When You First Go to a Kingdom Hall
HAVE you considered attending one of the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses at their Kingdom Hall in your area?
No doubt you have noticed the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And, though you may not be one of Jehovah’s witnesses yourself, you may have thought that you would like to visit to see what takes place at the meetings and what the inside of the building is like.
Or maybe you have been having a free home Bible study with a minister of Jehovah’s witnesses and he has kindly invited you to attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Appreciating how much you have learned from your weekly Bible study, and with his assurance that the meetings at the Kingdom Hall are very beneficial and enjoyable, you may be planning to accompany him. We are certain that you will be made to feel most welcome.
‘But,’ you may be thinking, ‘just what will it be like? I do not really know what to expect.’
Such thoughts are understandable. Often a newcomer at a church in Christendom is startled, if not shocked, at what goes on in church. Yet, when you attend your first meeting at the Kingdom Hall you will realize immediately that it is quite different from services in such churches. We believe that you will find the differences to be refreshing and spiritually upbuilding.
Let us describe a visit to a Kingdom Hall. This will probably answer many of the questions you have.
THE BUILDING ITSELF
That the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses at the Kingdom Hall differ from the religious services in the churches of Christendom may be suggested to you by the building itself. There is no required size or style for the Kingdom Halls. They vary from place to place depending on the number of persons attending, the facilities available locally and the financial circumstances of Jehovah’s witnesses in the area. This is as it was in the first century. In ancient Rome a Christian congregation met in the home of Prisca and Aquila. In Ephesus Christian meetings were held in a school auditorium.—Rom. 16:3, 5; Acts 19:9.
Similarly, today some congregations meet in private homes, or rent space in an office building or public hall. Others have built their own halls. These are usually rather modest when compared with the ornate churches and cathedrals that are designed to awe people. But Jesus showed that such elaborate structures are not necessary, for “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Accordingly, at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses the people and the Biblical instruction provided are important, not the building itself.
When you enter the Kingdom Hall you will see further evidence of this emphasis on “worship with spirit and truth.” For example, there are no images or crosses on display. God’s Word says that true worship is not offered in connection with idols, not even of Jesus or so-called “saints.” Rather, we are told: “Guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) As to the cross, the Bible indicates that Jesus was put to death on a simple upright stake or crux simplex. (Acts 5:30; 10:39) There is no Biblical command or precedent to revere the instrument of Jesus’ death. Thus such religious appendages that are not in accord with Bible truth are not displayed at the Kingdom Hall, thus avoiding that which takes away from the worship “with spirit and truth.”
In this vein, you will also observe that there are no stained-glass windows, as in many churches, to help create a hushed aura of artificial sanctity. Instead, the spiritual atmosphere at the Kingdom Hall is genuine, springing from a real interest in true worship and Biblical instruction. And the light, natural surroundings in the hall encourage those present to be outgoing and friendly, not inhibited by a mysterious imposed solemnity.
A PLACE OF BIBLE LEARNING
Other aspects of the Kingdom Hall also illustrate that it is a place for Biblical instruction. For instance, you will observe that the entire congregation assembles together, with no segregation according to age. There is no room set aside for the children or for a “Sunday school.” Why is that?
From both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures it is plain that parents themselves have the primary responsibility to provide personal Scriptural instruction for their children. (Deut. 6:6, 7; Eph. 6:4) The father and mother are not to shirk that God-given assignment by turning their youngsters over to a “Sunday school teacher.” But what about meetings where deep spiritual matters are covered?
God told Israel that the Law, including its weighty parts, was to be read “in front of all Israel.” Jehovah said: “Congregate the people, the men and the women and the little ones . . . in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn.” (Deut. 31:11, 12) In this way the parents know what their children hear, and so can later assist them to understand the more difficult points. Unity develops when entire families sit together to consider God’s Word. And youngsters learn to be quiet and attentive, as well as to use the Bible in looking up texts cited during the meeting. Yes, the benefits are many.
Jesus was happy to have young children present when the Word of God was being discussed, and so are Jehovah’s witnesses today. (Matt. 19:13, 14) You will observe this at the Kingdom Hall.
MEETINGS ON SUNDAY
Usually each congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses has meetings at several different times during the week. Each one is distinctive, covering different material, but we will describe what you will experience if you attend the meetings held on the weekend, usually on Sunday. The time is selected so that these important meetings are convenient for the majority locally.
There is a public Bible talk given first. A chairman will introduce the subject and the speaker. Then, during the talk, which lasts almost an hour, those in the audience can follow along in their own Bibles as the speaker discusses from the Scriptures the announced subject. It may be the application of Bible principles to family life, or a doctrine such as the resurrection or God’s provision for paradise, or a verse-by-verse consideration of some chapters of the Bible.
Jesus gave public discourses similar to this, and “the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching.” (Matt. 5:1, 2; 7:28) The public speakers at the Kingdom Hall have studied Jesus’ manner of teaching, and we believe you will find the talks to be much more beneficial than the customary church sermons of Christendom. The speaker might use a blackboard or chart. Sometimes review questions are posed, and ones in the audience who want to volunteer and answer may do so.
After the discourse there will be an hour-long study of Biblical material in The Watchtower, which is studied with the Bible. This segment of the program will open with a song. Then one of the ministers will offer prayer. During the study the questions printed at the bottom of each page of the magazine being considered will be read. If you want to make a brief comment, you may. Of course, the one directing the study usually calls only on those who raise their hand to volunteer an answer, so no one is embarrassed. We find this manner of study to be most interesting and rewarding, and likely you will too.
At the close of the study another song is sung, just as Jesus concluded one of his meetings with song. (Matt. 26:30) We use the songbook “Singing and Accompanying Yourselves with Music in Your Hearts.” (Eph. 5:19) If you do not have a copy, one of the Witnesses at the Kingdom Hall will happily share his with you. We all enjoy very much these heartwarming songs. In conclusion a final prayer of thanks to God is offered.
One thing you may have noted in this description is that no mention was made of the passing of a collection plate. Though the practice is common in Christendom, it is unscriptural and not followed by Jehovah’s witnesses. In regard to contributions, God’s Word says: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7) So at the Kingdom Hall there is a small, inconspicuous contribution box for those who would like to make a gift “in secret,” as Jesus mentioned.—Matt. 6:3, 4.
THE PEOPLE YOU WILL MEET
In all likelihood you are curious about the people you will meet at the Kingdom Hall. Those who come to the Kingdom Hall do so, not because it is the socially proper thing to do or to impress their friends, but because they want to learn God’s will from the Bible and to develop toward spiritual maturity as Christians. You can imagine how delightful it is to be among such people!
God’s Word stresses the importance of ‘gathering together, encouraging one another, and all the more so as we behold’ the end of this wicked system of things drawing near. (Heb. 10:25) Hence, when Jehovah’s witnesses meet together they seek to encourage one another spiritually. One way is by sharing in the program and making worthwhile comments during the meeting. But another way is by engaging in warm and upbuilding conversation before and after the meetings. You will experience this as various ones approach you and introduce themselves, genuinely pleased to welcome you to the Kingdom Hall.
Some you meet may be acquaintances from your neighborhood or persons who were brought up in the same church as you were. They once came to the Kingdom Hall for the first time too. Consequently they will understand just how you feel on your first visit, and they will be glad to answer any question you may have about the activity of Jehovah’s witnesses. Many persons were so pleased with what they saw and heard on their first visit to the Kingdom Hall that they have kept on coming regularly. We hope that you will do the same.
None of the Witnesses you meet will have a title such as “Rabbi,” “Father” or “Reverend.” Even though such are commonly used by religious leaders, the Bible pointedly says that true worshipers should not assume high-sounding religious titles. Jesus counseled: “Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. . . . But the greatest one among you must be your minister.” (Matt. 23:8-12) In harmony with this, there is no clergy-laity distinction among Jehovah’s witnesses. All baptized Christians are spiritual brothers and sisters, just as Jesus indicated.
You may meet ministers who handle particular assignments in helping their fellow Christians. Such ones are referred to in the Bible as “overseers” and “servants” in the congregation. (1 Tim. 3:1, 8) How appropriate these terms are, for these men provide needed oversight and they truly serve their spiritual brothers and sisters! These “servants” will not be noticeable because of any special type of clothing, but probably you will see some of them helping others to obtain Bibles and other publications that are useful in aiding honest-hearted ones to learn Jehovah’s will. Or they may be making arrangements for various ones in the congregation to prepare talks for the meetings. Yes, the Kingdom Hall will be filled with active, happy persons, and we believe that you will enjoy being there.
There are, naturally, other things we could discuss, such as the other scheduled meetings and the research library at the Kingdom Hall. But we will let some of the friendly ministers at the meeting tell you about these things.
As you can appreciate from this brief description, the activities at the Kingdom Hall center on the Bible. We invite you to bring along your copy.
We believe that your visit to the Kingdom Hall will be a rewarding and memorable occasion. Accept our invitation to enjoy that experience soon.