How to Find Joy in Disciple Making
ONE of the profound joys that a person can experience is that of being a coworker with God. Today, God’s work includes gathering righteously inclined people into the Christian congregation and training them for life as Christians now and also for survival into a new world.—Micah 4:1-4; Matthew 28:19, 20; 2 Peter 3:13.
It has been a source of great joy for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Latin America to see a million people become disciples of Jesus Christ since 1980. In this fruitful field, where many respect and believe the Bible, some full-time ministers have been able to help dozens to dedicate their lives to Jehovah. With so much experience, perhaps they can tell us something about the joy of disciple making. Some of their suggestions may help you to find joy in making disciples where you live.
Recognizing Potential “Sheep”
“Into whatever city or village you enter, search out who in it is deserving,” said Jesus when he sent his apostles out to preach. (Matthew 10:11) When you go calling on the people, how can you recognize those who can be helped spiritually? Edward, a full-time minister for over 50 years, says: “They manifest it by their earnest questions and their satisfaction when given the answers from the Scriptures.” Carol adds: “If a person confides in me a personal problem or worry, it is really a cry for help. I try to find helpful information in the Watch Tower Society’s publications. Such personal interest often leads to a Bible study.” Yet, sincere ones are not always easily recognized. Luis relates: “Some who seemed very interested turned out to be not interested at all, but others who seemed opposed at first changed when they heard what the Bible really says.” Since many Latin Americans respect the Bible, he adds, “I recognize those who can be helped spiritually when they readily accept what the Bible teaches after I show it to them.” Helping such “deserving” ones to progress spiritually brings true joy and satisfaction. How can you do this?
Getting Bible Studies Started
Using Bible study aids produced by “the faithful and discreet slave” is usually the best way to help people understand Bible truth. (Matthew 24:45) How can you build appreciation for the value of such Bible study aids? Edward says: “Since people’s circumstances, personalities, and viewpoints vary so much, I try to be flexible in starting studies.” You cannot use the same method with everyone.
With some, several informal discussions of the Scriptures may be needed before introducing a Bible study textbook. Nevertheless, a missionary couple report: “We usually offer a study on the first call.” Likewise, a Witness who has helped 55 people to the point of dedication says: “My main method of starting Bible studies has been to enter directly into the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth.” Although some dislike the idea of studying anything, others are eager to study whatever they believe will help them in life. The offer of free Bible classes at home often sounds attractive to these. Some missionaries explain this offer and then say: “I’d like to show you how we do it. If you like it, you can continue. If you don’t, that’s up to you.” When it is put that way, people do not feel afraid to accept.
Another Witness, who has helped many of little means and education, says: “I have found the tracts to be especially useful in starting Bible studies.” Whichever publication they use, the full-time teachers try to give the Bible the main emphasis. Carola says: “At the first study, I use just the pictures and about five scriptures, so that the main points stand out and the Bible does not appear difficult.”
Keeping the Interest Alive
People enjoy the feeling of progress, so Jennifer recommends: “Make the study lively. Move along.” Conducting the study regularly without missing weeks also helps them to feel that they are getting somewhere. A special pioneer who was raised in the rurals explains the importance of simplifying explanations and concentrating on the main points, so that even those with little schooling can progress. He says: “In my village, we had to sprinkle the ground with water after sowing seeds. If we flooded the fields, the soil formed a hard crust that the germinating seeds could not penetrate, and they died. Likewise, if you flood newly interested ones with many points, it may seem too difficult and they give up.” Even people with inquiring minds must learn to concentrate on one subject at a time if they are to progress in understanding. Jesus said to his apostles: “I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present.”—John 16:12.
Another way to keep the interest alive is to encourage those you visit to continue thinking about God’s Word after you are gone. Yolanda recommends: “Leave a question pending. Give them some homework to do, such as reading a portion of the Bible or investigating a subject that concerns them.”
Developing Love for Jehovah
Your joy will increase when you help your students to become “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:22) How can you do that? True Christians are motivated by love for Jehovah. Pedro, who is from Mexico, explains: “People cannot love a person they don’t know, so from the very beginning of the study, I teach them God’s name from the Bible, and I look for opportunities to emphasize Jehovah’s qualities.” In conversation, you can build appreciation for Jehovah by expressing your feelings for him. Says Elizabeth: “I always try to mention Jehovah’s goodness. On my studies, if I see a beautiful flower, a pretty bird, or a playful kitten, I always mention that it is Jehovah’s work.” “Speak about God’s promised new world as the reality you know it to be,” suggests Jennifer. “Ask what they would like to do in the new world.”
When a person meditates appreciatively on what he learns about Jehovah, it sinks into his heart and moves him to action. But he cannot meditate unless he remembers. A brief review of three or four main points after each study is a memory aid. Many Bible teachers get new ones to write down key scriptures together with a note at the back of their Bible. A missionary from England explains another benefit of reviews: “I ask how the information has benefited them. This gets them meditating appreciatively on Jehovah’s ways and laws.”
A faithful Witness who graduated from Gilead’s third class says: “We must be enthusiastic. Our students must realize that we believe what we teach.” The faith that has made you a happy “doer of the work” can be contagious if you express it.—James 1:25.
“I find that people feel closer to God if I help them to recognize answers to their prayers,” says a Witness who has helped many to worship Jehovah. “I give them examples from my own experience, such as this one: When my partner and I arrived in a new assignment as pioneers, we had only a few vegetables, a packet of margarine, and no money. We finished up the food for supper and said, ‘Now we have nothing for tomorrow.’ We prayed about it, and went to bed. Early next morning a local Witness called and introduced herself, saying, ‘I prayed that Jehovah would send pioneers. Now I can accompany you most of the day, but since I live out in the country, I will have to eat lunch with you, so I have brought this food along for all of us.’ It was a large quantity of beef and vegetables. I always tell my students that Jehovah never leaves us if we seek his Kingdom first.”—Matthew 6:33.
Offer Practical Help
There is more to making disciples of Christ than conducting a Bible study. A missionary who served for many years as a traveling overseer says: “Give them time. Don’t go rushing away from the study after it is over. If appropriate, stay and talk for a while.” Elizabeth says: “I take an interest in them because life is involved. Many times I worry about them as if they were my children.” Other Witnesses made these suggestions: “Visit them when they are sick.” “When you are near their home, for example in the field ministry, visit them briefly to introduce other Witnesses to them.” Eva says: “Listen carefully to understand the person’s background and situation in life. These affect the way people react to the truth and can hinder their progress. Be their friend, so that they will have the confidence to speak about their problems.” Carol adds: “Genuine interest in the person is important as the changes the truth will bring to his life will sometimes mean the loss of family and friends. Generally, it is good if the student knows where we live and has the confidence to come to us at any time.” Help him to view the congregation as his new family.—Matthew 10:35; Mark 10:29, 30.
“Be alert to offer practical help. Sit with them at the meetings, and help them with their children,” says Yolanda. Showing new ones how to train their children, improve their standards of cleanliness, prepare comments for the meetings, and give talks in the Theocratic Ministry School is all part of the disciple-making work. Another sister adds: “It is important to train new ones for the ministry. When this aspect of training is overlooked, some remain fearful of the preaching work, lose their joy in serving Jehovah, and fail to endure.” So provide careful training in the house-to-house work, in making return visits, and in starting Bible studies. Your joy will be great when you see your student progress with your help and guidance.
Strengthen Them to Endure
“There is a tendency to neglect studying once the student is baptized,” warns an experienced disciple maker. Both the teacher and the student must remember that a newly baptized Christian is far from being spiritually mature. He has much growing to do in his faith, in his appreciation for God’s law, and in his love for Jehovah. It is vital to encourage him to develop good personal study habits so that he will continue to make advancement.—1 Timothy 4:15.
The new one may need help to progress and become a hospitable member of the association of brothers. He may need guidance in dealing with the imperfections of the brothers as he draws closer to them. (Matthew 18:15-35) He may need help to become a skilled teacher, able to do his own research. A missionary relates: “One student after baptism wanted to improve her ability as a teacher, so she said to me, ‘I have to conduct a new study next week, but I need to refresh my memory on the earlier chapters that I studied. Could you please do these chapters with me again, one at a time, so that I can take note of the explanations of the scriptures and illustrations, and then I can use them when I go to my study?’ She has become an excellent teacher, having had four of her students baptized at one assembly.”
Why Disciple Making Is Worth the Effort
“Making disciples means more praisers of Jehovah. It means life for those who accept the truth,” says Pamela. “I just love teaching the truth to others—it’s so beautiful! One sees the students growing little by little, making changes in their lives and overcoming obstacles that would seem insurmountable were it not for Jehovah’s spirit. Many of those who have come to love Jehovah have become my very dear friends.”
“When I contemplate those I have helped to become disciples,” relates a missionary from Germany, “I see some very timid people who have made so much progress as ministers of God that I can hardly believe it. I see people who overcome formidable obstacles, obviously with Jehovah’s help. I see families that were once broken but are now united—happy children with responsible parents. I see people enjoying meaningful lives, praising Jehovah. This is the joy of making disciples.”
Yes, being a coworker with Jehovah God in the disciple-making work is a source of incomparable joy. The experiences of the missionaries and pioneers have proved it. You can find the same joy and satisfaction if you apply the suggestions and work at it whole-souled. With Jehovah’s blessing, your joy will be complete.—Proverbs 10:22; 1 Corinthians 15:58.