many respects the new nation of witnesses for Jehovah was to be different from the old one. For one thing, whereas a person could be born into the nation of Israel and thus automatically become a member of Jehovah’s people by virtue of being a descendant of God’s friend Abraham, nobody can become a member of the new nation by birth. Only by being called by God, accepting the calling and dedicating oneself to be his servant can one become a member of that new nation. It is the heart condition and faith of the individual that counts. Members of the nation are made by making over the minds of people who have reached an age of understanding so that they turn from a false way of worship to the only way of worship that is pleasing to God.—Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24.
3. By what means did Jesus go about making the new nation at first, and how successful was he?
3 It was Jesus Christ, his beloved Son, whom Jehovah put in charge of the work of making new witnesses, and very fittingly so, because he was himself the greatest witness of Jehovah who has ever walked on this earth, and all God’s witnesses after him must be his disciples and followers. His work was extraordinarily successful. In starting out, public addresses given by himself was the means used, and he was an absolute expert in this field. He had a powerful message in proclaiming the Kingdom of God as man’s only hope, and he must have presented it in a most fascinating way. On one occasion, when the Pharisees sent out officers to get hold of him, they returned empty-handed but deeply impressed, and they reported: “Never has another man spoken like this.” The multitudes were so enthralled by his sayings and his miracles that they even stayed with him for days, and consequently by public addresses alone Jesus was able to make such an impression on the minds of people that some dedicated themselves to the service of the Most High God, Jehovah, and symbolized it by water baptism. Of John the Baptist we read: “Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the country around the Jordan made their way out to him, and people were baptized by him in the Jordan river.” But of Jesus we read: “When, now, the Master became aware that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John . . . he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.”—Rev. 1:5; Matt. 3:5, 6; John 4:1-3.
NEW PREACHING METHOD INTRODUCED
4. What preaching method did Jesus introduce later, and why?
4 In spite of the excellent results he had by public addresses, Jesus introduced a new method of making a witness for Jehovah. He did so because he was responsible for this work and he was alert as to the future needs. He knew he would not be able to stay with his followers very long and do the preaching for them, and also his miracles would cease after a while. Still the great work of making new witnesses had to go on. He knew that many in the crowds listening to him today would turn their backs on him tomorrow and help make up the mobs that would cry out for his life and organize vicious persecution for his followers. However, the work must not come to a stop. He knew his disciples were going to be sent to the non-Jewish nations in all the inhabited earth to preach where mere quotation of scriptures would mean very little. The new nation of witnesses of Jehovah had to grow and it would be made up by people of good will getting the forceful message of God’s kingdom deeply impressed on their minds so as to make them over. Just how could this be done? It was evident that public addresses alone would not be the most effective means. So for the benefit of his followers to whom this work would be entrusted, Jesus introduced that feature of the Christian ministerial service known as the house-to-house preaching, and what a fruit-yielding instrument that proved to be! It was a method suited to the abilities of imperfect people. It was still preaching, but was simplified in that the audience was reduced to just a few listeners and, at times, even only one person. True, individually it was not so far-reaching as the mass education Jesus could give, but still it was amazingly productive.
5. What was the territory assignment for the making of witnesses by preaching?
5 In Matthew, chapter 10, we find the detailed instruction on making witnesses by the house-to-house preaching method as given by Jesus himself when he personally trained the apostles. The theme to be preached was Jesus’ own: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matt. 10:7) The territory in which to preach was first limited to the nation of Israel, but after Jesus’ ascension to heaven it was to be extended to take in the whole world by the famous words: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.”—Matt. 28:19.
6. What spiritual attitude must those engaging in the work possess?
6 Then, in Matthew 10:8-10, the spiritual attitude with which this work should be engaged in is commented on by Jesus. Preachers of the good news must be spiritually-minded to be fit for the work. God’s kingdom must be put first, the material needs second. “You received free, give free. Do not procure gold, or silver or copper for your girdle purses, or a food pouch for the trip, or two undergarments, or sandals or a staff; for the worker deserves his food.”
7. Under what circumstances does Jesus place with his Father the obligation of providing materially for his servants?
7 Notice the reason given: “The worker deserves his food.” Actually, by these words Jesus obligates his heavenly Father. Preachers of the good news are employed by Jehovah God to work in his vineyard. He sets the terms. One of the terms is to be spiritually-minded, the workers putting all their soul, heart and mind into the preaching of the Kingdom. With a requirement like that it is evident that the responsibility for taking care of the worker’s material needs rests on the employer. So Jesus acknowledges this principle, which Jehovah had already stated in the law of Moses at Numbers 18:31 and Deuteronomy 25:4, and he applies it to the Christian preaching work.
8. When does Jehovah not feel obligated to look after our material needs in particular?
8 On the other hand, if the worker does not meet the terms, and he puts his material interests first, then Jehovah would not feel obligated to look after the worker’s material needs in particular. He is caring for the needs of all mankind in a general way. There are millions of people in the world looking after themselves, putting their material interests first, and they get their necessities of life without Jehovah’s providing especially for them. It is not necessary. They have taken time and energy to do it themselves. However, Jehovah does feel obligated and promises to care for those with the necessary material things who have been looking after, and “seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness,” as Jesus did. Because of putting Kingdom interests first, missionaries, pioneers, circuit and district servants, along with over a thousand persons in Bethel homes, all full-time ordained ministers of Jehovah’s witnesses, can gratefully confirm that fact.—Matt. 6:33.
FIRST “SEARCH OUT”
9. What is it that makes a person deserving of receiving God’s message?
9 Giving his direct instructions now for working in the field, Jesus described what to do when the publisher of good news arrived at his territory: “Into whatever city or village you enter, search out who in it is deserving, and stay there until you leave.” (Matt. 10:11) The first thing to do in making new witnesses was to “search out who in it is deserving.” Deserving of what? Deserving of the great privilege and benefit of having these servants of the Most High stay in their home and of listening to them when they explained the divine message of salvation that they were bearers of! Kind acceptance of the message of salvation brought by the apostles and true hospitality shown them because they were God’s servants made a person deserving of’ such a privilege in the eyes of God and Christ. Of these, Jesus said: “He that receives you receives me also, and he that receives me receives him also that sent me forth. He that receives a prophet because he is a prophet will get a prophet’s reward, and he that receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will get a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, I tell you truly, he will by no means lose his reward.”—Matt. 10:40-42; 25:34-40.
10. How does one search out deserving persons?
10 ‘Search out who is deserving’ was Jesus’ command. How does one search out people deserving of being preached to about God’s kingdom, His good news? You cannot tell it by looking at them. Deserving or not deserving depends on what goes on in people’s minds. So unless you can ascertain what is in their minds, you will never find out if they are deserving or not. How does one make a person reveal what is in his mind? That is not so difficult as you may think at first. Actually, you do it every day. If you want to know what is in a person’s mind about the weather, about the latest car models or about world politics, all you have to do is to start speaking to that person about the subject you choose and you will normally find that he opens his mouth and lets you know what is in his mind on that particular subject. Likewise, if you want to know if a certain person is one of the deserving ones Jesus told his followers to search for, you must start talking to him about God, Christ Jesus and his kingdom and you will learn what he thinks and whether he is deserving of being preached to or not. The only way deserving ones can be searched out is by talking to people.
11. Why could the apostles not consider religion a private matter that should not be discussed with others, and what is the typical reaction met with when witnessing?
11 In harmony with this counsel of Jesus on witness-making, the apostles and the other early Christians were not of the opinion that one’s religion is a private matter and should not be discussed with others. Following in their Master’s footsteps, they talked to others about their beliefs; and consequently when the apostles came to a city where the good news had not been preached before, they would go to the market place and the gates of the city where people gathered to hear news anyhow. Among the people in such places the apostles would start searching out persons deserving to be preached to about the good news. It was not hard to strike up a conversation and then bring in the subject of the Kingdom, whereafter the deserving ones could quickly be found. A typical example of such a case is related to us in Acts, chapter 17. Paul had been preaching in the market place in Athens and then he was taken to Mars’ Hill, a place where he could explain his teachings to the philosophers assembled. When he had given a witness about the supremacy of Jehovah God, about Christ Jesus, the day of judgment and the resurrection, a typical reaction took place: “When they heard of a resurrection of the dead, some began to mock, while others said: ‘We will hear you about this even another time.’ Thus Paul left their midst, but some men joined themselves to him and became believers.” These last ones mentioned were the deserving ones, and they would invite the apostles to stay in their homes just as Aquila and Priscilla invited Paul to stay with them while at Corinth, and just as Lydia of whom Luke reports: “Now when she and her household got baptized, she said with entreaty: ‘If you men have judged me to be faithful to Jehovah, enter into my house and stay.’ And she just made us come.”—Acts 17:32-34; 18:1-3; 16:15.
12. Why was the greeting of wishing peace appropriate for the disciples of Christ to use in the door-to-door work in those days, and how could they ‘let peace come upon a house’?
12 It was not only in public places that the preaching was done, but deserving ones were also searched out by preaching from house to house, as Jesus’ further words show: “When you are entering into the house, greet the household; and if the household is deserving, let the peace you wish it come upon it; but if it is not deserving, let the peace from you return upon you.” (Matt. 10:12, 13) Luke 10:5 gives the exact wording of the greeting Jesus wanted them to use: “May this house have peace.” This was a common greeting of that day. It had reference to the peace and prosperity coming from God; it implied a wish of welfare; and when we consider the good news the apostles had come to bring about peace with God through Christ Jesus, it was a most appropriate greeting. Now, upon learning of the purpose of the visit, it was up to the family of the house to show if they were deserving of the realization of the good wishes or not. If the house proved to be deserving, the apostle would obey Jesus’ instruction and ‘let the peace he had wished it’ on entering the house ‘come upon it’ by explaining the good news in detail. The searching out of deserving people in this way, however, was only the first of three general steps that must be taken to make a witness of Jehovah. It was like carefully searching out the raw material to work on.
13. Why has the witness-making work also been termed a work of reconciliation?
13 The work of the disciples of Christ has also been termed a work of reconciliation. Since Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God there has been enmity between God and this world, but the good news the followers of Christ brought was news of peace with God through the Mediator Christ Jesus. By having accepted Jesus as the Mediator between God and man and dedicated themselves to God through him, these first Christians out of all people had become reconciled to God and were at peace with him, and by their greeting they wished the same peace to come to all deserving persons. Paul expressed it this way: “We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’” With that purpose in mind they entered people’s homes. For the deserving ones this would mean the beginning of an education that would lead to dedication and complete peace with God.—2 Cor. 5:20.
14. (a) What does it require for a deserving person to become reconciled to God? (b) What is the second step in making witnesses, and how can it be taken?
14 Reconciliation to God and peace with him means dedication to do his will through Christ Jesus, and that, in turn, is something resulting from exact knowledge about God’s purposes. Exact knowledge cannot be gained in the course of a single call; it requires time. For deserving persons to become witnesses of Jehovah and enjoy peace with God, they had to have the truth of Christ and his kingdom explained so thoroughly to them that it would make a deep and lasting impression on their minds and even conquer their old religious ideas, whether these were purely heathen or came from the corrupt Jewish religion. The goal was that such persons should be brought to the point of understanding God’s purposes so well that they would want to dedicate their lives to serve him. An educational work of such a kind takes time, and that is why Jesus instructed publishers to “stay” with the deserving ones as a second step required to make witnesses. (Matt. 10:11) If a publisher was invited to stay and live in the home of deserving persons, then, of course, he would stay with them and he would spend much time teaching them. But he could also stay with people in whose homes he did not actually live by calling back on them repeatedly and thus spend much time with them preaching to them.
15. What further step is required to make a witness, and who really is making the new witnesses?
15 Still another step was required in this work of making witnesses. It was not enough for the teacher to stay with the deserving persons for a while, calling back on them. For the minister to obey the commandment to bring peace to deserving people a regular Bible study in the homes of such people was inevitable. The reason why this could not be avoided is that it was not the publisher of the good news who actually made a disciple of Christ or a new witness of Jehovah. Even if we read that Jesus and the apostle Paul “made” disciples, they were the last ones to take the honor for it. Jesus said: “What things I have seen with my Father I speak.” Paul recognized God as the real Maker of the new nation by referring to a gardener’s work, saying: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow. . . . For we are God’s fellow workers. You people are God’s field under cultivation.” That means that the publisher was only being used to plant God’s Word of truth into the hearts of deserving persons. Consequently, even if the servants of God received the commandment: “Go therefore and make disciples,” they were not just to speak their own word when they stayed with people of good will, but they were expected to let Jehovah speak through his written Word, the Bible, just as Jesus quoted the Bible all the time. Only by letting God himself speak to them through his Word could the deserving persons get that lasting impression made on their minds; only so could his Word be planted deeply into their hearts so it would bear fruit. A Bible study with the deserving ones was thus the third step in the chain of production taught by Jesus to make witnesses of Jehovah. Only by this last operation, the Bible study, could the deserving people receive the peace enjoyed by the true Christians.—John 4:1; Acts 14:21; John 8:38; 1 Cor. 3:6-9; Matt. 28:19.
16. In summing up, what does it take to make a witness the way Jesus taught it?
16 These, then, were the instructions given by Jesus to his followers for making witnesses by the door-to-door preaching method. Three definite steps are discernible: The deserving ones must be searched out by being talked to first; time must be spent with them preaching; and they must be helped to gain the peace that comes from being reconciled to God through dedication, which, in turn, cannot take place without a diligent study of God’s Word. The three steps are like operations in a production chain. If any one of the operations is not given due attention, the product will suffer, but if the material is right and the working instructions are followed, a perfect product may be expected.
17. Is there not an easier and faster way of doing the witness-making work? How efficient did this method prove to be in the days of the early Christians?
17 Making witnesses after this method may seem a long and weary process, and it is true that it does take time and diligent work to bring forth just one new witness after this method today; but it is the best and fastest method there is. Jesus used it himself in training his followers and he was an expert in this field. There can be no short cuts. Jesus was a practical worker; he used practical wisdom. If there had been an easier and faster way for his followers to do their work, he would surely have told them. The fact that he did not shows that there is none. By following this counsel his disciples made uncounted thousands of witnesses of a quality so fine that even today the term “early Christians” is associated with unswerving loyalty to the most lofty of principles in the face of the severest persecution. They ‘filled Jerusalem with their teachings’ and “upset the inhabited earth”; they influenced the course of mankind to this day. A remarkable result indeed of a teaching campaign, and a good reflection of the efficiency of the methods used! How efficient is that same method in the twentieth century, the age of mass production?—Acts 5:28; 17:6.