Find Joy in the Disciple-Making Work
“Go therefore and make disciples.”—MATT. 28:19.
1-3. (a) How do many feel about the opportunity to conduct Bible studies? (b) What questions will we consider?
“I HAVE been studying with a family from Pakistan for the past 11 weeks,” wrote a sister who is serving with a Hindi-speaking group in the United States. “Needless to say,” she continues, “we have become friends. Tears well up in my eyes as I think about this family going back to Pakistan soon. My tears are prompted not only by the sorrow I feel at the loss of their company but also by the joy I’ve experienced while teaching them about Jehovah.”
2 Have you, like this sister, ever experienced the joy that comes from studying the Bible with someone? Jesus and his first-century disciples found great joy in the disciple-making work. When the 70 disciples whom Jesus had trained returned with a joyful report, Jesus himself became “overjoyed in the holy spirit.” (Luke 10:17-21) Similarly, many today find great joy in making disciples. In fact, in 2007, hard-working, happy publishers conducted an average of six and a half million Bible studies each month!
3 Some publishers, though, have not yet had the pleasure of conducting a Bible study. Others may not have conducted one in recent years. What challenges might we face as we endeavor to conduct a Bible study? How might we overcome those challenges? And what rewards do we receive when we do all we can to obey Jesus’ command: “Go therefore and make disciples”?—Matt. 28:19.
Challenges That Could Rob Us of Joy
4, 5. (a) How do many people respond in some parts of the world? (b) What challenges do publishers face in some other places?
4 In certain parts of the world, people eagerly accept our literature and are keen to study the Bible with us. One couple from Australia who were temporarily serving in Zambia wrote: “The stories are true. Zambia is a preaching paradise. Street witnessing is incredible! People approach us, some even asking for particular issues of the magazines.” In one recent year, the brothers and sisters in Zambia conducted over 200,000 Bible studies—that is, on average, more than one Bible study per publisher.
5 In other places, however, publishers may find it difficult to place literature and to conduct Bible studies regularly. Why? Often, people are not at home when a publisher knocks on their door, while those who are at home might be apathetic about religion. They may have been raised in a nonreligious household or may be repulsed by the hypocrisy evident in false religion. Many people have been spiritually injured—skinned and thrown about by false shepherds. (Matt. 9:36) Understandably, such ones may be wary of becoming involved in discussions about the Bible.
6. With what limitations might some contend?
6 Some faithful publishers face a different challenge that could rob them of joy. Although they were at one time very active in the disciple-making work, they are now hampered by ill health or the limitations of old age. Consider, too, some limitations that we might impose upon ourselves. For example, do you feel unqualified to conduct a Bible study? You may feel as Moses did when Jehovah commissioned him to talk to Pharaoh. Moses said: “Excuse me, Jehovah, but I am not a fluent speaker, neither since yesterday nor since before that.” (Ex. 4:10) Closely related to feelings of inadequacy is a fear of failure. We might worry that a person will not become a disciple because we are not the perfect teacher. Rather than risking that outcome, we might forgo the opportunity to conduct a study. How can we deal with the challenges just mentioned?
Prepare Your Heart
7. What motivated Jesus in his ministry?
7 A first step is to prepare our own heart. Jesus said: “Out of the heart’s abundance [the] mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Jesus was motivated in his ministry by a heartfelt concern for the welfare of others. For example, when he observed the poor spiritual condition of fellow Jews, “he felt pity for them.” He said to his disciples: “The harvest is great . . . Beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”—Matt. 9:36-38.
8. (a) What do we do well to think about? (b) What can we learn from the comments of one Bible student?
8 As we engage in the disciple-making work, we do well to think deeply about how much we have benefited because someone took the time to study the Bible with us. Think, too, of the people we will meet in the ministry and how they will benefit from hearing the message that we bear. One woman wrote to the branch office of the country in which she lives: “I would like to tell you how much I appreciate the Witnesses who teach me at my home. I know that sometimes they must get frustrated with me because I have so many questions and I always keep them overtime. But they are patient with me and eager to share what they have learned. I thank Jehovah and Jesus that these people have come into my life.”
9. On what did Jesus focus, and how can we imitate him?
9 Of course, not everyone responded to Jesus’ efforts to help them. (Matt. 23:37) Some followed him for a while but then objected to his teachings and “would no longer walk with him.” (John 6:66) However, Jesus did not allow the unfavorable response of some to make him feel that his message was of no value. Although much of the seed he sowed bore no fruit, Jesus focused on the good he was doing. He saw that the fields were white for harvesting and derived great joy from helping in that harvest. (Read John 4:35, 36.) Rather than seeing only the barren ground between the stalks of grain, can we likewise focus on the potential harvest in our assigned territory? Let us examine how we can maintain such a positive attitude.
Sow With a View to Reaping
10, 11. What can you do to maintain your joy?
10 A farmer sows seed with a view to reaping a harvest. Similarly, we need to preach with a view to starting Bible studies. What, though, if you regularly spend time in the field ministry but find few people at home or seem unable to contact your return visits again? This can be frustrating. Should you give up on the door-to-door ministry? Certainly not! Many people are still contacted first via this time-tested method of preaching.
11 To maintain your joy, however, can you expand your preaching methods, perhaps to include other ways of reaching people? For example, have you tried witnessing to people on the street or at their places of employment? Could you contact people by telephone or obtain the phone numbers of those with whom you have already shared the Kingdom message so that you can stay in touch with them? By showing perseverance and adaptability in your ministry, you will experience the joy of finding individuals who will favorably respond to the Kingdom message.
Coping With Apathy
12. What might we do if many in our territory seem apathetic?
12 What if many in your territory are apathetic about religion? Can you adapt your approach to appeal to their interests? The apostle Paul wrote to fellow believers in Corinth: “To the Jews I became as a Jew . . . To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God.” What was Paul’s motive? “I have become all things to people of all sorts,” he said, “that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor. 9:20-22) Can we likewise find common ground with those in our territory? Many nonreligious people want to improve the quality of their family relationships. They may also be searching for a purpose in life. Can we present the Kingdom message to such people in a way that will appeal to them?
13, 14. How may we be able to increase the joy we gain from the disciple-making work?
13 A growing number of publishers have increased the joy they gain from the disciple-making work, even in areas where the majority of people seem apathetic. How? By learning a foreign language. One couple in their 60’s discovered that thousands of Chinese students and their families were living in the congregation’s assigned territory. “Because of this, we were encouraged to learn Chinese,” says the husband. “Though this meant spending time each day studying the language,” he continues, “it resulted in many Bible studies with Chinese people in our area.”
14 Even if you are not able to learn a foreign language, you can make good use of the booklet Good News for People of All Nations when you meet those who speak another language. You can also usually obtain literature in the language of the people whom you meet. Granted, it requires extra time and effort to communicate with those of another language and culture. But do not overlook the principle found in God’s Word: “He that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”—2 Cor. 9:6.
The Entire Congregation Is Involved
15, 16. (a) Why is the disciple-making work a congregation effort? (b) What role do elderly ones play?
15 However, making disciples is not dependent on the efforts of just one individual. Rather, it is a congregation effort. Why? Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) And indeed, when Bible students attend meetings, they are often impressed with the loving atmosphere of our gatherings. One Bible student wrote: “I do so enjoy attending the meetings. The people are so welcoming!” Jesus said that those who become his followers may be opposed by their literal family. (Read Matthew 10:35-37.) However, he promised that in the congregation, they would gain numerous spiritual “brothers and sisters and mothers and children.”—Mark 10:30.
16 Our elderly brothers and sisters especially play a vital role in helping Bible students to progress. In what way? Even if some elderly ones are unable to conduct a Bible study themselves, their upbuilding comments at congregation meetings strengthen the faith of all who hear them. Their record of walking “in the way of righteousness” adds beauty to the congregation and attracts honesthearted people to God’s organization.—Prov. 16:31.
Overcoming Our Fears
17. What can we do to overcome feelings of inadequacy?
17 What if you struggle with feelings of inadequacy? Recall that Jehovah helped Moses by providing him with holy spirit and with a partner, his brother, Aaron. (Ex. 4:10-17) Jesus promised that God’s spirit would back our witnessing work. (Acts 1:8) Furthermore, Jesus sent workers out to preach in pairs. (Luke 10:1) Therefore, if you find it a challenge to conduct a Bible study, pray for God’s spirit to give you wisdom and then team up with a preaching companion who can give you confidence and whose experience may be of help to you. It is faith-strengthening to remember that Jehovah chose to use ordinary people—“the weak things of the world”—to accomplish this extraordinary work.—1 Cor. 1:26-29.
18. How can we overcome the fear of failure?
18 How can we overcome the fear of failure? We do well to remember that making a disciple is not like making a meal in which success or failure depends primarily on one person—the cook. Rather, making a disciple involves at least a three-way partnership. Jehovah does the most important part, drawing the individual to him. (John 6:44) We and others in the congregation do our best to use the art of teaching to help the student progress. (Read 2 Timothy 2:15.) And the student needs to act on what he learns. (Matt. 7:24-27) If a person discontinues his Bible study, we may be disappointed. We hope that Bible students make the right choice, but each individual must “render an account for himself to God.”—Rom. 14:12.
What Are the Rewards?
19-21. (a) What benefits do we receive from conducting Bible studies? (b) How does Jehovah view all who engage in the preaching work?
19 Conducting Bible studies keeps us focused on seeking first the Kingdom. It also impresses the truths of God’s Word deeper upon our mind and heart. Why so? A pioneer named Barak explains: “Conducting Bible studies forces you to be a better student of God’s Word. I find that I must strengthen my personal convictions before I can adequately teach someone else.”
20 If you are not conducting a Bible study, does it mean that your service is of no value to God? Of course not! Jehovah deeply appreciates our efforts to praise him. All who engage in the preaching work are “God’s fellow workers.” However, conducting a Bible study brings added joy as we see how God makes the seed that we planted grow. (1 Cor. 3:6, 9) “As you see a Bible student progress,” says a pioneer named Amy, “you feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to Jehovah for allowing you to be used to give that person a wonderful gift—the opportunity of knowing Jehovah and of receiving everlasting life.”
21 Doing our best to start and conduct Bible studies will help us to keep focused on serving God now and will strengthen our hope of surviving into the new world. With Jehovah’s backing, we may also help to save those who listen to us. (Read 1 Timothy 4:16.) What a cause for joy that would be!
Do You Recall?
• What challenges might prevent some from conducting Bible studies?
• What might we do if many in our territory seem apathetic?
• What rewards do we receive from conducting a Bible study?
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Do you expand your preaching methods so as to find honesthearted individuals?