Praise Jehovah “in the Middle of the Congregation”
CHRISTIAN meetings are a provision from Jehovah to keep his people spiritually strong. By regularly attending meetings, we show our appreciation for Jehovah’s provisions. Moreover, we are enabled “to incite [our brothers] to love and fine works,” which is an important way of demonstrating love for one another. (Hebrews 10:24; John 13:35) How, though, can we incite our brothers at meetings?
Make Public Expressions
King David wrote about himself: “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the middle of the congregation I shall praise you. From you my praise will be in the large congregation.” “I will laud you in the big congregation; among a numerous people I shall praise you.” “I have told the good news of righteousness in the big congregation. Look! My lips I do not restrain.”—Psalm 22:22, 25; 35:18; 40:9.
In the apostle Paul’s day, when Christians came together for worship, they similarly made expressions of their faith in Jehovah and about his glory. In this way they encouraged one another and incited one another to love and fine works. In our day, many centuries after both David and Paul, we truly “behold the day [of Jehovah] drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Satan’s system of things is staggering toward destruction, and problems continue to mount. As never before, we “have need of endurance.” (Hebrews 10:36) If not our brothers, who can encourage us to endure?
Today, as in earlier times, provisions are made for individual believers to express their faith “in the middle of the congregation.” One opportunity that is open to all is that of offering comments in response to questions posed to the audience at congregation meetings. Never underestimate the good that this can accomplish. For example, comments that demonstrate how to overcome or avoid problems strengthen the determination of our brothers to follow Bible principles. Comments that explain cited but not quoted Bible texts or that incorporate thoughts gleaned from personal research may encourage others to develop better study habits.
Appreciating that we and others will benefit if we comment at meetings should motivate all of Jehovah’s Witnesses to overcome timidity or reticence. It is especially important that elders and ministerial servants comment at meetings, since they are expected to take the lead in meeting participation, as well as in attendance. How, though, can an individual improve if he finds that this particular aspect of his Christian activity is a challenge?
Suggestions for Improving
Remember that Jehovah is involved. A Christian sister who lives in Germany explains how she views her comments. “They are my own personal answer to Satan’s attempts to keep God’s people from expressing their faith.” A newly baptized brother who associates with the same congregation says: “As far as commenting is concerned, I pray a lot.”
Prepare well. If you fail to study the material beforehand, you will find it difficult to comment and your comments will not be so effective. Suggestions for commenting at congregation meetings are given in the publication Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education, page 70.*
Set a goal of giving at least one comment at each meeting. This means preparing several answers, since the more often you raise your hand, the greater the likelihood that the brother presiding will call on you. You might even like to tell him ahead of time which questions you are prepared to answer. This is particularly helpful if you are a beginner. Since you may be hesitant to raise your hand “in the large congregation,” knowing that this is your paragraph and that the one conducting the meeting will be watching for your hand will encourage you to comment.
Comment early. A difficult task does not get easier by putting it off. Making a comment early in the meeting can be helpful. You will be surprised at how much easier it is to comment a second or third time once you have passed the hurdle of making that first comment.
Choose an appropriate seat. Some find it easier to comment when they sit toward the front of the Kingdom Hall. There are fewer distractions, and the one conducting is less likely to overlook them. If you try this, remember to speak loud enough for everyone to hear, especially if the congregation does not use roving microphones.
Listen carefully. This will help you to avoid repeating what someone else has just said. Also, comments made by others may remind you of a scripture or of a point that can build on the thought just expressed. Occasionally, a brief experience may illustrate the point under discussion. Such comments are very helpful.
Learn to answer in your own words. Reading a comment from the study material may indicate that you have found the right answer, and it may be a good way to get started commenting. But progressing to answer in your own words shows that you understand the point. Our publications need not be quoted verbatim. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not simply repeat what their publications say.
Stay on the subject. Comments unrelated to the subject or that distract from the main thoughts under consideration are inappropriate. This means that your comments should be pertinent to the subject under discussion. Then they will contribute to a spiritually upbuilding discussion of the theme being developed.
Aim to encourage. Since a significant reason for commenting is to encourage others, we must try to avoid saying things that might discourage them. Further, do not cover the paragraph so thoroughly that there is little or nothing left for others to say. Long or complicated answers tend to obscure the meaning. Short answers consisting of just a few words can be very effective, and they will encourage new ones to offer their short answers.
The Role of Those Conducting Meetings
As far as being encouraging is concerned, the one conducting a meeting bears a heavy responsibility. He shows genuine interest in every comment given by listening carefully and by looking politely at the one commenting rather than busying himself with something else. How inappropriate it would be if he did not listen carefully and, as a result, needlessly repeated what had just been said or asked a question that had just been answered!
It would also be discouraging if the one conducting regularly repeated in slightly different words a comment that had just been made, as if to suggest that the comment was somehow inadequate. On the other hand, how encouraging it is when comments contribute to further discussion of a significant point. ‘How can we apply this in our congregation?’ or, ‘Which scripture in the paragraph supports what was just said?’ are the kind of questions that encourage positive comments, which make a valuable contribution.
Of course, new ones or shy ones should especially be commended when they make a comment. This may be done on a one-to-one basis after the study in order to avoid possible embarrassment and to give the conductor an opportunity to offer suggestions when appropriate.
In ordinary conversation, a person who monopolizes a discussion discourages communication. His listeners feel no need to express themselves. They are resigned to listening halfheartedly if at all. Something similar may occur when the one conducting monopolizes the discussion by commenting too often. However, the one conducting a meeting may occasionally draw out those in attendance and stimulate their thinking on the subject by means of supplementary questions. Such questions should be used sparingly.
The one conducting will not necessarily call on the first person who raises his hand. This could discourage those who need a little time to formulate their thoughts. By waiting briefly, he will give someone who has not already commented the chance to do so. He will also show discernment by not calling on small children to answer questions dealing with subjects that are beyond their comprehension.
What if an incorrect answer is given? The one conducting should avoid embarrassing the person who gave the answer. Comments, even when incorrect, often contain elements of truth. By tactfully picking up on something that may be correct, by rephrasing the question, or by asking an additional one, the one conducting can set matters straight without undue awkwardness.
To encourage commenting, the one conducting a meeting will do better to avoid general questions, such as, ‘Does anyone else have a comment?’ The question, ‘Who has not yet commented? This is your last chance!’ may be well-meant, but it will hardly encourage a person to express himself openly. Brothers should not be made to feel guilty for not having commented earlier in the study. Rather, they should be encouraged to share what they know because sharing is an expression of love. In addition, after the one conducting calls on someone to give a comment, it would be better not to say, “After him, we will hear the comment of Brother So-and-so and then Sister So-and-so’s comment.” The one conducting should first listen to the comment and then determine if an additional comment is needed.
Commenting Is a Privilege
Attending Christian meetings is a spiritual necessity; commenting at them is a privilege. To the extent that we participate in this unique way of praising Jehovah “in the middle of the congregation,” to that extent we are following David’s example and taking seriously Paul’s counsel. Our participation at meetings proves that we love our brothers and that we are part of Jehovah’s large congregation. Where else would you want to be as “you behold the day drawing near”?—Hebrews 10:25.
Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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Both listening and commenting have a place at Christian meetings
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The one conducting shows genuine interest in every comment