Be Imitators of Christ and Show Your Courage
1. (a) What does it mean to be a Christian? (b) Are dedication and baptism sufficient?
DO YOU say you are a Christian? If you answer “Yes,” could you prove it to the apostle Paul? Listen to him talking to us: “Now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying a foundation again, namely, repentance from dead works, and faith toward God.” (Heb. 6:1) Our being Christians means we have dedicated our lives to the service or worship of God and have confessed this step publicly by being baptized. Has our progress as a Christian ended there? Let us never think that by doing that much it is as far as we need to go. It is not! It is just the beginning of “a new birth to a living hope.”—1 Pet. 1:3.
2. To what did Paul liken dedicated Christians, and what reward belongs to such Christians?
2 The truly dedicated person must move ahead, must make progress. Having “tasted the fine word of God” he must courageously imitate Christ and go on doing God’s will. To this end Jehovah has poured out his holy spirit on all sorts of flesh and so has revealed the magnificent things of God. A Christian, having had the opportunity to take in knowledge of God and his purposes, is like soil drinking up rain. He must now be productive. The apostle Paul said: “The ground that drinks in the rain which often comes upon it, and that then brings forth vegetation suitable to those for whom it is also cultivated, receives in return a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is rejected and is near to being cursed; and it ends up with being burned.” (Heb. 6:7, 8) What kind of soil do we want to be? Fine soil, of course, for Jesus said of persons like fine soil: “These are the ones that, after hearing the word with a fine and good heart, retain it and bear fruit with endurance.”—Luke 8:15.
3. (a) What are the “works of the flesh,” and who produce them? (b) What kind of fruitage do real Christians work to produce?
3 Just what are you producing as a Christian in God’s organization? Is it good fruits? Or is it fruit like millions of so-called Christians produce, the “works of the flesh,” as Paul puts it? In plain language he enumerates the “works of the flesh” as “fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these.” (Gal. 5:19-21) These are bad fruits, “thorns and thistles.” But how many persons in Christendom are bearing good fruit “with endurance”? For a real Christian to “press on to maturity” his fruitage would have to be “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) To produce love, joy and peace today in this world of strife, hatred and fits of anger takes courage.
4. How did Paul counsel Christians to produce better fruitage?
4 Paul had warm love for his brothers and he was convinced that their fruitage would not be “thorns and thistles” but the better things, which would be accompanied with salvation. Therefore Paul wanted to stir the Christians up to produce better fruitage. They needed it! So he said: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work . . . But we desire each one of you to show the same industriousness . . . in order that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb. 6:10-12) Each and every Christian must show eager concern about the hope set before him right down to the end. No one may become lazy, because, if he does, he will never inherit the promises.
5. Why is sluggishness to be avoided?
5 That statement of Paul’s is just as true today as it was when he said it nineteen hundred years ago. Today everyone in the congregation of God must be a dedicated, ordained minister, a preaching and teaching minister, and there is no time between now and “down to the end” to become sluggish. A Christian must be an industrious person. He took on this work to get things done. Otherwise there would be no basis for his hope ever to be realized. Paul felt that way about his meeting his obligations and said: “Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Cor. 9:16) If ever there was an energetic follower of Christ who wanted to help all people proclaim God’s kingdom it was Paul. He said: “I have made myself the slave to all, that I may gain the most persons.” (1 Cor. 9:19) He had no use for lazy people. There was work to be done. His Master, Jesus, died in this work, and Paul, being a good imitator of him, could say to us: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.”—1 Cor. 11:1.
6. As Christians, what questions are we faced with, and what are the preferred answers?
6 Can you as a Christian say you “do not loiter at your business,” that you are “aglow with the spirit,” that you “slave for Jehovah”? Do you, because of preaching the good news of God’s kingdom, “endure under tribulation”? (Rom. 12:11, 12) Yes! you may say; but how much time do you spend talking to other people about Jehovah the Creator of heaven and earth, and about his Son, Christ Jesus, and the Kingdom you pray for in the Lord’s Prayer? Do you devote ten hours a month to this work of talking, or just two and a half hours a week, only twenty minutes a day? Think about it! That is not too much time for a Christian to spend, is it, in order to show he is an imitator of Christ?
7. (a) How many publishers, on the average, spent time in declaring the good news in 1961? In how many lands? (b) What happened in totalitarian lands? (c) To what should all Christians be stimulated by the courage of those in totalitarian lands?
7 Jehovah’s witnesses may not loiter at their business. Theirs is a world-wide assignment to prophesy and speak of the wonderful things of God. In their world organization there were 884,587 individuals, on the average, who every month during 1961 devoted some hours declaring the good news of God’s kingdom. They met up with much opposition to their preaching in many of the 185 lands and islands of the sea where they preached, particularly behind the Iron Curtain. In those lands under totalitarian oppression we find a marked decrease in the number of ministers talking about God’s Word to others. The pressure was very great and the loss sustained in regular publishers came to 9,405. It could be, though, that not all the reports from these persecuted and harassed witnesses of Jehovah ever got through to the branch offices. However, what courage the witnesses of Jehovah must have had in these countries in order to continue to imitate Christ Jesus and stay in the ministry! It should stimulate all Christians everywhere else to devote more time to the great Bible educational work being carried on in these last days and on down to the end of these days.
8. In what ways has the work of Jehovah’s witnesses moved ahead during the past year?
8 Throughout the whole earth Jehovah’s witnesses have increased 3.9 percent during the past year in the number of those sharing in the Kingdom proclamation. But in 175 countries, excluding Iron Curtain countries and countries where the work is banned and where reports are incomplete, the average increase in Kingdom publishers was 5.8 percent, or 42,614 more witnesses of Jehovah. However, when we subtract from these the loss of ministers in the ten countries where Jehovah’s witnesses are under ban, the net gain in regular monthly ministers world-wide is 33,209. The highest number of Witnesses preaching any one month during the year was 965,169—truly a great crowd of praisers.
9, 10. (a) What should all remember, and so why not look for the easy way out? (b) Did having more publishers mean greater activity? (c) How could there have been greater improvement?
9 Many of these, however, who claim to be Jehovah’s witnesses have some serious things to think about. All should know that Jehovah looks on the heart. Further, all should ‘remember those who are taking the lead among them, who have spoken the word of God to them, and as all contemplate how their conduct turns out all should imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever.’ (Heb. 13:7, 8) Paul said: “Do not be carried away with various and strange teachings.” So do not look for an easy way out of your responsibility. As Christians Jehovah’s witnesses have a work to get done, and so everyone claiming to be dedicated to Jehovah God must examine himself to see if he is really doing God’s work and is an imitator of Jesus Christ, be he a young student in school, or a single person without obligations, or a married person. All must be Christians in their everyday life. Their light must shine. How and to what extent is your light shining?
10 With 33,209 more witnesses of Jehovah reporting in 1961, there were only 1,032,856 additional hours spent in preaching the good news. Why? Had just these witnesses of Jehovah let their light shine twenty minutes a day, two and a half hours a week, ten hours each month, they could have spent 3,985,080 hours preaching the good news during the year. Throughout the world the average hours of the congregation publisher dropped, and the same can be said for the pioneers and special pioneers. Why?
11. Did the number of Bible studies conducted increase over the previous year?
11 There were 23,443 fewer Bible studies conducted during the year. A lower number of hours, on the average, by the Kingdom publishers often means fewer Bible studies. It takes time to conduct a Bible study, and still there were more persons to conduct more Bible studies. What is happening? Could it be too much loitering for some, some not carrying out their responsibility, not imitating Christ?
12. Did the number of pioneers increase, and why is this of concern to God’s organization?
12 Another outstanding weakness in the report shows that there were 1,227 fewer pioneers in the field this year than last year. Still there were 33,209 more persons who went out regularly in the work as congregation publishers. In the freer countries the increase in publishers was 42,614. Where among these and the rest of the publishers is the pioneer spirit, like that had by the apostle Paul?
13. What admonition did Paul give to all as regards their responsibility?
13 As the organization of Jehovah’s witnesses gets larger, closer attention and supervision must be given to the individuals in it. Are the congregation servants, the circuit servants and district servants doing that? How necessary it is to heed the warning: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God; but keep on exhorting one another each day, as long as it may be called ‘Today,’ for fear any one of you should become hardened by the deceptive power of sin.” (Heb. 3:12, 13) Brothers, Paul felt his responsibility; do you feel yours?
14. How many hours were spent preaching in 1961, but what questions arise?
14 Right now in most parts of the world Jehovah’s witnesses do not have to suffer the trials and difficulties that their brothers do behind the Iron Curtain. How many can take advantage of this and arrange their affairs and time so as to have much greater shares in preaching the good news wherever they are? It is true that 132,695,540 hours were spent during the 1961 service year in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom, but could there have been more? Are times so good in this old world that it makes one forget about the time he hopes to spend in the new world? This is no time to be “drawing away from the living God.” Keep that strong heart. Yes, hope in Jehovah.—Ps. 27:14.
15. What is each publisher invited to do?
15 When you study the 1961 field service chart on pages 22-25 note some of the big, prosperous, industrial countries of the world and explain to yourself why there is only a 2- or 3-percent increase in publishers in such countries. Compare your country’s total hours with last year’s total hours and see if you gave a greater witness in your assigned territory. If not, then ask yourself, Why? Have I had anything to do with the decrease, or the seeming standstill, or with the little progress made? Every dedicated person has a responsibility before Jehovah God to preach the good news. This Kingdom message is vital to the lives of millions of persons before Armageddon breaks. How did your congregation affect this year’s report? These are things for each dedicated person to consider. Do you feel every home in your territory was called on often enough? Was there any relaxing or sluggishness on the part of the dedicated ones in your congregation? Did you go out of your way to help them if any brothers were slowing down? Are you satisfied with your service report? Are you serving Jehovah whole-souled?
16. In spite of some saying we call at their homes too often, how should we view the matter?
16 These are questions that Jehovah’s witnesses must consider, because they are God’s servants, yes, “ambassadors substituting for Christ” and, if really substituting, then they must be imitating Christ. To be sure, many people do tell us that we call at their doors too often. But, on the other hand, there are millions of persons being comforted. Are we to slow down in doing good because some do not want the good? Paul looked at it this way: “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Rom. 12:21) When a Christian keeps working at conquering evil with good, then a lot of good is dispensed in this wicked world.
17. What good was done during the year with the Watchtower and Awake! magazines and with the bound books and booklets?
17 Look at the good being done for the readers of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Jehovah’s witnesses obtained 1,322,695 new subscriptions during the year. That was excellent, and the distribution of individual copies of the magazines, The Watchtower and Awake! was fine too. There were 105,281,876 copies distributed by the brothers all over the world. This was an increase over last year of 5,686 new subscriptions and 8,199,443 individual copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines distributed by Jehovah’s witnesses. They also placed 3,887,207 bound books and 10,763,408 copies of booklets.
18. (a) How well did the work go in the back-call field? (b) How many congregations were formed during the year?
18 Think of the good done through the back-call work. Back-calls on interested people increased by 563,287. There were 549 more congregations established throughout the world, making a total of 21,557. More circuit and district servants were sent around to visit these congregations, and these special servants totaled 1,870.
19. What interesting figures do we have on the Memorial?
19 In order to keep up with the worldwide demand for literature the Bethel families have grown to 1,376 members in number. More persons came to the Memorial celebration in 1961 than the year before. There were 1,553,909 in attendance, an increase of 34,088. However, those partaking of the emblems decreased, as some of the remnant through death finished their earthly course. This year 627 fewer partook of the emblems, which means there was a total of 13,284 partaking of the bread and wine at the Memorial celebration in 1961.
20. In what ways did literature production increase?
20 The Society, anxious to spread good news, had one of its biggest printing years because of the demand for Bibles, books and magazines on the part of the brothers in all parts of the world. The total Watchtower production reached 95,296,708 in 61 languages, and the total Awake! production reached 88,969,505 in 23 languages. The Society also printed 5,851,105 Bibles and other bound books and 13,084,075 booklets. It is interesting to note, too, that up to the present time the Society has printed literature in 146 different languages, and there are some tracts being prepared now in other languages, which it hopes to get out during the 1962 service year.
21. Because of contributions to the work, what was the Society able to do to advance the work?
21 The Society was pleased to enroll more special pioneers during the year, and now we have 6,377 special pioneers, including the missionaries, working in 153 different lands of the earth. This is an increase of 487. The Watch Tower Society, due to contributions to the work, was able to help these brothers and sisters to the extent of $2,328,819.69.
22. In what other way did Jehovah’s witnesses show their energeticalness and courageousness?
22 Jehovah’s witnesses, in addition to going from house to house, making backcalls and holding one-hour Bible studies in the homes of interested people, arranged for 727,482 public meetings to be held in different languages in all parts of the world. All of this bespeaks their energeticalness and courageousness in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom in all parts of the world. All of this was done in spite of opposition, persecution and many hardships. Jesus would be doing the same thing today if he were on the earth. Jehovah’s witnesses are imitators of Christ because they have faith in him. This faith keeps them on the move. Peter, one of Jehovah’s witnesses, had such faith too and he said: “According to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Pet. 1:3) Jehovah’s witnesses would like all people to have that hope, and that is why they have become imitators of Christ Jesus and show courage in preaching the good news in these last days of this wicked system of things.
23. What are those claiming to be Christians encouraged to do now?
23 Do you claim to be a Christian? Do you love the good news of God’s kingdom? Then why not associate with Jehovah’s witnesses in doing the simple work the apostles did, going from house to house, making back-calls, conducting Bible studies and preaching the good news under all kinds of adverse conditions? Paul outlined how you can show your Christian courage when he said: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.”—1 Cor. 11:1.
[Chart on page 22-25]
1961 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLD WIDE
(See bound volume)