Whatever Else You Are Doing—Preach!
“As you go, preach.”—Matt. 10:7.
1. Why is it so essential to have the preaching of the good news done at this time, and what question arises as to the preaching?
WHEN we look around us at the troubled conditions in the world, the increase of crime, the unrest among youth, the unhappiness among families, it is painfully evident that the majority of mankind needs to know about the good things that Jehovah recorded in his Word, the Bible. However, the question asked over nineteen hundred years ago still echoes today: “How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach?” (Rom. 10:14) When you read these inspired words in the Holy Scriptures, to whom do you look as the preacher meant? Do you think of it as applying to clergymen or others with special education or ability?
2. What fine example did the early Christians set, and is the preaching restricted to any certain class of people?
2 Each one of the early Christians felt personally involved in the answer to this question, and that is why every one of them became a preacher. Regardless of the fact that some “were men unlettered and ordinary,” all knew something about the “good news” and had a burning desire to share it with someone, anyone with whom they would come in contact. (Acts 4:13) The History of the Christian Religion and Church, During the Three First Centuries (New York; 1848, by Dr. Augustus Neander, translated from German by Henry John Rose, page 41) had this to say: “Celsus, the first writer against Christianity, makes it a matter of mockery, that labourers, shoemakers, farmers, the most uninformed and clownish of men, should be zealous preachers of the Gospel.” So, preaching in early Christianity was not restricted to a special class, but all Christians felt an obligation to be preachers. It will be of interest to analyze how over one million eight hundred thousand persons of all walks of life, from all educational backgrounds, with a variety of abilities have come to be preachers of the good news today.—1 Cor. 1:26-29.
THE MAKING OF A PREACHER
3. What changes have occurred in people’s lives due to the preaching work?
3 We are here talking about those Christian preachers known all around the world today as Jehovah’s witnesses. Before learning about the ‘good news of God’s kingdom,’ many of these had been involved in drug abuse, drunkenness and other degraded ways of life. Others were caught up in commercial ventures and were full of tension and anxiety because of the instability of the economy and their quest for financial security. Still others were leading humdrum lives, getting nowhere and constantly asking themselves: “What purpose is there in living? Is this all there is to life?” All of this changed because someone had enough love for his neighbor to preach the truth of God’s word to him. An aimless, troubled existence gained purpose. Frustration and anxiety gave way to hope. With this new-found sense of direction in life, they now have a zest for living.—1 Cor. 6:9-11.
4, 5. (a) What condition of mankind motivates Christians to share the good news with others? (b) How does love of God affect our preaching obligation?
4 Are you one of those who have thus benefited? How does this make you feel? For one thing, you no doubt feel a sense of obligation, an obligation to help someone else in the same way that you were helped. But more than there being just a feeling of hard, cold duty, has not your very heart been touched? Yes, you see so many people in the same condition that you formerly were in, and you feel toward them the same as Jesus did toward the people of his day: “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) Jehovah’s Christian witnesses are motivated by such compassion to want to help humankind today.—1 John 3:16; 4:11.
5 Even more than love for neighbor, it is love for God that motivates true Christians to preach ‘the good news of God’s kingdom.’ In fact, by his Son he has commanded them to do so. (Matt. 24:14; Acts 10:42) All who truly love God are preaching. We cannot pay a “preacher” to preach for us any more than we can pay someone to live a good, clean, upright life for us while we disobey God’s moral laws. Each must carry his own load of responsibility. There is no substitute for our personally preaching. It is an essential expression of our love for God.—1 John 5:3; Gal. 6:5.
6. How should we view our privilege to preach, and with what benefit to ourselves?
6 Observing God’s commands in regard to preaching, or anything else, is not burdensome. Eating, drinking, sleeping and breathing are not burdensome, and yet obedience to these natural laws of God is vital, as our life depends on it. To a Christian, preaching is just as vital. It is something we want to do, and what pleasure it brings! What satisfaction, contentment and joy we have after a period of preaching! To know that one is able to do what Christ Jesus did and what God has commanded for our day brings an inner sense of peace and contentment that knows no equal. And to think that, even unknown to you, a seed may have been planted that will perhaps open the way for someone else to learn the truth—what joy this brings! Faithful preaching also contributes to a clean conscience, which is a factor of no small value in our present happiness and peace of mind.
7. What may cause one to hold back from preaching, and yet what positive viewpoint is necessary?
7 Among those actively sharing in the preaching work today are persons with limited education, physical impediments and other problems that some might consider to be drawbacks, but they have not let these things stop them from obeying God and showing love for their neighbor. One of Jehovah’s witnesses who lived in a rural community all her life used to be so timid and shy that she would not even do her own grocery shopping because of being afraid to meet people. She was in her fifties when learning the Bible truth. Now she goes from house to house telling total strangers about the good news she has learned. Now it is just the natural thing for her to do. If we love God and our neighbor, if we will forget about our qualifications from a human standpoint and simply trust in God, we can become preachers of the good news and enjoy a successful ministry.—2 Cor. 3:5; Phil. 4:13.
8. What quality is needed in order to preach, and why?
8 Of course, it takes real faith to speak out boldly about the truth from God’s Word, because, though it is good news, it is unpopular to many. This message often calls for drastic changes in one’s way of life, and many do not like to change their traditional way of living. They may scoff at the message or be indifferent. Without faith we might stop speaking. Yet, true Christians are motivated by the same faith that moved the apostle Paul, who wrote: “Now because we have the same spirit of faith as that of which it is written: ‘I exercised faith, therefore I spoke,’ we too exercise faith and therefore we speak.” (2 Cor. 4:13) True Christians need to exercise care never to neglect the many avenues available for them to keep their faith strong, realizing that weakening faith will result in a letup in their preaching activities.
9. How is the heart involved in our properly serving Jehovah?
9 So then, we have seen that secular education and natural ability are not prerequisites to becoming a preacher; rather, one must have love for God, love for one’s neighbor, and real faith based upon accurate knowledge of God’s Word. But now the questions arise: “To whom do we preach, when, where, and how?” The key to these questions is indicated by the apostle Paul, who wrote a letter to some Christian preachers in Rome. He said to them: “You became obedient from the heart.” (Rom. 6:17) Yes, the heart is the key to the matter. For this reason Paul did not have to give them a lot of specific instructions as to when, where and how they should preach. Likewise today, if we will simply do what our heart motivates us to do, we are going to start talking to someone about the things we are learning from the Bible, and so we will have become preachers of the good news.
10. What effective and superior method of reaching people did the early Christians use?
10 As preachers of the good news, our desire should be to reach all who will hear. In the days of the apostles all Christians, young and old, rich and poor, farmers and city dwellers, preached the good news. Whatever those footstep followers of Christ knew about Jesus, his ministry, his death and his resurrection, they told to others. In fact, they used every avenue open to them to get this message of everlasting life through to the people around them. They preached in the fields, in the cities, at marketplaces, in the homes and everywhere they found a listening ear. They did not hide themselves away in some monastery, nor did they wait for some scheduled time to preach on a certain day, as clergymen do in modern times. Early Christians were moved from the heart to make proclamation of the good news under all conditions. It is said of the apostle Paul: “Consequently he began to reason in the synagogue with the Jews and the other people who worshiped God and every day in the marketplace with those who happened to be on hand.” (Acts 17:17) Similarly today, a love for people will help us to be alert to the many avenues open for reaching people.—Mark 1:39; 6:56; Luke 8:1; 13:26; John 18:20.
11. What method of preaching to people are Jehovah’s witnesses famous for world wide?
11 The Christian witnesses of Jehovah are making good use of the house-to-house method of preaching. In groups or as individuals, on any day of the week and almost any time of the day, Jehovah’s witnesses share in this feature of their ministry. Where individuals are not at home they are careful to make note of the address so that further efforts may be made to find each householder. Where interest in the Bible is shown, return visits are made and, if possible, a home Bible study program is established.
12. Alertness at Bible studies can often accomplish what additional good?
12 When conducting Bible studies in the homes of interested persons, advantage is taken of opportunities to invite other members of the family to take part. Perhaps there is a visitor in the home, so rather than our delaying the study until the visitor leaves, we invite him to sit in on the study. In many cases the visitors are waiting to be invited or are interested in what is going on, so the invitation is accepted.
13. (a) In witnessing to acquaintances and relatives, what advantage do we have? (b) Why is tact important for our effectively presenting the good news to such ones?
13 Jehovah’s witnesses know that if they keep some Bible literature handy at all times, and if they are alert and will boldly but tactfully take the initiative, many other occasions are available in which they may share the good news. For example, we have acquaintances and relatives that we may see from time to time, and often they will more readily listen to us than to a stranger. Of course, in such situations there is the ever-present danger of being too forceful and trying to tell them too much at one time. Even though we may know them well, it is not wise to take liberties that may close their minds to the message. We need to be just as tactful and considerate of them as we are of the strangers we meet when we call from house to house. We may start with small dosages of the positive aspects of the good news. If the initial response is a cold one, there is no need to isolate ourselves from them, but, rather, we endeavor to keep the lines of communication open so that a further witness may be given at some future time. Through the loving concern of friends and relatives many have come to learn the good news.
14. Can we conscientiously preach at our place of employment? Explain.
14 At our place of employment opportunities often present themselves where the Kingdom message can be presented. For example, at lunchtime the Christian witness may take the time to do some reading of the Bible. He could take the initiative to strike up a conversation with a fellow worker and mention an interesting scripture, such as Psalm 37:10, 11, which tells that in a little while the wicked ones will be done away with and the meek ones will live on the earth in peace. Questions such as, “Do you think you will ever see that day?” or, “How would you and your family like to live at that time?” can easily direct the conversation to the Kingdom hope. Of course, we should not do this preaching when we should be working at our secular job, but should realize that our example as a good worker is very important.
15, 16. (a) How can we mix preaching with traveling? (b) What opportunities do we have to preach in our homes?
15 Other occasions for sharing the good news come when traveling. Hotel and motel managers, gasoline station attendants, and restaurant workers all need what you have—the good news. When traveling to a Christian convention one could easily explain the purpose of the trip and perhaps leave copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines, or, possibly, a book such as The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. While traveling on public transportation one could read some Christian literature. Frequently the one sitting next to you will show some interest. Or you may offer the one sitting next to you something to read on the trip. Many persons have been introduced to the good news in this way. Of course, it takes some initiative and advance preparation to use these occasions to preach and to spread Christian literature.—John 4:6, 7, 13, 14.
16 Salesmen may call at your home from time to time. You might ask a question such as, “Does anyone ever mistake you for one of Jehovah’s witnesses?” This might spark a conversation that could be utilized to preach the good news. Others who call may similarly be given an opportunity to learn the truth. We might ask, “Do you think we will ever see peace?” or, “Why do you think there is so much crime?”
17. Schoolchildren, why are your opportunities to preach in school so unusual?
17 Young folks in school have an excellent opportunity to spread the good news to an almost captive audience. They have a field that is relatively untouched, and one in which open minds are often found. Whether you are studying about the future, the past, or the present, the Bible has something to say that, from time to time, can be tied into classroom discussions and private conversations. The literature of the Watch Tower Society covers a wide range of subjects, and if you are alert, teachers and classmates alike may be introduced to the good news through it.
18. How is it possible for the physically handicapped to share in the preaching work, and who makes our efforts successful?
18 It may be a greater challenge for those who are sick or physically handicapped to present the good news; nevertheless, they share the same privilege as preachers as do their fellow Christians. Many of these write letters, use the telephone, and never pass up an opportunity to talk to a visitor about God’s promises. While in the hospital, fellow patients, nurses, and doctors all may be tactfully introduced to the good news. Witnesses who are thus confined may not always see immediate results, and yet their ‘planting and watering’ is making the same contribution to the preaching work as that of their Christian brothers. Both must rely upon God to make it grow. And always realize, regardless of who listens, we are doing what God tells us to do. We are being faithful.—1 Cor. 3:6, 7.
PREACHING BY EXAMPLE
19, 20. (a) Is it possible for Jehovah to be praised without a word being spoken? Why do you so answer? (b) How can we in our own neighborhood praise Jehovah by our conduct?
19 People may learn much about the good news from us without our ever saying a word. Psalm 19:1-3 shows how this is possible. Ps 19 Verses one and two read: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and of the work of his hands the expanse is telling. One day after another day causes speech to bubble forth, and one night after another night shows forth knowledge.” This sounds as if the heavens literally speak about God, but as Ps 19 verse three says: “There is no speech, and there are no words; no voice on their part is being heard.”
20 The speechless testimony of the heavens says so much about our Creator’s majesty, and, likewise, our good example in the community can do much to enhance the preaching work. This aspect of spreading the good news must not be overlooked. Our neighbors may not be fellow believers, but they are fellow humans and deserve due consideration. A kind word or a pleasant smile goes a long way. In time of need we might even be able to render some assistance to them, even as Jesus showed human compassion to those in need in his day. Our genuine concern in their time of need may cause them to notice that there is a people on the earth who follow Jesus’ counsel: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matt. 7:12) In addition to our human kindness, they may notice that we are especially neat and clean around the home. They may observe that we do things as a family, and are always so happy. At our place of employment the application of Bible principles makes us stand out as honest, hard workers. As we go about our daily life we are silently preaching to those in the community. Now, when we or one of our Christian brothers calls at the homes in the area with the message of Christian hope, the response we get will to some degree be a reflection of the example that has been set. What have you done recently for a neighbor that would cause him to listen to the next witness of Jehovah at his door?—Gal. 6:10; Mark 10:13-16.
RESULTS OF YOUR PREACHING
21. To what positive proof can we point to show that Jehovah is blessing the preaching of his people?
21 We may read the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses and note that tens of thousands of persons annually respond to the preaching work, and we may wonder, “Why don’t we see quicker growth in our congregation?” But if you examine the facts, what do you find? Check back five, ten or twenty years. Are there not more congregations, more preachers of the good news in your area now than there were then? Are you not visiting the people in the ministry more often now? We must exercise patience like the farmer. We may not notice growth from day to day, but it is there. Organizationally we are being blessed, and it has become true with Jehovah’s people as Isaiah prophesied: “The little one himself will become a thousand, and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time.”—Isa. 60:22; Jas. 5:7, 8.
22. Explain why we should not be discouraged if after our preaching we cannot point directly to a ‘letter of recommendation.’
22 But how about us as individuals? Does the fact that we cannot point to someone in the congregation and say that we personally were used to help that person into the way of the truth mean that God is not blessing our ministry? No! Really, how many of us can point to someone and say we brought him into the way of the truth? Actually it takes the efforts of all the brothers in cultivating the field by their faithful preaching and by setting good examples in the community, and, finally, it is Jehovah who brings the increase. Who knows how many people you may have aided to learn the good news? Perhaps it was your good example, your call at their door or the letter you wrote that initially aroused their interest. Someone else may have actually conducted the Bible study to further their interest and knowledge, but you share in that ‘letter of recommendation.’ Really, all of God’s people can point to the hundreds of thousands who have become baptized Christians in recent years as proof that Jehovah’s witnesses are adequately qualified to be ministers.—1 Cor. 3:7; 2 Cor. 3:1-6.
23. Why do Jehovah’s witnesses give the preaching work such a high priority in their lives, and what is the secret of their success in preaching?
23 We have seen that it is a command from God that all Christians preach, regardless of age, sex or educational background. It has also been noted that our success as preachers depends upon the intensity of our love for God, the quality of our faith, and the depth of our love for our fellowman. We have also observed that there are many opportunities open for preaching and that one should not become discouraged if results do not seem to be immediately forthcoming. Our perseverance and our faithful example in the community will reap fruitage. The results of the preaching done by Jehovah’s witnesses over the past years have been an encouragement to them and an honor to Jehovah’s name. So, whatever you are doing in preaching the good news, keep up the fine work.