Mature Ministers Can Aid Others
“Feed my lambs. . . . Shepherd my little sheep.”—John 21:15, 16.
1. Why is Jesus an example we can safely follow?
IN THE suffering that Jesus Christ endured because of keeping integrity to God and in the keen interest he manifested with regard to making known his Father’s purposes, he set a fine example for all who would become his followers. They could safely model their lives after his, because he did what was right in the eyes of God. In the third year of Jesus’ ministry, Jehovah voiced his approval of him by saying within the hearing of Peter, James and John: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.” (Matt. 17:5) They did listen to him, and they followed his instructions to let the light of truth shine out for the benefit of others. About thirty years later Peter wrote a letter in which he encouraged all Christians to follow Jesus’ leadership as they had. “In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 Pet. 2:21.
2. (a) What did Jesus demonstrate by engaging in the ministry? (b) Why does the New World society help people to preach?
2 By engaging in the Christian ministry and by aiding his disciples to engage in it, Jesus demonstrated what he told them about letting their light shine. He made it evident that everyone who would become his follower must take up the Christian ministry. They must follow his example by preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. To fail in this would mean to fall short of being a Christian. It would be doing what Jesus said not to do—covering over a light with a basket. Because the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses recognizes this obligation as resting upon Christians, it strives to help all who come within it to preach. This requires its mature ministers to follow Jesus’ example of aiding others to become profitable servants of God.—Matt. 5:14-16.
3, 4. Explain how Jesus’ command to Peter at John 21:15, 16 applies to mature ministers today.
3 When Jesus stood on the shore of the sea of Tiberias after his resurrection, he gave a solemn command to Peter that applies to all spiritual shepherds in Jehovah’s organization. He said: “Feed my lambs. . . . Shepherd my little sheep.” (John 21:15, 16; 1 Pet. 5:1-4) His sheep are the people of good heart condition toward Jehovah that respond to the preaching of Christian truths. As newly born lambs are weak and are in need of being regularly fed in order to grow strong, so spiritual lambs are weak in the faith. They are just newly associated with Jehovah’s organization and need to be fed spiritually by those who are mature ministers in it. So his instruction to mature ministers is to “feed my lambs.” They must help the lambs to grow in knowledge of God’s Word of truth and to build a firm faith.
4 Jesus also instructed mature ministers to “shepherd my little sheep.” Shepherding means much more than feeding the sheep. It means to have charge over them, caring for their various needs, guarding them from danger, gathering them together and leading them in the way that is best for them. The responsibility of a mature minister in Jehovah’s organization, therefore, does not end with his providing spiritual instruction for persons of good heart. He must be willing to guard them against loss of faith because of attacks by persons who hate the truth and because of the atheistic influence of the world. This he can do by preparing them in advance to anticipate such opposition and by supplying them with Scriptural arguments so they can make a defense before those who demand a reason for their hope. He will also gather these sheep into Jehovah’s organization and will lead them into the Christian ministry. To others in Jehovah’s organization that might become spiritually sick and tend to fall behind the advancing organization, he will also give whatever spiritual aid he can. In this way mature ministers can shepherd the sheep.—1 Pet. 3:15.
DESIRE FOR MATURITY
5. Why cannot a person remain as a spiritual baby?
5 All who come within Jehovah’s theocratic organization should earnestly desire to attain spiritual maturity. They cannot always remain as spiritual babes. That would be dangerous as it would make them constantly vulnerable to hardships and attacks by the wolves of the world. To endure severe trials they have to grow up to spiritual maturity and strength. The apostle Paul advised: “Stay awake, stand firm in the faith, carry on as men, grow mighty.” (1 Cor. 16:13) A baby wants to sleep, not stay awake. How can a Christian receive God’s approval if he is like a sleepy baby and is not awake to service privileges? How can he follow closely in Jesus’ steps if he keeps crawling like a baby and makes no effort to learn how to walk like a mature man? How can he stand firm in the faith if he refuses to learn how to stand? How can he carry on as a spiritually mature man who is mighty in the faith when he makes no effort to grow out of spiritual babyhood? Mature ministers will strive to aid him, but, if he has no desire to grow to spiritual manhood, it is very unlikely that he will survive to see God’s promised new order of things.
6. How are mature ministers of great value to Jehovah’s organization?
6 Persons who strive diligently to achieve spiritual maturity are valuable additions to Jehovah’s organization. They can be of real service to him. Mature Christians appreciate their responsibility to preach and to teach as Jesus did. No one needs to call on them at their homes to encourage them to participate in the ministry or to attend congregational meetings. They have the initiative, the inner drive, to do this without being prodded. Positions of responsibility are gladly accepted by them, and they are capable of caring for them. By their faithful and zealous service, they manifest their Christian love and their faith.—Jas. 2:17, 18.
HOW TO ATTAIN MATURITY
7. What relationship does study have with spiritual maturity?
7 Spiritual maturity is not something that comes automatically with dedication or with the reading of a few Bible-study aids. It comes with time, with continued study of the Scriptures and with experience in the ministry. When a person is a spiritual lamb or baby, he learns the elementary things of God’s Word, the milk of the Word. To grow to maturity he must advance beyond the elementary things to the “deep things of God.” (1 Cor. 2:10) This requires personal study in addition to study of the Scriptures with a group. Before attending a group study, he should read the portion that is due to be considered, underlining important points, looking up the scriptures cited and reading the verses surrounding them to get the setting clearly in mind. By contributing comments during the group study he helps to impress the information upon his own mind. Regular Bible study with a group and by himself at home contributes to his spiritual growth.
8. Why is activity in the ministry an important factor in attaining maturity?
8 What the person learns from his study of God’s Word he must use in the Christian ministry. If a young lamb were to lie in the sheepfold all the time, eating but not exercising, it would become weak and sickly. Exercise is an important factor in its growth and health; the same is true with spiritual lambs. For their spiritual health and growth they need regular activity in the ministry. This also can be said of Christians who have been in the organization for some time but who are spiritually weak. It was with good reason that Paul wrote: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Tim. 4:16) The Christian who does not pay constant attention to his teaching by engaging regularly in the Christian ministry cannot expect to be a fruitful minister, much less to have a firm footing on the road to salvation. He becomes one who needs aid from a mature minister who does pay attention to the ministry.
9, 10. How does the congregation have a maturing influence?
9 Splendid training is provided by the congregation, and it has a maturing influence on a person. The congregation’s theocratic ministry school, for example, teaches him to study and to express himself coherently and convincingly. It trains him to be a flexible teacher, capable of teaching large groups of people as well as individuals. It tests his knowledge of Scriptural truths so he can see where he is weak and in need of further study. In this school mature ministers can be very helpful to weak ones who find student talks difficult by aiding them in preparing and delivering the talks.
10 Whatever assignment a person may receive from the congregation, whether for the ministry school or for a service center or for a congregation meeting, he should accept it and do his best with it. Congregation assignments contribute to his spiritual growth and bring benefit to others. By means of them he is able to show love for his brothers and for Jehovah’s organization. Willingness to accept them leads to greater privileges of service.
11. How does a Christian show spiritual maturity in his life?
11 The Christian who has attained spiritual maturity applies in his life the things that he learns from his study of God’s Word. When confronted with a fleshly temptation that is regarded as unclean or immoral by Jehovah, the mature Christian will recall the instructions of the Scriptures: “Flee from fornication.” (1 Cor. 6:18) “Flee from idolatry.” (1 Cor. 10:14) “Flee from the desires incidental to youth.” (2 Tim. 2:22) Do not “behave indecently.” (1 Cor. 13:5) He will vigorously resist the temptation and fight to maintain moral cleanness. He can help others do the same by timely counsel. In his relationship with his brothers he will exercise the quality of love by being long-suffering and kind, not keeping account of injury. (1 Cor. 13:4, 5) He will not lie, steal or murder. (Prov. 14:5; Eph. 4:28; Ex. 20:13) The many things that mark the world as repulsive in the eyes of God he will cease to do. By applying in his life the things that he learns from God’s Word he will be putting on a “new personality” that is “created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Eph. 4:22-24) He will be modeling his life after Christ’s.
HOW MATURE MINISTERS CAN AID OTHERS
12. (a) What is needed for the aid a mature minister gives to others to be successful? (b) Explain how he bears the burdens of others.
12 The success of any aid that a mature minister gives to others depends to a great extent upon how he gives that aid. Unless he shows patience and exercises love and kindness his assistance will not accomplish much. It might even stunt the other person’s growth. Christian love is needed to help others. It is needed to do what Paul said: “Go on carrying the burdens of one another, and thus fulfill the law of the Christ.” (Gal. 6:2) This does not mean to carry another person’s load of responsibility to serve God or the burdens of his personal life. Those are things he must bear himself. But the mature Christian can lovingly help him with spiritual problems that are burdens for him.
13. What should be taken into consideration?
13 When giving aid to another person so that he might become stronger in the ministry, the mature minister must take into consideration his personal problems that could make it difficult for him to engage regularly in the ministry or to attend all meetings of the congregation. Perhaps he lives in a home where he is the only one who is striving to walk closely in Jesus’ steps. If his mate opposes him, he has a difficult burden to bear and needs understanding by the mature minister who is seeking to help him. Or he might have a job that requires him to work long hours or odd hours. It is not for the mature minister to tell him how to order his personal life so he can be more active in the ministry, although he can make tactful suggestions. The helpful minister can strive to build up his appreciation for the ministry and for the comforting truths we are privileged to bring to the people. He can give the weak one assistance whenever possible, and in time the person may become strong enough to resolve his personal problems so that fuller participation in theocratic activities will become possible.
14, 15. (a) What should be the purpose of friendly calls on spiritually weak persons, and what should they include? (b) Mention some things that could be used in a Scriptural discussion.
14 Friendly calls can be made at the home of the weak person with the purpose of encouraging him. The mature minister will defeat his purpose in calling if he proceeds to scold the weak one for missing meetings or for being irregular in the ministry. Instead, he should give him an upbuilding Scriptural discussion with the objective of strengthening his faith and appreciation for the truth. In the discussion he should stress the importance of personal study and regular Bible reading. These are big factors in building up appreciation. When it has been developed, the person will have the necessary inner drive that will move him to attend congregational meetings and to participate in the ministry regularly. He will not have to be reminded of these Christian necessities.
15 The discussion could include a consideration of Galatians 6:9. The objective would be to impress upon the weak sheep the need to continue doing what he knows to be right in the eyes of God. The mature minister can help him to see that the promises Jehovah has made apply to those who do “not give up in doing what is fine.” Those who “continue loving” Jehovah, as James 1:12 says, are the ones to whom he will ultimately give the promised gift of life. What is said at Hebrews 2:1; 3:14 and Heb 10:25 would also be helpful.
16. How long should aid be given to a new person in the New World society, and why that long?
16 All mature ministers must realize that the initial vigor manifested by a person when he first begins to associate with Jehovah’s organization will die unless personal assistance is given until he is well established in the truth. Aid must not stop when he makes a dedication to God and the minister ceases reporting any further time spent in teaching him. Until he has “a tight grip on the word of life,” a home Bible study should continue to be held with him. (Phil. 2:16) This is the best way to help him grow to maturity. In the case where a mature minister is giving aid to a Christian who is weak because of spiritual sickness, he might find it advisable to consider reestablishing a home Bible study with him to help that person regain spiritual strength. But the circumstances would have to determine whether that would be the type of help needed.
TRAINING FOR THE MINISTRY
17. (a) Why should a new person not be pushed into the ministry? (b) How can a mature minister aid a new one to appreciate the ministry?
17 Unsteady lambs can easily fall if they are pushed, but if they are encouraged to follow, they can keep on their feet and gain strength. So too a spiritual lamb should not be pushed into the Christian ministry. It is a work that is to be done voluntarily as an expression of a right heart condition. The mature minister should aid him to appreciate what a grand privilege it is, helping him to realize the good he can do for others by engaging in it. He can aid him to see how it is an expression of neighbor love. He should point out how the Christian ministry is a means for bringing praise to Jehovah God and for participating in the work Jehovah purposed to be done at this time. The need for such activity should be explained, pointing out how it benefits not only those who listen but also those who do the preaching. Some field experiences could be related from time to time—personal ones as well as some from the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The spiritual lamb will benefit from hearing how persons like himself in other parts of the world are successfully engaging in the ministry. So the ministry should not be viewed by the unsteady lamb as being impossible for him.
18, 19. (a) Explain how a new person can be helped to get started in the ministry. (b) Why should a person not be invited into the ministry until he has made progress in his study of the truth?
18 After a time the mature minister can invite the new sheep to accompany him on a Bible study. He can encourage him to make comments by asking for his opinion on something about which the minister knows that he has previously expressed himself. After taking him on this study for a few times the mature minister can suggest, while on the way home, that they make a call on an interested person. By gradually increasing the number of such calls after a study, the new person becomes acquainted with the great importance of calling back on interested persons, and he sees firsthand how the ministry is benefiting others.
19 After a time the person can be invited to go with the minister from door to door to observe how the ministry is carried on in that fashion. His being invited into the ministry should not be done until he has made progress in the truth and shows evidence that he is in full accord with the truths he has been learning. It would be improper to invite someone to engage in the Christian ministry who is not in harmony with what Jehovah’s organization teaches. How could he be a representative of it? He must first learn and believe before he can preach. Jesus did not start in the ministry persons who were not in full harmony with his teachings.
20. Explain how help can be given to another person in delivering a sermon at the doors.
20 The mature minister should aid the new one to progress to the point of giving a sermon at the doors of other people. This can be done by helping him to prepare a short sermon and by rehearsing it with him until it is well in mind. As they preach from door to door, the mature minister can give kind counsel to the new one on the way he delivers the sermon. The most effective way to counsel is to mention only one weakness at a time and then demonstrate the counsel given. As the person makes progress, he can be encouraged to try giving the sermon at a door by himself. In this patient and loving manner persons can be taught to be more than silent worshipers of God. They can be aided to be public praisers of him and thus helped to walk closely in Jesus’ steps.
ACCOMPLISHING THE PURPOSE OF THE MINISTRY
21. How is the preaching being done by Jehovah’s witnesses accomplishing the purpose of the Christian ministry?
21 The preaching being done worldwide by the thousands upon thousands of ministers in the New World society is accomplishing, in these last days, the purpose of the Christian ministry. Jehovah’s name is being made known throughout the world; his judgments upon the present wicked system of things are being declared; the good news of the Kingdom is being proclaimed as a witness to the nations; people held captive to religious falsehoods are being released and their eyes opened wide to the revealing truths of God’s Word; and multitudes are being gathered into Jehovah’s theocratic organization. This grand work could not be done on such a scale if mature ministers did not unselfishly aid weak ones to grow to maturity. Aiding them is just as important in accomplishing the purpose of the ministry as is the bringing of new sheep into the fold.
22, 23. (a) Why are more mature ministers needed in the New World society? (b) What are the results when mature ministers aid others?
22 More and more mature ministers are needed to help the growing multitudes that are becoming part of the New World society. By all mature ministers aiding new and weak ones to maturity, the organization will have a steadily growing number of mature ministers capable of giving assistance to still others. In this manner it will be able to maintain a generally high level of maturity despite the continual influx of new people.
23 To Jehovah’s true worship these multitudes are now streaming from out of the nations, just as the prophet Isaiah foretold. (Isa. 2:2, 3) They are the good fruit of the Christian ministry. Associating with the anointed ones of Jesus’ congregation, they are forming an immense flock of Christian sheep who are joyfully saying: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:10) As they are trained in the ministry, they are turning to others and saying as Isaiah foretold: “Come, you people.” With the help they receive from mature ministers they grow up to be strong and vigorous praisers of Jehovah God. By attaining maturity themselves, they are able to form the strong framework of new congregations and to fill responsible positions of oversight in Jehovah’s organization. Here we see the good results that come from the aid that mature ministers give to others.
24. What should every mature minister in the New World society consider?
24 All who are mature ministers in Jehovah’s organization must carefully consider what they are doing to help others. Are some avoiding that responsibility and leaving it for a few to bear? By doing this are they not hindering rather than helping Jehovah’s organization to fulfill the purpose of the ministry? Are they not failing to follow Jesus’ steps closely? Each of these mature ministers has the responsibility not only of preaching but of aiding those who have responded to the Kingdom message. That is a vital part of the Christian ministry. Happy indeed are those mature ministers who recognize this and who humbly obey Jesus’ command: “Feed my lambs. . . . Shepherd my little sheep.”—John 21:15, 16.