Meeting the Challenges of the House-to-House Ministry
“We mustered up boldness by means of our God to speak to you the good news of God with a great deal of struggling.”—1 THESS. 2:2.
1. What challenges did Jeremiah face, and how was he able to meet them?
JEREMIAH was a person with feelings like ours. When Jehovah informed him of his commission to be “prophet to the nations,” he cried out: “Alas, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah! Here I actually do not know how to speak, for I am but a boy.” Nevertheless, trusting in Jehovah, he accepted the assignment. (Jer. 1:4-10) For more than 40 years, Jeremiah contended with apathy, rejection, ridicule, and even physical violence. (Jer. 20:1, 2) At times, he felt like giving up. Yet, he persevered in declaring an unpopular message to a largely unreceptive people. In God’s strength, Jeremiah accomplished what he could never have done on his own.—Read Jeremiah 20:7-9.
2, 3. How do God’s servants today face challenges resembling those of Jeremiah?
2 Many of God’s servants today can relate to Jeremiah’s feelings. When contemplating the prospect of preaching from house to house, more than a few of us once thought, ‘That is something I could never do.’ Yet, when we realized that it was Jehovah’s will that we proclaim the good news, we overcame our apprehension and got busy preaching. Even so, many of us faced circumstances in our lives that made it difficult, at least for a time, to keep on preaching. There is no denying that it is a challenge to start preaching from house to house and to keep on preaching right to the end.—Matt. 24:13.
3 What if you have been studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and attending congregation meetings for some time but are hesitant to start preaching from house to house? Or what if you are a baptized Witness who finds it difficult to share in the door-to-door work, even though you are physically able to do so? Be assured that people of all backgrounds are meeting the challenges of the house-to-house ministry. With Jehovah’s help, so can you.
Mustering Up Boldness
4. What enabled the apostle Paul to speak the good news with boldness?
4 You no doubt recognize that the global preaching work is being accomplished, not by human power or wisdom, but by God’s spirit. (Zech. 4:6) That is also true of the ministry of individual Christians. (2 Cor. 4:7) Consider the apostle Paul. Recalling a time when he and his missionary companion were mistreated by opposers, he wrote: “After we had first suffered and been insolently treated . . . in Philippi, we mustered up boldness by means of our God to speak to you the good news of God with a great deal of struggling.” (1 Thess. 2:2; Acts 16:22-24) We may find it hard to imagine that a zealous preacher like Paul had times when it was a struggle for him to preach. Yet, like all of us, Paul had to lean on Jehovah in order to speak the good news with boldness. (Read Ephesians 6:18-20.) How can we imitate Paul’s example?
5. What is one way we can muster up boldness to preach?
5 One way we muster up boldness to preach is through prayer. A pioneer said: “I pray that I can speak with confidence, pray that I can reach the hearts of people, and pray that I can find joy in the ministry. After all, this is Jehovah’s work, not our own, so we can do nothing without his help.” (1 Thess. 5:17) All of us need to pray continually for the help of God’s holy spirit to preach with boldness.—Luke 11:9-13.
6, 7. (a) What vision did Ezekiel receive, and what did it mean? (b) What lesson does Ezekiel’s vision provide for God’s servants today?
6 The book of Ezekiel reveals something else that can help us to speak with boldness. In a vision, Jehovah gave Ezekiel a scroll written on both sides with “dirges and moaning and wailing” and told him to eat it, saying: “Son of man, you should cause your own belly to eat, that you may fill your very intestines with this roll that I am giving you.” What did this vision mean? Ezekiel was to absorb fully the message he was to deliver. It was to become part of him, as it were, affecting his inmost feelings. The prophet goes on to relate: “I began to eat it, and it came to be in my mouth like honey for sweetness.” Declaring God’s message in public was a delight—like tasting honey—for Ezekiel. He felt highly privileged to represent Jehovah and to fulfill this God-given assignment, even though that meant delivering a strong message to an unreceptive people.—Read Ezekiel 2:8–3:4, 7-9.
7 This vision contains a valuable lesson for God’s servants today. We too have a strong message to deliver to people who are not always appreciative of our efforts. For us to continue to view the Christian ministry as a God-given privilege, we must be well-nourished spiritually. Superficial or haphazard study habits will not be sufficient for us to absorb God’s Word fully. Could you improve the quality or regularity of your personal Bible reading and Bible study? Could you more often meditate on what you read?—Ps. 1:2, 3.
Starting Bible Discussions
8. What approach has helped some Kingdom publishers to start Bible discussions in the house-to-house ministry?
8 For many publishers, the most difficult part of the house-to-house ministry is the initial exchange with the householder. Admittedly, in some territories it is a challenge to start conversations. Some publishers feel more comfortable when speaking to people at the door if they begin their presentation with a few well-chosen words and then hand the householder a tract, as outlined in the accompanying box. The title of the tract or its colorful illustration may capture the householder’s attention, allowing us to mention briefly the purpose of our visit and to raise a question. A variation of this approach is to show the householder three or four different tracts and invite him to select one that interests him. Of course, our goal is not simply to place tracts or to use them at every door but to start Bible discussions that lead to Bible studies.
9. Why is good preparation important?
9 Whatever approach you use, good preparation will help you to be poised and enthusiastic in the house-to-house ministry. One pioneer observed: “I have more joy if I am well prepared. It makes me want to give my presentation.” Another pioneer said, “When I familiarize myself with the publications that I am going to offer, I become enthusiastic about using them.” While there is some benefit in silently reviewing what you are going to say, many find it more helpful to rehearse their presentation out loud. Doing so helps them to give their best to Jehovah.—Col. 3:23; 2 Tim. 2:15.
10. What can be done to make meetings for field service practical and beneficial?
10 Practical meetings for field service contribute to our effectiveness and joy in the house-to-house ministry. If the daily text deals directly with the preaching activity, it may be read and briefly discussed. However, the brother conducting the meeting for field service should take sufficient time to discuss or demonstrate a simple presentation that is well-suited to the territory or to consider other practical information that can be used in the ministry that day. This will further equip those present to give an effective witness. With good advance preparation, elders and others who conduct these meetings can accomplish this and still conclude the meeting within the allotted time.—Rom. 12:8.
The Power of Listening
11, 12. How can compassionate listening help us to reach people with the good news? Give examples.
11 It is not only good preparation but a deep personal interest in others that helps us to start Bible discussions and reach people in the ministry. One way we demonstrate such interest is by the way we listen. A traveling overseer observed: “Being patient and showing a willingness to listen to people has an amazing power to attract and is a wonderful expression of warm personal interest.” Compassionate listening can be the key that unlocks a householder’s heart, as the following experience shows.
12 In an open letter published in the newspaper Le Progrès, of Saint-Étienne, France, a woman described the visit of two people who knocked on her door shortly after she suffered the tragic loss of her three-month-old daughter in death. “I immediately recognized them as Jehovah’s Witnesses,” she wrote. “I was ready to dismiss them politely, but then I noticed a brochure they were offering. It was about why God permits suffering. So I decided to invite them in with the intention of demolishing their arguments. . . . The Witnesses stayed a little over an hour. They listened to me with great compassion, and when they were leaving, I felt so much better that I agreed to another visit.” (Rom. 12:15) In time, this woman accepted a Bible study. It is revealing that what she remembered about that first visit was, not what the Witnesses said, but how they listened.
13. How can we adapt our presentation of the good news to the individuals we meet?
13 When we listen compassionately, we in effect allow people to tell us why they need the Kingdom. This puts us in a much better position to share the good news with them. You have likely observed that effective evangelizers are usually skilled listeners. (Prov. 20:5) They show a real interest in the people they meet in the ministry. They take note not only of their names and addresses but also of their interests and needs. When someone expresses a specific concern, they do research and soon return to share what they found. Like the apostle Paul, they adapt their presentation of the Kingdom message to the individuals they meet. (Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.) Such sincere interest attracts people to the good news and wonderfully reflects “the tender compassion of our God.”—Luke 1:78.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
14. As we carry out our ministry, how can we reflect Jehovah’s qualities?
14 Jehovah has dignified us by giving us free will. Although he is God Almighty, he forces no one to serve him but appeals to people on the basis of love, blessing those who respond appreciatively to his marvelous provisions. (Rom. 2:4) As his ministers, we should be ready to present the good news in a manner worthy of our merciful God each time we give a witness. (2 Cor. 5:20, 21; 6:3-6) To that end, we need to maintain a positive attitude toward the people in our territory. What can help us to meet this challenge?
15. (a) Jesus instructed his apostles to do what if people rejected the message? (b) What can help us focus on finding deserving ones?
15 Jesus instructed his followers not to become unduly concerned if some rejected the message but rather to focus on finding deserving ones. (Read Matthew 10:11-15.) Setting small, reachable goals can help us to do this. One brother likens himself to a prospector. His motto is, “I look forward to striking gold sometime today.” Another brother has the goal “to meet one nice person each week and return within a few days to cultivate the interest.” Some publishers endeavor to share at least one scripture with each householder if possible. What realistic goal could you set for yourself?
16. What reasons do we have to keep on preaching?
16 The success of the house-to-house ministry does not depend solely on the response of people in the territory. True, the preaching work plays a vital role in the salvation of honesthearted ones, but it also serves other important purposes. The Christian ministry gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our love for Jehovah. (1 John 5:3) It enables us to avoid bloodguilt. (Acts 20:26, 27) It warns the ungodly that “the hour of the judgment by [God] has arrived.” (Rev. 14:6, 7) Above all, through the preaching of the good news, Jehovah’s name is being praised in all the earth. (Ps. 113:3) Hence, whether people listen or not, we must keep sounding forth the Kingdom message. Indeed, all our efforts to proclaim the good news are beautiful in Jehovah’s eyes.—Rom. 10:13-15.
17. People will soon be forced to recognize what?
17 Although many today disregard our preaching work, they will soon come to view it in a different light. (Matt. 24:37-39) Jehovah assured Ezekiel that when the judgments he proclaimed came true, the rebellious house of Israel would “certainly know also that a prophet himself happened to be in the midst of them.” (Ezek. 2:5) Similarly, when God carries out his judgments against the present system of things, people will be forced to recognize that the message Jehovah’s Witnesses preached in public places and from house to house actually originated with the one true God, Jehovah, and that the Witnesses really did serve as his representatives. What a privilege we have to bear his name and declare his message in these momentous times! In his strength, may we continue to meet the challenges of the house-to-house ministry.
How Would You Answer?
• How can we muster up boldness to preach?
• What can help us to start Bible discussions in the house-to-house ministry?
• How can we show sincere interest in others?
• What can help us to maintain a positive attitude toward the people in our territory?
[Box/Picture on page 9]
One Way to Start Bible Discussions
To get started:
◼ After you greet the householder, you might hand him a tract and say, “My purpose in visiting today is to share an encouraging thought on this important subject.”
◼ Or you might offer a tract and say, “I’m visiting briefly today because I am interested in knowing what you think about this subject.”
If the tract is accepted:
◼ Without a lengthy pause, ask a simple viewpoint question based on the title of the tract.
◼ Listen carefully, seeking to understand the householder’s views. Graciously acknowledge his comments.
To continue the discussion:
◼ Read and discuss one or more scriptures, tailoring your presentation to the person’s interests and needs.
◼ Where interest is shown, offer literature and demonstrate a Bible study if possible. Arrange to return.