Why Continue to Preach?
HOW often when going from house to house in their ministry Jehovah’s witnesses meet the question, “Why do you continue coming? We are not interested.” And in some territories where the majority of persons are definitely not interested, some who have been preaching a few years may themselves begin to ask the same question, “Why do I continue to preach? What is the use? People are not interested.”
Finding the right answers to these questions is vital. It means life for yourself and those who listen to you. (1 Tim. 4:16) It is the Creator, Jehovah God, who foretold the preaching work of our time, it is Jehovah who foretold that a growing crowd of men and women would take part in it, and it is Jehovah who has provided the purpose, the means, the incentive and his spirit to facilitate the accomplishing of the preaching work in our time.
It is true that the preaching of the good news has as one of its purposes the aiding of sincere persons to salvation, but that is not the only purpose. Hence, when many persons in a territory reject the message, this is no reason to quit. The preaching work today has many purposes: (1) aiding those who hear to gain salvation, (2) giving Jehovah’s servants on earth an opportunity to demonstrate their love and to prove their integrity, (3) preaching a message of warning to all men concerning God’s coming execution of judgment against wrongdoers, and (4) publicizing and vindicating the great name and purpose of Jehovah God throughout the world.
AIDING OTHERS TO SALVATION
That the preaching activity is a means of salvation to those who will hear is clear both from Joel 2:28-32 and Romans 10:13-15, where it is foretold that those who call on the name of Jehovah will be saved, and in order for men to do this someone must preach to them. So the burning desire to aid other men to get saved should be an incentive that encourages Jehovah’s witnesses to continue preaching. And when sincere persons respond and seek to learn God’s will, this is all the encouragement the Witnesses need to continue. But what if one does not get these positive results, is unable to have good discussions with people? First, the Witness should analyze his own teaching methods and endeavor to improve such. He will ask if he is well prepared to give good sermons. Is he friendly, enthusiastic at the door? Does he give the other person a chance to speak and does he respond to what the other person has said? Are his words always upbuilding? That much depends upon the one preaching as to whether he will get good results is shown in the advice to Timothy to employ the “art of teaching.”—2 Tim. 4:2; 2:24, 25.
The Christian witness will remember too that people who are not interested or even opposed to hearing his message today may react otherwise the next time he calls. The repeated visits by Jehovah’s witnesses with their faith-inspiring words and works can gradually build up a picture of God’s purposes in the mind of the hearer and so arouse interest. Also, world conditions change and the lives of individuals are constantly going through changes that give rise to new attitudes, all of which can result in a favorable reaction to the preaching of the good news. But if Jehovah’s witnesses were to stop preaching from house to house merely because a majority are opposed, there would be no opportunity for these persons to benefit from their change of mind. So we must continue to “search out who . . . is deserving.” (Matt. 10:11) The number of persons newly associating with Jehovah’s witnesses each year at their assemblies, public talks and other special meetings shows that there are thousands upon thousands yet to be gathered. To stop preaching because many now reject the message would in a sense be a passing of judgment upon all these deserving ones as undeserving. May we never do that.
PROOF OF LOVE AND INTEGRITY
Another purpose of witnessing is to give the Christian an opportunity to demonstrate his love for Jehovah and his fellowman, a chance to prove his integrity under testing. To gain God’s approval, one must be thankful for life and its blessings. Thankfulness produces love for God, and this motivates the Christian to have freeness of speech in telling of God’s goodness. “This is how love has been made perfect with us, that we may have freeness of speech in the day of judgment.” (1 John 4:17) Surely it is the quality of love that motivates persons to carry out the command: “Sing to Jehovah, bless his name. From day to day tell the good news of salvation by him. . . . Ascribe to Jehovah the glory belonging to his name.”—Ps. 96:2-8; 115:1.
But what about those who may worry because they feel they are lacking in thankfulness and love? These should form the habit of reflecting on the marvelous blessings they have received from God—conscious existence, thinking ability, sight, hearing, and many others. Such meditation causes one to grow in love for God. Also, continued preaching, combined with self-examination and aid by God’s spirit, helps one to purify his motives and cultivate love. Though continued preaching can become a trial, we should remember that trials can result in endurance, which can ‘make us complete in all respects, not lacking in anything.’ (Jas. 1:3, 4) “Let us exult while in tribulations, since we know that tribulation produces endurance; endurance, in turn, an approved condition; the approved condition, in turn, hope, and the hope does not lead to disappointment; because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy spirit, which was given us.” (Rom. 5:3-5) “Pursue love” say the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 14:1; 1 Tim. 6:11, 12; 2 Tim. 2:22) Love is a quality we can cultivate by our “contributing in response all earnest effort.” (2 Pet. 1:5-7) It is demonstrated by our obedience to the truth.—1 John 5:3.
A MESSAGE OF WARNING
A third reason for continuing to preach even though opposed is to warn those who will not change of the coming judgment. Even if they have taken their stand, they must be continually warned. A judgment message should be preached. The majority of persons may not want to hear. They may want to shut out the judgment message and thereby retain their “peace”; yet they must be made aware of their responsibility. They may view this as ‘disturbing their privacy,’ as did the Israelites who tired of Isaiah’s preaching and of whom it is written: “It is a rebellious people, . . . sons who have been unwilling to hear the law of Jehovah; who have said to the ones seeing, ‘You must not see,’ and to the ones having visions, ‘You must not envision for us any straightforward things. Speak to us smooth things; envision deceptive things. Turn aside from the way; deviate from the path. Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease just on account of us.’” (Isa. 30:9-11) But the preaching of God’s coming judgment must continue so that their disregard of his purposes and laws comes to full growth.
We are to preach not only “good news to the meek ones” and “the year of good will on the part of Jehovah” but also “the day of vengeance on the part of our God.” (Isa. 61:1, 2; Rev. 14:6-12) Like Ezekiel, Jehovah’s witnesses must continue to preach to persons “whether they will hear or will refrain,” even in the face of opposition. “They will not want to listen to you, for they are not wanting to listen to me . . . You must not be afraid of them, and you must not be struck with terror at their faces.” (Ezek. 2:5-7; 3:4, 7-9) The same prospects of indifference and opposition were experienced by Isaiah and Jeremiah. (Isa. 6:9, 10; Jer. 1:17-19) Yet these three prophets mentioned continued preaching in the face of opposition for at least 22, 43 and 67 years respectively.
MAKING KNOWN JEHOVAH’S NAME AND PURPOSE
And finally, in connection with these reasons, our fourth purpose for the preaching work to be considered here is the most important of all, namely, the making known of Jehovah’s name and purpose. This is emphasized in the expression, “They will have to know that I am Jehovah,” which appears in Ezekiel’s prophecy at least sixty times. Jehovah’s declaration in Exodus 9:16 must be fulfilled in the time of the end; his name is to be “declared in all the earth.” It is necessary to continue preaching so that all persons continue to hear of Jehovah, his name, his loving qualities and merciful provisions for man as well as his requirements of righteousness and justice. Even though the majority want to forget about Jehovah, it is the job of his witnesses to maintain public awareness of the Creator. The good news of the Kingdom is a witness to all men and a basis for their judgment, so this must continue to be preached by the worldwide society of Jehovah’s witnesses, who demonstrate their love for Jehovah and their zeal for righteousness by doing this work. The words “You are my witnesses” apply to dedicated Christians, spiritual Israelites, in this time of the end. (Isa. 43:10-12) Never may any of us be like a faithless witness who refuses to testify for truth and righteousness at the crucial point of an important court case because of fear of opposition. This does not mean that at the doors we will insist on talking when persons definitely say they are not interested, but it does mean we will continue to call back to see if we can arouse interest.
Today our preaching is accomplishing its purpose. Thousands of persons each year are being gathered out of this world and taught how to serve Jehovah and gain everlasting life, and there is still a great potential of persons to be gathered. Whether others wish to listen or not, whenever the name of Jehovah is mentioned, people automatically think of a people who go from house to house preaching of everlasting life on a paradise earth, the last days, Jehovah’s destruction of the wicked at Armageddon, the end of the appointed times of the nations and the second presence of Jesus Christ beginning in 1914. They think of a people who hold fast to the Bible’s moral standards with regards to marriage and divorce, family life and business; a people who maintain neutrality in the political and military affairs of this world; a people who practice Christian love worldwide; a people who strive to maintain clean, pure worship and hold fast to their religion at the risk of their freedom or their very lives; a people who hold fast to God’s requirements as to the use of blood. This proves that the conduct as well as the preaching of Jehovah’s witnesses makes men responsible for knowing the will of God. It is just as it was with Noah, whose godly conduct and works of faith and preaching “condemned the world.”—Heb. 11:7.
But people today are constantly bombarded with propaganda of all sorts, political, commercial and otherwise. If Jehovah’s name were not constantly held before them they would soon forget it in favor of the names of well-known personalities in the political, sports or entertainment fields. If the preaching were to stop, the message of God’s kingdom would soon be forgotten by people subjected to wave after wave of propaganda, ranging from empty political generalities to banal drama and toothpaste commercials. But let the preaching continue, and whenever there is an unexpected knock at the door, people will think it may be Jehovah’s witnesses. When they think of Jehovah’s name they think of his purpose and coming judgments, even if only to ridicule.
A part of Jehovah’s merciful provision for salvation is the maintaining of a continued preaching campaign. Even those who do not believe must be told of the impending execution of divine judgment. And it is the privilege of Jehovah’s witnesses to do this preaching. Yes, that is why Jehovah’s witnesses must continue to preach until Jehovah himself brings about the termination of this work at Armageddon. “How long, O Jehovah?” As stated in Isaiah 6:11, 12: “Until the cities actually crash in ruins, to be without inhabitant, and the houses be without earthling man, and the ground itself is ruined into a desolation.”