Overseers for the Joy of the Flock
1. What is essential to continue diligently in any undertaking?
IT IS difficult to continue diligently at any task when there is no joy in the doing of it. After a time the task becomes burdensome and the desire to quit grows. That is why Jehovah calls on his servants to ‘rejoice in every undertaking of theirs,’ so that they will not ‘give up doing what is right.’ One who is sad and despondent would not be able to help cure the sighing and crying of those who witness the terrible conditions around them in this old world. As Proverbs 17:22 puts it: “A heart that is joyful does good as a curer, but a spirit that is stricken makes the bones dry.”—Deut. 12:18; Gal. 6:9.
2. What does an overseer need to have first before he can serve for the joy of the flock?
2 Overseers in the congregations of God’s people are anxious to help their brothers endure faithfully in the Kingdom service. For that reason it becomes their concern to see that the spirit of joy and rejoicing is found among the flock. First the overseer must be joyful about his own assignment. If he allows his own assignment of service to his brothers to become burdensome to him, and he gives of his time and energy sparingly, grudgingly, as though under compulsion, he will tend to ‘lord it over the flock’ and will be lacking in joy, eagerness and willingness. So the overseer must have a deep appreciation for his wonderful privilege of service, being thankful for it, always looking to Jehovah to sustain him by holy spirit so that he might serve for the joy of the flock.—1 Pet. 5:2, 3.
3. What is the overseer’s principal concern?
3 Whatever assignment of service one has in the congregation organization, be it that of accounts servant, magazine-territory servant, or suchlike, the duty of the servant is not just in keeping records like some clerical worker, nor is it just a matter of relaying instructions from the governing body to the brothers. Rather, the most important part of his assignment is the caring for the spiritual well-being of the congregation, that it might render the most effective praise to Jehovah. Good physical health is reflected in a zest for living. Good spiritual health is reflected in zeal for Jehovah’s service along with a happy and joyful spirit. Be alert to the symptoms of spiritual ill-health: lack of joy, the feeling that the preaching work is burdensome, lack of results in the ministry. Then prayerfully seek to apply Scriptural healing to restore to spiritual health those thus affected.
4. How should the overseer give counsel, and what is required for this?
4 Sound advancement in the Kingdom work is never achieved by driving or scolding. There may be some initial progress or increase, but this falls away due to lack of joy on the part of the brothers. It is easy to be critical, to see faults or weaknesses. It takes time and prayerful thought to be in a position to present good upbuilding counsel that will encourage and strengthen and yet will give practical aid in overcoming the weaknesses. The overseer will seek to do this if he is truly interested in his brothers, if he is joyful himself in his service and has the desire to see his brothers ‘rejoice in every undertaking of theirs.’
5, 6. (a) What is one basic requirement for joy? (b) How does the overseer show he appreciates this requirement?
5 To cultivate joy among the brothers one must know the things that make for joy. Paul indicated one basic requirement for joy when he wrote: “I will also keep on rejoicing, . . . in harmony with my eager expectation and hope.” Certainly Paul himself had an eager expectation and hope of gaining eternal life with Christ Jesus. The clear vision he had of his hope, with an appreciation for the thrilling privileges of service it held out, gave him a joy that sustained him through all kinds of persecution and difficulties. And how true this was of the Master, Jesus, himself, who “for the joy that was set before him . . . endured a torture stake.” Whether one holds the hope of heavenly life as one of the remnant of the “little flock,” or of earthly life as one of the “other sheep,” it is important that that hope be a confident one if it is to sustain one joyfully in Jehovah’s service.—Phil. 1:18-20; 3:13, 14; Heb. 12:2; Luke 12:32; John 10:16.
6 To have a strong faith or an “assured expectation of things hoped for” requires a sound knowledge of the Word of God. Appreciating this, the overseer will be a good student himself and will encourage personal study of the Bible by all in the congregation. In caring for the oversight of the congregation he will see that the meetings are alive, upbuilding, instructive and encouraging. In his conversations with the brothers he will speak of the hope they share. If, in his own personal study of the Bible, The Watchtower, and other publications of the Society, he is alert to note new truths, encouraging suggestions and points of upbuilding counsel, he will be prepared in a practical way to build up his brothers and strengthen their hope. In calling on weak or inactive publishers, let it not be just a routine call to collect a field service report or make arrangements for going out in preaching activity, but use the opportunity to build the person up, quickening his desire for knowledge, remembering that if that one is to undertake Jehovah’s work and stick at it he needs to have the right appreciation for it and joy in doing it.—Heb. 11:1; 1 Thess. 5:14.
7. In what way does Paul express the proper concern of a good overseer?
7 If you have the privilege of being an overseer be sure that your concern for the congregation takes in all those associated therein. Let it be your desire to help each one to rejoice in Jehovah’s service. Like Jesus and the apostles, be ready to expend yourself generously in their behalf. Paul expressed himself this way: “Notwithstanding, even if I am being poured out like a drink offering upon the sacrifice and public service to which faith has led you, I am glad and I rejoice with all of you. Now in the same way you yourselves also be glad and rejoice with me.” Notice the words: “I rejoice with all of you.” In another fine expression of what should be the desire of every overseer, Paul further writes: “I shall remain and shall abide with all of you for your advancement and the joy that belongs to your faith, so that your exultation may overflow in Christ Jesus by reason of me through my presence again with you.”—Phil. 2:17, 18; 1:25, 26.
8. How can the overseer or ministerial servant “rejoice with all” in the congregation?
8 As an overseer you may be busily occupied when at the Kingdom Hall for the congregation meetings. Before and after meetings there are necessary things to attend to with the other servants of the congregation. But still take out some time, if only a few minutes, to speak with the different brothers and sisters. In large congregations it is not possible to speak individually to all the brothers at each meeting, but make it a point to speak to different ones each time. Note ones you have missed and make it a point to talk with them at the next meeting, and have something encouraging to say. This would likewise apply to other ministerial servants in the congregation. The Bible study servant, for example, may note a new Bible study report turned in. Perhaps it is the first Bible study conducted by that Kingdom publisher. The servant’s personal interest will move him to take a few minutes to speak to that brother, expressing his joy at the brother’s progress in the ministry and asking interestedly after the new study started. A kind, though perhaps of necessity brief, word from the overseer or other servant is much appreciated by the publishers and does much to contribute to their joy in service. In doing this you rejoice with them and they, in turn, are glad and rejoice with you. Never be so busy with organizational matters that you never have time for an encouraging, upbuilding word for your fellow ministers.
9, 10. (a) What response on the part of the congregation makes the service of the overseer joyful? (b) What proves to be damaging to the joy of the congregation?
9 But for an overseer to do his work well, and have joy and satisfaction in doing it, there needs to be a happy response from those he serves, as expressed by Paul above. If the members of the congregation show respect for the theocratic organization, being obedient and submissive to the divine will and to the orderly way of carrying out the divine will under the direction of the spirit-appointed overseers, quick to respond to suggestions and counsel, and putting away any spirit of murmuring, how this contributes to the happiness of the overseer, and how much more effective his care for the spiritual lives of the flock! So then, “be obedient to those who are governing you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account, that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.”—Heb. 13:17.
10 How true those words are! Where there is a lack of unity and co-operation between the congregation and the overseer, resulting in the overseer’s caring for his duties with “sighing,” perhaps in a spirit of exasperation or discouragement, is this not damaging for all of us, leading to a loss of joy in our Christian activities and meetings? On the other hand, “how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” It is in such a climate of peace and unity that good Christian work can flourish, and the fruits of the spirit will grow abundantly to the joy of all.—Ps. 133:1.
PRACTICAL WISDOM AND FORESIGHT
11, 12. How can a lack of practical wisdom and foresight affect the peace and unity of the congregation?
11 Such blessed conditions need to be cultivated and maintained, and practical wisdom and foresight contribute much to this end. Lack of these qualities may produce conditions that greatly disturb unity and peace in the congregation. For example, almost all of us have heard of the proverbial family starting out on a picnic. They set off in the family car, full of high hopes for a pleasant day in the country. Trouble starts when they fall out as to the best road to take. Then on a lonely stretch of road, exposed to the hot sun, the car stutters to a stop—father forgot to fill up with gas! Reaching for a refreshing drink of coffee to soothe their nerves, they find the thermos empty—mother forgot to fill it! And so it goes, and a day that began with bright promise ends in quarreling, futile recriminations and disappointment for all. In a similar way fine prospects from theocratic activities can be blighted due to lack of planning and foresight. It might be in the planning to build a Kingdom Hall, arranging transport for an assembly, some special field activity in isolated territory or presenting a public meeting series. Careful advance planning of details will ensure good success and rejoicing in whatever undertaking it may be.
12 It is good also to be clear and explicit when making arrangements for any activity. Ambiguity leads to misunderstandings, which, in turn, lead to disappointment and wasted time and energy. True, we ought to be long-suffering and forgiving, making allowances for the mistakes of others, but we can avoid putting an undue strain on these qualities by the use of practical wisdom and foresight, which make for the successful outworking of what is purposed.—Prov. 11:14.
MAINTAINING JOY BY WISE OVERSIGHT
13. Why is it important to explain the purpose and reason for any activity or counsel?
13 Something else that contributes to rejoicing in any undertaking is to appreciate not only what is to be done, and how to do it, but also the reason for it. When one is encouraging some particular activity or stressing some new method or arrangement, it is always good to help the congregation understand the reason for it, why it needs to be done, and how it will benefit others. Without this the matter may not get wholehearted support. In giving counsel to a congregation a circuit servant, for example, should allow time to show the benefits of following certain counsel, why it is preferable, and how it will contribute to the well-being of the congregation. Then the brothers will respond gratefully, appreciating the privilege of service. Yes, the spirit in which one tackles a job has much to do with having joy in the doing of it.
14, 15. How does this apply to family life, and yet what does this not mean?
14 The same is true in the training of children. Theocratic parents are concerned with the joy and happiness of their children. Thus, when assigning children to jobs around the home or correcting them in the way they do things, wise parents take time to explain why, so that the children may get satisfaction in being obedient, appreciating they are sharing in the welfare and happiness of the whole family. This does not mean that parents have to give in to any rebellious tendency on the part of the child. It takes time for children to grow to appreciate why some things are right and others bad, and it takes discipline in the process. But always the parents have the children’s interests at heart; and as the parents grow in understanding, they will be ready to help the children to advance in appreciation of the good things, so that they will learn to be satisfied with what is right and rejoice in knowing and doing the divine will.
15 Likewise in the congregation, while being concerned for the joy and happiness of the brothers in Jehovah’s service, the overseer will never compromise on Bible principles. He will never abandon good theocratic order to accommodate selfishly rebellious ones. At the same time he will not burden the brothers under unnecessary rules and regulations, but will seek to serve his brothers, providing arrangements for them to work and meet together in the most effective and convenient manner.
16. (a) How will the overseer show balance in handling difficulties? (b) What searching questions can well be asked under such circumstances?
16 When difficulties arise in the congregation the overseer must maintain a sound balance. An overseer can become so concerned with protecting the organization, keeping it clean, that he may lose sight of the situation of the one who has gone wrong and the need to try to restore that one in love. Of course, where a person manifests the spirit of wickedness, being willfully rebellious and unrepentant, disfellowshiping from the congregation may be the only course open. But in other cases can we restore the erring one? Indeed, we might ask ourselves, Could his mistake have been prevented by prior counsel and advice on our part? Were we sufficiently alert to his becoming spiritually weak? Was it a lack of the right spirit of joy and happiness in the congregation that led to his weakened state? As we sincerely consider these questions we may be led to see a need even greater than that of our erring brother, a need that affects the whole congregation and us ourselves as ministerial servants.—Gal. 6:1, 2; 2 Cor. 2:7, 8.
17, 18. What qualities in Philemon and Timothy do the Scriptures commend?
17 Certainly conditions that produce sadness and discouragement in a congregation need to be urgently remedied, and the overseer will show his concern for the joy of the brothers by giving such matters his prompt attention. (2 Cor. 1:24–2:4) At all times let the work of the overseer be the product of intense interest in the welfare of the flock that is under his care, having in mind especially their being saved to everlasting life. To that end the overseer will “most gladly spend and be completely spent.”—2 Cor. 12:15.
18 What a blessing overseers of that kind are to the brothers! Their service in the congregation becomes a source of much joy and upbuilding. To such overseers the commendation given to Philemon is most suitable: “I get much joy and comfort over your love, because the hearts of the holy ones have been refreshed through you, brother.” Yes, they are like faithful Epaphroditus and Timothy, whose service among the early Christians was such a blessing for them. Of Timothy it was written that there was “no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for the things pertaining to you [the congregation at Philippi].”—Philemon 7; Phil. 2:25-30, 19-23.
19. What, then, will traveling overseers have in mind when talking to their brothers?
19 Like Epaphroditus and Timothy, who were traveling representatives of the governing body of the early church, so today, those brothers who travel to visit the congregations, such as circuit and district servants, zone and branch servants, can profit well from their example and what was said of them. In these days when the pressures from the great enemy Satan are so great in his efforts to discourage Jehovah’s servants and cause them to quit His service, how great is the need to speak encouragingly to the hearts of the brothers! Such visiting ministers, then, will want to do more than be limited to an analytical discussion of the conditions they find and to providing practical counsel for improvement; they will speak with warmth and encouragement in order to stir the hearts of their brothers to joyful activity. The purpose of the visit to the brothers at Ephesus by Tychicus, “a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord,” was that he might “comfort [their] hearts.”—Eph. 6:21, 22.
20. What undertaking can we now share in, and with what spirit?
20 The prospects of Kingdom service ahead of us, before the destruction of this present system of things at Armageddon brings an end to our preaching of the good news, are thrilling. The increasing flood of persons of good will from all nations into the New World society is evidence of the great ingathering now on. How long the privilege of sharing in this grand undertaking will last we do not know. But let us determine to share in it fully with joy. Let us pursue the things that make for peace, and rejoice with the rejoicing of Jehovah’s nation.—1 Pet. 3:11, 12; Ps. 106:5.