The Watchtower and Awake!—Timely Journals of Truth
“You have redeemed me, O Jehovah the God of truth.”—PSALM 31:5.
1, 2. (a) How did a sister feel about something she read in The Watchtower? (b) What questions are asked about our journals?
“THANK YOU so much,” wrote a Christian sister, “for the wonderful information in the Watchtower article ‘You Can Find Comfort in Times of Distress.’* So many of the points you brought out were exactly the feelings I have had to deal with; it is as if this article were written directly to me. The first time I read it, I had tears in my eyes. It is so wonderful to realize that someone else knows how I feel! I am very grateful to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Where else can we find promises of everlasting life in Paradise in the near future and, now, balm for our souls! Thank you. A million times thank you.”
2 Have you ever felt that way? Did it ever seem that something in The Watchtower or its companion journal, Awake!, was written especially for you? What is it about our magazines that captures the hearts of people? How can we help others to benefit from the life-saving message they contain?—1 Timothy 4:16.
Magazines That Advocate Truth
3. For what good reason have the Watchtower and Awake! magazines touched the hearts of many readers?
3 Jehovah is “the God of truth.” (Psalm 31:5) His Word, the Bible, is a book of truth. (John 17:17) Honesthearted people respond to truth. (Compare John 4:23, 24.) One reason that The Watchtower and Awake! have touched the hearts of millions of readers is that they are journals of integrity and truth. In fact, it was over the issue of loyalty to Bible truth that The Watchtower began to be published.
4, 5. (a) What were the circumstances that led to C. T. Russell’s publishing the Watch Tower? (b) How is the Watchtower journal used by “the faithful and discreet slave”?
4 In 1876, Charles T. Russell became affiliated with Nelson H. Barbour, of Rochester, New York. Russell provided funds to revive the printing of Barbour’s religious periodical Herald of the Morning, with Barbour as the principal editor and Russell as assistant editor. About a year and a half later, however, in the August 1878 issue of the Herald, Barbour wrote an article that denied the redemptive value of Christ’s death. Russell, who was nearly 30 years younger than Barbour, responded with an article in the very next issue that upheld the ransom, which he referred to as “one of the most important teachings of God’s Word.” (Matthew 20:28) After repeated efforts to reason Scripturally with Barbour, Russell finally decided to sever all ties with the Herald. Beginning with the June 1879 issue of that journal, Russell’s name no longer appeared as an assistant editor. A month later, 27-year-old Russell began publishing Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence (now known as The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom), which from the beginning has upheld Scriptural truth, such as the ransom.
5 For the past 114 years, The Watchtower, like a skillful lawyer, has established itself as a defender of Bible truth and doctrine. In the process, it has won the confidence of millions of appreciative readers. It still powerfully supports the ransom. (See, for example, the issue of February 15, 1991.) And it continues to be the principal instrument of “the faithful and discreet slave” and its Governing Body for announcing Jehovah’s established Kingdom and dispensing spiritual food “at the proper time.”—Matthew 24:14, 45.
6, 7. What was the stated objective of The Golden Age, and what shows that thinking people responded to its message?
6 What about the Awake! magazine? From its beginning, Awake! too has advocated truth. Originally called The Golden Age, this magazine was designed for public distribution. Regarding its objective, the first issue, dated October 1, 1919, stated: “Its purpose is to explain in the light of Divine wisdom the true meaning of the great phenomena of the present day and to prove to thinking minds by evidence incontrovertible and convincing that the time of a greater blessing of mankind is now at hand.” Thinking people responded to the message of The Golden Age. For a number of years, its circulation was even greater than that of The Watchtower.*
7 The appeal of The Watchtower and Awake!, however, goes beyond the fact that they publish doctrinal truth and explain the prophetic significance of world conditions. Especially in the last decade or two, our magazines have captured the hearts of people for another reason also.
Timely Articles That Touch People’s Lives
8. What writing adjustment did Jude make, urging his readers to resist what influences within the congregation?
8 About 30 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Bible writer Jude faced a challenging situation. Immoral, animalistic men had slipped in among Christians. Jude had intended to write fellow Christians about a doctrinal subject—the salvation that anointed Christians hold in common. Instead, directed by holy spirit, he found it necessary to urge his readers to resist corruptive influences inside the congregation. (Jude 3, 4, 19-23) Jude adjusted to the situation and provided timely counsel that met the needs of his Christian brothers.
9. What is involved in providing timely articles for our journals?
9 Similarly, preparing timely articles for our journals is a challenging responsibility. Times change, and so do people—their needs and their interests are not what they were even a decade or two ago. A traveling overseer recently observed: “When I became a Witness back in the 1950’s, our approach in studying the Bible with people was basically doctrinal—teaching them the truth about the Trinity, hellfire, the soul, and so forth. But now, it seems, there are so many problems and difficulties in people’s lives that we have to teach them how to live.” Why is this so?
10. Why should it not surprise us that there has been a steady degeneration in human affairs since 1914?
10 Concerning “the last days,” the Bible foretold: “Wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 13) Therefore, it should not surprise us that there has been a steady degeneration in human affairs since the time of the end began in 1914. Satan, whose remaining time is shorter than ever, is venting his anger on human society as never before. (Revelation 12:9, 12) As a result, morals and family values are a far cry from what they were just 30 or 40 years ago. People in general are not as religiously inclined as in previous decades. Crime is so rampant that people are taking precautions that were unheard of just 20 or 30 years ago.—Matthew 24:12.
11. (a) What kinds of subjects are on the minds of people, and how has the faithful and discreet slave class responded to the needs? (b) Give an example of a Watchtower or an Awake! article that has touched your life.
11 Little wonder, then, that emotional, social, and family issues are on the minds of many people. The faithful and discreet slave class has courageously responded in The Watchtower and Awake! by publishing timely articles that have come to grips with the real needs of people and that have truly touched their lives. Consider some examples.
12. (a) Why were articles about single-parent families prepared for The Watchtower in 1980? (b) How did one sister express her appreciation for the articles on single-parent families?
12 Family issues. When worldwide reports showed a rapid increase in the number of single-parent families, ground-breaking articles on the theme “One-Parent Families—Coping With the Problems” were prepared for the September 15, 1980, issue of The Watchtower. The articles had a twofold purpose: (1) to help single parents cope with the unique problems they face and (2) to help others to be better informed so that they can show “fellow feeling” and genuinely “look after” single-parent families. (1 Peter 3:8; James 1:27) Many readers wrote to express appreciation for the articles. “It truly brought tears to my eyes when I saw the cover,” wrote one single parent, “and when I opened the magazine and read the information, my heart overflowed with gratitude to Jehovah for providing such information at the needed time.”
13. What in-depth discussion of depression was published in Awake! in 1981, and what did one reader have to say about it?
13 Emotional issues. The subject of depression has been discussed in The Watchtower and Awake! since the 1960’s. (1 Thessalonians 5:14) But a fresh and positive look at the subject was taken in the cover series “You Can Fight Depression!” in the September 8, 1981, Awake! Letters of appreciation soon poured into the Watch Tower Society from all over the world. “How can I express on paper the feelings in my heart?” wrote one sister. “I am 24 years old, and over the last ten years, I have had many periods of depression. But now I feel closer to Jehovah and grateful that he responded to the needs of depressed people with these loving articles, and I wanted to tell you so.”
14, 15. (a) How has the subject of child abuse been dealt with in our journals? (b) Which magazine articles impressed a jockey in Australia?
14 Social issues. The Bible foretold that in “the last days” men would be “lovers of themselves, . . . having no natural affection, . . . without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness.” (2 Timothy 3:1-3) Therefore, it should not surprise us that child abuse is practiced on a large scale today. This subject was given frank treatment in the article “Help for the Victims of Incest” in The Watchtower of October 1, 1983. Eight years later, the cover series “Healing the Wounds of Child Abuse” in the October 8, 1991, Awake! was carefully prepared to provide understanding and hope for victims as well as to enlighten others so that they can offer helpful assistance. This series of articles elicited the greatest reader response in the history of our journals. One reader wrote: “The greatest impact on my recovery has been the comforting thoughts and Scriptural references in these articles. To know that Jehovah did not think any less of me was an overwhelming relief. To know that I was not alone was equally comforting.”
15 A jockey in Melbourne, Australia, made a long-distance phone call to the Sydney office of the Watch Tower Society, expressing his disgust with the horse-racing environment. He said he had just read the March 8, 1993, Awake! on “Rape—A Woman’s Nightmare” and could hardly believe that such a valuable magazine existed. He asked questions for some 30 minutes and was delighted to hear the answers given.
16. In what ways can you demonstrate your appreciation for our journals?
16 What about you? Has your life been touched by a specific article published in The Watchtower or Awake!? If so, no doubt you feel a deep sense of gratitude for our journals. How can you demonstrate your appreciation? Certainly by reading each issue yourself. You can also share in giving these precious journals the widest possible distribution. How can this be done?
Share Them With Others!
17. What can congregations do to increase magazine distribution?
17 First, there is something that each congregation can do. The October 1952 issue of the Informant (now Our Kingdom Ministry) said: “The most effective means of distributing the magazines is from house to house and store to store. Hence the Society recommends that these avenues of magazine distribution be a regular part of Magazine Day activity.” That advice is still valid today. Congregations may schedule a regular Magazine Day, a day set aside primarily for magazine witnessing. For most congregations, specified Saturdays will no doubt be a good time. Yes, let each congregation set aside special days or evenings for magazine witnessing—from house to house, from store to store, in street work, and on magazine routes. In addition, what can you, the Kingdom publisher, do to help increase magazine distribution?
18, 19. (a) How can being Watchtower and Awake! conscious help you to place magazines? (b) What is the advantage of a short, to-the-point presentation when offering the magazines? (c) What shows the value of getting the magazines into the homes of people?
18 Being “Watchtower” and “Awake!” conscious is a first step. Read the magazines ahead of time. As you read each article, ask yourself, ‘To whom would this article be of interest?’ Think of a few words you could say to stimulate interest in the article. Besides supporting the regular Magazine Day, why not carry copies with you so that you can take advantage of every opportunity to share them with others—when traveling or shopping and when talking to coworkers, neighbors, schoolmates, or teachers?
19 Keep it simple is a second suggestion. The December 1, 1956, Watchtower stated: “A short, to-the-point presentation is best when offering magazines. The object is to place many copies. They will do their own ‘talking.’” Some publishers have found it effective to pick out one idea from an article, put it into a few words, and present the magazines. Once inside the home, the magazines may “talk” to others in addition to the person who accepted them from you. In Ireland a young university student read the September 1, 1991, issue of The Watchtower, which her father had accepted from a Witness. The articles on communication and other subjects awakened her interest. As soon as she had read the magazine, she telephoned the Witnesses, calling the number listed in the phone book. A Bible study was soon started, and the young woman was baptized at the “Divine Teaching” District Convention in July 1993. By all means, let us get the magazines into the homes, where they can “talk” to people! A traveling overseer offered another simple suggestion: “Get the magazines out of your book bag.” Indeed, if what you say does not catch the householder’s interest, then perhaps their attractive cover illustrations will place the magazines for you.
20, 21. (a) How can you be flexible when sharing in magazine work? (b) What might you do to place more magazines each month?
20 A third suggestion is be flexible. (Compare 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.) Prepare a few brief presentations. Have one article in mind that will appeal to men, another to women. For youths, you might feature a “Young People Ask . . .” article. Be flexible, too, as to when you share in magazine work. In addition to Magazine Day, you may find that evening witnessing affords an excellent opportunity to offer magazines from house to house.
21 A fourth suggestion is set a personal goal. The insert “Magazines Point the Way to Life,” which appeared in Our Kingdom Ministry of March 1984, stated: “As a suggestion, publishers may have a goal of, say, 10 magazines per month, depending on their circumstances; pioneers might strive for 90. Of course, some publishers may be able to place more magazines per month and therefore will set a higher personal goal. However, because of poor health, type of territory, or other good reasons, the goal of others may be lower. Yet their service to Jehovah is just as worthy. (Matt. 13:23; Luke 21:3, 4) The important thing is to have a personal goal.”
22. In what way can we show that we are thankful to Jehovah for our timely journals of truth?
22 How thankful we are that Jehovah, “the God of truth,” has used the faithful and discreet slave class and its Governing Body to provide us with these timely journals! (Psalm 31:5) As long as Jehovah wills, these magazines will continue to come to grips with the real needs of people. They will keep on upholding Jehovah’s high standards of morality. They will not cease to promote right doctrine. And they will persist in drawing attention to the fulfillment of prophecy that marks our days as the time when God’s Kingdom is ruling and God’s will is being done on earth as never before by an increasing number of Jehovah’s true worshipers. (Matthew 6:10; Revelation 11:15) What a priceless treasure we have in The Watchtower and Awake! Let us take advantage of every opportunity to share with meek-hearted ones these important journals that touch people’s lives and champion Kingdom truths.
July 15, 1992, pages 19-22.
For many years The Watchtower was viewed as a magazine particularly for anointed Christians. Starting in 1935, however, increasing emphasis was placed on encouraging the “great crowd,” whose hope is everlasting life on earth, to obtain and read The Watchtower. (Revelation 7:9) A few years later, in 1940, The Watchtower was regularly offered to people on the streets. Thereafter, circulation increased rapidly.
What Is Your Answer?
□ What shows that The Watchtower and Awake! are journals of truth?
□ How have The Watchtower and Awake! touched people’s lives?
□ What can congregations do to increase magazine distribution?
□ What suggestions can help you to place more magazines?
[Box on page 22]
Some Articles That Have Touched People’s Lives
Over the years many readers have written to express appreciation for specific articles published in The Watchtower and Awake! Listed below are just a few of the many subjects that affected our readers. Have these or other articles changed your life?
“Accept God’s Help to Overcome Secret Faults” (April 15, 1985)
“Practicing Godly Devotion Toward Elderly Parents” (June 1, 1987)
“Education With a Purpose” (November 1, 1992)
“You Can Fight Depression!” (September 8, 1981)
“When Someone You Love Dies . . .” (April 22, 1985)
“Protect Your Children!” (October 8, 1993)
[Picture on page 23]
In Canada—preaching from house to house with magazines
[Picture on page 24]
In Myanmar—presenting the magazines that point the way to life