Were You Once a Kingdom Publisher?
IN THESE momentous “last days” it is a privilege to assemble together in Christian meetings and to share in preaching about God’s kingdom. (2 Tim. 3:1) Yet, not all who start out in this Christian activity continue in it. As happened with certain disciples in Jesus’ day who “went off to things behind and would no longer walk with him,” so today circumstances arise in the lives of some persons that cause them to stop associating with the Christian congregation and to quit preaching.—John 6:66.
In the last five years 323,986 new Kingdom publishers symbolized their dedication to Jehovah God by water baptism. Yet, during that period, there was an increase, on an average, of only 174,088 ministers. What happened to the other 149,898? When one subtracts the approximately 1 percent who normally die each year, it still leaves about 100,000 persons who have ceased to preach in just the past five years.* Are you one of these who used to be a Kingdom publisher? If so, what is the reason for it?
We are very much concerned about you who have left the congregation and slipped into inactivity. Jesus compared the situation to a man with one hundred sheep. When one sheep leaves the fold, how does the shepherd feel? Does he feel there is no great loss because he still has ninety-nine sheep? Not at all! Jesus said that he leaves the ninety-nine and travels into the wilderness to recover the lost one. That is how much the shepherd cares for it! We have a similar loving concern for you who have left the congregation fold.—Luke 15:4-7.
You may have already had personal visits from ones in the local congregation. The brothers call because they love you, and want to see you back in the congregation again. All of us desire that you enjoy Jehovah’s blessing and gain life in his new system of things. We understand that problems can arise and that these can make it difficult to serve God. But should we not expect Satan the Devil to do everything he can to prevent us from serving Jehovah? Yes, indeed! For he is like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone. (1 Pet. 5:8) He repeatedly tried to turn Jesus from the worship of God, so is it any wonder that he makes similar efforts to turn us away?
“ANXIETIES OF LIFE”
Perhaps it is difficult to pinpoint just what caused you to stop regularly associating with the congregation and to quit preaching the good news. It may simply be the increasing burden of what Jesus called the “anxieties of life,” including the problems, the tensions and the frustrations resulting from daily having to contend with this worldly system of things.—Luke 21:34.
In today’s highly competitive society you may have experienced increased responsibilities and more and more demands on your time. Perhaps added pressure has been exerted on you by your employer. Also, to meet rising expenses you may have felt it necessary to spend more time at secular employment. In addition, there may be maintenance of the home and garden, and greater responsibilities in connection with your family. Perhaps reduced health and energy accentuate the pressures, causing discouragement and depression. Has a similar set of circumstances resulted in your forsaking Christian responsibilities and slipping into spiritual inactivity?
Increasing pressures may have made you feel the need of relief from the weight of responsibilities, but was cutting yourself off from the Christian congregation the answer? Has it improved the situation? Ask yourself: ‘Am I really happier and more content now that I have ceased attending meetings and sharing in the ministry? Are I and my family better Christians? Is there more regular prayer to God, study of His Word and manifestation of the fruits of the spirit in our lives? Is the desire for “God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth” as strong as before? Is my hope for life on a paradise earth under Christ’s rule as real and meaningful as it once was?’
An honest consideration of such questions will no doubt reveal that genuine happiness and spirituality have diminished. But, really, how could it be otherwise? Did not Jesus say, “Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it”? (Luke 11:28) And would not failing to comply with God’s injunction to assemble with his people and to preach his Word cause you to lose the happiness of which Jesus spoke? (Heb. 10:25; 2 Tim. 4:2) What, then, would be the wise and proper course to take?
ACTION THAT IS NOW URGENT
It is clear: You need association with Christians of like precious faith. So go to the congregation meetings! Your brothers will be so glad to see you. Do not hesitate. Do not wait until next week, but go to a meeting this very week. It is Satan the Devil who weighs Christians down with anxieties and endeavors to extinguish their worship of God. He is the one who tries to make persons think that relief from burdens can come by forsaking Christian meetings and responsibilities. But do not listen to him; listen to Jesus.
Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples.” (Matt. 11:28, 29) Being a disciple of Jesus should be refreshing, not burdensome. Yes, it is pleasant, really delightful to assemble with fellow Christians. (Ps. 133:1) The requirements of Christianity do not weigh one down as would a heavy yoke. Each one does as he is able. Jehovah God and Jesus Christ know what you can do, and they are pleased with whatever willing service you are capable of giving.—Ps. 110:3.
Remember Mary, Lazarus’ sister. Shortly prior to Jesus’ death she was criticized because she anointed Jesus with some perfumed oil. However, Jesus did not criticize her for her simple, heartfelt service, but said: “Let her alone. Why do you try to make trouble for her? . . . She did what she could.” (Mark 14:6-8) The day before, Jesus had stationed himself in the temple and observed those making contributions. Instead of censuring a woman who offered very little, he praised her for her contribution. (Luke 21:1-4) She, too, did what she could. That is what Christianity calls for: Doing what you can.
Such Christian activity is not a burden from which to seek relief. Rather, it is a refreshment, for it brings contentment and satisfaction; we can have confidence that Jehovah is pleased with our efforts. So have joy and gain refreshment for your soul by doing what you can as a worshiper of Jehovah God! It is vitally urgent that you become an active Christian now! Why? Because the time is short. The end is near!
Note what Jesus said about it: “But pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
This day of God’s judgment is at hand! Time is quickly running out! Prompt action is necessary if that day is not to come suddenly upon you “as a snare.” So bestir yourself! Wake up spiritually! Regularly make supplication to Jehovah to help you escape adverse judgment. Then act in harmony with your prayers. The first step is to go to congregation meetings. Do not put it off; go this very week! A warm welcome awaits you.
STUMBLED OVER TEACHING
There are reasons why people leave the Christian congregation and discontinue offering God praise. In the first century Jesus presented some difficult-to-understand teachings to an audience assembled in Capernaum. What was the result? Why, the Bible record says: “Many of his disciples, when they heard this, said: ‘This speech is shocking; who can listen to it?’ . . . Owing to this many of his disciples went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him.”—John 6:60-66.
Did these disciples benefit in any way by leaving Jesus and quitting their Christian activity? Of course not! For, as Peter said when Jesus asked him if he, too, wanted to go: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.” (John 6:67, 68) By cutting themselves off from association with their Christian brothers, those disciples certainly lost true happiness and spirituality. The same is true today.
Think about it. If you have ceased to associate with the Christian congregation because of stumbling over some teaching, has it benefited you in any way? Have you found another place where there is such a rich table of spiritual food? Really, there is none! You need the Christian congregation and the association of those who love God and want to do His will. Be assured that Jehovah will see that his organization is properly directed, and that anything that is amiss will be corrected in his due time. So accept the invitation to the congregation meetings.
IMPROPER CONDUCT PROMPTS INACTIVITY
Another reason why some persons stop attending Christian meetings and sharing in the preaching work is that they have committed some wrong, or have slipped into a bad practice that is disapproved by God’s Word. They may feel that if they confess their improper conduct they will be disfellowshiped, so what is the use in returning to the congregation? However, in this they are mistaken, for if they are truly repentant and have demonstrated it by having discontinued their unscriptural practice, they will be warmly welcomed back by the brothers, just as was the prodigal son in Jesus’ illustration.
You will recall that that young man left his father’s house, squandered his inheritance and lived with harlots. But when he came to his senses, sincerely repented of his wrongdoing and returned home, his father “ran and fell upon his neck and tenderly kissed him.” There was much rejoicing, for, as the father said to his older son, “your brother was dead but has become alive, and he was lost but has been found.” (Luke 15:11-32) We expect similar experiences today.
Are you one of those who has engaged in improper conduct? And have you, like the prodigal son, come to your senses, realized the error of your way and given up such practices or are sincerely endeavoring to do so? Then, humbly return to your heavenly Father, Jehovah God. Have confidence in his mercy, “for he will forgive in a large way.” (Isa. 55:7) Come to the congregation meetings. There you will receive a warm welcome and needed assistance to live properly.
THE JOY WHEN ONE RETURNS
However, you may still dread returning to the Kingdom Hall because you fear facing the brothers again. You may feel that they will act coolly toward you. But was that the attitude of the shepherd when the one lost sheep was recovered, or of the father when his prodigal son returned? Not at all! Rather, there was rejoicing. Similarly today, persons who have returned to the congregation have been the cause of much rejoicing. Recently a sister, who had fallen away and seen very few of the brothers for five years, wrote:
“I became sick of the world and its lack of anything spiritual. My children seemed to grow more selfish every day and I was concerned about the lack of spirituality in the home. . . . [It was] arranged for me to go along to the next public talk, but at the last minute I could not face up to meeting the brothers. . . .
“Finally, I prayed for the first time in years to Jehovah to give me a little courage to go down to the Kingdom Hall, and on July 26 my sons and I eventually made it. The brothers were wonderful. They went out of their way to welcome us back, and that day became the highlight of our year. It was almost too much to take in one day, and I was very moved by it.”
You can be confident that a similar welcome is awaiting when you return to the congregation meetings. You will enjoy the warm Christian fellowship of your brothers and experience their loving interest. By gradually being built up spiritually through regular Bible study and meeting attendance, you will again find exquisite delight in praising Jehovah God with his people.—Rev. 7:9, 10.
One percent, each year, of the average number publishers, which increased from 884,587 to 1,058,675 the past five years, amounts to about 50,000 Kingdom publishers who have died in that period.