Communication in the Christian Ministry
“Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.”—MATTHEW 28:19.
1. What commission given by Christ implies the need to communicate?
JESUS’ commission, quoted above, presents us with the challenge of communicating with people in our ministry as we go from house to house, make return visits, and share in all other features of Kingdom preaching. Included in that commission is the responsibility to make known the truth about Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, and the Messianic Kingdom in which Jesus now rules.—Matthew 25:31-33.
2. To communicate effectively, what do we need?
2 How can we communicate effectively? First, we must believe in the information we are communicating. In other words, we must have strong faith that Jehovah is the one true God, that the Bible is really God’s Word, and that God’s Kingdom is the only hope for mankind. In that way, what we teach will come from the heart, and we will be heeding Paul’s counsel to Timothy: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”—2 Timothy 2:15.
3-5. (a) How can we communicate without even saying a word? (b) What experiences bear this out?
3 Communication often involves words. But, in fact, we communicate with people even before we speak to them. How? By our bearing and by the way we dress and groom ourselves. Years ago a missionary graduate of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead was traveling by ocean liner to his foreign assignment. After a few days at sea, a stranger asked him why he was so different from all the others on board. The missionary was communicating something noteworthy—that he had different standards and was approachable—just by his appearance and his demeanor. This presented a fine opportunity for the missionary to give a witness.
4 Then again, a sister who was standing on the street offering Bible literature to passersby gave a friendly smile to a woman who walked near her. This woman started to go down the stairs into a subway station. Then she changed her mind, walked back to the sister, and asked for a home Bible study. What had impressed her? Although she had not been offered Bible literature, she had received a friendly smile from the Witness doing street work.
5 A third example: A group of young Witnesses had a meal in a restaurant and were surprised when a stranger approached their table and paid for their meals. Why did he do that? He had been impressed by their demeanor. Without saying a word to the stranger, these young Christians had communicated that they were God-fearing individuals. Clearly, by our bearing, appearance, and friendliness, we communicate even before we say a word.—Compare 1 Peter 3:1, 2.
Reasoning Vital to Communication
6. Illustrate how reasoning is invaluable for communication.
6 To communicate verbally with people about the good news, we must be prepared, not to speak dogmatically, but to reason with them. We repeatedly read that Paul reasoned with those to whom he tried to impart the good news. (Acts 17:2, 17; 18:19) How can we follow his example? Well, worsening world conditions may have led some to doubt the existence of an almighty and loving God who cares for mankind. We could reason with them, though, that God has a time for everything. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) Thus, Galatians 4:4 says that when God’s due time came, he sent his Son to earth. This was thousands of years after he first promised to do so. Similarly, when his due time comes, he will make an end to suffering and wickedness. Moreover, God’s Word shows that God has compelling reasons for allowing wickedness to continue for so long. (Compare Exodus 9:16.) Reasoning along these lines, and supporting that reasoning with illustrations and strong Scriptural proof, will help sincere ones to realize that the prevalence of wickedness cannot be used as an argument that Jehovah does not exist or does not care.—Romans 9:14-18.
7, 8. How might reasoning help us to communicate with an Orthodox Jew?
7 Suppose that while you are going from house to house, a householder says to you: “I’m a Jew. I’m not interested.” How might you proceed? One brother reports success using this approach: ‘I’m sure you will agree with me that Moses was one of the greatest prophets that God ever used. And did you know that he said as recorded at Deuteronomy 31:29: “I well know that after my death you will . . . turn aside from the way about which I have commanded you; and calamity will be bound to befall you”? Moses was a true prophet, so his words had to come true. Could it be that they came true when God sent the Messiah to the Jews and that is why the Jews did not accept him? That could have been the case. Now if this is so and they made a mistake, is that any reason why you and I should make the same mistake?’
8 Remember, too, the Jews have suffered much at the hands of Christendom, particularly during this century. So you may wish to tell the householder that we had no part in that. For example, you may wish to say: ‘Did you know that when Hitler was in power, Jehovah’s Witnesses defied his boycott of the Jews? They also refused to “Heil Hitler” and to serve in his army.’*
9, 10. How might reasoning be used to help one who believes in hellfire?
9 In endeavoring to communicate with one who believes in hellfire, you might reason that if an individual is to suffer eternally in hell, he must have an immortal soul. The believer in hellfire will readily agree. Then you can mention the account of the creation of Adam and Eve and kindly ask if he ever noticed in that account any mention of such an immortal soul. Proceeding with your reasoning, you may then draw his attention to Genesis 2:7, where the Bible tells us that Adam became a soul. And note what God said would be the result of Adam’s sin: “In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19) Hence, Adam the soul went back to the dust.
10 You could also draw attention to the fact that nowhere in the Genesis account does God mention everlasting suffering in hellfire. When God warned Adam not to eat of the forbidden fruit, he said: “In the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Genesis 2:17) No mention of hellfire! If the real result of sin for Adam was to be, not death, ‘returning to the dust,’ but eternal suffering, in all justice should God not have explained this clearly? Hence, careful and kind reasoning may help a sincere individual to see the inconsistencies of his belief. May we never overlook the importance of appealing to reason as we share with others the truth of God’s Word.—Compare 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 John 4:8, 16.
Qualities Needed for Effective Communication
11-13. What Christian qualities can help us to communicate effectively?
11 Now, what qualities must we cultivate in order to communicate Kingdom truths most effectively? Well, what does the example of Jesus tell us? At Matthew 11:28-30, we read his words: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” There we see one of the keys of Jesus’ success in communicating. He was mild-tempered and lowly in heart. Righthearted people found him refreshing. The apostle Paul also set a fine example, for, as he told the elders from Ephesus, from the first day he came to them, he was slaving for the Lord “with the greatest lowliness of mind.”—Acts 20:19.
12 By our always manifesting modesty and lowliness of mind, others will find that we too are refreshing, and it will be easier for us to communicate with them. Any other attitude likely will raise a barrier between us and those with whom we are trying to communicate. Truly, “wisdom is with the modest ones.”—Proverbs 11:2.
13 In order to impart information effectively, we also need to be patient and tactful. The apostle Paul was certainly tactful when he witnessed to the philosophers assembled before him on Mars’ Hill. He presented the good news in a way that they could understand. (Acts 17:18, 22-31) If we wish to communicate successfully with our listeners, we must heed the counsel the apostle Paul gave to the Colossians when he said: “Let your conversation be always gracious, and never insipid; study how best to talk with each person you meet.” (Colossians 4:6, The New English Bible) Our speech should always be in good taste. Such speech will tend to open the minds of our listeners, whereas injudicious remarks will cause them to close their minds.
14. How may a relaxed, conversational approach help us to communicate with others?
14 We want to appear relaxed at all times. This helps put our listeners at ease. Being relaxed means not being too anxious to do all the talking. Rather, with an unhurried attitude and friendly questions, we give our listeners the opportunity to express themselves. Especially when we are witnessing informally is it wise to encourage the other person to talk. Thus, a Witness once found himself seated on a plane alongside a Roman Catholic priest. For more than an hour, the Witness kept plying the priest with tactful questions, and the priest, in answering, did most of the talking. But by the time they separated, the priest had obtained several Bible publications. Such a patient approach will help us to exercise another needed quality, namely empathy.
15, 16. How can empathy help us to communicate?
15 Empathy means putting ourselves in the place of others, as it were. The apostle Paul fully appreciated the need for empathy, as can be seen from what he wrote to the Corinthians: “Though I am free from all persons, I have made myself the slave to all, that I may gain the most persons. And so to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, that I might gain those under law. To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, that I might gain those without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to people of all sorts, that I might by all means save some.”—1 Corinthians 9:19-22.
16 To imitate the apostle Paul in these respects, we need to be tactful, discerning, and observant. Empathy will help us to communicate the truth to our listeners according to their way of thinking and feeling. The publication Reasoning From the Scriptures gives much help along this line. Always have it with you in the ministry.
Love—An Aid in Communication
17. Of all Christian qualities, which one is most valuable in communicating the truth effectively, and how is it shown?
17 Modesty, lowliness of mind, patience, and empathy are essential for effective communication in imparting information. Above all, though, unselfish love will help us to be successful in reaching the hearts of others. Jesus felt pity for the people because they were “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” It was love that prompted Jesus to say: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you.” (Matthew 9:36; 11:28) It is because we love them that we too want to refresh people and help them to get on the road to life. Ours is a message of love, so let us keep telling it in a loving way. This love manifests itself by a friendly smile, by kindness and gentleness, by cheerfulness and warmth.
18. How may we imitate Paul, as he imitated the Master?
18 In this respect the apostle Paul was a fine imitator of his Master, Jesus Christ. Why was he so successful in starting one congregation after another? Because of his zeal? Yes. But also because of the love he manifested. Note his expressions of affection with regard to the new congregation at Thessalonica: “We became gentle in the midst of you, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God, but also our own souls, because you became beloved to us.” Imitating Paul will help us in our efforts to communicate.—1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8.
19. Why should we not let unresponsive territory discourage us?
19 If we have done our best to communicate and we fail to get the desired results, should we be discouraged? Not at all. The Bible Students (as Jehovah’s Witnesses were formerly called) used to say that in order to accept the truth, people need to have the three h’s. They need to be honest, humble, and hungry. We cannot expect insincere people, those not honest, to respond favorably to the truth; nor can we expect arrogant or proud individuals to listen to the good news. Further, even if an individual has a measure of honesty and humility, it is not likely that he will take to the truth if he is not spiritually hungry.
20. Why can it always be said that our efforts have not been in vain?
20 No doubt many that you meet in your territory will be lacking one or more of the three h’s. The prophet Jeremiah had the same experience. (Jeremiah 1:17-19; compare Matthew 5:3.) Still, our efforts are never in vain. Why not? Because we are advertising Jehovah’s name and Kingdom. By our preaching and by our very presence, we are warning the wicked. (Ezekiel 33:33) And never forget that by our efforts to communicate the truth to others, we benefit ourselves. (1 Timothy 4:16) We keep our faith strong and our Kingdom hope bright. Moreover, we maintain our integrity and thus share in sanctifying Jehovah God’s name, making his heart glad.—Proverbs 27:11.
21. What can be said in summary?
21 To sum up: Communication is the effective imparting of information. The art of communication is vital, and much harm results when communication breaks down. We have seen that Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are the foremost communicators and that Jesus Christ commissioned a channel of communication for our day. We have also noted that by our grooming and behavior, we communicate, sending messages to others. We have learned that reasoning plays an important part in our trying to communicate with people and that to communicate effectively, we need to be modest and humble, manifest empathy, exercise patience, and, above all, be motivated by a heart full of love. If we cultivate these qualities and follow Bible examples, we will be successful Christian communicators.—Romans 12:8-11.
For more suggestions on how to communicate with believing Jews and others, see Reasoning From the Scriptures, pages 21-4.
How Would You Answer?
□ In what way does communication begin before a word is spoken?
□ What are some examples of communication by effective reasoning?
□ What qualities enabled Jesus Christ and Paul to communicate effectively?
□ Why need we not be discouraged if results are slow in coming?