Pay Constant Attention to Your Teaching
“Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 TIMOTHY 4:16.
1. Why is this no time for us to slow down in our Kingdom-preaching work?
JEHOVAH is now speeding up the ingathering of sheeplike ones. Surely, then, this is no time for his people to slow down in their Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. (Isaiah 60:8, 22; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) We need to act in accord with the spirit of what God is doing in our time. As the end draws nearer, we will be getting back to our neighbors more often. Indeed, increased witnessing activity by so many more publishers and pioneers is now stirring up the world field. And the momentum of this joyous ingathering will yet grow.—Isaiah 60:11; compare Psalm 126:5, 6.
2. (a) According to Isaiah 40:28-31, what source of energy can we draw upon for the needed strength to finish the Kingdom-preaching work? (b) What is a good reason for paying extra attention to the quality of our ministry at this time?
2 Rather than succumb to any feeling of being ‘tired out’ because some territory is being covered frequently, we should recognize that this is the time for us to pray to Jehovah for the needed “dynamic energy” to finish the work. (Isaiah 40:28-31; 1 John 5:14) True, millions of the “great crowd” of “other sheep” have already been gathered. But what was once successful in assisting certain people may no longer be effective in helping others still in our territories. (Revelation 7:9, 10; John 10:16) Hence, the quality of our ministry needs extra attention.
3. How can fresh enthusiasm be injected into our field ministry?
3 With renewed determination, we can concentrate on improving our effectiveness in the ministry. This can inject fresh enthusiasm into our field service. But how can it be done? By ‘paying constant attention to ourselves and our teaching,’ not just performing our ministry routinely. (1 Timothy 4:16) Our lips must offer more than a perfunctory “sacrifice of praise.” (Hebrews 13:15) We should be skillful at our work. (Proverbs 22:29) What is needed, then, is the skillful working of our territory. Here are some aspects of our ministry to which we need to “pay constant attention.”
How to Develop “New” Territory
4. In what way can we develop “new” territory in our congregation’s assignment?
4 Let us look at the situation in a practical way. In many places, there is no new or rarely worked territory. So why not develop “new” territory within the congregation’s assignment? How? Well, when we call frequently, we cannot act as if we have never called at that home before by saying only what we have usually said at the doors. Likely, the householder will recognize us anyway if we have repeatedly covered the territory. The book Reasoning From the Scriptures gives over 40 introductions that we can use in our ministry. We must prepare them well as something fresh and appealing by tying them in with matters of local and current interest. Rather than feel apologetic about calling often, we need to have a positive attitude and make our territory “new” with good-quality presentations. But will this help if householders are unfriendly?
5. (a) How can we make a previously unfriendly attitude work to our advantage? (b) What have you found to work well locally? (c) Why are listening and honest commendation helpful?
5 Knowing a householder’s past attitude could result in negative feelings about calling again. But why not make that knowledge work to your advantage? How? Perhaps by alluding to it first and then building on what was said during the previous call. You might say: “Good morning, Mr. Harris!” If it seems fitting, you could add: “How have you been?” Then you might say: “When I was here last week, you told me that your church looked after all your spiritual needs and that you are an involved member. As a neighbor who also takes religion seriously, may I ask what your church is saying about the hope for survival in the nuclear age?” Then, let him tell you. Commend the householder when you honestly can. Listening to him and commending him may change his attitude. Often, people will allow another visit if they themselves can do some of the talking. Of course, you will want to adapt your message to what the householder says.
6. (a) How can we train householders to expect us to call regularly? (b) What key expressions can help us to succeed? (c) What works well in the local territory?
6 By what you say, you can train householders to expect us to call regularly. Try saying: “Hello, Mrs. Fredericks! How are you today? On this visit to our neighbors, we are discussing . . . ” Or you might say: “Good morning! We are making our regular weekly calls. It’s good to be back. Your neighbors have enjoyed the new subject we are discussing on this visit.” Then continue. This also serves to make the territory “new” for you. The actual wording may differ somewhat in your land, but this gives the main idea. Why not make the most of it, to your advantage?
7. (a) When leaving, how do some Witnesses prepare the householder for another visit? (b) In this regard, what works well in the local territory?
7 So as to prepare the householder for the next call, some Witnesses have success with a conclusion like this: “We look forward to visiting you again soon.” To those who were somewhat reluctant to talk to you at first, you might say: “I’ve enjoyed our discussion. You surely made some good points. This took a few minutes, but at least we did not talk about bad news, which we can hear at any time. It was truly wholesome.” Doubtless, you will develop other appropriate ways to speak with householders. At any rate, by positive expressions, good-quality presentations, and friendliness, endeavor to help the public not to resent our regular calls.
Bear Thorough Witness
8, 9. What suggestions are given for thoroughly searching out deserving ones?
8 Another thing we can pay attention to that will keep our enthusiasm high is thoroughness in searching out deserving ones. (Acts 8:25; 20:24) For instance, a brother might ask for the man of the house if a woman or a child should come to the door on weekends or in the evening. Probably, it is the wife that we have talked to most of the time. So we can make a fresh start with a household by speaking with the family head. We can then adapt the message to him, saying such things as, “What do you think will assure your family of a happy future?” or, “Note how the Bible promotes family unity.” Commend the man for good ideas he may express.
9 Another way to find “new” territory is to seek out other family members living under the same roof—a grandmother, a nephew or a cousin going to school, a sister-in-law who works during the week. It has also been practical to note how many electric meters or mailboxes there are at a dwelling. These may indicate where people have renovated a basement, an attic, or other area to rent out. Try to contact those renting —students, single workers, widows, and others. This too helps to stretch available territory.
10. What is another way to stretch our house-to-house territory, and what have some done to contact night workers?
10 One more way to stretch house-to-house territory is to give it a rest at times as we participate in other features of our ministry. For variety, we might work territory with a direct offer of a free family home Bible study. Some people who are not at home when we call can be found at their place of business or employment. And witnessing in business areas can be very fruitful. Some of these people may also be contacted if we do street witnessing at appropriate, productive hours. In Canada pioneers have had good results from late-evening calls on employees at all-night gasoline stations, stores, and hotels where desk clerks are not usually busy at that time and often appreciate having something to read. Of course, sisters especially would need to avoid certain areas during late hours.
11. (a) What are some Witnesses doing where many are not at home on the first call? (b) What effect can diligence in making not-at-home calls have on our territory, with what results in the ministry?
11 What about those not at home when we call? Here again, we must be thorough. Some Witnesses use their well-kept house-to-house records right after their door-to-door work and go back to places where people were not at home earlier that day. Often, householders have returned home, or night workers are awake by that time. In many areas, 50 percent or more are not at home during the day. So we can, in effect, double that territory by making not-at-home calls at different hours until we do find someone at home. Pioneers and experienced publishers agree that diligence in working not-at-homes often yields better results than does our initial coverage of territory. By paying attention to this aspect of our ministry, we will likely reap many blessings.—Proverbs 10:22.
Those Who Complain
12. How should we react when people complain that we are calling too frequently? Why?
12 What can be said to people who complain that we are calling too frequently? Above all, we must display understanding. (Matthew 7:12) To them, it seems that we have returned quite soon. But it is good to remember that even years ago people were saying, ‘You were here last week,’ when we knew very well that it had been six months or more since we had called. Besides, frequent calls can spur interest. In Guadeloupe a man ran after a Witness to say: “I have observed you now for many weeks. Usually, I do not listen to the Witnesses, but I have to know why you visit the people so often!” A new Bible study resulted.
13, 14. How are some fellow believers handling matters when householders complain?
13 Some brothers have kindly told complainers the exact date of the previous call and have offered the latest magazines, making it clear that the articles differ from those in the journals we had the last time we called. Reasoning with such householders, we might say that perhaps they have received many newspapers and magazines since our last visit, but these have not always contained good news. We could explain that we are bringing good news and that our visits are not lengthy. But if a householder is too busy, we could say: “If this is not the best time to speak with you, I can see you on our next call in a week or so.”
14 What else might be said? This depends on the householder’s attitude and the usual courtesy expected where we live. One sister in Japan explains our frequent calls this way: ‘Television news will report on the course of a typhoon again and again, repeating the information frequently for the benefit of those who might have missed previous broadcasts. This is done because lives are involved. The frequency of the reports increases as the storm draws closer. So, as the storm of Armageddon draws near, the warning message must be declared as often as possible to save lives.’ Of course, we would make such a statement kindly and with sincerity, hoping to reach the heart of the listener.
Meeting the Challenge of Apathy
15. (a) What can be a growing challenge when we work our territory often? (b) Why are some people apathetic?
15 As the frequency of our visits increases, a growing challenge is the apathy we often encounter. But an examination of some of the causes of apathy can encourage us to note that it may yet be possible to reach the hearts of some of these people. Their apathy may mirror their frustration and hopelessness. They may feel that there is no way out of the present world situation, reasoning that they will just live out their lives in the best way they can. Others are disgusted because some religious leaders get involved in politics, are guilty of immoral behavior, or fail to take a firm stand against sexual immorality. So these householders are disillusioned and just live for today.
16. How might the heart of an apathetic person be reached?
16 We know that early Christian ministers successfully coped with the same attitude, for some people then said: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32) Hence, we know that we have just what such persons need to hear. Still, how can we reach their heart? One way is to put away our Bible literature for the moment, letting them see us do so. Then we might ask them such well-thought-out questions as these: “Do you think there is some solution to present-day problems? Is it that most people simply have not yet found solutions? Do you think we should be positive and keep searching?” To others, we could say: “Surely you agree that it is better to live with hope than without any prospect of better things. What do you hope to see?” We might ask: “What do you yourself feel is the biggest obstacle to world unity and peace?” Still others could be asked: “Do you think all religions are like what you have described?” Many times such questions will cause householders to express their views. Then, when they respond, be sure to listen. Yes, let them pour their heart out to you. Many of them are ‘sighing and groaning over all the detestable things now being done.’—Ezekiel 9:4.
17. How may our publications be used to reach some even when they at first insist that they are not interested?
17 Another approach to apathy is to take note of a point or objection made by the householder and return with a magazine or other Watch Tower publication dealing with the matter. At first, it might even be a nonreligious subject, such as an article on sudden infant death or the dying off of the forests. Explain that you were thinking of what interested the householder and recalled this article. Then point out key ideas in the material. One woman who had just rejected our literature accepted a magazine only seconds later. Why? Because the Witness asked if the woman knew that there were 55 million abortions annually. Shocked to learn this, she asked for the magazine containing that information.
Seeing It to Completion
18, 19. (a) To what additional points should we ‘pay attention’ as we perform our ministry? (b) What prejudiced ideas do some people have about us and our beliefs, and how can we answer them?
18 Above all, we need to be patient with people. Talk slowly and with warmth. Manifest love and kindness. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Before going to the next door, think over what took place at the previous one to see where improvement is possible. Be understanding, for many people have wrong ideas about Jehovah’s Witnesses. They may say: ‘You avoid politics and civic duties,’ ‘You refuse military service,’ or, ‘You break up families.’ But this attitude is like that of the world toward our fellow believers of the first century. Show householders this, perhaps using quotations under the heading “Neutrality” in the Reasoning book.
19 Concerning the early Christians, historian Will Durant wrote: “To a Christian his religion was something apart from and superior to political society; his highest allegiance belonged not to Caesar but to Christ. . . . The detachment of the Christian from earthly affairs seemed to the pagan a flight from civic duty, a weakening of the national fiber and will. Tertullian advised Christians to refuse military service; . . . Christians were exhorted by their leaders to avoid non-Christians, to shun their festival games as barbarous, and their theaters as stews of obscenity. . . . Christianity [when making converts] was charged with breaking up the home.”—Caesar and Christ, page 647.
20, 21. (a) What do we want to be sure of when people do not respond? (b) Why should we “not give up” but continue our fine work of Kingdom preaching?
20 Some people will not listen, no matter what we say. But that should be because of their rejection of the Kingdom message, not because of our failure to make good-quality presentations in our ministry. (Luke 10:8-11; Acts 17:32; Ezekiel 3:17-19) We should do our best with God’s help, and Jehovah will see the work through to its completion.—Compare Philippians 1:6.
21 With full confidence, then, continue to have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Above all, “let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Galatians 6:9.
Can You Recall?
□ What are some ways to maintain a positive attitude in frequently worked territory?
□ How can we more thoroughly search out deserving ones?
□ How can we try to deal with those who complain that we call too often?
□ In what ways can we meet the challenge of apathy?
□ What will improve the quality of our ministry?
[Box on page 20]
AS TERRITORY COVERAGE INCREASES,
“Pay constant attention” to:
□ Positive approaches and presentations
□ More thorough searching out of the deserving ones
□ Dealing patiently with complaining ones
□ Meeting the challenges of apathy and misunderstanding