Now Is the Time to Preach the Word
“Every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.”—Acts 5:42.
1, 2. (a) What first-century results of Kingdom preaching do we have record of in the Bible? (b) How did Jesus show in Matthew 28:19, 20 and Acts 1:8 that preaching would be the work of his followers?
FOLLOWING the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost, the followers of Jesus Christ were infused with strength and courage to continue without letup in teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus. What were the results in that first century? We are told that many of those who had listened to the speech of the followers of Jesus became believers. In fact, the number of men who believed totaled about 5,000. (Acts 4:4) On another occasion the Bible record says that believers in the Lord kept on being added, multitudes both of men and of women.—Acts 5:14.
2 In a very short time after Pentecost there were literally thousands who became believers as a result of Jesus’ followers continuing without letup in their teaching of the good news about Christ. It is thrilling to read of the accomplishments of those sharing in the proclamation of the “good news” in the first century of our Common Era just shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the outpouring of holy spirit to accomplish such a magnificent work. Our faithful brothers and sisters of the first century were indeed workers, hard workers, doing that to which they were assigned by the Lord Jesus Christ.—Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8.
3, 4. (a) When, in modern times, was the stage set for a reviving of the preaching work? (b) How, in spite of Christendom’s thwarting of the Kingdom preaching activity, did Jehovah proceed to get his work accomplished, with what results during a most troublous time in human history?
3 Is it any less so in the 20th century? Let us examine the facts. Remember this about the first century and the start of Christianity: It began with one man, the Lord Jesus Christ. It grew to such an extent in the short space of three and one half years that his religious opposers said: “See! The world has gone after him.” (John 12:19) In our day, particularly toward the close of the 19th century, the time was approaching for Jehovah God’s great harvest work through Christ Jesus to begin. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) Christendom had been on the scene for centuries, but rather than advancing the light of the truth concerning the good news about Christ Jesus and the kingdom for which Christians were to be praying and looking, she was hiding that light with her many false doctrines and teachings. However, Jehovah was not to be thwarted as the time neared for his Son to take Kingdom power. Through a group of earnest Bible students Jehovah’s holy spirit began to provide insight to those loving righteousness and sincerely wanting to do his will and work. The results have been thrilling since those early days, even as they were in the first century. It has been estimated that in the years just before the turn of the 20th century there were as many as 4,000 who were sharing in making public declaration of their hope.
4 Spanning some 80 years since the dawn of the year 1900, we find that through the most troublous period in human history Jehovah has continued to add to the ranks of those ministers proclaiming the good news about the Christ and his kingdom. (Compare Acts 16:5.) And the 1981 service year of activity for Jehovah’s Witnesses has brought forth many blessings to the Kingdom proclaimers worldwide.
What Has Been Happening
5. (a) What interest during 1981 was shown in commemorating the Lord’s Evening Meal by Jehovah’s Witnesses and interested ones? (b) Of those who attended, how many had some share in making a public declaration of the Kingdom during the year?
5 Turning our attention first to the most important day on the Christian calendar, the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal commemorating the death of Christ, in 43,870 congregations worldwide during 1981 there were 5,987,893 who gathered together on Sunday, April 19 (Nisan 14, Jewish calendar), for this celebration. These millions heard discussed the true and accurate meaning of the Lord’s death as taught in the Bible. Of that number worldwide in the 1981 service year, there were 2,247,486 who regularly shared in preaching and teaching the good news of the Kingdom in 206 lands and islands. And there was a peak of 2,361,896 Witnesses who at some time during the year had a share in this God-assigned ministry. What did they accomplish? How effective is their message in helping people? Let us see.
Spreading the Word
6. (a) Whose religious teachings have dominated in Central and South America for centuries, resulting in what condition? (b) However, what change has been taking place in these lands?
6 Roman Catholicism has dominated Central and South American thinking for centuries, resulting in the masses of people having very little appreciation for the true teachings of the Bible. (2 Corinthians 4:4) As a consequence, without the knowledge of Christ Jesus and the good news of the Kingdom, the people have been skinned and knocked about, much like the condition Jesus saw among the Jews of his day who were under the tyranny of the scribes and Pharisees. (Matthew 9:36) However, due to God’s blessing on the 20th-century preaching activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in these Latin countries, a wonderful change is taking place. As the light has shone forth amid the spiritual darkness that covers the earth, thousands of honest-hearted persons have been gathered to Jehovah’s organization.—Isaiah 60:1, 2, 8.
7. Outline the fine experience of one 12-year-old girl in Argentina.
7 Bible truth makes its impact on persons of all ages, helping them to take a stand for Jehovah’s kingdom. (Psalm 119:129, 130) A 12-year-old publisher in Argentina, who is not yet baptized, told of her great joy in conducting eight home Bible studies. She wrote this: “Especially during vacation time I spend as much time as possible in door-to-door work, return visits and Bible study work. All this activity makes me feel very happy and greatly privileged to be used by Jehovah as an instrument in his hands to help many people to know him as the true God. I pray I may always have this privilege.” She plans to get baptized soon and continue toward her goal as a pioneer. This from a 12-year-old girl! What a force for right thinking we have in the Word of God!
8. What marvelous expansion of Kingdom proclaimers has taken place in Central and South America since 1945?
8 In 1945, at the close of the second world war, which had ravaged the earth, there were in all of Central and South America, including Mexico, 4,720 persons who shared in preaching the good news of the Kingdom. During the 1981 service year in those same countries the “good news” was being preached by a peak of 373,919 publishers. Truly the waters of truth have been made available in those parched lands and thirsty ones have responded in a marvelous way.—Compare John 7:37, 38.
9. What has been the situation for Kingdom proclaimers in Europe since the start of the 20th century?
9 The good news of the Kingdom has deep roots in many of the countries of Europe. From the early days of the 20th century, and even before in some lands, the witnesses of Jehovah, then known as International Bible Students, were spreading the Kingdom good news among the people. For example, the first record of any witnessing being done in Germany goes back to the turn of the century. The Watch Tower Society’s first president, Charles T. Russell, visited Germany in 1891, and thereafter arrangements were made to print some books and leaflets in the German language. German congregations were first established shortly after 1901 in Germany.
10. What experience from Germany shows the continued effectiveness of the house-to-house ministry?
10 To this very day Jehovah’s people in Germany find that the house-to-house work is a most effective way to spread this good news of Jehovah’s kingdom to the people. (Luke 9:1-6) As a result of witnessing to one couple met in house-to-house work, 12 to 14 persons assembled thereafter for a home Bible study that was started. The family later emigrated to Australia and there the entire family, with the exception of one married daughter, continued studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The mother and father have since been baptized.
11. How does an elderly, crippled witness of Jehovah in West Berlin feel about her ministry?
11 A comment from one 84-year-old sister in West Berlin who, though crippled severely, is able to share in the auxiliary pioneer work will give some insight into her appreciation for the truth and for the need of preaching the Word of God now. She said: “I love Jehovah so much that I simply have to share in the service and attend meetings in order to prove this to him.”—Compare Psalm 122:1.
12. (a) To what extent has Italy received the good news of the Kingdom since 1945 in particular? (b) What encouraging information do we have about the Kingdom work in the countries of Italy, Portugal and Spain?
12 In Italy, where the Roman Catholic Church has for centuries been in control of the religious lives of the people, the events of recent years have brought to the fore the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses as never before. From a small handful numbering about 90 in 1945, Jehovah’s Witnesses have grown to be the second-largest religious organization in Italy. (Isaiah 60:22) For the service year of 1981 the branch there reported a peak of 90,553 Kingdom proclaimers. Now as never before the time is ripe for the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom in Italy and other Latin lands of Europe. In Italy in 1945, as mentioned, there were about 90 publishers, but in Spain and Portugal that year there is no record of any witnesses of Jehovah proclaiming the Kingdom good news. However, in 1981 the total in these three lands has reached 159,972 publishers. As Jesus said: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.”—Matthew 9:37.
13. (a) What do the records show regarding the spreading of the “good news” on the African continent? (b) What experience shows that the time is indeed ripe for the harvesting of more lovers of righteousness?
13 In many parts of Africa, thousands upon thousands have responded to the message of truth as proclaimed there by Jehovah’s faithful witnesses during the 20th century. In some places, such as Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, seeds of truth were sown as far back as 1923 to 1927, whereas in other lands, like Mali, Mauritania, Upper Volta and Rwanda, the message did not produce Kingdom publishers until the period between 1962 and 1970. Certainly the time is favorable for doing whatever is possible to help thirsting ones to come to the waters of truth before Jehovah says the work has been completed. In Zambia a special pioneer called on a village headman who showed keen interest in the Kingdom message. The headman brought others into the discussion so that, in all, 18 persons listened to the message of the special pioneer, which resulted in a number of home Bible studies being started. In a short time the local congregation increased in ranks of publishers from 65 to 86. Today there are very few places on the African continent where there are no witnesses of Jehovah preaching the “good news.”
14. What most interesting experience is reported to have occurred in the islands of the Torres Straits?
14 The reports from other parts of the world this past year have proved to be ones of blessings and progress. Off the northernmost tip of Australia lie the islands of the Torres Straits. There are 100 islands in this group, 20 of which are inhabited. One of these islands, Thursday Island, has a thriving congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A circuit overseer and two Thursday Island brothers visited one of the other islands called Sue, where they were warmly welcomed. The island chairman, as he is called, had invited the brothers to come since he is interested in the truth of the Bible and the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he having in his possession publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. How surprised the brothers were to find that this chairman was very strict about the cleanliness and tidiness among the people of the island as well as their conduct. He regularly arranges for the people to have some type of spiritual association. During the visit of the brothers, they listened to songs sung during one of these gatherings, the words of which had been taken from some of the Watch Tower Society’s publications. They were able to give a talk to the people, some 40 in number, and to encourage them in their study of the Bible with the use of the Society’s publications.
The Worldwide Witness
15. What, therefore, continues to be the responsibility of Jehovah’s ministers of the Kingdom?
15 How often we have quoted Jesus’ words of Matthew 24:14 that the “good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come”! The Kingdom witness is being given in word and in deed by Jehovah’s faithful servants. When a sufficient witness has been given—the determination of which lies with Jehovah God—then the end will come. Our continuing assignment, then, is to keep on giving the witness to the greatest event the world will ever see, the coming of Jehovah’s kingdom in the hands of his reigning King, our Lord Jesus Christ.
16. (a) What statistics are presented to show that Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that now is the time to preach the Word? (b) What personal question is thus asked of each of us?
16 In 206 countries and islands of the world over the past year there were 358,581,547 hours of service spent by the 2,361,896 publishers of the Kingdom good news in spreading this exciting message. They conducted 1,475,177 home Bible studies as well as distributed 31,444,062 books and booklets and 234,163,921 copies of The Watchtower and Awake! magazines earth wide. That, added to the heap of witness that has been given over these many years of the 20th century, gives abundant proof of the desire of Jehovah’s people to carry out their commission to ‘declare good news to the meek ones, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to those taken captive, to proclaim the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God, to comfort all the mourning ones.’ (Isaiah 61:1, 2) Are you having a share NOW in preaching the Word of God and his promised kingdom?
17. What further evidence of Jehovah’s blessing do we next consider?
17 During the 1981 service year 119,836 persons joined the ranks of those who have dedicated their lives to Jehovah and have symbolized such by water baptism. We welcome all of these into the Christian brotherhood. As you check the accompanying chart in this magazine, outlining the Kingdom preaching activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1981 service year, you will see that from the Orient and the Occident thousands upon thousands have come to the waters of life and of truth provided in the Word of God, and these have joined in proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom.
18. Since daily the time remaining is reduced, what does this mean as to the importance of our preaching work, and so what should be our resolve?
18 Daily, the time left for this wicked system of things continues to be reduced, meaning our opportunities to preach the “good news” take on greater and greater importance. May each day find us putting forth strong efforts to prove ourselves faithful followers of Jesus, seeking to imitate his life course as a promoter of pure worship. As with faithful David, may zeal for Jehovah’s house, his worship pure and clean, cause us to stand fast in our integrity and continue in the ranks of Kingdom proclaimers until Jehovah says the work is finished.—Psalm 69:9.
[Box/Picture on page 23]
Growth in preachers of the Word in CENTRAL and SOUTH AMERICA—
1945 . . . 4,720 publishers
1981 . . . 373,919 publishers
[Box/Picture on page 24]
Increase in Kingdom proclaimers in SPAIN, PORTUGAL and ITALY—
1945 . . . 90 publishers
1981 . . . 159,972 publishers
[Box/Picture on page 25]
Increase of Witnesses in AFRICA—
1945 . . . 19,083 publishers
1981 . . . 300,989 publishers
[Chart on page 26-29]
1981 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLDWIDE
(See bound volume)