Traveling Overseers Bring Benefits Today
“I indeed bear him witness that he puts himself to great effort in behalf of you and of those at Laodicea and of those at Hierapolis.”—Col. 4:13.
1, 2. (a) What dangers confront us today? (b) How may we be equipped to resist the Devil? (c) What outstanding provision has Jehovah made for “strengthening the congregations”?
WE live in “critical times,” the closing period of the foretold “last days.” Students of God’s Word know this. (2 Tim. 3:1) Nevertheless, timely reminders often can help us to ward off any creeping indifference toward the dangers that confront us. An enemy world and its invisible ruler continue to exert increasing pressures to weaken faith, to mislead and to ruin. (John 14:30; Rev. 12:9, 12) Truly, “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) In his wrath, he is intensifying his war against those who observe the commandments of God. (Rev. 12:17) Subtly he endeavors to draw Jehovah’s people away from the living God into a fruitless, worldly way of life, thus cutting them off from the ‘shepherd and overseer of their souls,’ Jehovah God. The Devil’s aim is to devour someone.—Heb. 3:12; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19; 2:25; 5:8.
2 To avoid such a tragic outcome, we need every provision Jehovah makes to keep ourselves spiritually strong. Thus we can resist the Devil and continue to render sacred service to Jehovah alone. (Matt. 4:8-11; Jas. 4:7) Among the provisions that greatly benefit God’s people is the arrangement for traveling overseers to serve them and “see how they are.” Such visits contribute toward “strengthening the congregations” to take a stand against the adversary, and stirring them to greater activity in serving God.—Acts 15:36, 41; 1 Pet. 5:9; 1 Cor. 16:9.
3. How should traveling overseers view the flock, and what efforts should they put forth in its behalf?
3 There can be no mistaking the seriousness and the importance of the work of these traveling overseers. They should take to heart the principle of Proverbs 27:23, which says: “You ought to know positively the appearance of your flock. Set your heart to your droves.” These traveling undershepherds should closely observe the spiritual condition of the flock, in order to protect it from danger. They should endeavor also to minister to its needs, taking an interest in each individual “sheep.” (Compare 1 Samuel 17:34, 35; Philippians 2:4.) Being concerned about benefiting their brothers, they will want to put forth earnest effort in teaching them and encouraging them in the evangelizing work. (1 Tim. 5:17; 2 Tim. 4:5) In thus expending themselves they should be like Epaphras, who ‘put himself to great effort’ in behalf of the congregation.—Col. 4:12, 13.
4. What can we individually do to benefit from visits by these older men?
4 By taking full advantage of these visits, each of us can gain great benefits from the counsel, encouragement and assistance of these older men. To gain such blessings, however, requires cooperation and a diligent effort on the part of each one of us.
5. What preparations have a great bearing on the success of the traveling overseer’s visit? (1 Cor. 14:40)
5 A variety of activities is scheduled for the traveling overseer’s visit with a congregation. The success of the visit depends, in large part, on the preparations made by the congregation beforehand. There is a need for planning times and locations for service, setting aside territory for group activity, and bringing congregation records up-to-date and making them available for checking. Publishers would benefit greatly by making arrangements to share in the work. Some may be able to serve as auxiliary pioneers. A number of elders and ministerial servants may be able to adjust their affairs to share in group activity during the midweek. The elders can give careful thought to the agenda for the elders’ meeting that week. Enthusiastic prior announcement of the week’s arrangements can contribute toward a full period of stimulating association and activity.
6. What hospitality and consideration can be shown?
6 Traveling overseers and their wives should appreciate the hospitality extended by the congregation. (Heb. 13:1, 2) They must learn to adjust to the varying circumstances in their assignments. They are subject to limitations, just like those of us who may have some health problems, and need sufficient rest in order to maintain their pace each day. So due consideration needs to be given to such matters in advance. Of course, the traveling overseers and their wives should not expect anything elaborate. Whatever may thoughtfully be arranged in the way of modest, suitable accommodations and wholesome meals should be received with genuine appreciation.—Rom. 12:13.
7. How may the congregation gain maximum benefits from the visit?
7 To the extent that elders and the rest of the congregation properly prepare and build up enthusiasm for the visit, to that extent everyone will benefit. If preparation is inadequate or left to the last minute, maximum results will not be gained.
WAYS TO BENEFIT PERSONALLY
8 When the visit begins there are things each one can do to receive the most benefit from it. The traveling overseer’s talks cover matters of worship, Christian living and more effective ways to preach and teach the “good news.” Those who have taken to heart the Scriptural encouragement and exhortation have often been aided to make decisions and adjustments in their lives that have resulted in their advancement. (1 Tim. 4:15) Appreciating this, we should want to share fully in each meeting, taking in points of counsel that apply to us personally.—Heb. 10:23-25.
9. Why should we not feel hesitant about approaching the traveling overseer, and what might we discuss with him?
9 Our attitude toward the visiting overseer can also help us to benefit from his presence. Some may be hesitant to approach him because of his busy schedule. However, he is there to help. So all should feel free to get acquainted. (2 Cor. 6:11-13) We can discuss with him what we have learned at meetings, points of interest in the publications, field experiences and questions about improving our personal service activity.—Phil. 4:8, 9.
10. In what ways can we benefit by accompanying the traveling overseer in field activity?
10 Nor should we be fearful, nor hold back from accompanying him in the field service. His sole aim is to give us encouragement and help rather than criticize what we do. (Acts 18:27, 28) Of course, if he has some suggestion to offer, then we are pleased to accept it. He is not to take himself too seriously, but should be mindful of dealing with others in a kind, loving manner. (1 Thess. 2:7, 8) If some of us have been hesitant about fully benefiting from his visit in the past, let us make it a point to do something about it the next time he comes. It will greatly add to his joy and ours.
11. What benefits may be derived through the sisters’ association and wholehearted cooperation with a traveling overseer’s wife?
11 Most of the traveling overseers are married and their wives accompany them. While he is the one with whom to talk about serious problems, sisters in the congregation especially can benefit from his wife’s association and example in the field. She works under her husband’s direction and will be pleased to accept invitations from such sisters to accompany them in various features of the service. Always, it is appreciated if the fine support for field activity in the morning can be continued during the afternoon, when perhaps local sisters can provide transportation and share in the work. This often frees the husband to make additional appointments. So sisters have a fine opportunity in this way to add to the effectiveness of the visit.
12. What might those do who desire to serve where there is a greater need?
12 Are you interested in having a fuller share in the Kingdom work elsewhere? If the territory in your own congregation is well worked, ask the traveling overseer for suggestions as to where your assistance could be used to better advantage in another area. (2 Cor. 10:15, 16) In each country throughout the earth, those looking after the work are desirous of helping you to expand your efforts.
13. (a) Why and how have pioneers been helped by discussing their particular problems with the traveling overseer? (b) What appreciation have some pioneers expressed about his visit? (c) Do the pioneers in your congregation have any similar comment?
13 Very likely, the traveling overseer has been a pioneer field worker for many years, and is well acquainted with problems that often tend to discourage one. Other pioneers who spend some time with him discussing their particular problems, regardless of whether these involve economic difficulty, health, family obligations, and so forth, often are given a fresh outlook and are helped to renew their determination to continue on in this service. (Phil. 4:11-13; 1 Thess. 3:7-10; Gal. 4:13; 1 Tim. 5:8) Two pioneers who recently received help from a traveling overseer wrote:
“We appreciated [his] visit to our congregation. He was of much encouragement to both of us as well as the entire congregation. We were encouraged to stick to the pioneer service despite the nature of our problems.”
A special pioneer who had been ill and bedridden for two weeks stated:
“I was feeling very discouraged because I have not had a very good month. But we had a visit from the circuit overseer and he was very encouraging to us all. We enjoyed his visit so much and we all (especially me) feel ready to try harder to improve our service to Jehovah.”
Yes, pioneers, as well as everyone in the congregation, stand to benefit from his visit.—Phil. 3:16.
BENEFITING THOSE APPOINTED TO RESPONSIBLE POSITIONS
14, 15. (a) What shows that Paul took an interest in elders and ministerial servants? (b) What important matters can be discussed with the traveling overseer, and how can elders use time with him wisely?
14 In the first century Paul took a special interest in elders and ministerial servants. (Phil. 1:1) He outlined their qualifications at 1 Timothy 3:1-10, 12, 13 and Titus 1:5-9 and gave them much fine counsel. Likewise, traveling overseers today benefit the responsible brothers in the congregation by providing specific counsel and assistance.
15 At their meeting with the elders, traveling overseers have given encouraging suggestions and advice. Their background in handling congregational responsibility, along with the experience gained in serving scores of congregations, enables them to offer practical observations and counsel on various aspects of the evangelizing and disciple-making work, on shepherding activity and on improving meetings. However, if time is consumed on incidental matters at this meeting, elders will miss the benefits of discussing these more important matters that affect the congregation. Hence, local elders should prepare an agenda tailored for the coming visit, providing opportunity to cover what would be most vital to the spiritual well-being and progress of the congregation.—Prov. 21:5; Phil. 1:9-11.
16. How and why should ministerial servants use opportunities to receive help during the visit?
16 If anyone is a ministerial servant there may be aspects of his work in a congregation book study group, in his assignments of handling records or with respect to other duties at the Kingdom Hall that the traveling overseer can help him to fulfill. The ministerial servant should take advantage of opportunities to receive help so as to make improvements. (Luke 16:10) By proving himself dependable and progressive, he will give evidence of his desire to serve the brothers and to be worthy of greater privileges in the future.—1 Cor. 4:1, 2.
17. How may elders handling serious problems benefit from the visit?
17 Elders may also find the traveling overseer’s observation and counsel to be very helpful in dealing with serious problems. (Prov. 13:10) They may have experienced some difficulty in handling a recent case of wrongdoing or a case that is pending. The visitor’s Scriptural counsel may aid them to weigh matters carefully before making a decision.—Prov. 15:22.
18, 19. (a) What problems among elders may occasionally develop due to human imperfections? (b) In such event, how may the traveling overseer help?
18 Due to human imperfections, elders or ministerial servants may occasionally have some problems among themselves. (Jas. 3:2) There may have been some unnecessary faultfinding or misunderstandings. One of the elders may have failed to keep a confidence, resulting in hurt feelings and an undermining of respect for him and other elders. (Prov. 25:9) Possibly pride has unbalanced someone to the point that he takes himself too seriously and becomes unreasonable. (Rom. 12:3) What if these or similar difficulties have disrupted cooperation, and local responsible brothers have been unable to resolve matters?
19 The elders should take the traveling overseer into their confidence, seeking his assistance to restore harmony in their dealings with one another. (Eph. 4:1-3) He may be able to aid them in reasoning things out on the basis of God’s Word. (Prov. 20:3) By thus endeavoring to resolve matters promptly and peacefully, the elders may show their appreciation of this provision to talk things over with a visiting older brother in the Lord and let God’s Word set things straight.—2 Tim. 3:16.
20. If a traveling overseer has erred in judgment, how might the matter be handled?
20 By the same token, elders should recognize that the traveling overseer is also imperfect. On occasion it may seem to the local elders that he has erred in judgment, even as the apostle Peter was not without fault. (Gal. 2:11-14) Like any other elder, the visiting overseer should never feel that he is above counsel. If a number of elders are disturbed about something that he said or did, it would be a kindness for them to ask him about it. It may have been a misunderstanding or an oversight, in which case allowance can be made and the matter covered over in love. (1 Pet. 4:8) On the other hand, they may have a valid point of counsel that he will need to apply in order to serve his brothers in a more beneficial way. Like David, he would regard their advice as a loving-kindness that he would “not want to refuse.”—Ps. 141:5.
COUNSELOR IN CONSIDERING RECOMMENDATIONS
21, 22. (a) Why is it a serious responsibility to recommend elders and ministerial servants? (b) How are elders benefited in having the traveling overseer sit in as a counselor when they consider recommendations?
21 Bodies of elders have endeavored to fulfill their responsibility properly in recommending new elders and ministerial servants, or in initiating the removal of those already appointed. Weighing the qualifications of a man for congregational responsibility is a serious matter. Emphasizing this are the apostle Paul’s words at 1 Timothy 5:22: “Never lay your hands hastily upon any man; neither be a sharer in the sins of others; preserve yourself chaste.”
22 Hence, another way in which the traveling overseer benefits the congregation is by sitting in with the local body of elders to consider recommendations. It is essential that each recommended individual measure up to the Scriptural qualifications. (1 Tim. 3:1-10, 12; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4) For instance, is he truly a spiritual man? Is he exemplary in ‘bearing much fruit and proving himself Jesus’ disciple’? (John 15:8) In his role as counselor, the visiting overseer can assist elders faced with such questions, doing so objectively. This provides the elders opportunity to benefit from his counsel and observations. Similarly, he may bring up questions to clarify matters in his own mind. Such discussion should be aimed toward making a balanced determination as to whether individuals really qualify for responsibility.
23, How may we gain the greatest benefit from the traveling overseers’ visits? (b) What may result from our appreciating these visits?
23 Traveling overseers truly put forth great effort in our behalf. Let us benefit from their service. Let us accept any due counsel that they give to help us to overcome or endure personal problems or to draw closer to the brotherhood in love. (1 Pet. 2:17) They can indeed help to strengthen our resolve to withstand pressures from this world, and to keep fully clad with spiritual armor as we stand firm in our fight against the Devil. (Eph. 6:11-18) Yes, let us appreciate the visits of the traveling overseers as another provision to help us to cultivate that tested quality of faith that will be “found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 1:7.
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Preaching at the Homes
Teaching in the Congregation
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Encouraging Young People
Comforting the Aged