Questions From Readers
● What qualifications should a person have in order to qualify as a book study conductor in a congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses?—A. S., U.S.A.
The Bible sets the standard. Whenever a brother is being recommended by the congregation service committee as a servant, they ought to open the Bible and view the individual in the light of what it says. First Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 through 7, discusses the overseer; then, starting in 1 Ti 3 verse 8 is information about “ministerial servants,” who include the congregation book study conductors.
Notice what it says: “Ministerial servants should likewise be serious, not double-tongued, not giving themselves to a lot of wine, not greedy of dishonest gain, holding the sacred secret of the faith with a clean conscience.” If, as the apostle Paul says here, the man is “serious” and holds “the sacred secret of the faith with a clean conscience,” he will be a person who is conscientious about the ministry, one who manifests exemplary spirituality. This is important, because it is the responsibility of the book study conductor to help build up the spirituality of each one in the group to which he is assigned.
In 1 Ti 3 verse 10 the apostle Paul goes on to say: “Also, let these be tested as to fitness first, then let them serve as ministers, as they are free from accusation.” It is not wise to be in a hurry about recommending anyone about whom there is any doubt. Let him “be tested as to fitness first”; before he is appointed, let him show that his decisions are always firmly based on the Scriptures. If there is some doubt about whether his secular work sets a good example for others, or if there is some other situation that raises questions, it is not necessary to write to the Watch Tower Society to ask if it is permissible to recommend him. Just follow the Scriptural admonition that he should be “free from accusation.” If he is not, then he should not be recommended for appointment by the Society to shepherd the flock of God.
The next 1 Ti 3 verse 11 says: “Women should likewise be serious, not slanderous, moderate in habits, faithful in all things.” Not that they were the ones who would be appointed as ministerial servants, however; because in the 1 Ti 3 twelfth verse Paul says that the ministerial servants, if married, would be husbands. So this comment in 1 Ti 3 verse 11 is simply pointing out that the sisters in the congregation too should endeavor to measure up to this fine Bible standard. While sisters are not appointed as ministerial servants, they may be asked to serve as substitutes until such time as there are qualified men available in the congregation.
Continuing in 1 Ti 3 verses 12, 13, we read: “Let ministerial servants be husbands of one wife, presiding in a fine manner over children and their own households. For the men who minister in a fine manner are acquiring for themselves a fine standing and great freeness of speech in the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.”
So, you see, a high standard is set for these ministerial servants. When a brother is being recommended, then, it is evident that the committee is obligated to do more than simply review the report on his Publisher’s Record card and have a casual chat about the individual. God’s Word must light the way. It is a fine thing to keep the congregation book study groups moderate in size, but mere numbers in attendance are not the primary consideration in determining whether a new group should be formed. It is of far greater importance to be sure that there is a Scripturally qualified brother available to care for the new group. For a time the group may be larger than we might prefer, but the time can be well used to train as assistants those who show good potential until they meet the Bible’s standard. Though there are a variety of factors to consider in organizing the congregation book studies, what the Bible says about who is qualified to serve always outweighs other considerations.