Loving Oversight of the Congregation of God
“Let the older men who preside in a fine way be reckoned worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.”—1 Tim. 5:17.
1. What questions regarding the organization of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses likely have come to mind as some persons read The Watchtower?
AS A reader of this magazine, you no doubt know something about the modern-day organization of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. You may even be intimately acquainted with the organization and its various functions. Perhaps you are serving in some responsible position in it or under its direction. On the other hand, your knowledge of the organization may be limited, yet you enjoy reading this magazine. Hopefully, you read it regularly because you recognize that the message that it holds forth is concerning something in which you can put your confidence, namely God’s kingdom. However, some questions may come to mind as you read this publication, possibly ones similar to these: How do Jehovah’s witnesses get their worldwide preaching and publishing done? What sort of men are used to direct the work? What kind of training is received by those given responsible positions of oversight in connection with the work of Jehovah’s witnesses?
2. Give some illustrations of oversight and how all-embracing it is.
2 Oversight—a familiar term to most of us, granted, but what does it mean? A mother observes her child at play; a teacher listens carefully to the responses his charges make to his questions; the conductor of an orchestra, with spirit and enthusiasm, directs a large group in rendering a well-known symphony. All of these situations have one element in common: oversight or supervision, the oversight provided by a parent, a teacher, a conductor. Oversight is exercised toward us at all stages of life, from the cradle onward. Oversight is a part of living. Really, one can escape most human oversight only by becoming a complete recluse, and that is not a desirable alternative.
3, 4. (a) Identify some of the benefits of oversight. (b) What kind of oversight is most effective and appreciated?
3 Oversight, if exercised properly, holds many benefits for us. For example, through the loving and Scriptural exercise of parental oversight, we become people who are strong and mature, physically, mentally, morally and spiritually. Through the wise oversight of an instructor, a teacher, we become knowledgeable, thinking persons. In an orchestra the collective talents of a group of artistic people are properly coordinated through wise oversight, and the result is a pleasure—a pleasure to those who are individually making a contribution to the listening pleasure of others.
4 Oversight that is loving, properly controlled, and faithfully administered takes into consideration the feelings of those in one’s charge. This in turn can make submission, cooperation, and acceptance of oversight a real pleasure. If the oversight is loving and faithful, much can be accomplished.
5. Describe what happens where parental oversight is lacking.
5 It is appreciated that parents have quite a role to play in providing a climate of mutual respect and happiness in their families. When such oversight is not provided, problems result. In an article entitled “Unloving Parents Blamed for a Protest Generation,” the Detroit Free Press of Saturday, May 16, 1970, stated the following: “‘Parents who find it harder to give their children love than money, who raise them from a distance and even punish them that way, have helped to create a generation of campus protesters,’ a Harvard University psychiatrist said Friday. Dr. A. M. Nicholi said, ‘The time demands on the highly successful father—or even on many less successful fathers holding two jobs—result in homes virtually without paternal figures. In addition, the hours the mother spends at home and the quality of the relationship between mother and child continues to decline.”’
6. Where can we go to gain practical, helpful points regarding loving oversight? Why is this so?
6 Would you say there are problems to be overcome in the field of human relations? Obviously so. Where can we go, then, to gain some practical points regarding loving oversight and willing obedience, so we can be useful, happy people, a credit to our community and to our God? We are benefited greatly along these lines when we examine the structure and operation of the Christian congregation today, because of its integrity to the first-century model described for us in the Scriptures.—Acts 15:2, 22, 23; 16:4, 5.
THE “CONGREGATION”—WHAT IS IT?
7. (a) What is meant by “the Christian congregation”? (b) What benefits will Jesus Christ and this “congregation” soon administer? How?
7 Now, when we say “the Christian congregation,” what do we mean? From a Scriptural and doctrinal viewpoint, the Christian congregation specifically is made up of 144,000 disciples who are spoken of as the “body” of Christ, of which Christ Jesus is the Head. These disciples have been chosen by God to form with the Messiah Jesus a heavenly organization comprising God’s Messianic kingdom. (Col. 1:18, 24; 2 Thess. 2:13) Soon Jesus Christ and this “congregation,” glorified in heaven, will administer marvelous benefits to all mankind. These benefits will flow through a new system of things in which love, happiness and peace will prevail, not hate, violence and gloom. That time indeed will be a time of rejoicing, when even the dead will be resurrected and the whole earth will be made a paradise under God’s heavenly Kingdom government, which will provide loving oversight for all of mankind.—Dan. 7:14, 18; John 5:28, 29; Rev. 21:1-5.
8. (a) Explain how the term “congregation” is used in this discussion. (b) Do we have Scriptural precedent for this usage? Explain.
8 But for the sake of our discussion here, the term “congregation” is used with reference to local assemblies of Christian people scattered throughout the earth wherever people gather together regularly to learn of Jehovah’s will for them. Scriptural precedent for calling such local assemblies “congregations” is clearly set forth at Acts 8:1, 1 Corinthians 11:16 and Romans 16:3, 4. And, according to the 1972 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are 27,154 such congregations in 207 countries around the world.
9. (a) What was foretold regarding the Christian congregation and its growth? (b) Do we see evidence of this today? Explain.
9 Of what is the Christian congregation today an expression? Clearly it is an expression of God’s love and wisdom. No one knows and cares for our best interests better than He does. (Ps. 145:14-16) He knew and foretold that true worship would attract thousands of honest-hearted individuals and that they would need to be taught, educated, and assisted to the point where they would be able to make more disciples like themselves. (Isa. 54:13; 60:22; Matt. 28:19, 20) As a matter of fact, 434,906 newly baptized ministers of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have been added to the growing ranks of these dedicated Christians in just the past three years.
THEOCRATIC APPOINTMENT IN THE CONGREGATION
10. (a) Please identify the leadership of the Christian congregation. (b) What is it that makes the congregation theocratic in structure?
10 But who is at the head of this rapidly expanding congregation, you ask? Is it some brilliant, farsighted man, some human who is a master organizer? No, for the Christian congregation is operated theocratically, meaning that it recognizes the leadership only of Jehovah God as exercised through his Son and enthroned King, Jesus Christ. (Isa. 33:22; Heb. 12:2; Rev. 19:16) This is what makes the congregation theocratic in structure, adhering to God-rule. If an organization is to be fully theocratic, it must be directed and controlled altogether by God and by the forces he operates. It is vital, therefore, that each one recognize that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Christian congregation, as well as showing proper regard for those on earth who have been theocratically appointed to positions of oversight.—Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Cor. 11:3; Acts 14:23.
11. (a) Explain the relationship of the governing body with the “faithful and discreet slave” class. (b) How can it be said that each one appointed to oversight has been appointed by holy spirit?
11 Some individuals in Jehovah’s Christian congregation have heavy responsibilities of oversight. (Luke 12:48) For example, some members of the governing body are also members of the board of directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Moreover, the governing body is made up of members of the “faithful and discreet slave” class mentioned at Matthew 24:45-47, and it represents that class. As a governing body it appoints elders and ministerial servants who hold responsible positions in the Christian congregation. They in turn perform valuable service in their respective assignments, all to Jehovah’s glory. Since each person appointed by the governing body serves in some responsible position of oversight, each appointee must meet certain qualifications as outlined by Jehovah God in his Word the Bible. Each appointee can therefore be said to be appointed by God’s holy spirit, not by any man. This further stamps the congregation as theocratic.—Matt. 23:8-12; Acts 13:2-5; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21.
12. Describe those responsible for advancing the work in the local congregations.
12 The ones primarily responsible for advancing the work in the local territory are these special appointees in the congregation. They are appointed by holy spirit to shepherd God’s flock and to set the right example. (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 5:2) From all outward appearances these are ordinary men, for the most part, who are appointed as elders or overseers. They are “older men,” as identified at 1 Timothy 5:17. They serve together as a “body of elders.” (1 Tim. 4:14, ftn.) You will not recognize these men by any unusual garb, or by any special ecclesiastical titles. You might even work alongside one of these men in your employment in a bank, a grocery store, or on a construction site. However, though they may engage in regular secular work, necessary for taking care of their family responsibilities, they are primarily ministers of God and appointed overseers in the congregation.
13. (a) How does one qualify to be an overseer? (b) What are the primary duties of overseers? (c) Do they receive any special training for their work?
13 Is the matter of qualifying as an overseer one of seniority? No, the standard is one that is spiritual. The Scriptural qualifications for overseers are set out at 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Each overseer appointed by the governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave” must meet these qualifications. What, then, are their primary duties? Their duties are to ‘shepherd the flock of God,’ to see that all in the congregation are aided to fulfill their obligations of dedication in a manner acceptable to Jehovah God, and that all living in the territory assigned to the congregation are given opportunity to receive a regular and thorough witness to the Kingdom. To equip these men better to do this, and in order that they might be able to teach more effectively, which is one of their main responsibilities, special training is provided at the Watch Tower Society’s Kingdom Ministry School, operated for this purpose usually at the branch office of the Society.
FIVE PRINCIPAL POSITIONS OF OVERSIGHT
14. What actually makes any presiding overseer successful in his work?
14 Each congregation has a presiding overseer. What is it that makes the presiding overseer successful in his work? It is his copying Jesus in showing love to the “sheep” and hospitality to strangers who associate with the congregation. (Matt. 11:28-30) Under the gaze of Christ the King, each presiding overseer must prove to be in a spiritual sense like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.—Isa. 32:1, 2.
15. (a) What was said about one presiding overseer? (b) Why are men of this sort ‘dear to us’?
15 Notice, please, what one traveling circuit overseer of Jehovah’s witnesses had to say about a faithful presiding overseer in his circuit: “Brother A. was like a father, but a father who did not pamper his children, one who taught them with firmness, helping them to do what is right . . . He was no sentimentalist, but he showed great affection for his children along with encouragement and admonition.” Obviously, men of this sort are ‘dear to us.’ (Phil. 2:29) These men help all in the congregation to grow to spiritual maturity and to cultivate heart appreciation for the truth. Their diversified talents and capabilities, their zeal for the ministry and their serving on behalf of the congregation under the headship of Christ truly stamp them as “gifts in men.”—Rom. 12:4-8; Eph. 4:8.
16. How does the field overseer fulfill his role as one of the “older men” in the congregation?
16 In order to provide the needed loving oversight, there are associated with the presiding overseer a number of other elders. The duties of one of these, the field overseer, for instance, are many, but primarily he is to coordinate the Kingdom-preaching work of all the individual groups of ministers in the congregation so that a thorough witness is given in the territory. The field overseer also keeps accurate records of the congregation’s field ministry. Then, once a month, the congregation’s combined preaching report is tabulated and sent to the Society’s branch office. Eventually all the branch reports go to the headquarters of the Society in Brooklyn, New York, and these are then compiled and published in the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This annual report also contains interesting experiences from the worldwide congregation of Kingdom preachers.
17. How vital is the work of the Bible study overseer?
17 Another of the “older men” or elders in the congregation is the Bible study overseer. He is interested in encouraging and promoting pure worship in the territory primarily by and through return visits on interested ones and arranging for free home Bible studies. Jehovah’s witnesses gladly make return visits on interested persons and conduct such home Bible studies. (Gal. 6:6) The Bible study overseer provides needed oversight in this field of Bible education by helping various ones in the congregation to start new studies and to conduct them in a beneficial manner. And when newly interested ones begin to attend the meetings of the congregation, he gives particular attention to them to aid in their spiritual growth. Through his loving oversight and good teaching ability, more people in the territory assigned to the congregation receive an accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s Word and purpose, this being essential to their salvation.—Acts 4:12.
18. Why is the Watchtower study the foremost congregation meeting for Jehovah’s witnesses each week?
18 Each week the principal Bible study aid published by Jehovah’s witnesses, the Watchtower magazine, is studied by the congregation as a whole. This is done in the form of a question-and-answer discussion. For this meeting the entire congregation usually meets in one place. Through the columns of The Watchtower comes increased light on God’s Word as Jehovah makes it known. Because of the vital nature of these discussions, the Watchtower study is the most important meeting for all of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses and interested persons. Therefore, the Watchtower study conductor, who presides over this meeting, has an important responsibility. This study enables all to be united in the same line of thought.—1 Cor. 1:10.
19. What does the Theocratic Ministry School overseer do for the benefit of the congregation? Explain the benefits of this school.
19 Another ordained minister who provides loving oversight through a direct teaching of others in the congregation is the Theocratic Ministry School overseer. He presides over the Theocratic Ministry School, which meeting is held at the Kingdom Hall one evening each week. This is a perpetual training school for men, women and children. Students give short Bible talks to the group on assigned subjects. Several textbooks and specially designed speech counsel slips are used, and the school overseer, who is a qualified counselor, offers helpful suggestions for improvement as well as aiding the congregation to get full benefit from the fine material being discussed. In the course of this training the Bible is read through in its entirety, and a wide range of Bible doctrines and topics are covered. All who truly desire to serve Jehovah are invited to enroll in this school. Have you done so?
OTHER AREAS OF OVERSIGHT
20. (a) Explain how the congregation book study conductor has a fine privilege in the congregation. (b) Why is it vital that he be a fine teacher? (c) What benefits flow to newly interested ones as well as Kingdom ministers through the congregation book study arrangement?
20 The congregation book study conductor has a marvelous privilege in connection with teaching in the congregation. Because he works closely with a small group of fellow ministers in building up their faith and helping them to perfect the “art of teaching” so they in turn might aid others, he himself should be a fine teacher. (1 Tim. 4:15, 16; Titus 2:6, 7) To this end, early in the week, usually, Jehovah’s witnesses and persons who are studying the Bible with them go to the Kingdom Hall or the nearest home so designated by the congregation for a one-hour group study under the direction of a congregation book study conductor, using the Bible and a textbook provided by the Watch Tower Society. Here you can get acquainted with your nearest neighbors who are also interested in serving Jehovah and living in his righteous new order. (2 Pet. 3:13) The smaller size of the group enables and encourages you to speak up freely and get accustomed to declaring your faith before others. At the same time, your knowledge is sharpened by the comments of the others present.—Prov. 27:17.
21. How are literature and territory in which to preach provided for Jehovah’s witnesses?
21 Likely you have noted that Jehovah’s witnesses use printed Bible sermons when they teach. No doubt, too, you have observed that the Witnesses feature this very magazine, The Watchtower, and its companion, Awake!, in their public ministry from house to house. These publications are made available to them through their congregations. Of course, whether Christian ministers are offering to the public magazines or books, confusion would result if homes were called on in a “hit-or-miss” fashion. To prevent this, each congregation is assigned a certain territory by the Watch Tower Society. (Gal. 2:9) By arranging for the assigning of small portions of that territory to individual ministers, the field overseer ensures an orderly coverage of all the homes within the congregation’s boundaries.—1 Cor. 14:33.
22. How do Jehovah’s witnesses take care of necessary expenses in the congregation?
22 While salaries are not paid the overseers and the ministerial servants appointed to special duties in the congregation, maintaining a Kingdom Hall, and so forth, involves expenses, all of which are met by voluntary contributions. There are no collection plates in the congregations of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, no envelopes, no tithes or lists of contributors. (Matt. 6:1-4) Each one is free to contribute as he wishes to do so.—2 Cor. 9:7.
23. Explain how loving oversight is administered through the entire Christian congregation world wide.
23 The principle of loving oversight is evident, not only on a local basis, but also in the administration of the worldwide organization of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. This administration is carried on from international headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, operating through 93 branches of the Watch Tower Society world wide at the present time. These branches are visited each year by the president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society or by specially appointed representatives known as zone overseers. Similarly, congregations are visited about two times a year by elders, traveling ministers known as circuit overseers, who are each responsible to provide loving assistance to approximately twenty-two congregations. All the congregations in each circuit meet in assembly twice a year, at which time they are visited and encouraged by another experienced minister, known as the district overseer. He usually serves twenty to twenty-two circuits. Circuit and district overseers report their activity directly to the branch office. Surely this principle of loving assistance and oversight has contributed much to the growth of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses in recent years.
24. (a) To what end does all of this loving oversight lead, and under whose direction? (b) What compelling reasons are there for cooperating with God’s appointed ones?
24 What does all of this point up? It highlights the fact that Jehovah has a marvelous purpose in making the truth available to everyone today in an orderly fashion, and all of this is being done under the direction of Jesus Christ as Chief Shepherd and Overseer, under whom appointed men on earth serve in carrying out God’s will. (Eph. 1:9, 10; 1 Pet. 5:4) Further, with the end of this old system of things so close at hand, soon there will be no one else present to administer earth’s affairs except these ones specially appointed by the King, Jesus Christ. (Ps. 37:37, 38; 45:16) Surely, then, there are compelling reasons to learn to cooperate with such men today, and that is the subject of our next article, to which we invite your careful consideration.
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Overseers show loving concern for their Christian brothers, aiding them in the congregation . . .
. . . and also in preaching the good news