Jehovah’s Valiant Army of Full-Time Fighters
“[Be] a good soldier of Christ Jesus. In the army, no soldier gets himself mixed up in civilian life, because he must be at the disposal of the man who enlisted him.”—2 Timothy 2:3, 4, The Jerusalem Bible.
1, 2. What call for preachers went out 100 years ago, and with what result?
“WANTED 1,000 PREACHERS” This headline appeared in a publication some 100 years ago, but this unusual notice was not part of any newspaper “want ad.” Furthermore, the response was far beyond the publisher’s expectation. Who put out that call, and who responded? Also, how are you involved today?
2 It was during the second year of its publication that the magazine now known worldwide as The Watchtower carried the stirring call for preachers. But this search was not for clergymen to fill church pulpits. The Bible projects no such profile for those who would serve as preachers of God’s message. Rather, in 1881 the publishers of The Watchtower were looking for persons willing to “go forth into large or small cities, according to your ability, as Colporteurs or Evangelists.” The call was for those willing and able to devote their full time to preaching Bible truth. Those who responded began as a small trickle, a few here, a few there, finally reaching 300 by 1885. However, they have now swelled to thousands, tens of thousands, on up to an average of 151,180 during 1981.
3. How has the designation for such preachers changed?
3 Jehovah’s Witnesses no longer designate such full-time preachers as “colporteurs,” a French term that stressed only one aspect of their work, distributing Bibles and related literature. That is incidental to their main activity. Another word gives fuller meaning to the work of this spiritual army of evangelizers, bearing the “good news.” (2 Timothy 2:3, 4; Luke 8:1; 10:1) The word is “pioneer.”
Pioneer Warriors in a Spiritual Army
4. What is the background and meaning of the word “pioneer”?
4 Why is “pioneer” an appropriate designation for Jehovah’s Witnesses who can be full-time preachers? The word originally had a military connotation, relating to a soldier, though not an ordinary foot soldier. It connoted a military engineer, one who preceded the main body and built bridges, roads and trenches. Hence, “to pioneer” came to mean to prepare or open the way, and a “pioneer” was one who took the lead, forging ahead in the face of odds or opposition, as the early settlers of the North American West did. The term suggests an individual who is intrepid, one who presses ahead until his goal is realized. What an apt description this is for those who are self-sacrificing “soldiers” of Christ Jesus full time!*
5 All true Christians can be likened to soldiers who are involved in spiritual warfare. (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; Jude 3) We have a common enemy bent on our destruction—Satan. He has marshaled his host of invisible demonic forces, along with his visible wicked system of things, into a formidable army to oppose the true disciples of Christ. Yet, earth wide, some 2,300,000 Christians are responding to the inspired command: “Take your stand against [the Devil], solid in the faith.” (1 Peter 5:9) These are Jehovah’s Witnesses who, though weak and insignificant in themselves, are succeeding in the spiritual warfare against their formidable enemy.—James 4:7, 8, 10.
6. How else is the word “soldier” an appropriate term for Christians?
6 A soldier in combat has but one thing in mind, the battle at hand. He cannot afford to be distracted by less important matters. The apostle Paul said to a younger Christian associate, Timothy: “Put up with your share of difficulties, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. In the army, no soldier gets himself mixed up in civilian life, because he must be at the disposal of the man who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:3, 4, JB) Of course, Paul and Timothy were not military men for some nation or worldly empire. W. E. Vine’s An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says that “soldier” here applies “metaphorically of one who endures hardship in the cause of Christ.”
7. What role have pioneers had in the Christian army of spiritual fighters?
7 Among these millions of successful, Christian fighters is an advance corps, the full-time ministers. Many of them truly have “pioneered” in the sense of having gone ahead of the main body, opening the way. Often pioneers have gone into territories where the good news of God’s established kingdom has never been preached. Some pioneer missionaries have gone to foreign lands where they had to learn strange customs and difficult languages, facing inconveniences, diseases and demonic religions. They have built bridges across all these barriers, made inroads with spiritual weapons and established “bridgeheads” that have developed into strong congregations. They have opened the way into areas where a few years later a whole army of Christian warriors preaches Christ’s message of spiritual liberation.—Isaiah 60:22.
8. What is the advantage of volunteers in this spiritual army? (Judges 7:3)
8 Last year there were, on the average, 151,180 of these full-time fighters in the worldwide field each month. All are volunteers and there are no mercenaries. (Psalm 110:3) That is fitting, because soldiers who are inducted into any army against their will, or who serve for profit, often prove to be indecisive ones in the heat of battle. They lose courage and capitulate or desert. But why, if the pioneers are volunteers, without tangible rewards, would they devote their full time whereas there are millions of devoted Christians who are not doing so? Does it mean that they are pioneering because they expect in the future some greater reward than those whose circumstances will permit them to spend but 10, 20, 30 or so hours each month in the ministry? No, sincere pioneers are exerting themselves in this way as a reflection of their whole-souled devotion to Jehovah God. As with every truly dedicated Christian, they want to do all they can in serving our loving God. Who, then, can and should pioneer? Please reflect on your own situation and outlook.
Counting the Cost
9. Why may some Christians not be able to pioneer?
9 As a person analyzes whether he might or should be a pioneer minister, a number of factors ought to be considered. His personal circumstances in life naturally would have a bearing. There are obligations that must take priority over full-time preaching. (Deuteronomy 24:5) The apostle Paul wrote that a Christian who would not provide the material necessities for his household “has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Timothy 5:8) So, for some, family obligations may make pioneering impossible at present. Circumstances of a different nature concern health and age. These have to be considered, though there are many with poor health, or elderly ones, who serve as pioneers.
10. How is faith involved in pioneering?
10 Also, the pioneer soldier must have firm faith, for serving in that capacity is not easy. Paul directly links such faith and a Christian’s publicly declaring the truth, writing: “Fight the fine fight of the faith, get a firm hold on the everlasting life for which you were called and you offered the fine public declaration in front of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12) Though faith is required of all in God’s army, there is a difference between demonstrating faith in the preaching work occasionally and doing so many hours each day. However, it might be mentioned that frequent involvement in speaking the truth to others can increase a person’s faith.—2 Thessalonians 1:3.
11. (a) All Christians render what kind of sacrifice? (b) What additional sacrifice may be required in pioneering?
11 There is, too, the matter of sacrifice. In one sense all service rendered to God in purity and sincerity can be considered as offering a sacrifice to him. (Hebrews 13:15) Hence, pioneering with the right motive—to praise God and to help other persons to escape from bondage to Satan’s system—is surely a fine sacrifice. Yet pioneering involves sacrifice from another standpoint. Time that a Christian once used for more personal pursuits must, when he becomes a pioneer, be channeled into preaching and teaching. Time that was used to acquire and pay for material things may now have to be curtailed. Yes, self-sacrifice is involved with pioneering. Thousands of pioneers have been content to limit their economic and material situation—working secularly one, two or perhaps three days a week to sustain themselves and still reserve sufficient time for their ministry.—2 Timothy 2:4.
Doing More—As Nazirites Did
12. Why do some pioneer, and how were some ancient Israelites able to do more in their worship?
12 Many who have taken up the pioneer service have been impelled by a desire to do more. It is not a competitive or prideful desire to do more than their Christian brothers and sisters, but a desire to do more in manifesting love for Jehovah and their neighbors. (Matthew 22:37-39) We have an interesting Biblical example in the Nazirites. Ancient Israelite men and women could volunteer to be Nazirites, which name comes from the Hebrew word na·zirʹ, meaning dedicated, separated, singled out. Being a Nazirite required taking a vow, but we should not try to parallel this with a Christian’s decision to pioneer, for that does not involve a vow with resulting solemn obligations. Still, we can think about certain instructive similarities between the Nazirites and the pioneers.
13, 14. (a) Explain one of the restrictions on the Nazirites. (b) What parallel is there with pioneers?
13 An Israelite who volunteered to serve as a Nazirite accepted certain restrictions that helped to emphasize his “separated” or “singled out” role in worshiping Jehovah. One restriction involved food and drink, as explained at Numbers 6:3, 4. A Nazirite could not consume intoxicating beverages or the products of the grapevine. (Psalm 104:15) While there was a degree of self-denial, no necessary food was forbidden. Thus this restriction did not impose suffering.
14 Successful pioneers center their life, not around material things such as food or luxurious possessions, but around their service to God’s praise. This is an essential for a deep-seated and abiding joy that is the envy of many persons who might seem, from a material standpoint, to have a “better” life. (Compare Luke 12:16-21.) Living a simpler or more materially limited life also may bring benefits that are easily overlooked. Health experts report on the many-sided dangers of a diet with much rich food and drink. But a pioneer who normally has rather simple meals, though balanced and nutritious, and who combines that with plenty of walking in his house-to-house preaching, likely will have better health. Persons who have large homes, the latest in mechanical or electronic devices, and many other possessions, know that these things bring with them recurring “headaches,” or problems. The parallels between Numbers 6:3, 4 and pioneering are worthy of our consideration.
15. What pattern is there in the restriction about the Nazirites’ hair?
15 The second restriction for Nazirites was that they could not cut the hair of their heads. (Numbers 6:5) Their long hair was a crowning sign from which others could recognize them. Paul later explained that a Christian woman’s long hair was a reminder of her situation as to submission. (1 Corinthians 11:3-15) Having in mind the Nazirites’ long hair, can we not agree that a Christian brother or sister who volunteers to pioneer is manifesting, to a considerable degree, submission to Jehovah God? Many personal interests are set aside or given a secondary role so that the ministry receives first attention. The pioneer learns to depend on God, to submit to God.
16. What might we appreciate from the situation of the Nazirites as to dead bodies?
16 A final requirement for Nazirites was that they must not touch any dead body, not even if a close relative such as a parent died. (Numbers 6:6, 7) Thus a Nazirite was to remain holy and clean, undefiled. (Compare the requirement for the high priest at Leviticus 21:10, 11.) Today no Christian, including any pioneer, is forbidden to arrange for or attend the funeral of a close relative. But, as with the Nazirites, pioneers want to avoid any questionable practice or course that might disqualify them. They want to be exemplary. And if a pioneer, who loves his family, is in a distant assignment and thus not able to visit them as much as might otherwise be possible, he draws satisfaction from knowing that Jehovah recognizes this sacrifice.
17. Why was being a Nazirite not a mere ritual? What about pioneering?
17 The Bible shows that an Israelite who became a Nazirite was not going through some mere religious ritual. Rather, he was undertaking an important, satisfying way of life, for God spoke of such a man as ‘living as a Nazirite to Jehovah.’ (Numbers 6:2) Similarly, the pioneer service today is a way of life and a happy one at that!
‘Can I Pioneer?’
18. What question should all of us ask? Why?
18 All Christians are united in worshiping God. We are a single army of fighters for the truth. It should be our desire to do all we can in that fight. It is our desire to do all we can. Thus, each one of us can ask the timely question: ‘Can I serve as a pioneer?’ In thinking about that, the following article will help you to see how Jehovah can sustain you if you are able to share in the pioneer ministry.
As one of the definitions under “pioneer,” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary states: “a full-time worker of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
HAVE YOU FIXED IN MIND . . .
□ Why full-time ministers are appropriately called pioneers?
□ Why the Bible likens Christians to soldiers?
□ What factors you should think about as to becoming a pioneer?
□ How the Nazirites provide an example regarding pioneers?
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Why are Christians fittingly likened to valiant soldiers?
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How may serving as a pioneer contribute to happiness and good health?