How to Become Effective Ministers
“That is why I am sending Timothy to you, [for] he will put you in mind of my methods in connection with Christ Jesus, just as I am teaching everywhere in every congregation.”—1 CORINTHIANS 4:17.
1, 2. For a person to be drawn to the truth, what is one necessary factor? (Acts 8:12)
WITH the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost, 33 C.E., the Christian congregation grew and spread rapidly. (Acts 2:40-42; 4:4; 6:7; 11:19-21) What was the key to its success? Why did so many Jews and then Samaritans and Gentiles accept Christ and the message of God’s Kingdom?—Acts 8:4-8; 10:44-48.
2 For a person to accept the Christian good news, certain factors have to come into play. First, one must appreciate God’s undeserved kindness toward mankind in having taken the initiative by sending his Son to the earth as a ransom sacrifice. As the Bible writer John expressed it: “By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him. The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.”—1 John 4:9, 10.
3. Why is it necessary to be conscious of one’s spiritual need?
3 Another vital factor is each one’s attitude toward spiritual values. Jesus said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. Happy are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, since they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:3, 6) A complacent, self-righteous person is usually not conscious of any spiritual need and is no longer open to truth. When offered the Kingdom message by Jehovah’s Witnesses, such a one will often answer, ‘I am not interested. I have my own religion.’ Likewise, the person deeply immersed in material pursuits will not have time for spiritual matters.—Matthew 6:33, 34; 7:7, 8; Luke 12:16-21.
4. What questions will now be considered?
4 But what about those who are “conscious of their spiritual need” and are ready to seek God and his Kingdom? How can they be found and recognized? Is there anything we can do as ministers of God’s Word to make our message more understandable? How can we be more effective ministers?
Whose Methods Should We Use?
5. According to Paul, what would Timothy teach the Corinthians?
5 When the apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Christians at Corinth, he told them he was sending Timothy, who would ‘put them in mind of his [Paul’s] methods in connection with Christ Jesus.’ Instead of “methods,” some translations speak of “ways of living,” “way of life” or “the way I live.” However, Professor Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament offers as an interpretation for this text: “The methods which I as Christ’s minister and apostle follow in the discharge of my office.” Since Paul completes the sentence with, “just as I am teaching everywhere in every congregation,” it is reasonable to conclude that his remarks embrace his active ministry and not just his personal Christian conduct.—1 Corinthians 4:17.
6. Why was Jesus’ ministry effective?
6 Jesus’ ministry was not haphazard. He also used method in his preaching. To illustrate, he carefully taught his apostles, and later the 70 evangelists, how to preach effectively. His own constant use of illustrations, questions and Scripture quotations was an example for them. It is still the best method today.—Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-11.
7. How can we transmit the good news to the maximum number of people?
7 Since the Christian ministry is a matter of everlasting life or death, how can we transmit the good news to the maximum number of people? Yes, how can we be “clean from the blood of all men”? By using every avenue of service, which includes, as the apostle Paul stated, the ministry “from house to house.” One Spanish commentary on Acts 20:20 states: “Here we have the method of preaching that Paul followed in Ephesus.”—Acts 20:20-27.
The First Hurdle
8, 9. (a) What is often the first hurdle in the ministry? (b) Why could Jesus speak with boldness?
8 Very often the first hurdle we need to overcome in the ministry is ourselves. Some tend to feel self-conscious, inadequate and not sufficiently educated for the people they meet. But how did Jesus feel? Had he attended the rabbinic schools of learning? Did he have a higher education? Yet when he preached, how did his own people react? Matthew tells us: “They were astounded and said: ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these powerful works?’” True, Jesus was perfect, the Son of God. But his methods were also practical for his mainly “uneducated” disciples who were to imitate him. What reaction did they provoke, even among their religious enemies? “Now when they beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering. And they began to recognize about them that they used to be with Jesus.”—Matthew 13:54; Acts 4:13.
9 But, from where did Jesus get all those things that he taught? Why was he so successful in his ministry? Did he, like modern TV preachers, use exaggerated emotion to sway his audience? No. Jesus’ basis was simplicity itself—he spoke the language of the common people, he was aware of their spiritual needs and, most important of all, Jesus knew he had his Father’s backing. He made this clear when he announced his ministerial commission in the synagogue at his hometown, Nazareth in Galilee. He read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah: “‘Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.’ . . . Then he started to say to them: ‘Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.’”—Luke 4:16-21.
10, 11. (a) How should we feel about our ministry? (b) How does Paul answer?
10 Today we have the same backing in our ministry—Jehovah God, the Sovereign Lord of the universe. We are preaching his message, his wisdom. We base ourselves on his Word and we freely use it in our conversations. Therefore, should we have a complex about preaching even to better educated or wealthier persons?
11 Paul answers: “Where is the wise man? Where the scribe? Where the debater of this system of things? Did not God make the wisdom of the world foolish? . . . For you behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame; and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are, in order that no flesh might boast in the sight of God.”—1 Corinthians 1:18-29.
12. From what does success in our ministry stem? (James 4:8)
12 Success in the ministry does not stem from our education or ancestry. It stems from the Kingdom message itself that strikes a responsive chord in the heart of the person who is conscious of a spiritual need. Another factor is Jehovah’s goodwill toward that person, for as Jesus said: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.”—John 6:44.
13. (a) How did Paul and Barnabas respond to opposition? (b) How can we always have joy in the ministry?
13 Therefore, trusting in Jehovah’s support, we can carry out our ministry with conviction even as did Paul and Barnabas in the first century. When they preached in Iconium, their ministry caused a sharp division of opinions and some opposition. Did that make them back down? Luke’s account tells us: “They spent considerable time speaking with boldness by the authority of Jehovah, who bore witness to the word of his undeserved kindness by granting signs and portents to occur through their hands.” If we likewise take a positive attitude toward the people in our territory, and leave the results in Jehovah’s hands, the ministry will always be a joy, not a burden.—Acts 14:1-3; James 1:2, 3.
How People React
14. How did people react to Paul’s preaching?
14 In the course of their preaching, neither Jesus nor Paul always got a favorable reaction. For example, how did the public react when Paul preached in Athens? The account tells us: “Certain ones of both the Epicurean and the Stoic philosophers took to conversing with him controversially, and some would say: ‘What is it this chatterer would like to tell?’ Others: ‘He seems to be a publisher of foreign deities.’ This was because he was declaring the good news of Jesus and the resurrection. So they laid hold of him and led him to the Areopagus, saying: ‘Can we get to know what this new teaching is which is spoken by you? For you are introducing some things that are strange to our ears.’”—Acts 17:18-20.
15. How do people react to your ministry? But what should we remember?
15 We have to recognize that our message and the version of it put out by the media and opposers may also sound strange to our modern public. As a result, many people, biased by hearsay, prejudge the matter and reject us without a hearing. Others, like those in Athens, accept more information before they make a decision. Of course, when they have listened they may still mock the Kingdom hope as something unbelievable. Remember, though, they reject Christ and his message, not you.—Acts 17:32-34; Matthew 12:30.
From Strangers to Friends
16. (a) How might we react when strangers visit our home? (b) What should our introduction accomplish?
16 How do you feel when strangers come to your home? What questions might fly through your mind? Probably, Who are they? What do they want? Are they going to cause me trouble? When we present ourselves as ministers at someone else’s door, we should remember that. Our introduction should therefore put their minds at rest on those questions. But how? Well, what did Jesus suggest as an introduction? He said: “When you are entering into the house, greet the household; and if the house is deserving, let the peace you wish it come upon it; but if it is not deserving, let the peace from you return upon you.”—Matthew 10:12, 13.
17. How can we put a person at ease in our introduction?
17 “Let the peace you wish it come upon it.” What does that signify? That in our ministry we wish our peace upon every person and household. Thus our opening words should show that we are peace-loving ministers of God. Even to this day Jews and Muslims use the greetings “Peace be with you” or “Peace” (“Shalom aleichem” or “Shalom” in Hebrew, and “Assalām ‘alaikum” or “Salām,” in Arabic). Of course, our greeting will vary from country to country according to local custom. But the aim is the same—to put the person at ease so that he or she will listen to the Kingdom message. Giving your name first, and even a reference to where you live, may help in that respect. It shows you have nothing to hide. Your purpose and honesty are evident for all to see. Then you are doing as Paul counseled: “See that your public behaviour is above criticism. As far as your responsibility goes, live at peace with everyone.”—Romans 12:17, 18, Phillips.
18. What standard should we always meet in our ministry?
18 Whether we are in the ministry from house to house or are on the street, we are on public view. Our conversation and behavior should always be above reproach and inoffensive. However, while our presentation should be mild and peaceful, it should not be apologetic. We are not ashamed of being public ministers of God.—Mark 8:38.
19, 20. (a) How can one approach more reserved people on the street? (b) Why was Jesus effective in the informal approach?
19 In some nations people are more reserved and conservative. Some are embarrassed to be approached on the street by someone displaying magazines. If that is the case, why not use a more discreet method of approach? One can tactfully open a conversation with a person who is not in a hurry and then take out the Bible literature in a natural way.
20 Jesus was certainly apt at a similar type of preaching. Since Samaritans and women were normally scorned by the Jews, Jesus was discreet in his approach to the immoral Samaritan woman at Jacob’s fountain. His conversation is a model for informal and street witnessing. It is also a fine example of compassionate and constructive teaching.—John 4:5-30.
21. What other vital factor is illustrated in Paul’s ministry?
21 One other vital factor has to be taken into account as we introduce the good news of the Kingdom. Paul was a master at it. See if you can recognize it from some of his introductions found in Acts 13:16-20; 17:22 and Ac 22:1-3. Notice that on each occasion he sought common ground with his audience. He identified with them and their background. The result is that they listened even if they did not agree with him. In like manner our introduction can capture the human touch, the point of identity between us and the householder. Maybe you notice there are children in the home, and you, too, are a parent. Then you have things in common, a friendly basis. You have a talking point that can lead into the Kingdom message!—Matthew 18:1-6.
22. What questions now require an answer?
22 But these suggestions are only the start. What further steps are needed to produce, finally, another disciple? Yes, what else is needed to help another have a relationship with God through Christ? What qualities will make your ministry more effective?
How Would You Answer?
□ What are some of the factors involved in a person’s accepting the Kingdom message?
□ How can timidity and self-consciousness be overcome in the ministry?
□ What should be the aim in our introductions in field service?
□ How can Jesus’ example and Paul’s help us in our approach to people?
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Jesus taught his disciples effective methods for the ministry
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What questions come to mind when a stranger is at your door?