Strengthening the Ministry for the Work Ahead
WHAT is it that gives strength to a servant of God to maintain clean and honest living in the everyday world as he faces all the pressures and difficulties encountered today? And what, in addition, empowers him to go to the homes of people in his community to recommend and teach his faith to others?
It is God’s spirit, obtained by studying his Word the Bible and then putting its principles into practice. Doing all this constitutes the Christian’s ministry. This ministry must receive constant attention. That is why Jehovah’s witnesses are very zealous for association together in meetings for Bible discussion.
That is also why Jehovah’s witnesses arrange for three assemblies a year, one usually being a “district” assembly or even a national or international one that brings thousands together. In the summer of 1971, 678,359 persons attended the “Divine Name” assemblies in the United States and Canada. Britain and Europe also enjoyed assemblies, with later conventions scheduled for other parts of the earth.
THE INTERNAL MINISTRY
The strengthening of the Christian ministry was one of the major objectives of the assemblies. The “internal ministry” received special focus, and a new viewpoint and attitude were gained—a more Biblical view of the ministry, particularly as described by the apostle Paul in First Corinthians chapter twelve, where he talks about the “varieties of ministries.”
In a talk discussing the ministry it was shown that, while preaching to “outsiders” and teaching them by means of home Bible studies is important, this is only one of many ministries of Christians. The “internal ministry”—training of one’s family, calling on others who are sick or in need of help, sharing in Christian meetings, preparing talks—all are ministries. Taking care of other responsibilities in connection with the congregation and the Kingdom Hall, even honest, conscientious conduct in caring for the needs of one’s family, are ministries. A Christian must be circumspect in everything he does, that his ministry may not be found fault with.
A few of the comments heard on the convention grounds show the spirit that this talk generated in its hearers. An overseer in a New York city congregation said: ‘Perhaps in the past some of Jehovah’s servants have been overly concerned with figures and performing duties in a precisely prescribed manner, whereas the important thing is the heart motivation, a deep love of Jehovah.’
A traveling representative of the Watchtower Society in Florida commented: “One thing that stood out was the building up of the family spiritually. . . . Sometimes the brothers get depressed because they cannot do very much in the field ministry. . . . This will bring a spirit to the congregation that those who can’t get out into the field service as much as they like are being faithful by building up the spirituality of their families. They won’t feel left out.”
Another delegate from New York stated that he was especially delighted to see the emphasis placed on loving encouragement and shepherding, rather than mere reports. “There are so many of our brothers and sisters,” he said, “who are elderly or otherwise limited, but yet who make tremendous contributions to the overall health, spirituality and welfare of the congregation in so many ways. It is good to see that their ministry in these ways has received due recognition. The emphasis that there is no ‘special’ class, but that all are brothers, was also fine.”
“I was happy to hear the speaker point out,” said an overseer from California, “that we don’t want to say our pioneers [full-time preachers] are worth more than the other members of the congregation. We have fine brothers and sisters who cannot spend full time preaching, just as we have fine pioneers.”
The talks that dealt with the governing arrangement of the early Christian congregation, and that outlined its application today, brought forth enthusiastic response. Jehovah’s witnesses have always been happy to conform to the apostolic method of congregation organization and operation to the extent that they have understood it, and their spiritual prosperity and increase are evidence that God has looked upon them with favor.
In recent years the arrangement has been that one mature man was the overseer, the one primarily responsible for shepherding the congregation. Other appointed “servants” were assistants to him.
However, a recent study of Biblical, apostolic congregation structure made by the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses revealed that, in one particular, the congregations need an adjustment in order to be more perfectly in line with that of the first century congregations.
In harmony with this understanding it was called to the conventioners’ attention, from the Bible, that the apostolic method of governing each congregation was by means of a body of elders, spiritually mature men appointed from among the male members, and who were also overseers of the congregation. All these were equal in authority, not merely assistants to one man. Each apparently acted in turn as chairman, but while serving as such he was not the overseer. This arrangement had the effect of spreading the responsibility and providing a more balanced governing arrangement for the congregations.
How was this notable Bible principle of organization received by the assembled crowds?
Well, Jehovah’s witnesses realize that Jehovah progressively leads and refines his people. They have experienced similar adjustments before and recognize that advancement has come because of God’s leading. They also are aware of the fact that they would not be true representatives of God and his kingdom if they should refuse to accept such changes.
To get expressions on individual attitudes toward the new arrangement many of the responsible men, those serving as overseers of various congregations, and others, were interviewed. The general feeling that this structural adjustment was a step forward was well summed up in the expression of three of these men.
One, a traveling minister serving a number of congregations in the Chicago area, said: “It has to work; it is from Jehovah.” Another, who supervises a large area known as a “district” in western United States, envisioned a greater flow of God’s spirit “because of a closer feeling of ‘one Mediator between God and men.’” A fine expression by a delegate from Oregon was that the emphasis away from the individual, with none possessing the primary authority in the congregation, “will focus more attention on the true Head of the congregation, Jesus Christ.”
Others spoke of the benefits to the individual minister in the congregation. “It will be an encouragement to all mature men to take hold of responsibility,” said a Chicago Witness of long experience. A public expression was made by the assembled conventioners in Cincinnati, stating: “How grateful we are to be a part of an organization that is so intensely interested in the spiritual welfare of its people.”
ORGANIZED FOR A MOMENTOUS FUTURE
Thus it is evident that the ministry of those preaching the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom is being strengthened. If trialsome times of persecution are ahead, the congregations will be able to continue their work despite the taking away of some of the responsible men. As an overseer of twenty-nine years’ experience said, seriously: “I feel that this information was given to us just at this particular time because we are well along in the time of the end. There is certainly a need for us to draw closer together to face the enemy in a unified way.”
Momentous events to take place in the immediate future are contained in the Bible prophecy of Ezekiel. This prophecy formed the basis of a book released at the assemblies, entitled “The Nations Shall Know that I Am Jehovah”—How? In Ezekiel’s prophecy the work of God’s people today is figuratively represented as a ‘marking’ for preservation of all persons who desire a world of righteousness and peace, and who want to make over their lives to God’s way. (Ezek. 9:4-6; Col. 3:10) A total of 12,556 persons who are newly taking up this course of life were baptized at the assemblies in Canada and the United States.
Though time is short for the present system of things, Jehovah’s witnesses have much to do. There are many thinking men who see ‘the handwriting on the wall’ for this system of things and who need to hear the good news of the Kingdom. Those making advance preparations for the “Divine Name” assemblies were impressed with the fact that, generally, the businessmen with whom they dealt were not “all business,” as in the past. Some voiced the opinion, “We see no future in the business world.” Many realize too that Christendom’s religions are decaying. As Ezekiel’s prophecy shows, such persons must be reached with the Bible’s warning to forsake these religions if they are to survive Christendom’s fall.
The general sentiments of the conventioners at the conclusion of the assembly were expressed by an overseer in a Cincinnati congregation, who evidently had Ezekiel’s prophecy fresh in mind when he said: ‘Christendom will go down, stubbornly refusing to change according to revealed truth, whereas the society of Jehovah’s witnesses will grow and eternally prosper because it readjusts to conform to Jehovah’s way. I think we shall long remember the “Divine Name” Assemblies.’
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Forty-five “Divine Name” assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses were held in Canada and U.S.A.; 36,335 attended here in Cincinnati
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Family Bible reading was encouraged by the assembly program
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12,556 were baptized at assemblies in Canada and the United States
At Philadelphia missionaries from West Africa discuss new “Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook”