Appointed Elders to Shepherd the Flock of God
1. (a) What kind of men are overseers in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (b) What, basically, does an overseer in a congregation do?
THE theocratic organization of Jehovah’s witnesses does not have paid ministers in its congregations. From the congregation itself mature, spiritually qualified men are appointed as elders and overseers. (Titus 1:5, 7) These men are interested in the welfare of the entire flock under their care. The word “overseer” is the English translation of the Hebrew word pa·qidhʹ and the Greek word e·piʹ·sko·pos. The Hebrew word is drawn from a term that means “to visit, turn attention to, inspect,” also “to appoint or commission.” The Greek term is related to e·pi·sko·peʹo (oversee), and means to “look or watch over.” So, then, an overseer in a Christian congregation is one who is appointed to watch over the congregation, to visit and upbuild those associated with it. The Christian “overseers” correspond to those recognized as the “older men” of the congregations, all such appointed “older men” or elders having responsibility as overseers of the flock of God.
2. When speaking to the elders of the congregation in Ephesus, what encouraging counsel did Paul give, and what was the reason for such advice?
2 When the apostle Paul, returning from one of his missionary journeys, reached Miletus, he sent a message to Ephesus and “called for the elders of the congregation.” (Acts 20:17, margin) When these elders came to see Paul, he reminded them of how he had expended himself on their behalf and he urged them to do the same for all the flock entrusted to their care He said: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. . . . Nevertheless, 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. And now, look! I know that all of you among whom I went preaching the kingdom will see my face no more. . . . I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God. Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.” (Acts 20:16-28) Paul took his work very seriously and he wanted to impress his fellow elders with the seriousness of their responsibility before God as overseers of the flock.
3. (a) Was any particular elder from Ephesus viewed as the principal one? (b) What interesting questions are now posed?
3 Be it noted that no elder was viewed as the principal one, the head of the congregation. That position has been given by God to his own Son, Jesus Christ. (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18) The elders as a body served under Christ. They were a group of equals as far as their responsibility was concerned. Paul spoke to them as a “body of elders”; all were required to set the same excellent example for the congregation. (1 Tim. 4:14, margin) How did these men qualify to be elders in the congregation of Ephesus? Surely there must be some organization, some order, some guidance of God’s flock. But why were these particular men appointed to be the shepherds?
DEFINITE QUALIFICATIONS NEEDED
4. Where are details on qualifications for overseers or elders found in the Bible, and why is it important to adhere closely to them?
4 For details on qualifications we can turn to the first letter that Paul wrote to Timothy. In the 1 Ti third chapter there is a description of what an overseer or elder must be. These requirements are not to be taken lightly. God’s blessing can be expected only when his Word is followed closely.—1 John 3:22.
5. (a) To qualify for appointment as an elder, what must be true of one’s morals? (b) What is the meaning of the statement that “the overseer should be . . . irreprehensible”?
5 It was a perfectly proper thing for any man in the Christian congregation of God to ‘reach out for the office of overseer,’ to endeavor to meet the standard required, because this showed that he was very desirous of a fine work. However, before a Christian man could be recommended for this office he would certainly have to “show out of his fine conduct his works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom,” as James pointed out. (Jas. 3:13) He has to be a man who hates what is bad. Otherwise he will not have the “fear of Jehovah,” which is “the start of wisdom.” (Prov. 9:10; 8:13) Basically, if a man is to qualify for appointment as an elder, he must consistently adhere to the highest moral standard. As we learned in the preceding article, the wisdom from above is first of all “chaste.” So the morals of an elder have to be correct and in full harmony with the Word of God. Paul, in writing to the young man Timothy in the third chapter, beginning with the 1 Ti 3 second verse said: “The overseer should therefore be irreprehensible.” Irreprehensible means to be free from blame or reproach. His conduct, his dealings with people and his way of life cannot be the sort that can be called into question. He must be above reproach as to his conduct in the congregation, in his secular employment and everywhere else. He must be a man of the highest moral standards.—2 Cor. 6:3, 4.
6. What effect do local customs have on the requirement that the overseer be “a husband of one wife”?
6 The overseer, if married, should be “a husband of one wife.” Local customs do not alter this requirement. He cannot be a polygamist and have two or more wives.—Matt. 19:3-9.
7-9. What is included in being (a) “moderate in habits”? (b) “sound in mind”? (c) “orderly”?
7 The man who qualifies to be an overseer should also be “moderate in habits,” not a person who goes to extremes. He should have a balanced view of his responsibilities as a Christian and carry them out in a way that wins the respect of fellow Christians.
8 The next qualification mentioned is that he should be “sound in mind.” His viewpoint should always be governed by God’s Word. This would enable him to be balanced in his thinking. He would know what is proper and what is improper, true or false, as based on the Scriptures. So he needs to be well versed in the Word of God.—Rom. 12:2; Ps. 19:7.
9 He must likewise be “orderly.” This implies that he should be punctual. The meetings he conducts should be well thought out, and he should keep good order, recognizing only one person at a time to speak if there are comments to be made by members of the congregation. (1 Cor. 14:26-33) Whatever records are to be kept should be neat and well arranged. Orderliness includes something else too. It requires that he recognize theocratic order, that he appreciate the need for submission to Christ, the head of the congregation, and that he see his own position in relation to the flock, as a shepherd fully accountable to God.—1 Cor. 11:3; Jer. 23:1-4.
10. How can a person who is “reaching out for an office of overseer” show that he is “hospitable”?
10 The overseer is also to be “hospitable.” He is to welcome strangers, making them feel glad that they have come. He ought to show that he is very happy to see those that he has known for a longer period of time too. With that in view, he would certainly display the fruitage of righteousness and be peaceful with all, young and old, in the congregation.—Heb. 13:1, 2.
“QUALIFIED TO TEACH”
11, 12. (a) Explain the factors that are included in being “qualified to teach.” (b) Why is it important that the elders be truly qualified as teachers of God’s Word?
11 A particularly important qualification of elders is that they be “qualified to teach.” (1 Tim. 3:2) A man must be spiritually minded to do this among Christians. Experience and years in the truth will help here. Breadth and depth of Bible knowledge are needed, and this is acquired by regular attendance at congregation meetings and diligent personal study over a period of years. An elder certainly should be able to read, for he would want to turn to God’s Word and be able to say, ‘Thus it is written.’ More than that, he should be able to apply what he reads, and convey to others the right ideas clearly and quickly. Teaching is an art.
12 Other men besides the appointed elders in the congregation will surely be mature Christians, zealous in the ministry and exemplary in conduct. But the elders must be qualified as teachers. This does not mean that they simply share in teaching the Bible to newly interested persons. It involves more than that. The elders are the ones that fellow Christians look to as teachers of God’s Word. They should be able to get up in front of the congregation and impart instruction from the Scriptures that will upbuild those who are already believers. They must have an accurate knowledge of the truth so that, when presiding at meetings of the congregation, they will know whether the comments given by others are correct and so can help the congregation to come to a proper understanding of matters. If they qualify as elders, they should have a clear grasp of the truth so that they are able, not only to “tell” others what is right, but also to reason on it with them and help them to understand it.—Eph. 4:11, 12.
13. To qualify to be an elder, on what must a person consistently base his teaching, and what should he avoid?
13 When writing to Titus regarding the appointing of “older men,” Paul specified that, to qualify, a man should be “holding firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching.” (Titus 1:5, 9) He should not be one who is inclined to rely on his own opinion. As Paul advised Timothy, he should stick to God’s Word when speaking to the congregation; he should “preach the word.”—2 Tim. 4:2.
14. How should the work of being a teacher in the congregation be viewed?
14 Being a teacher in the congregation of God is a great privilege, but it is also a serious responsibility. (Jas. 3:1) Those who are ‘reaching out for the office of overseer’ do well to work diligently to qualify in this respect. And those who do qualify should be glad to use this “gift” for the upbuilding of the congregation, not fearfully holding back, but relying on Jehovah for his guidance and blessing. (Rom. 12:6-8) As they humbly continue to look to Jehovah for direction, they will be aided to do the work in a way that will bring glory to God and blessing to those who love him.
15. (a) Why would a person who drinks to excess not qualify as an elder? (b) Why would a man who is belligerent or self-willed not qualify to be an elder?
15 If a man is to be an effective teacher, he must conduct himself in a manner that will not close the minds and hearts of those he is trying to assist. Understandably, then, it is required of one who is appointed to be an elder that he be “not a drunken brawler, not a smiter, but reasonable, not belligerent.” (1 Tim. 3:3) He should not be given to much wine. He should always have control of his senses and his powers of reason, never getting intoxicated. He must not be the kind of person who tries to settle things with his fist. Nor should he be one who constantly shouts at people, or repays unkindnesses with harsh remarks or refuses to talk to his brother who may have offended him. (Rom. 12:17, 18) On occasion, something may happen that irritates him, but, as is true of all Christians, he ought to have self-control, which is a fruit of God’s spirit. He must be approachable, not self-willed, but willing to listen to others and not be taking offense when someone offers him a suggestion for improvement in the way things are being done. From experience, and from the Bible, he may know that certain suggestions are not sound, but that is no reason to be impatient with a brother who is trying to be helpful. Remember, the disciple James said that “the wisdom from above is . . . reasonable.” One who is not belligerent but is reasonable helps to promote a peaceful atmosphere. And as James pointed out, “the fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions for those who are making peace.”—Jas. 3:18.
16. How does a mature Christian show that he is not a “lover of money”?
16 Appreciating what the Bible says about the relative value of material things, a mature Christian would not be a “lover of money.” He would never engage in dishonest business practices to get money. Nor would he allow even honest secular work to push his ministry into a secondary place. Overseers among Jehovah’s witnesses do not expect a salary to be paid for their services on behalf of the sheep in the congregation. The apostle Paul, himself an elder, did not expect the congregations to pay him for what he was doing. He used to make his own living by making tents. In this way he was never a burden on the congregation, but rather found pleasure in giving of himself on their behalf. (Acts 20:33, 34) He gave freely of his services and was not under obligation to anyone in this way. “Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things,” wrote the apostle Paul at Hebrews 13:5.
OVERSEERS ARE “OLDER MEN”
17. Why does a man’s homelife have an important bearing on whether he qualifies to be an elder?
17 An elder, if a father, should be “a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner, having children in subjection with all seriousness.” This shows that he would be an orderly person and would have the respect of all the children living in his home and that they would listen to him and obey him. If a man cares well for his responsibilities at home he is in position to help others to learn what the Bible says about these matters. He can speak freely, and will not be inclined to water down Scriptural counsel because of a troubled conscience on his own part. (1 Tim. 3:12, 13) But, Paul adds, “if a man does not know how to control his own family how can he look after a congregation of God’s people?” (1 Tim. 3:4, 5, NEB) Taking care of a congregation of God’s people that may have from 25 to 200 persons in it is a very weighty responsibility. The Bible shows that the homelife of a man must be taken into consideration when one is determining whether he qualifies to be an elder.
18. (a) Does the Bible state a specific age requirement for one to qualify as an elder? (b) What definite indications does it give on the matter of age?
18 If a father has children who are in subjection to him, he will not be a teenager himself. No specific age requirement is stated in the Bible, but in view of the requirement that their own children be in subjection with all seriousness (they being old enough to manifest such seriousness), it may be assumed that elders among the first-century Christians were not merely eighteen or nineteen years of age; they had experience in life and had demonstrated that they were “wise and understanding” men. They are referred to as “older men.” Timothy himself, to whom Paul was writing, may have been in his early twenties when “he was well reported on by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium.” (Acts 16:2) But Timothy may have been in his thirties when he was told: “Never lay your hands hastily upon any man; neither be a sharer in the sins of others; preserve yourself chaste.” (1 Tim. 5:22) Timothy by this time was fully capable of handling these weighty responsibilities and was showing wisdom in committing to other faithful men that which he had learned so that they were adequately qualified to teach others. While youths may often think they know all of the answers, it takes time, experience, living with people, to gain wisdom.
19, 20. (a) Why should a newly converted man not be recommended for appointment as an elder? (b) What background does such a person need before he could become an elder?
19 As is true of those who are young in a physical sense, so too a person who has only recently become a dedicated and baptized Christian has a need to gain experience. It takes time to get sufficient knowledge and experience in applying Bible principles so that one is “qualified to teach” these things to fellow Christians. Therefore, an overseer cannot be a “newly converted man.” Paul gives a very good reason why a “newly converted man” does not qualify as an elder. He says, “for fear that he might get puffed up with pride and fall into the judgment passed upon the Devil.”—1 Tim. 3:6.
20 If a newly baptized Christian received a responsible position in the congregation, it might go to his head, as the saying is. It is much better to let the person grow steadily to maturity. A person needs to mature in his knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. He must become wise and understanding and “show out of his fine conduct his works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom.” Then after some time he might qualify to be a ministerial servant and, after that, strive to be an elder in the congregation.
21. How does one’s reputation outside the congregation influence the matter of one’s being qualified to be an elder, and why?
21 There is another matter that deserves consideration, as Paul admonished Timothy. One would expect that a Christian would deal kindly with fellow Christians and show love toward them. But for a person to be an overseer in a congregation of God’s people, “he should also have a fine testimony from people on the outside, in order that he might not fall into reproach and a snare of the Devil.” Christians are bound to have association with non-Christians. That is a necessary part of their life, because they must preach the good news of the Kingdom everywhere, to all kinds of people. These people on the outside form opinions of Jehovah’s witnesses, and they talk about them after these Christians visit their homes to try to help them. Interested people are also invited to the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s witnesses and they have association there with the overseers and other members of the congregation. What is the opinion of these people concerning one who is an overseer of Jehovah’s witnesses? “He must moreover have a good reputation with the non-Christian public, so that he may not be exposed to scandal and get caught in the devil’s snare.” (1 Tim. 3:7, NEB) He should practice in his daily life the things that he teaches others to do. The people for whom he works and with whom he works should see his honesty, his punctuality, his willingness to give his employer a full day’s work, not being a loafer. He ought to show kindness to his neighbors, and his moral behavior must be above question. All of these things have a bearing on whether he qualifies to be an overseer in the congregation of God or not.—1 Pet. 2:12; Dan. 6:4, 5.
22. What attitude toward responsibility should one accepting the position of overseer have?
22 The standard to be met by those appointed to be elders is a high one, but it is not unreachable. It requires genuine love for Jehovah and a willingness to be used by him. The apostle Peter, when writing to elders in the first-century congregation, said: “Therefore, to the older men among you I give this exhortation, for I too am an older man with them and a witness of the sufferings of the Christ, a sharer even of the glory that is to be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God in your care, not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:1-3) One thing Peter emphasizes is, do not take on this responsibility under anyone’s compulsion but do it willingly. There is no glory to the position of a shepherd; rather, it involves much time and work. Do not accept this position for the love of personal gain, but, rather, as The New English Bible puts it, “out of sheer devotion.”—1 Pet. 5:2, 3.
ABLE BOTH TO EXHORT AND TO REPROVE
23. On what are overseers to base their exhortation and reproof, and why must they be qualified to do this?
23 In the inspired letter to Titus another important qualification of overseers is mentioned. It involves teaching, but it is a special aspect of it. The scripture says: “An overseer must be . . . holding firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching, that he may be able both to exhort by the teaching that is healthful and to reprove those who contradict.” (Titus 1:7-9) It usually is not difficult for a person who has a good knowledge of the truth to use the Bible to exhort his brothers, to encourage them to continued faithful service. But the responsibility of overseers does not stop there. When difficulties arise, they must also handle these. They must use the Scriptures “to reprove those who contradict” the truth. If you were appointed to be an elder, would you be willing to shoulder that responsibility?
24. As to reproving, what questions does one seeking to qualify as an elder need to consider?
24 When writing his second letter to Timothy, Paul emphasized the seriousness of this obligation that Timothy had as an overseer, saying: “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is destined to judge the living and the dead, and by his manifestation and his kingdom, preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season, reprove, reprimand, exhort, with all long-suffering and art of teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:1, 2) Would you refuse or hold back from giving a reproof or reprimand when needed, or would you turn to God’s Word and use it to help your brother to straighten out his thinking and bring his conduct back into line with what is written there? To be an elder you must be willing to administer needed reproof. What you do may not in every case be appreciated by the wrongdoer, but some will be grateful. “The commandment is a lamp, and a light the law is, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” (Prov. 6:23) Even though it might at times be difficult, would you take the initiative to administer “the reproofs of discipline” in order to help someone to stay on “the way of life”? It is indeed a blessing to the congregation that there are men who are willing to accept that responsibility.—2 Tim. 2:24-26.
25. To what extent is it sometimes necessary to go in reproving those who practice sin?
25 Overseers must also have the fortitude to do something publicly when necessary. Paul admonished Timothy: “Reprove before all onlookers persons who practice sin, that the rest also may have fear.” (1 Tim. 5:20) Sometimes individuals in a congregation of God will refuse reproof. Would you be afraid then that this might happen: “A man repeatedly reproved but making his neck hard will suddenly be broken, and that without healing”? (Prov. 29:1) Another translation puts it this way: “A man who is still stubborn after much reproof will suddenly be broken past mending.” Could you go that far, out of concern for the spiritual condition of the congregation as a whole, or would you ignore the individual’s stubbornness and close your eyes from the very beginning to his wrongdoing? An overseer must be “able both to exhort by the teaching that is healthful and to reprove those who contradict.”—Titus 1:9.
26. What kind of persons do not belong in the Christian congregation, so what must the elders be alert to do?
26 Paul was moved by the spirit of God to write in advance that there would be persons who claimed to be Christians but who wanted to serve God in their own way, not according to the Scriptures. He said: “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.” (2 Tim. 4:3, 4) For an overseer there is no room for compromise. If he really loves the congregation and is determined to help them, he must show fortitude and speak truth and righteousness. The congregation needs “healthful teaching.” Would you as an elder, along with other elders in your congregation, be watchful enough to follow the advice of Paul wherein he writes: “As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned”? Paul’s further words on this matter are: “But now I am writing you to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. . . . Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”—Titus 3:10; 1 Cor. 5:11, 13.
27. (a) Since all kinds of people come in contact with the Christian congregation, what did Paul warn would happen? (b) Do such things occur in our day? (c) So what is it necessary for the elders to do?
27 There is no question about it, problems will arise in a congregation. All kinds of people will associate with the congregation and become Christians. But not all of them will remain Christians, and some will even try to subvert the faith of others and entice them into bad conduct. As Paul said: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” That was not pleasant to think about, but Paul expected trouble to come within the congregation of God back there. It did. Why should we think it to be any different today when there is so much turmoil in the world and people from all nations and tongues, with different ideas of life, are fleeing from “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion, and are seeking refuge in Jehovah’s theocratic organization? That is why it is so necessary to appoint elders in the congregation to shepherd the flock of God allotted to them and to keep the congregation clean. A true shepherd will protect the flock against wolfish elements.—Acts 20:29, 30.
28. How should a person dedicated to God react to discipline, and why?
28 The one dedicated to Jehovah God realizes that he is born in sin and shaped in iniquity. Everyone is going to make mistakes sometime. So, when an overseer in the congregation tries to help any of us to correct something that we may be doing that is wrong, we ought to appreciate why he is doing it. Jehovah does not want to see any of his sheep go astray. That is why we have the admonition: “My son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, neither give out when you are corrected by him; for whom Jehovah loves he disciplines; in fact, he scourges every one whom he receives as a son.” (Heb. 12:5, 6) Anyone who endures the discipline that he receives through Jehovah’s organization will certainly have proof that God is dealing with him. “For what son is he that a father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7) As was true in olden times when God dealt with the Jewish nation, so today God uses “the older men” among his people to administer discipline. (Deut. 22:18) Do you respond appreciatively to the discipline that comes from those who as elders shepherd the flock of God?—Prov. 8:33; 12:1-3; Heb. 12:11.
LOVING CONCERN FOR THE FLOCK
29. What kind of love should all of us manifest, and who must be exemplary in exhibiting it?
29 Outstanding in the life of any true Christian must be love for fellow Christians. This is not merely a matter of being pleasant in greeting other people. Love is unselfish concern that moves one to put the welfare of others ahead of one’s own interests, actively working for their good. The Lord Jesus said to his true followers: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” And he added: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you.” (John 13:35; 15:12) Is this quality dominant in the congregation with which you assemble for worship? Is it manifest in your own life? Elders must be exemplary in demonstrating such love for others in the congregation.
30. To whom did Paul address his letter to the Philippian congregation, and what did he say about the effect that love should have among them?
30 Paul in writing to the Philippian congregation addressed the letter to “all the holy ones in union with Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, along with overseers and ministerial servants.” He said to them: “This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment; that you may make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ, and may be filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.” Later, in the same letter, he added: “Make my joy full in that you are of the same mind and have the same love, being joined together in soul, holding the one thought in mind, doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism.” (Phil. 1:1, 9-11; 2:2-4) Love is the principal thing, for God is love and we must remember that we were made in his image.
31. How has Jehovah shown his love for mankind, and so what does this call upon those with spiritual qualifications to do even when problems arise?
31 Jehovah gave attention to sinful mankind because he loves his creation. “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love. By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him. The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins. Beloved ones, if this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.” (1 John 4:8-11) God did not stop loving mankind when sin made its appearance. And elders must not stop loving the flock when problems arise. At Galatians 6:1, 2, this counsel is given: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted. Go on carrying the burdens of one another, and thus fulfill the law of the Christ.”
32. How can an overseer show love when one who has sinned comes to him for help?
32 Sometimes it is the wrongdoer who himself takes the initiative to get help. He may go to an overseer to make confession of his wrong. His desire to change his ways is commendable. “He that is covering over his transgressions will not succeed, but he that is confessing and leaving them will be shown mercy.” (Prov. 28:13) An overseer having love for his flock will take the time to hear one’s transgression and he will use the Bible to help the person to correct his thinking and his conduct. When anyone confesses his faults and gives them up, that is what an elder wants to see. In other words, the person is converted, he turns around from his wrongdoing and goes the right way. So, in harmony with Proverbs 28:13, the elder would be in a position to show mercy. It may be, though, that the elder will want the transgressor to see him every month so as to be sure he is making straight paths for his feet. A loving overseer will give that extra attention to those in the flock.
33. What must an elder use as his guide in all matters, and how should he view the “sheep” allotted to him?
33 An elder must believe God’s Word. All of it! He must use it as his guide and he must show love to the brothers, the sheep allotted to him, appreciating that they are God’s sheep. Even when the elders exhort, admonish, encourage, reprove and discipline they are showing love because they are trying to help their brothers to take the right course in life. Does your congregation have such elders looking after you?
34. How did Paul give evidence of his concern for his brothers?
34 Paul certainly knew what it meant to be an overseer, an elder. He had deep love for the congregations. “Besides those things of an external kind, there is what rushes in on me from day to day, the anxiety for all the congregations,” he wrote. (2 Cor. 11:28) With loving concern Paul admonished the body of elders from Ephesus: “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.”—Acts 20:28.
35. Though Christian overseers have much work to do, how is their experience in accord with what is recorded at Acts 20:35?
35 It is absolutely necessary for all the overseers to keep awake and to work hard on behalf of everyone in the congregation, and they are glad to do so. Their experience is in accord with what is stated at Acts 20:35: “By thus laboring you must assist those who are weak, and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”’
APPOINTMENT OF ELDERS
36. (a) How were appointments of elders made in the first-century Christian congregation? (b) How are such appointments made today, using what as a standard?
36 Who is it that makes the appointment of elders? Acts chapter 14, verse 23, reports in connection with a missionary trip of Paul and Barnabas: “They appointed older men for them in [each] congregation and, offering prayer with fastings, they committed them to Jehovah in whom they had become believers.” There was no election held in the congregation. The appointments were made by Paul and Barnabas, representative members of the governing body. Similarly, Timothy and Titus evidently made such appointments according to instructions from Paul. (1 Tim. 5:22; Titus 1:5) Today, when there are congregations scattered throughout the earth, it is the older men in those congregations who, after giving the matter prayerful consideration, make recommendations to the governing body at headquarters as to others who measure up to the Scriptural qualifications, sending such recommendations to the branch office of the Watch Tower Society. The governing body then makes the appointments. But this is not done according to some standard that they have set up. It is done in accord with what is set out in God’s inspired Word, so it can truthfully be said to these elders or overseers: “The holy spirit has appointed you overseers.”—Acts 20:28.
37. (a) How many elders may a congregation have? (b) Explain how and when recommendations will be made for additional elders in a congregation. (c) How long may one continue to serve in a congregation as en elder? If he moves to another congregation, will his appointment as an elder apply there? Why?
37 Some congregations may have more elders than others. The Bible stipulates no specific number. (Phil. 1:1) But it does go into considerable detail as to the qualifications of those who are to be appointed as elders, and it is important to adhere to this God-given standard. Year by year, about September 1, it would be proper for the elders in the congregations to consider whether any others in the congregation now fit the Bible’s description of those who qualify to be elders. If any do, they may be recommended to the governing body for appointment, and, when appointed, they may begin to share with all the other elders the responsibility for shepherding the flock in that congregation. As long as they continue to measure up to the Bible’s requirements, they will continue to be elders in that congregation. However, if they were to move to another congregation, they would not, as newcomers in that area and as persons virtually unknown to the congregation, be viewed as elders or overseers by the ones associated there. They would have to establish their spiritual qualifications by their Christian activity there, and, in time, the local elders would no doubt recommend such ones for appointment as elders in that congregation. Of course, if an elder were ever to engage in unchristian conduct of such a nature that he was disfellowshiped or put under restrictions, then notification would be made to the governing body and he would be removed as an elder, since he obviously would not be a good example to the flock. However, if he were simply unable to do some of the work of an overseer, because of sickness or old age, this would not cancel his appointment as an elder.
38. (a) In what position should elders serve in the congregation if at all possible, and why? (b) To free an elder to concentrate his efforts on teaching, for the benefit of the congregation, with what work may others be asked to assist?
38 The elders have certain official assignments in the congregation to fill. If there are enough elders, they should be appointed to be congregation servant, assistant congregation servant, Bible study servant, Watchtower study servant and Theocratic Ministry School servant. Where possible, they should also be the congregation book study conductors and the public speakers, because these are teachers. If there are only two or three elders, they would always be appointed to the first three positions listed above. One of them may be filling two positions if there are only two elders. Usually the three different elders filling these positions constitute a judicial committee in the congregation. (1 Cor. 5:12, 13; 6:1-4) However, it would also be most advantageous for those who are elders to preside at all the congregation meetings, where that is possible. Even where there is just one elder in the congregation, it would be beneficial for him to preside at the Watchtower study, the service meeting and the Theocratic Ministry School, as well as a congregation book study, if he is willing and able to do so. Others can be asked to assist with organizational details, preparing schedules and caring for field service arrangements, but the elder is one who is “qualified to teach,” so, where there is an elder of the congregation regularly present at a meeting, it would be most beneficial to the congregation for him to be the one appointed to preside. Of course, it is understood that there may be some cases in which, due to sickness or advanced age, this is not possible.
39. Explain the rotation of assignments among the elders. So what should be borne in mind in recommending men for appointment as elders?
39 The chairmanship of the body of elders rotates. So, each year on October 1, if there is more than one elder in the congregation, a new congregation servant, or chairman of the body of elders, will take up his work. Usually, that new congregation servant will be the man who was the assistant congregation servant during the preceding year. There will also be a shifting of those assigned to the other principal positions occupied by elders. In view of this, when the “older men” in a congregation recommend someone to be an elder they should have in mind that in time he will be called on to care for all these various assignments. Is he capable of doing so? Is he willing to do so?
40. Who are notified when elders are appointed, and what are their functions in the congregation?
40 When appointments of elders are made by the governing body, the entire congregation should be notified. Everyone associated with the congregation should know who the elders are, so they can benefit fully from their services. The elders are not bosses; they are not appointed to lord it over anyone. They are to be loving shepherds, examples to the flock, willing servants to their Christian brothers. (Matt. 20:25-28; 1 Pet. 5:1-3) They need to make themselves available to those who need help, being approachable, willing to listen when problems arise and giving loving encouragement to all.
ASSISTANCE FROM MINISTERIAL SERVANTS
41. What provision does the Bible make for brothers to assist the elders?
41 But suppose a congregation does not have a sufficient number of brothers who qualify as elders to fill all of the principle positions on the servant body in the congregation. Or, even if the elders are able to take on more than one position, they may need help in caring for some of the details of the work. What then? The Bible provides for ministerial servants, di·aʹko·noi.
42. How do the Scriptural requirements to be met by ministerial servants safeguard the congregation?
42 The qualifications to be met by such ministerial servants provide a safeguard against any legitimate accusation’s being made concerning the congregation as to the men to whom it entrusts responsibility. Those qualifications, set out in 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12, 13, are as follows: “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. Also, let these be tested as to fitness first, then let them serve as ministers, as they are free from accusation. 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.”
43. (a) What do the Scriptures indicate as to age and experience of those appointed as ministerial servants? (b) Are ministerial servants meant to be shepherds and teachers of the congregation, and how do we know? (c) To what extent must one measure up to the Scriptural requirements before being recommended to the governing body for appointment as a ministerial servant?
43 While no specific age requirement is stipulated, it is obvious that these ministerial servants were to be grown men, old enough to be married and have children. They were not to be novices in the congregation, but persons who had been “tested as to fitness.” Before being appointed as ministerial servants it would be beneficial if they had been dedicated and baptized for at least some time that would allow for their fitness to be tested. It is not required that they be “qualified to teach” in the congregation. The Scriptural qualifications show that they were not meant to be assigned as shepherds and teachers of the flock. They should certainly be zealous in the ministry, active in the work that Jesus assigned to his disciples, namely, preaching the Kingdom message and making disciples. But, in addition to this, the requirements set out in the Scriptures show that those who are ministerial servants must be exemplary in their private lives and in their relations with others. So, before anyone is recommended to the governing body for appointment as a ministerial servant careful consideration should be given to each of those Scriptural requirements; none should be ignored or treated as of little importance.
44. (a) How many ministerial servants may a congregation have? (b) How are they appointed, and how long may they continue to serve?
44 As is true when anyone becomes an elder in the congregation, the ones who are already elders make recommendations to the governing body of those who qualify to be ministerial servants. Appointment is then made by the governing body. (Acts 6:3-6) There is no set number of persons who may be ministerial servants in a congregation. (Phil. 1:1) Each year, about September 1, it would be appropriate for the elders to consider whether there are any more in the congregation who ought to be recommended for such service, and such recommendation can be made to the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses. Those thus appointed will continue to serve as long as they meet the Scriptural requirements, just the same as is true of elders. However, it is a good thing for these ministerial servants to do as suggested at 1 Timothy 3:1, that is, ‘reach out for the office of overseer.’ And, of course, when a person is appointed to be an elder, an overseer, he is no longer a ministerial servant, though he may continue to care for some of the same work that he did previously.
DUTIES OF MINISTERIAL SERVANTS
45, 46. (a) What are some of the duties a ministerial servant may perform in a congregation? (b) Who assign the ministerial servants to the specific work they will do for the congregation? (c) May ministerial servants be moved to other assignments of work from year to year?
45 There is much work that ministerial servants can do in a congregation. In the first century, in the Jerusalem congregation, we have an example of work such as might be done by ministerial servants. The distribution of food supplies to needy widows in the congregation, while not as important as “the ministry of the word,” was classed as “necessary business.” Apparently there was much to be done, because it was not all assigned to one person but to “seven certified men.”—Acts 6:1-6.
46 In the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses today, there is likewise much “necessary business” that does not directly involve “the ministry of the word.” This includes caring for literature supplies, assigning territory for preaching, and caring for congregation accounts. There is necessary work to be done in caring for the upkeep of the Kingdom Hall, cleaning it each week, arranging the chairs, caring for ventilation, operating the sound equipment in larger halls, keeping a record of attendance, welcoming newcomers and introducing them to the elders of the congregation. In some congregations there may be enough ministerial servants so that a different one can be assigned to each of these duties. Elsewhere, someone may care for several of these assignments. In some instances, it may be beneficial to have more than one person assigned to share in certain work. Some of the elders may have records that come under their supervision, but, if there are ministerial servants available, they can be assigned to help in caring for these, in order to free the elders for the more important shepherding work. The ministerial servants may also help in assigning territory to be worked when groups of publishers meet for public preaching work. While the ministerial servants are officially appointed by the governing body, the local “body of elders” may assign them the specific work that they will do on behalf of the congregation. And, just as the elders are rotated to different assignments each year, so the elders can arrange for the ministerial servants to take on different assignments of work each year, to the extent that this proves to be practical. What a fine privilege it is to be able to serve one’s brothers as these ministerial servants do!
47. (a) What may be done where there are not enough elders in the congregation to care for all the congregation book studies and the other assignments normally handled by elders? (b) If a ministerial servant is appointed as a temporary assistant congregation servant, would he be viewed as one of the congregation’s judicial committee?
47 The situation may arise, in locations where there is a very rapid growth in the congregations, that there just are not enough elders to do all the teaching and shepherding work that is required. In a certain locality where all are quite new in the service of God, there may not even be one elder. Yet they can certainly have regular meetings for study and share in preaching to others, and, in time, no doubt someone in their midst will qualify as an elder. In a congregation where there are some elders, there may not be enough to care for all the congregation book studies. It may be beneficial to have larger groups in some cases; elsewhere an elder may be able to preside at more than one such study, doing so at different times during the week. But, where necessary, ministerial servants may help out by caring for some of these study groups until there are elders available. Similarly, due to local circumstances, a ministerial servant may be asked to care temporarily for one of the five principal positions held by an elder. However, his being given such an assignment by local elders does not make him an elder. And if he was a temporary assistant congregation servant or Bible study servant, he would not be viewed as one of the congregation’s judicial committee. To handle such matters another elder from a nearby congregation would be invited to help out. Yet, with diligent effort, the one who is helping out with the work that would normally be done by an elder may himself in time qualify as one of the “older men” who are overseers of the flock.
48. What can we all do that will show we are progressive in our outlook as servants of God?
48 It is good for all Christians to be progressive in their outlook. No one wants to remain an infant, either physically or spiritually. Early Hebrew Christians were admonished: “Now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity.” (Heb. 6:1) Timothy was told: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.” (1 Tim. 4:15) Are you making such advancement as a Christian? Is your devotion to Jehovah growing stronger? Are you progressing in development of the fruitage of the spirit? Are you widening out in your love for your Christian brothers? Are you endeavoring to conform your own life more fully to God’s Word? Because the organization of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses has endeavored to adhere closely to God’s Word, and to make adjustments where necessary to conform to it more closely, God’s spirit has obviously been upon it. Today, on an unprecedented scale, Jehovah’s witnesses in all parts of the earth are proclaiming God’s kingdom as the only hope of mankind. They are helping sincere persons to learn what the Bible teaches, to act in harmony with it, and thus to be truly “wise and understanding.” If you would like assistance so that you can learn and benefit fully from the good things contained in God’s Word, they will count it a pleasure to be of help to you too.
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES ARE PREACHING AND TEACHING
49-51. To what extent have Jehovah’s witnesses been active in the past year in preaching the good news of the Kingdom?
49 Jehovah’s witnesses are helping all kinds of people world wide; they are active in 207 different lands. Under the direction of ninety-three branch offices of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1,510,245 Christian men and women arranged to go from house to house or to declare the good news of God’s kingdom in some other way every month during the past year. This was 125,000 more Witnesses preaching and teaching from God’s Word than in the service year of 1970. However, before the year ended, the number grew to 1,590,793.
50 Because Jehovah’s witnesses are interested in helping others to a better understanding of the Bible and its meaning for mankind today they devoted 291,952,375 hours last year to talking about God’s Word. Is this not good evidence that they were truly trying to comfort people of all nations? Would not a careful study of God’s written Word help people to become “wise and understanding”? To accomplish this, every week throughout the year Jehovah’s witnesses conducted 1,257,904 free Bible studies in the homes of interested people. Do the members of the religious denomination to which you belong try to help people in this way? Not only do Jehovah’s witnesses preach from house to house and teach in private homes, but they leave Bible study helps wherever they can so that, if the listener does not have time to study when one of Jehovah’s witnesses calls on him, the person can read about the “good news” at his own convenience. During the year Jehovah’s witnesses distributed 18,168,032 bound books and Bibles, 10,590,176 booklets, 218,898,563 copies of The Watchtower and Awake! and obtained a total of 2,702,972 new subscriptions for these magazines.
51 So that you might appreciate more fully just what has been done by Jehovah’s witnesses in their ministry and where, we are reproducing herewith a chart setting out the 1971 service year report of Jehovah’s witnesses world wide. See pages 22-25.
52. What motivates Jehovah’s witnesses in their ministry, and so what benefits do they enjoy?
52 Jehovah’s witnesses are not great in numbers when compared with the world’s population, but they do love Jehovah God and his Word the Bible. They believe what James wrote, in the Jas fourth chapter, the fourth verse: “Do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” Think of that! Is it not true that all the nations of the world are in trouble? Can you not see that almost every man’s hand is against his neighbor, even in Christendom? Obviously, they do not manifest the spirit of God. Are you really different from them? Do you truly love God, and do you “love your neighbor as yourself”? If that is the kind of person you want to be, then, as the Bible says, you must ‘subject yourself to God, but oppose the Devil and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.’ (Jas. 4:7, 8) If you do this, you will come to enjoy the loving oversight that Jehovah provides for all the ‘flock of God.’
[Chart on page 22-25]
1971 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLD WIDE
(See bound volume)
[Picture on page 12]
Elders must be, not only able to speak before an audience, but also “qualified to teach” fellow believers
[Picture on page 16]
Would you be willing to give a fellow Christian needed reproof from God’s Word? Elders must be able both to exhort and to reprove