Overseers, Fully Accomplish Your Ministry
1. What would not qualify one for the position of overseer in the congregation?
DOES it happen to be your privilege to be an overseer in Jehovah’s organization today? Thank Jehovah for that privilege! Did you get that position because of your popularity in the congregation? Was it because of a choice salary that you were guaranteed each month, or was it because of your special education or eloquent speaking? You know it was none of these things that put you in this position. No, for unless you met the qualifications set forth in God’s Word for the position of overseer, you would not be there. Popularity does not qualify anyone. Money can be no attraction to anyone unselfish. The best of theological seminary education would be useless, and how empty your words would be, however eloquent, if you were only interested in tickling the ears of the congregation!
2. What really does qualify one for a position of oversight in the congregation, and what has been the result of good leadership in past years?
2 You, therefore, are in your position of service because God’s visible organization, under the direction of his holy spirit, has seen fit to “lay hands upon you,” yes, appoint you to serve. Your striving for greater maturity and applying yourself in the ministry have resulted in this greater responsibility. It is a serious one, in that you answer to the holy spirit at every turn, and yet it is a happy one. Why? Because, in Jesus’ words, which the apostle Paul quoted to the overseers at Ephesus, “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) Good oversight, careful attention to those who are less mature, seeing that the congregation is kept clean for true worship and that appreciation for the ministry remains strong, are all factors that are essential for a healthy, happy flock on the increase. Jehovah’s organization today, like his organized people in the past, is prospering because those in it wish with all their hearts to work together in unity for the accomplishment of his will. They are increasing, not only in numbers, but in quality. Better field ministry, with brief, pointed sermons at the doors, has resulted in a more efficient preaching of the good news. The training program for assisting less experienced publishers has improved the quality of the work. The overseers are giving good attention to organization and are visiting those who need help to encourage them spiritually.
3. Why is much admonition given to overseers by Jehovah and his organization?
3 Most overseers are doing a very good job, and their good works are not going unnoticed by Jehovah or by their fellow witnesses. “For God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering. But we desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end, in order that you might not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb. 6:10-12) It is because the overseer and his assistants must “show the same industriousness” down to the end that so much counsel is given in The Watchtower, in Kingdom Ministry, at assemblies and at other times in regard to faithfulness in positions of oversight.
4. Why is it necessary for overseers to accomplish their ministry fully?
4 How fitting the counsel to the overseer Timothy: “You, though, keep your senses in all things, suffer evil, do the work of an evangelizer, fully accomplish your ministry”! There were strong reasons for overseers in Timothy’s day to accomplish their ministry fully, and the same reasons hold true today. The apostle tells us in the same fourth chapter: “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.”—2 Tim. 4:3-5.
5. What is the meaning of “fully,” and what results when the overseer fully cares for his duties?
5 How is the overseer to accomplish his ministry fully? “Fully” means “in a full manner, to a full degree, completely, entirely, thoroughly.” If an overseer fully performs his ministry he leaves nothing unattended or only half done. He gives proper attention to all the responsibilities that are part of his ministry. When the overseer is enthusiastic, progressive and anxious to fulfill his responsibilities and is quick to respond to directions, the congregation will usually reflect the same spirit. The converse is also true. If the overseer is lacking in initiative, slow to follow through on instructions, the same spirit usually will be reflected in the congregation. First of all, the overseer must be a good minister in the field. He must know how to preach the good news efficiently, if he is to be a good teacher of others. More is required of the overseer, and thus there must be good field ministry plus good shepherding work on his part. “Indeed, everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him; and the one whom people put in charge of much, they will demand more than usual of him.”—Luke 12:48.
6. Why should the overseer not become discouraged if certain conditions of immaturity are manifest at times?
6 Is yours a small congregation? Is there a shortage of mature brothers to take the lead, and as a consequence does much responsibility rest upon you? Is progress somewhat slow or do the brothers respond somewhat slowly? Do not be discouraged. Jesus was not discouraged when there were only a few associated with him. With good oversight by him the numbers grew and so did maturity and their response to instruction in the truth. There is no reason for the overseer to feel that he is merely serving until someone else more qualified comes on the scene. Remember, holy spirit appointed you through Jehovah’s organization. Follow through faithfully on the requirements of the office.
7. How can the overseer work all his assigned duties into his schedule?
7 Fully accomplishing the ministry on the part of the overseer does not always require more time but requires time well spent. An overseer has a heavy responsibility and many duties to perform; but a steady, regular pace will get all accomplished within his weekly schedule. Foresight is required in order to see what is needed and to plan accordingly. The overseer should learn to delegate responsibility properly as he also does his own share, like faithful Nehemiah, who not only directed how the work should be done, but also shared in the work with his attendants. Take full advantage of all opportunities for accomplishing the things assigned.
8. What is a primary responsibility of the overseer toward those who are weak spiritually?
8 It is the responsibility of the overseer to visit those who need help and strengthen them spiritually. How refreshing to them is a discussion centering on God’s Word, or a recent article in The Watchtower or the blessings of a recent assembly! When can he do this visiting? Besides setting aside time to visit with these in their homes at appropriate times, he can use time for visiting at the service centers, before and after meetings, and while training publishers in the field service. By his knowing what is needed and the general circumstances of each one, he can make opportunities to fulfill this Christian responsibility resting upon the overseer.
9. How can the overseer go about assisting those who need encouragement and advice on problems with which they are faced?
9 The weaker ones have problems. While it is not the responsibility of the overseer to pry into the private affairs of others, yet encouragement and kind counsel by him will often help one who is becoming discouraged to cope better with his situation. Bring to bear God’s Word. It is powerful and has the answer to all our problems. The overseer is busy, and if he is in a fairly large-sized congregation, quite a few will wish to speak with him at meetings, especially if he is approachable and wants to help the brothers. This will require that he give priority to those who need to be seen; otherwise, some will take much of his time, and others, seeing that he is very busy, will hesitate to approach him. The overseer should never be too busy or too involved in other matters to speak with those who may be timid or hesitant about discussing their spiritual welfare or asking for help.
10. How can all in the congregation cooperate with those taking the lead in the congregation, and, besides encouragement, what is needed at times to insure unity?
10 The overseer must be adaptable to situations that arise. He must be kind and considerate, but yet at times it is necessary for him to admonish the disorderly. “Now we request you, brothers, to have regard for those who are working hard among you and presiding over you in the Lord and admonishing you; and to give them more than extraordinary consideration in love because of their work. Be peaceable with one another. On the other hand, we exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all. See that no one renders injury for injury to anyone else, but always pursue what is good toward one another and to all others.”—1 Thess. 5:12-15.
11. How should the overseer give attention to his spiritual welfare and his schedule for doing things?
11 A good overseer must keep strong in the faith himself and keep up-to-date on his responsibilities. He should set aside time regularly for private study and for preparing meetings, realizing that a good spiritual diet is very necessary for himself and a healthy flock. He cannot wait till the last minute to do things. This is procrastination and indicates that a good schedule is lacking. Not waiting till the last minute allows time to think things out and to look ahead and thus avoid any unwise moves. The overseer must be dependable and on time, which means too that the meetings should be on time. It should be the exception when meetings go over the allotted time. All in the congregation should know what to expect, so that they can cooperate. Good habits are contagious. If the overseer has a good routine and a good schedule, others will be inclined to follow.
12. To insure good organization, what is constantly required on the part of the overseer?
12 Thoroughness is required on the part of the overseer in arranging activities of the congregation. Ministerial servants are appointed to assist him. There must be close cooperation between all in positions of assigned duties. The overseer is to take the lead, and yet he is not a boss. On the other hand, he should be respected as the one chiefly responsible to direct the affairs of the congregation. He will need to work closely with his assistants and train them where necessary, so that their work is fully accomplished also. All parts of the congregation require inspection, checking, adjusting, exhorting, setting things straight, improving cooperation, smoothing out rough places, and so forth. All activities must move along smoothly, but not so fast or so coldly efficiently that the needs of the sheep are not taken into consideration.—1 Pet. 5:1-4.
13. How is individualized attention given to each one in the organization, and what can the overseer do to improve this arrangement?
13 Not dissimilar to the organizing of the Israelites under Moses, the congregation is broken down into groups of ten or more, with assistants to the overseer appointed to look after the spiritual needs of each group. Here individualized attention can be given. At these service centers a book study is held weekly and field activities are arranged from these key locations. A schedule has been suggested by the Society for the overseer to visit these service centers to check on their progress. As overseer, he will be looking to see how the group is progressing, both in spiritual knowledge and in preaching the good news of the Kingdom. The book study conductor is responsible to take the lead, and the overseer inspects how the study is conducted and how the group is being led in the field ministry. Are there any problems with respect to coverage of the territory with the message and following up the interest with back-calls and Bible studies, so that the “other sheep” are properly gathered? Is the group working together in unity? Is the training program operating efficiently? Perhaps the group is getting somewhat large and a new group needs to be formed. Then there may be a particular weakness in field activity or in the support of the study. The overseer can kindly speak with the group and to individuals as is needed to encourage greater activity and faithfulness.
14, 15. What additional responsibility is placed upon the overseer, as well as upon all associated, with respect to cleanness in the organization?
14 Fully accomplishing the ministry on the part of the overseer also requires diligence in keeping the organization clean. While the overseer and the two other brothers on the congregation service committee have the primary responsibility to look after the cleanliness of the organization, a responsibility rests upon all in the congregation to keep any leaven from permeating the congregation and corrupting it. The committee should be “carefully watching that no one may be deprived of the undeserved kindness of God; that no poisonous root may spring up and cause trouble and that many may not be defiled by it; that there may be no fornicator nor anyone not appreciating sacred things, like Esau, who in exchange for one meal gave away his rights as first-born.”—Heb. 12:15, 16.
15 The overseer and his assistants will be careful not to pry into the personal affairs of others. Personal differences often can and should be settled by following the Scriptural procedure outlined at Matthew 18:15, 16. If necessary, a matter may need the attention of the congregation by means of its representative members, the committee, and this can be handled in harmony with Matthew 18:17. A strong and active congregation is fortified against the encroachments of wickedness.
16. How did Jesus illustrate the importance of taking care of Kingdom interests committed into one’s care, whether this be a large or small assignment?
16 The Fine Shepherd, Christ Jesus, pointed up the importance of overseers’ diligently accomplishing the work assigned, by means of an illustration. Three slaves were given minas with which to trade. The first slave by hard work was able to turn one mina into ten minas. He received words of commendation from the master: “Well done, good slave! Because in a very small matter you have proved yourself faithful, hold authority over ten cities.” The second slave received one mina and turned this into five minas. He too received a “Well done” and was given authority over five cities. A third received one mina but he was afraid to risk it or lose it; so he hid it. The master on return took it from him with a reprimand and gave it to the one having ten. This illustrates well the importance of improving, advancing and increasing Kingdom interests committed into our care.—Luke 19:15-27.
17. Why should overseers be diligent to care well for the trust committed into their care, and how did Jesus set a good example as an overseer?
17 Overseers particularly are responsible to look faithfully after the interests of the King here on earth as a trust, looking to the time when the Master will require an accounting of the results of their work. Your assignment may be heavy and at times you may become weary as you work diligently to accomplish what is required. On the other hand, your assignment may seem to you as being small and, as a consequence, it may receive little attention from you. Remember, the one who is faithful in little will be faithful in much. Care well for any and all responsibilities given to you by Jehovah, always looking to him for the strength and wisdom to do your job well. Jesus was a good example as an overseer in this regard. “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) Later in prayer to Jehovah he said, “I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do.”—John 17:4.
18. How did the apostle Paul set a good example as an overseer or steward in God’s organization?
18 The apostle Paul encouraged others to follow him even as he followed Christ. Discussing his stewardship, he said: “If, now, I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news! If I perform this willingly, I have a reward; but if I do it against my will, all the same I have a stewardship entrusted to me.” (1 Cor. 9:16, 17) Later, to Timothy in his last canonical letter he stated: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the due time for my releasing is imminent. I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith. From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day, yet not only to me, but also to all those who have loved his manifestation.”—2 Tim. 4:6-8.
19. What should be the attitude of all with respect to greater privileges in Jehovah’s organization, and what will be the reward to each one, depending upon how be submits to Jehovah’s direction as the great Overseer?
19 Overseers, prove faithful and fully accomplish your ministry as these who are good examples did. Assistant servants and conductors, without ambition and covetousness, reach out for greater privileges, standing always ready to assume more and more responsibility in the New World society. And, whether an overseer or a humble preacher of the good news, remember the admonition to the Hebrews by the apostle Paul: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among 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) The day of inspection is here. Jehovah is taking out of all nations those deserving of everlasting life, to live under the kingdom of his Son. This was pictured to John like a gleaming city, its gates remaining open to receive all who thirst after righteousness. “But anything not sacred and anyone that carries on a disgusting thing and a lie will in no way enter into it; only those written in the Lamb’s scroll of life will.”—Rev. 21:27.