Evangelism—Its Place in True Worship
“Your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.”—1 CORINTHIANS 2:5, THE JERUSALEM BIBLE.
1. (a) For what activity are Jehovah’s Witnesses known worldwide? (b) How important is this activity?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES are known internationally as evangelizers, that is, messengers of good news. English sociologist J. A. Beckford noted this in Social Compass of January 1977: “The Witnesses are among the most assiduous and energetic evangelisers and proselytisers in the modern world.” He added: “This is an obvious, albeit often neglected, reason for the Watchtower movement’s growth-rate.” But is the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work pleasing to Jehovah? History and present-day facts answer Yes! Evangelism, preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom, is the underpinning of Christianity. It is the mark, past and present, of God’s people.
2. What does Kingdom preaching accomplish?
2 What does Kingdom preaching accomplish? For one thing, it enables a person visibly to display love and appreciation for the Almighty God and His human creation. (Matthew 22:37-39) And most importantly, through evangelism Jehovah’s unmatched wisdom and remarkable power are made known to others.—Acts 1:8; 4:33; Ephesians 3:10.
Jehovah Sponsors the Good News
3. (a) Why can Jehovah be described as an evangelizer? (b) In whom does the good news center, and what was his commission?
3 Jehovah was the first Evangelizer, or bringer of good news. His first prophecy declared good news of deliverance for imperfect mankind by means of a promised “seed.” (Genesis 3:15) Later, with Isaiah as his prophetic spokesman, God foretold that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, as the principal One of the “seed,” would “tell good news to the meek ones.” (Isaiah 61:1) So Jehovah purposed Christ to be a preacher of good news—an evangelizer.
4, 5. How have angels acted as evangelizers?
4 Jehovah has commissioned others to tell the good news. Mighty spirit creatures, angels, have shared in this divinely approved work. Interestingly, in both Hebrew and Greek the word “angel” literally means “messenger,” and the word “evangelist” is derived from two Greek words that mean “good” and “angel” (or, “messenger”). For instance, God’s angel “declared the good news beforehand to Abraham.” (Galatians 3:8; Genesis 22:15-18) That good news was to the effect that Abraham’s lineage would produce the promised “seed,” and that all the nations would certainly bless themselves by that “seed.” (Genesis 12:2, 3) Twenty centuries later the angel Gabriel, serving as an evangelist, announced to Zechariah the coming birth of John the Baptizer, saying: “I was sent forth to speak with you and declare the good news of these things to you.” John the Baptizer prepared the way for the principal one of Abraham’s “seed,” Jesus Christ.—Luke 1:19.
5 Acting further as an evangelist, Gabriel appeared to Mary to bring her the glad tidings of the coming birth of Jesus. (Luke 1:26-38) Months later, shepherds were startled by an angelic evangelist announcing: “Have no fear, for, look! I am declaring to you good news of a great joy that all the people will have.” Then this angel was joined by a multitude of spirit creatures confirming this message of good news. (Luke 2:8-14) The extraordinary evidence of God’s power of sponsoring the good news through angels did not stop with the birth of his Son but continued through the first-century history of the Christian congregation. An angel released the imprisoned apostles and commanded: “Keep on speaking to the people.” (Acts 5:20) Angelic direction was given to locate interested ones and help God’s servants. (Acts 8:26; 10:3; 12:7-11) And the apostle John, who by inspiration described events “in the Lord’s day,” envisioned ‘an angel flying in midheaven having everlasting good news to declare’—in effect, overseeing the global spread of the Kingdom message by Jehovah’s earthly servants.—Revelation 1:10; 14:6.
Christ’s Assignment: Evangelize!
6. (a) What foundation did Jesus lay for the proclamation of the good news? (b) How did Jesus ensure that the evangelizing work would continue after his death?
6 Why was the early Christian congregation so bold and dynamic in its witnessing? Because Christ, as Founder, used God’s wisdom and power to build upon himself a sturdy organization of evangelizers. Christ did this in two ways. First, he fulfilled his own assignment “to tell good news to the meek ones.” (Isaiah 61:1) And secondly, he personally trained his 12 close associates to preach and then he trained 70 others. Thus Christ established a solid core of preachers to carry on the evangelizing work after his death.—Matthew 10:5-42; Luke 10:1-16.
7. In bringing the good news to people, how has God’s wisdom differed from human wisdom?
7 Jesus was a man of action in Kingdom preaching. He got busy evangelizing because he knew people needed to hear the good news of God’s Kingdom—the new heavenly government that will bring lasting peace to earth and remove all causes of distress. So after completing an evangelizing tour of cities and villages and observing the pitiful spiritual state of the populace, he said to his disciples: “Yes, the harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37, 38) Quickly Jesus began fulfilling such a request. One of his first orders to his apostles was: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” Preach to people, was his cry. To soothe troubled mankind, human wisdom might have dictated the setting up of a bureaucratic social program or an underground revolutionary council to accomplish this work; but Christ expressed God’s wisdom. It was simply: “Go, preach.”—Matthew 10:7.
8. What was Christ’s reaction when his disciples returned from their preaching, and why?
8 After giving those instructions, Jesus spoke to others and told them to evangelize too. When these preachers returned with a report of success, Jesus was overjoyed and said: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have carefully hidden these things from wise and intellectual ones, and have revealed them to babes.” (Luke 10:21) Those “babes” were Christ’s grown disciples, and evangelism was their tool to uncover the truth of God to others. Therefore, it was not human philosophy or might that firmly established true Christianity, but it was divine wisdom and power as expressed through Kingdom preaching.
All Disciples Evangelized
9. Give examples of how historians show that the foundation of early Christianity was Kingdom preaching.
9 If preaching of Kingdom good news is the groundwork of Christianity, then all early Christians should have been evangelizers. Were they? Yes! answers history. Note what these reference books state about first-century Christians:
“Any and all Christians were, in those days, ‘missionaries.’”—History of Western Civilization.
“This first mission activity shows that the early mission force was by no means limited to the Apostles. Rather, the whole Christian community was collectively involved.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia.
“A desire to bear testimony to his faith and a way of life is an expected characteristic of each Christian.”—Encyclopedia Americana.
10. (a) When did the Christian congregation become an evangelistic organization? (b) What miraculous gift did God provide early Christians, and for what purpose?
10 Right from the moment that the Christian congregation came into existence in 33 C.E., it was an evangelistic organization. Its first membership of about 120 disciples wasted no time in becoming Kingdom preachers. Divine history records that “they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak.” Please note that all, not just some, started to speak “about the magnificent things of God.” (Acts 2:4, 11) Here was evidence of God’s power and wisdom infusing those receptive worshipers with the amazing ability to witness in languages they had never learned in school. A miracle established the Christian congregation on the foundation of proclaiming the good news.
11. How did Peter emphasize that all Christians must be preachers?
11 Later that day Peter applied Joel’s prophecy to the newly established Christian congregation: “‘And in the last days,’ God says, ‘I shall pour out some of my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams; and even upon my men slaves and upon my women slaves I will pour out some of my spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’” (Acts 2:17, 18; Joel 2:28, 29) Any and all Christians were to be evangelizers. Men, women and even youths would have an active share in prophesying or proclaiming, speaking, bubbling up with God’s message of good news.
Evangelizing Includes Warning
12. Why is the message of God’s Kingdom not good news for everyone?
12 The message of God’s Kingdom is not good news for everyone, for it includes a warning of destruction. The present corrupt system and all its supporters must go if the good news is to have any lasting benefit. (Proverbs 21:18) Honest-hearted worshipers of Jehovah cannot transform this earth into a paradise if streaks of wickedness remain to stain its beauty. The Sponsor of the good news gave the command not only “to proclaim the year of goodwill” but also to declare “the day of vengeance on the part of our God.” (Isaiah 61:2) Similarly, the message of one of the angels mentioned in Revelation includes these words: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived.”—Revelation 14:7.
13. (a) What attitude toward evangelizing did the early Christians have? (b) Using a scripture, show how early Christians had a sense of urgency.
13 With a sense of urgency, the first-century Christians spread the good news in the fastest possible manner. This feature of the good news identified the early Christians too. “The Christian expectation of the end time never consisted simply of a passive yearning for the coming Kingdom of God” but “was expressed instead in an incredible activation and acceleration of efforts to prepare the world for the return of Christ and the coming Kingdom,” comments the Encyclopædia Britannica. Regularly congregations were exhorted about the nearness of the end and their need to be ready. The apostles perceived that evangelizing with dispatch was a necessary part of Christianity if all the people were to be reached before God’s day of vengeance arrived. As a result, Christianity mushroomed.—Romans 10:13, 14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 6; 2 Peter 3:11-14.
14, 15. How has the thrust of evangelism influenced history?
14 Even though the clear ring of the Kingdom message was muffled and distorted after the first century, the expectation of the end remained a strong force. For example, according to some historians, the 15th-century Columbus expedition to the western hemisphere was partly influenced by the belief that India had to be reached quickly with the good news before Christ could return. Later population movements, such as the 17th-century Puritan emigration, the 18th-century movement of the Baptists, the Quakers and the Methodists to America, and the 18th- and 19th-century German emigration to Russia and Palestine were prompted by similar views.
15 Therefore, can it be said that the evangelistic work started by Jesus Christ has had far-reaching and long-standing effects? History answers Yes. Although the evangelistic thrust was not always directed as Christ instructed, still its impression on the world was major. The Encyclopædia Britannica concludes its summary on “Christianity” with this statement: “Christianity is the spiritual power that has influenced human history more strongly and may have changed it more deeply than any other factor.”
16. (a) What conclusion can be reached about first-century Christians? (b) What question could be asked concerning modern-day witnessing?
16 Examination of these divine and secular historical records produces one important conclusion: All first-century Christians were evangelizers. To be and remain a Christian, one had to preach regularly. Today, then, has this become an unsophisticated, distasteful way of worship, lacking modern appeal? Perhaps according to man’s thinking but not according to God’s.—Proverbs 16:25; Jeremiah 8:9.
17. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses restored the true mark of evangelism?
17 The modern history of Jehovah’s Witnesses shows that they have fully restored the true, clear ring of the message of Kingdom good news. In obedience to Christ’s command they are busy in the most extensive evangelizing work ever. Global witnessing must be done before the end of this system comes. (Matthew 24:14) For the past 100 years this has been the main focus of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first issue of The Watchtower, then called Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, stated its purpose as follows:
“This is the first number of the first volume of ‘Zion’s Watch Tower,’ and it may not be amiss to state the object of its publication. That we are living ‘in the last days’ . . . and we are desirous that the ‘household of faith’ be fully awake to the fact.”—July 1879.
Later, in 1884, Jehovah’s Witnesses as a society of evangelizers organized a corporation. Its purpose was outlined in article two of its charter in these words:
“The purpose for which the corporation is formed is, the dissemination of Bible truths in various languages by means of the publication of tracts, pamphlets, papers and other religious documents, and by all other lawful means.”
Have these instruments been fulfilling their declared purpose? History answers Yes.
18. How has the evangelizing work of Jehovah’s people caught the world’s attention?
18 The evangelizing work of Jehovah’s Witnesses has caught the attention of the world. It has been taken note of and recorded in the news media, the highest judicial courts and history books. From the first issue of The Watchtower in one language, when 6,000 copies were printed monthly, to the present issue of 10,050,000 copies printed in 102 languages, its circulation has become the largest of any religious journal. From a few thousand hours spent each year in the evangelizing work in the 19th century, the growth has been remarkable. In 1982 more than 384 million hours were devoted to the preaching work, 286 million pieces of literature were placed, and more than one and a half million households received free Bible instruction in 205 countries and territories. All of this has been accomplished by a relatively small number of people—2,477,608 in 1982.
19. (a) To whom do Jehovah’s Witnesses attribute the success of their worldwide evangelizing work? (b) If you are an evangelizer, what should you do, according to Matthew 10:7?
19 Do Jehovah’s Witnesses attribute this amazing record to their own intellectual skills and strength? No. All credit belongs to our wise and powerful God, Jehovah, the first Evangelizer. So what will you do? If you see evangelism’s place in true worship and sincerely desire to please Jehovah, then regularly, week by week, evangelize, or as Jesus said: “GO, PREACH”!—Matthew 10:7.
Can You Answer These Questions—
□ How has Jehovah sponsored the declaring of good news?
□ What role have angels had in the proclamation of good news?
□ What work was Jesus Christ wrapped up in doing?
□ Why can it be said that in order to be a true Christian one must be an evangelizer?
□ What expectation remained strong for professed followers of Christ?
□ How are Jehovah’s Witnesses today proving to be true evangelists?
[Picture on page 17]
Heavenly and earthly evangelizers cooperate to get the good news preached