Servants of God Full Time
1. (a) How many of Jehovah’s witnesses are full-time ministers? (b) What is God’s will for true Christians as shown by Jesus, and how did the early Christians respond to it?
ALL of Jehovah’s witnesses, who are baptized Christians, are full-time ministers. They have dedicated their lives to God to do his will, and, having studied the Bible, they know what that will is. Jesus Christ, as Jehovah’s Chief Witness, set the example for them. (Rev. 3:14) He was a preacher of the good news of the kingdom of God, and he took that message to the people wherever they were. (Mark 1:14, 15; Luke 8:1; 4:15, 16; 5:27) He trained his disciples to share in that work. Before leaving them he commissioned them to be witnesses of him “to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) They did not conclude that only a select few were to do this work, while the others looked on. Even secular historians who ridiculed Christianity testify that early Christians who supported themselves as “labourers, shoemakers, farmers” were, nevertheless, zealous preachers of the gospel.a The book A History of Civilization (by C. Brinton, J. Christopher and R. Wolff) reports: “The Christian was by no means content with the prospects of his own salvation. His acceptance of the will of God was not passive. He was from the first an ardent missionary, anxious to convert and save others.”
2. What evidence is there that that spirit is yet alive?
2 That spirit has not died out; it is yet alive among the modern-day Christian witnesses of Jehovah. They take note of Jesus’ prophetic declaration for our day, namely: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) In nearly two hundred lands Jehovah’s witnesses devote upward of 14,000,000 hours each month to this very work that Jesus foretold. And, in addition to their preaching, they also regularly attend and participate in congregation meetings.
3. How is it true that each baptized witness of Jehovah is a full-time minister?
3 Yet the preaching of the “good news” and the attending of meetings, even along with all the personal study and reading that one may do at home, does not fill the day of each one of Jehovah’s witnesses, does it? So how can it be said that they are all full-time ministers? Because every aspect of their lives is affected by their ministry. They may be secularly employed as laborers, farmers, office workers or in some other business, but they are, first of all, ministers of God. It is what they believe and teach as ministers that influences their choice of secular work, and this is what makes them conscientious workers. (Col. 3:22, 23) Their secular work may change, but not the ministry. Whatever they do is with an awareness that they are ministers of God. It influences their training of their children, their conduct when shopping in the market, when attending school, when engaging in recreation or sitting down to a meal. “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Cor. 10:31) Not only in speech, but also in conduct, they endeavor to ‘let their light shine,’ that others may, as a result of what they observe, glorify God. (Matt. 5:14-16; 1 Pet. 2:12; 2 Cor. 6:3, 4) So their being full-time ministers means that they are ministers of God twenty-four hours a day, every day. Is that the way you think of yourself—as a full-time minister of God?
4. (a) Are all of us able to do the same things, and to the same extent, to advance the interests of pure worship? (b) What motive in service on our part is well pleasing to God?
4 Of course, some may be in position to do more in certain ways to advance the interests of pure worship than others. Not all qualify to be overseers, nor do all excel as public speakers, but each one does make a valuable contribution to the spiritual welfare of the congregation if he does in real earnest what he is able to do. (Rom. 12:6-8) So, too, not all are able to devote the same amount of time to the field ministry, but if we publicly praise the name of God, not grudgingly or under compulsion nor because we are seeking to please men, but because our hearts overflow with gratitude to our loving Father in heaven, this is well pleasing to God.—2 Cor. 9:7; Heb. 13:20, 21.
IS PIONEER SERVICE FOR YOU?
5. (a) On what basis may some be inclined to judge whether they are pleasing to God, and why? (b) What ought to be taken into consideration in determining how much time one can devote to the field ministry?
5 Since the preaching of the Kingdom message is a prominent part of the life of a Christian minister, and one of which he keeps a record so as to make a report to the congregation, some may be inclined to judge whether they are pleasing to God simply in terms of the hours they devote to the field ministry. It is fine that they see the importance of that work; we all should. We need to ‘buy out’ time from other pursuits to devote to this vital work. The apostle Paul wrote to the congregation at Ephesus: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” But from what should we ‘buy out’ the time? Are we to sacrifice our own spirituality, cutting out personal Bible study and meeting attendance in order to preach? Are fathers to neglect their families? Are mothers to neglect their responsibilities to their husbands and their children in order to preach more? No; that is not the point. It may be that these necessary things can be better organized to make more room for the field ministry, but do not forget that all these other responsibilities are part of one’s life as a Christian minister. Paul goes on to say: “On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” (Eph. 5:15-17) And then in the following verses he shows that the “will of Jehovah” includes proper attention to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the members of one’s family. (Eph. 5:21–6:4) So, in ascertaining what one can do in the field ministry, one needs to take into consideration his entire life as a Christian and ask what course will truly result in the best spiritual condition for all in the household and so will bring the greatest glory to God.
6. (a) Why is it the right decision for most young people who have completed their secular schooling to enter the pioneer service? (b) How did one young brother recently respond to offers of scholarships for a college education, and why?
6 Some, on examining their situation, realize that the course that is truly consistent with their dedication to God is for them to be sharing in the field ministry full time, as pioneer ministers, devoting a hundred hours to preaching the “good news” each month. They have completed their secular schooling, are young, in good health and without family obligations or other responsibilities that have a prior claim on them. (Eccl. 12:1, 13) They do not choose to get established in a career in the business world, because they cannot see throwing in their lot with a system that God’s Word plainly says is ‘going out of business’ in the near future. So how do they react to “attractive offers” from the world? During his last year of high school one young brother, just a short time ago, was offered scholarships that would have completely paid for a college education. But he knew that success he might enjoy in the world would be, at most, short-lived. He called to mind the Bible’s counsel: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world . . . the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) Love for Jehovah and faith in His word of promise moved him to enroll as a pioneer.
7. (a) Why did a brother on the West Coast of the United States sell his home to enter the pioneer work? (b) What blessings have he and his wife enjoyed since then?
7 On the West Coast of the United States a married man was busy paying for his home. It required regular, full-time secular work, but he spent some time in the field ministry. Yet, being honest with himself, he realized that he was more concerned about his secular work and his home than he was with Jehovah’s service. He knew that, to please Jehovah, he had to improve his spirituality. (Matt. 19:21; 5:3) After careful consideration, he sold his home and he and his wife became pioneers. They began to enjoy the service as they never had before. Soon they were invited to share in special pioneer service where the need was greater, then to the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead for missionary training, and now they are serving in Colombia. Jehovah has richly blessed them for the faith they showed in enlarging their share in the preaching work.
8. (a) Mention some of the factors that might influence a mother’s decision as to whether she could pioneer and still properly care for her children. (b) What was the effect on their families in the case of two mothers who pioneered?
8 Others who have enrolled as pioneers have children to consider. In some cases it would not be possible to take on the responsibilities of a full-time pioneer minister and at the same time properly care for children. There are a variety of factors involved, including personal organization, one’s health, and the ages and traits of the children. But, in examining her own circumstances along with her husband, one mother felt that her becoming a pioneer, even for a time, would be a good thing for the spirituality of their entire family, and she reported that that is the way it turned out. Her preschool-age boy went with her in the service and thoroughly enjoyed it and her seven-year-old began asking when he could pioneer. Another mother who also has pioneered said: “Knowing that pioneering doesn’t excuse one from other obligations has made me a more conscientious wife and mother as well as a better housekeeper. In order to be fruitful in the ministry, pioneering has taught me that one must lean heavily upon Jehovah at all times.” Having a mother who was a pioneer minister proved to be a rich blessing to these families. Would that also be true in your case?
9. How did a mother with four children to raise by herself properly shoulder that responsibility and at the same time show how she felt about pioneer service?
9 In the case of a Witness living in Ohio the situation was different. She had the desire to pioneer, all right. But she became a Witness two years after her husband had left her with four youngsters to raise. She did not sidestep that responsibility, but diligently raised all four of those children to love and serve Jehovah God. Though she could not pioneer, she instilled the desire to share in full-time preaching in each one of her children. Each one of them spent between five and seven summer vacations in that full-time service and, on graduation from school, each one became a pioneer minister. Having faithfully cared for those family responsibilities, the mother too rejoiced to have the opportunity to enroll as a pioneer.
10. After trying for two years to arrange for convenient secular work so he could pioneer, what did one brother do, and what has been his experience since then?
10 The problem facing another Kingdom publisher was different from that. He felt that he could pioneer if he could only arrange for adequate part-time secular work. For two years he tried in vain to make such arrangements with his employer. Finally, he realized that he would never pioneer if he did not put his full trust in Jehovah. He turned in his resignation; but almost immediately his boss called him into the office and said that he thought he ought to get a sizable salary increase. Determined not to let materialistic pressures curtail his service to Jehovah, he stood firm. After four years he is still pioneering, still has the needed “sustenance and covering,” and has had the joy of seeing a new congregation with fifty publishers grow up in the territory where he serves.—1 Tim. 6:8.
11. How do many who are not able to pioneer nevertheless demonstrate their wholehearted devotion to Jehovah God?
11 There are many who, after honestly appraising their personal circumstances, do not find that they can be regular pioneer ministers, devoting one hundred hours each month to the field ministry. But this does not necessarily mean that they love God less. If their being ministers of God truly affects all their activities in life, they, too, are full-time ministers. When faced with pressures from the unbelieving world, they are just as firm for what is right as are their brothers and sisters who are able to devote more time to the field ministry. Their hearts are in Jehovah’s service, and they have a zealous share in it every month. They, too, are grateful to God that he has counted them worthy by permitting them to have a share in the ministry, and they ‘buy out the opportune time’ from other pursuits to seek first God’s kingdom.
12. (a) For what special service do many of Jehovah’s witnesses periodically enroll, and why? (b) When may a person share in vacation pioneer service?
12 Periodically, large numbers of these zealous ministers of the good news enroll as vacation pioneers for a period of two weeks or a month or more. It takes careful planning on their part and extra effort. They cherish that month in which they are able to devote a hundred hours to the field ministry, or seventy-five hours for the month if they are two-week pioneers. They may not be able to keep that pace all the time, but their love for Jehovah moves them to do it when they can. Many share in this activity during the month of April each year, when there is much special activity in the congregation. Others may do it during their vacation time or at regular intervals all year long. What blessings they enjoy as a result!
ACCEPTING THE CHALLENGE OF MISSIONARY SERVICE
13. (a) In the first-century Christian congregation, who were some that shared in foreign missionary work? (b) What experiences did they have, and how did they view their ministry?
13 In the first century of our Common Era there were some in the Christian congregation who were able to arrange their affairs to share in foreign missionary work. Among such were the apostle Paul, and his companions Barnabas, Mark, Silas, Luke and Timothy. It was not easy work, but there were rich spiritual rewards. In Philippi two of them were thrown into jail, but they were able to help both the jailer and his family to become believers. (Acts 16:25-34) Frequently travel in their territory was perilous, and Paul was endangered by highwaymen, flooding rivers and shipwreck. But he was grateful for God’s undeserved kindness to him, and he had deep love for those whom he was able to instruct in The Way. (1 Thess. 2:8, 19, 20; 4:1) His attitude was as recorded at Acts 20:24: “I do not make my soul of any account as dear to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received of the Lord Jesus, to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God.”
14. (a) In modern times, what privilege did a missionary couple enjoy in West Africa? (b) Why did not those who are now missionaries choose easier fields in which to serve Jehovah?
14 Similarly, there are those in modern days who, putting the ministry ahead of everything else in life, have become missionaries. One such missionary couple moved from the Caribbean islands to West Africa at a time when there were none of Jehovah’s witnesses there, and they stayed on for twenty-seven years, until there were over ten thousand actively praising Jehovah’s name. Many others have faithfully served for ten, fifteen or twenty years in missionary assignments. Those who have taken up missionary service might have chosen easier fields in which to serve Jehovah, but their heartfelt gratitude to God for his undeserved kindness to them moved them to say, as did the faithful prophet Isaiah: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isa. 6:8) They knew that the Kingdom good news yet had to be preached in other lands, and that the people there could never put faith in Jehovah and his kingdom if no one preached to them. (Rom. 10:13-15) On examining their circumstances in life, they realized that they could make the necessary adjustments to take up that service. Lack of faith did not deter them; they knew that Jehovah would fulfill his good promise to provide the things they needed. Indifference did not make them reason that, after all, God could use someone else to do the job; they were grateful to God for the privilege to be used by him. Love for Jehovah dispelled any fear, and they responded. Said one brother, many years after graduating from the Watchtower Society’s missionary school and taking up a foreign assignment: “When decisions have to be made, it is proper to count the cost, but he who decides for the Kingdom and its interests will never be disappointed.”
SERVING AT BETHEL
15. How is some work performed by those in Bethel service like that done by Tertius and Silvanus in the first century?
15 Some who have made that decision to put first the interests of God’s kingdom have been invited to serve at one of the Bethel homes, branch offices or printing plants of the Watch Tower Society. Here, too, they do work like that of their Christian brothers in the first century. Tertius was privileged to do scribal work, writing the inspired letter to the Romans at the apostle Paul’s dictation. (Rom. 16:22) Silvanus also recorded part of the Bible, at the apostle Peter’s direction. (1 Pet. 5:12) Today, instead of making just one copy at a time, brothers in Bethel service print and bind millions of copies of the Bible in many languages; and some are privileged to run printing presses on which Scriptural counsel provided through the “faithful and discreet slave” is turned out by the tens of thousands of copies every hour.—Matt. 24:45-47.
16. (a) In what respects is some Bethel service like that of faithful Stephen? (b) How does Bethel service prove to be a marvelous blessing for those who lay hold of it?
16 Others serving in Bethel homes do work like that of Stephen, who, as a waiter, ‘distributed food to the tables’ of those early Christians who were serving close together. That was no unimportant assignment, to be given to someone who could not do anything else. No, the Bible tells us that Stephen was appointed to that necessary work because he was “full of faith and holy spirit.” He was a trustworthy man who could be counted on to do the job well. But at the same time, Stephen was zealous in the field ministry and a powerful defender of the Word of God. When opponents tried to dispute with him, “they could not hold their own against the wisdom and the spirit with which he was speaking.” (Acts 6:1-10) Members of Bethel families around the world appreciate that fine example set by Stephen. They, too, are glad to do whatever work is assigned, and they realize that it is a great privilege to serve Jehovah and their brothers in this way. At the same time, they endeavor to have a full share in the field ministry, preaching from house to house and conducting Bible studies. Many of them are appointed servants in the congregations and public speakers. In such a theocratic atmosphere as exists at Bethel homes there is marvelous opportunity for spiritual growth. Grand privileges of service open up for willing servants. What a fine privilege to be serving in such a place during the remaining years of this old system of things!
17. Why should we encourage others in Jehovah’s service, and what opportunities are there for all of us to do so?
17 It should be the earnest desire of every dedicated Christian to see Jehovah’s name praised to the fullest possible extent in all the earth. We individually can have a share, and we can do much to encourage others to be praisers of Jehovah. The world is never going to offer such encouragement, because it lacks love for God. (Jas. 4:4; 2 Tim. 3:4; Matt. 24:12) But, in faithfulness to God, we owe such encouragement to others. Therefore the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Thessalonica: “Keep comforting one another and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11) As we study the Bible with others, we encourage them to become active praisers of Jehovah. Within the congregation, too, there are those who might have a fuller share in the service if they were given loving encouragement, perhaps in the form of an invitation to go along with you.
18. If any in our midst express a desire to pioneer, or to take up Bethel or missionary service, what should we do, and why?
18 In like manner, when there is opportunity to encourage anyone in our midst to enlarge his privileges of service, it is a matter of faithfulness to God on our part to offer such encouragement. Is someone thinking about pioneer service? By all means commend him. Is he talking about applying for Bethel service or missionary work? Build him up. Do not be like those brothers in Caesarea to whom Paul had to say: “What are you doing by weeping and making me weak at heart?” (Acts 21:13) Nor be like Peter on that occasion when Jesus turned to him and said: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.” (Matt. 16:23) Rather, rejoice that the hearts of your brothers are so filled with love for Jehovah that they are willing to be used more fully by him. Encourage them to move ahead, with full faith in Jehovah.
“KEEP PROVING WHAT YOU YOURSELVES ARE”
19. (a) To what extent should our lives be influenced by our dedication to Jehovah? (b) What evidences of advancement to maturity should we look for in ourselves?
19 If you are a baptized Christian, never lose sight of the fact that your entire life has been dedicated to God. It is not merely a few hours a week that you have vowed to devote to the doing of God’s will. Your entire life ought to reflect the fact that you are a minister of God. Changes in your way of thinking and doing things were required when you became a Christian, and it was love for Jehovah that moved you to make those changes. But that was only the start. As one continues to study God’s Word and personally experiences his goodness, one’s own love grows and is expressed more fully. Unless he becomes ‘dull in his hearing’ of God’s Word, he is going to press on to maturity. (Heb. 5:11, 12) Bible principles will more deeply influence all his decisions, and his desire to share to the full in the preaching of this good news of the Kingdom will grow stronger. Is this happening to you? To stay in the faith one must keep on growing spiritually. “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.”—2 Cor. 13:5.
20. What attitude on our part will make possible the accomplishing of the greatest good in Jehovah’s service?
20 Remember, the progress that you are able to make spiritually, and what you are able to accomplish in the service of the heavenly Father, do not depend solely on your ability. (2 Cor. 4:7) They are far more directly tied in with your willingness to be used by Jehovah. Have you learned to look to him for guidance in all that you do? Do you have full faith in his ability to sustain you as his servant? Do you appreciate fully that, while it is your privilege to plant and water in the ministry, it is God who makes it grow? (1 Cor. 3:6-9) If so, you will continue to respond to his leading. You will prove yourself to be a servant of God full time.
a Celsus, whose writings are referred to in The History of the Christian Religion and Church, During the Three First Centuries (New York; 1848), by Dr. Augustus Neander, translated by H. Rose.