All True Christians Must Be Evangelizers
“Do the work of an evangelizer.”—2 TIMOTHY 4:5, footnote.
1. What was the good news that was preached by evangelizers in the first century?
WHAT does it mean today to be an evangelizer? Are you one? The word “evangelizer” comes from the Greek word eu·ag·ge·li·stesʹ, which means “a preacher of the good news.” From the establishment of the Christian congregation in 33 C.E., the Christian good news highlighted God’s means of salvation and proclaimed that Jesus Christ would return at a later time to commence his Kingdom rule over mankind.—Matthew 25:31, 32; 2 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 10:12, 13.
2. (a) How has the content of the good news been enriched in our day? (b) What obligation rests on all true Christians today?
2 From 1914 onward, evidence began to mount that the sign that Jesus had given respecting his return and invisible presence was undergoing fulfillment. (Matthew 24:3-13, 33) Once again, the good news could include the expression “the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:7, 31; Mark 1:14, 15) Indeed, the time had come for Jesus’ prophecy recorded at Matthew 24:14 to undergo a grand fulfillment: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” Therefore, evangelizing now includes zealously announcing the established Kingdom of God and the blessings that it will soon bring to obedient mankind. All Christians are under command to do this work and to “make disciples.”—Matthew 28:19, 20; Revelation 22:17.
3. (a) What additional meaning does the word “evangelizer” have? (See Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, page 770, column 2, paragraph 2.) (b) What questions does this raise?
3 In addition to the preaching of the good news in general, the Bible uses the term “evangelizer” in a special sense respecting those who leave their home territory to preach the good news in unworked regions. In the first century, there were many missionary evangelizers, such as Philip, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and Timothy. (Acts 21:8; Ephesians 4:11) But what about our special time since 1914? Have Jehovah’s people today made themselves available as local as well as missionary evangelizers?
Progress Since 1919
4, 5. What were the prospects for the evangelizing work shortly after 1914?
4 When World War I drew to an end in 1918, God’s servants experienced increasing opposition from both apostates and the clergy of Christendom and their political allies. In fact, genuine Christian evangelizing almost came to a standstill in June 1918 when leading officials of the Watch Tower Society in the United States were sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment under false charges. Had God’s enemies succeeded in bringing an end to the preaching of the good news?
5 Unexpectedly, in March 1919 the Society’s officials were released and later exonerated of the false charges that had landed them in prison. With their newfound freedom, these anointed Christians realized that there was still plenty of work to be done before they would be gathered to their heavenly reward as joint heirs in the Kingdom of God.—Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12; 4:18.
6. How did the evangelizing work progress between 1919 and 1939?
6 Back in 1919 there were fewer than 4,000 who reported sharing in spreading the good news. During the next two decades, a number of men offered themselves as missionary evangelizers, and some were sent to countries of Africa, Asia, and Europe. By 1939, after 20 years of Kingdom preaching, Jehovah’s Witnesses had increased to over 73,000. This outstanding increase, accomplished in the face of much persecution, was similar to what took place in the early years of the Christian congregation.—Acts 6:7; 8:4, 14-17; 11:19-21.
7. In the years 47 C.E. and 1939, what similar situation existed regarding the Christian evangelizing work?
7 Nevertheless, the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses at that time were concentrated in English-speaking Protestant countries. In fact, over 75 percent of the 73,000 Kingdom proclaimers were from Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. As was the case about 47 C.E., something was needed to encourage evangelizers to give more attention to the less worked countries of the earth.
8. By 1992, what had Gilead School accomplished?
8 Wartime restrictions and persecutions could not stop Jehovah’s powerful holy spirit from motivating his servants to prepare for greater expansion. In 1943, while World War II was at its height, God’s organization set up the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead with a view to spreading the good news more widely. By March 1992, this school had sent out 6,517 missionaries to 171 different countries. In addition, men were trained to care for branches of the Watch Tower Society in foreign lands. As of 1992, of the 97 Branch Committee coordinators, 75 were trained at Gilead.
9. What training programs have played a part in the progress of the evangelizing and disciple-making work?
9 Besides Gilead School, other training programs have equipped Jehovah’s people to expand and improve their evangelizing work. For example, the Theocratic Ministry School operates in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the earth. This arrangement, along with the weekly Service Meeting, has trained millions of Kingdom publishers to be effective in the public ministry. There is also the Kingdom Ministry School, which provides valuable training to elders and ministerial servants so that these can better care for the growing congregations. The Pioneer Service School has helped many full-time evangelizers to become more effective in their preaching activity. More recently, the Ministerial Training School has operated in different countries to help unmarried elders and ministerial servants to become modern-day Timothys.
10. What has been the result of all the excellent training provided through God’s organization? (Include information in box.)
10 What has been the result of all this training? In 1991, Jehovah’s Witnesses had reached a peak of well over four million Kingdom proclaimers active in 212 countries. However, unlike the situation that existed in 1939, over 70 percent of these are from Catholic, Orthodox, non-Christian, or other lands, where English is not the predominant language.—See box “Expansion Since 1939.”
11. To whom did the apostle Paul attribute his success as a minister?
11 Jehovah’s Witnesses do not take the credit for this expansion. Instead, they view their work in the way the apostle Paul did, as he explained in his letter to the Corinthians. “What, then, is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow. For we are God’s fellow workers. You people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.”—1 Corinthians 3:5-7, 9.
12. (a) What role does God’s Word play in successful Christian evangelizing? (b) Who has been appointed as Head of the Christian congregation, and what is one important way to demonstrate our submission to his headship?
12 There is no doubt that the phenomenal growth experienced by Jehovah’s Witnesses is due to God’s blessing. It is God’s work. In realization of this fact, they continue to apply themselves in regularly studying God’s Word. They base everything they teach in their evangelizing work upon the Bible. (1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Timothy 3:16) Another key to their successful evangelizing is their full recognition of the One whom God appointed as the Head of the congregation, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:23) First-century Christians showed this by cooperating with the ones Jesus appointed as apostles. These men, together with other elders of the Jerusalem congregation, formed the first-century Christian governing body. From heaven the Lord Jesus Christ used this group of mature Christians to settle issues and give direction to the work of evangelizing. Paul’s zealous cooperation with this divine arrangement resulted in increases in the congregations he visited. (Acts 16:4, 5; Galatians 2:9) Likewise today, by holding firmly to God’s Word and zealously cooperating with the direction that comes from the Governing Body, Christian evangelizers are assured of success in their ministry.—Titus 1:9; Hebrews 13:17.
Considering Others Superior
13, 14. (a) What counsel did the apostle Paul give as recorded at Philippians 2:1-4? (b) Why is it important to remember this counsel while sharing in the evangelizing work?
13 The apostle Paul showed genuine love for truth seekers and did not display a superior or racist attitude. Thus, he could counsel fellow believers to ‘consider that the others are superior.’—Philippians 2:1-4.
14 In like manner, true Christian evangelizers today do not have a superior attitude when dealing with people of different races and backgrounds. One of Jehovah’s Witnesses from the United States, assigned to work as a missionary in Africa, says: “I just know that we’re not superior. Maybe we have more money and what is called formal education, but they [the local people] have qualities that surpass ours.”
15. How can those assigned to work in foreign lands display genuine respect for prospective disciples?
15 Certainly, by displaying genuine respect for those with whom we share the good news, we will make it easier for them to accept the Bible’s message. It also helps when a missionary evangelizer shows he is happy to live among the people whom he has been assigned to help. A successful missionary who has spent the last 38 years in Africa explains: “I feel deep within myself that this is my home, and the ones in the congregation where I am assigned are my brothers and sisters. When I’ve been back to Canada on vacation, I don’t really feel at home. The last week or so in Canada, I’m just itching to get back. I always feel that way. I tell my Bible students and the brothers and sisters how happy I am to be back again, and they appreciate that I want to be with them.”—1 Thessalonians 2:8.
16, 17. (a) What challenge have many missionaries and local evangelizers accepted in order to be more effective in their ministry? (b) What experience did one missionary have because of speaking in the local language?
16 When they find a large foreign-language enclave in their local territories, some have made an effort to learn the language, showing by this that they consider the others to be superior. “In southern Africa,” observes one missionary, “there is sometimes a feeling of distrust between people of African background and people of European background. But our speaking in the local language quickly dispels this feeling.” Speaking the language of those with whom we share the good news is a great aid in reaching their hearts. It requires hard work and humble persistence. A missionary in an Asian country explains: “To keep on blundering away while constantly being laughed at for your mistakes can be a test. It may seem easier to give up.” However, love of God and neighbor helped this missionary to persevere.—Mark 12:30, 31.
17 Understandably, people are moved when a foreigner strives to share the good news in their language. Sometimes it results in unexpected blessings. A missionary in the African country of Lesotho was speaking in Sesotho to another woman, who worked in a tapestry shop. A government minister from another African country was touring the premises and overheard the conversation. He came over and warmly commended her, whereupon she began speaking to the government minister in his own language. “Why do you not come to [my country] and work among our people, since you also know Swahili?” he asked. Tactfully, the missionary replied: “That would be very nice. But I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and at present our work is outlawed in your country.” “Please,” he replied, “do not feel that all of us are opposed to your work. Many of us are in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Perhaps one day you will be able to teach freely among our people.” Some time later, the missionary was thrilled to learn that Jehovah’s Witnesses had been granted freedom of worship in that same country.
Willing to Forgo Rights
18, 19. (a) In what important way did Paul strive to imitate his Master, Jesus Christ? (b) Relate an experience (the one in the paragraph or your own) to show the importance of avoiding any cause for stumbling those with whom we share the good news.
18 When the apostle Paul wrote: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ,” he had just been discussing the need to avoid stumbling others, saying: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God, even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.”—1 Corinthians 10:31-33; 11:1.
19 Evangelizers like Paul, who are willing to make sacrifices in the interests of those to whom they preach, reap blessings. For example, in one African country, a missionary couple went to a local hotel for dinner to celebrate their wedding anniversary. At first they intended to order wine with the meal, since the moderate use of alcoholic beverages is not condemned in the Bible. (Psalm 104:15) But then this couple decided not to do so in case it might offend the local people. “Some time later,” recalls the husband, “we met a man who was a chef at that hotel, and we started a Bible study with him. Much later he told us: ‘Do you remember when you came to the hotel for dinner? We were all behind the kitchen door watching you. You see, the church missionaries told us that it is wrong for us to drink. Yet, when they come to the hotel, they freely order wine. We therefore decided that if you ordered something to drink, we wouldn’t listen to you when you came to preach to us.’” Today, that chef and some others who worked at the hotel are baptized Witnesses.
Still Plenty to Do
20. Why is it vital that we endure as zealous evangelizers, and what joyful privilege are many seizing?
20 As the end of this wicked system fast approaches, many still yearn to hear the good news, and it is more urgent than ever for every Christian to endure as a faithful evangelizer. (Matthew 24:13) Can you expand your share in this work by becoming an evangelizer in a special sense like Philip, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and Timothy? Many are doing something similar by joining the pioneer ranks and making themselves available to serve in places where there is a greater need.
21. In what way has “a large door that leads to activity” been opened up to Jehovah’s people?
21 Recently, vast fields for evangelizing have opened up in countries of Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, where the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was formerly restricted. As was the case with the apostle Paul, “a large door that leads to activity has been opened” to Jehovah’s people. (1 Corinthians 16:9) For example, missionary evangelizers who recently arrived in the African country of Mozambique cannot handle the number of people who want Bible studies. How happy we can be that the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was legalized in that land as of February 11, 1991!
22. Whether our local territory is well worked or not, what must all of us be determined to do?
22 In lands where we have always had freedom of worship, our brothers are also enjoying continued increases. Yes, wherever we live, there is still “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) That being the case, let us continue to make wise use of the remaining time as we each ‘do the work of an evangelizer, fully accomplishing our ministry.’—2 Timothy 4:5; Ephesians 5:15, 16.
Can You Explain?
◻ What is an evangelizer?
◻ How was the content of the good news enriched after 1914?
◻ How has the evangelizing work progressed since 1919?
◻ What key factors have contributed to the success of the evangelizing work?
[Box on page 19]
Expansion Since 1939
Consider examples from three continents where Gilead-trained missionaries were sent. Back in 1939 there were only 636 Kingdom proclaimers who reported from West Africa. By 1991 this number had increased to over 200,000 in 12 countries of West Africa. Missionaries have also contributed to phenomenal increases in countries of South America. One is Brazil, which increased from 114 Kingdom proclaimers in 1939 to 335,039 in April 1992. Similar growth followed the arrival of missionaries in countries of Asia. During World War II, the small number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan were severely persecuted, and their work came to a standstill. Then, in 1949, 13 missionaries arrived to help reorganize the work. That service year, fewer than ten native publishers reported field service for the whole of Japan, whereas in April 1992 the grand total of publishers reached 167,370.
[Box on page 21]
Christendom and the Language Problem
Some of Christendom’s missionaries made an earnest effort to learn a foreign tongue, but many expected the local people to speak their European language. As Geoffrey Moorhouse explains in his book The Missionaries:
“The trouble was that the acquisition of a native language was seen far too frequently as nothing more than a means of translating Scripture. Comparatively little effort was spent, either by individuals or by the societies employing them, in ensuring that a missionary could speak to a native in his own tongue with the fluency that alone can produce deep understanding between two human beings. Every missionary would pick up a smattering of local vocabulary . . . Beyond that, communication was generally made in the appalling and stultifying cadences of so-called pidgin English, with its implicit assumption that the African native must submit himself to the norms of the English visitor. At its worst, this was yet another manifestation of racial superiority.”
In 1922 the School of Oriental and African Studies in London published a report on the language problem. “We are of the opinion,” the report said, “that the average level of proficiency attained by missionaries in the vernacular . . . is regrettably and even dangerously low.”
Missionaries of the Watch Tower Society have always regarded learning the local language as a must, which helps to explain their success in the missionary field.