Keep Building Up the Congregation
“Keep comforting one another and building one another up.”—1 THESS. 5:11.
1. What blessings come with being in the Christian congregation, but what challenges may still remain?
BEING a member of the Christian congregation is a great blessing indeed. You have a good relationship with Jehovah. Your reliance on his Word as a guide shields you from the bad consequences of an unchristian lifestyle. You are surrounded by genuine friends, who want you to do well. Yes, the blessings are many. Most Christians, however, are struggling with problems of one kind or another. Some of them may need help to understand the deeper things of God’s Word. Others are sick or depressed, or they may be suffering the consequences of unwise decisions. And we all have to live in an ungodly world.
2. How should we respond to our brothers’ hardships, and why?
2 None of us like to see fellow Christians suffer or struggle. The apostle Paul likened the congregation to a body and said that “if one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it.” (1 Cor. 12:12, 26) In such circumstances, we should strive to support our brothers and sisters. There are a number of Scriptural accounts in which congregation members helped others meet and overcome challenges. As we now consider those accounts, think how you might offer assistance in ways similar to those described. How can you assist your brothers spiritually and thus build up Jehovah’s congregation?
“They Took Him Into Their Company”
3, 4. In what way did Aquila and Priscilla help Apollos?
3 When Apollos took up residence in Ephesus, he was already a zealous evangelizer. “As he was aglow with the spirit,” says the Acts account, “he went speaking and teaching with correctness the things about Jesus, but being acquainted with only the baptism of John.” Apollos’ being unaware of baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit” likely meant that he had either been witnessed to by disciples of John the Baptizer or by Jesus’ followers prior to Pentecost 33 C.E. Though Apollos was zealous, there were some significant gaps in his knowledge. How did association with fellow believers help him?—Acts 1:4, 5; 18:25; Matt. 28:19.
4 The Christian couple Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos speaking boldly in the synagogue, took him into their company, and taught him further. (Read Acts 18:24-26.) This was the loving thing to do. Of course, Aquila and Priscilla would have approached Apollos in a tactful and helpful manner, not making him feel that he was being criticized. It was simply a matter of his not being aware of the history of the early Christian congregation. And Apollos was no doubt grateful to his new companions for sharing these important details with him. Equipped with this information, Apollos “greatly helped” his brothers in Achaia and gave a powerful witness.—Acts 18:27, 28.
5. What loving assistance do thousands of Kingdom publishers offer, and with what result?
5 Many in the Christian congregation today are very grateful to those who helped them to understand the Bible. Numerous enduring friendships have been formed between students and their teachers. In most cases, helping people to understand the truth requires scheduling regular conversations with them over a period of several months. However, Kingdom publishers are willing to make that sacrifice because they recognize that it is a question of life and death. (John 17:3) And what a joy it is to see people grasp the truth, live in accord with it, and use their lives to do Jehovah’s will!
“He Was Well Reported On”
6, 7. (a) Why did Paul choose Timothy as a traveling companion? (b) What progress was Timothy helped to make?
6 When the apostles Paul and Silas visited Lystra during the second missionary journey, they found there a young man named Timothy, perhaps in his late teens or early 20’s. “He was well reported on by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium.” Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and his grandmother Lois were dedicated Christians, but his father was an unbeliever. (2 Tim. 1:5) Paul may have become acquainted with this family on his first visit to the area a couple of years earlier. But the apostle now expressed particular interest in Timothy because he seemed to be an exceptional young man. Hence, with the approval of the local body of elders, Timothy became an assistant to Paul in missionary activity.—Read Acts 16:1-3.
7 Timothy had much to learn from his older companion. But learn he did, to the extent that, in time, Paul could confidently send Timothy to visit congregations and act as his representative. In the 15 years or so that Timothy enjoyed Paul’s association, the inexperienced and perhaps shy young man progressed to the point of becoming an excellent overseer.—Phil. 2:19-22; 1 Tim. 1:3.
8, 9. What can congregation members do to encourage young people? Give an example.
8 Many young men and women in the Christian congregation today have great potential. If encouraged and nurtured by spiritually-minded companions, these young people can reach out for and accept greater responsibilities among Jehovah’s people. Look around in your congregation! Do you see there any young individuals who could make themselves available, as Timothy did? With your help and encouragement, they might become pioneers, Bethelites, missionaries, or traveling overseers. What could you do to help them reach out for such goals?
9 Martin, who has been a member of the Bethel family for 20 years, recalls with gratitude the interest that a circuit overseer took in him 30 years ago while the two were in the field service together. The overseer spoke with enthusiasm about his own service at Bethel when he was a young man. He encouraged Martin to consider the possibility of making himself available to Jehovah’s organization in the same way. Martin feels that this memorable conversation was fundamental to choices he later made. Who knows what good you can do for young friends by talking with them about theocratic goals?
“Speak Consolingly to the Depressed Souls”
10. How did Epaphroditus feel, and why?
10 Epaphroditus made a long and fatiguing journey from Philippi to Rome to visit the apostle Paul, who was imprisoned for his faith. This traveler acted as envoy of the Philippians. Not only did he carry their gift for the apostle but he also planned to stay with him to do whatever he could to assist Paul in his difficult situation. While in Rome, however, Epaphroditus became sick “nearly to the point of death.” Feeling that he had failed in his mission, Epaphroditus got depressed.—Phil. 2:25-27.
11. (a) Why should we not be surprised if some in the congregation are depressed? (b) What did Paul recommend in Epaphroditus’ case?
11 Various pressures cause people to suffer from depression today. Statistics from the World Health Organization state that as many as 1 in 5 of the population may suffer from depression at some time in their life. Jehovah’s people are not immune. Problems in providing for one’s family, ill health, discouragement over one’s failings, or other factors may contribute to feelings of downheartedness. What could the Philippians do to help Epaphroditus? Paul wrote: “Give him the customary welcome in the Lord with all joy; and keep holding men of that sort dear, because on account of the Lord’s work he came quite near to death, exposing his soul to danger, that he might fully make up for your not being here to render private service to me.”—Phil. 2:29, 30.
12. What can be a source of comfort to the depressed?
12 We too should encourage brothers who are discouraged or depressed. Doubtless there are positive things that we can say about their service to Jehovah. Perhaps they have made great changes in their lives in order to become Christians or to serve in the full-time ministry. We appreciate those efforts, and we can assure them that Jehovah does too. If advancing age or ill health prevents some faithful ones from doing all they once could, they nevertheless merit all our respect for their years of service. Whatever the case may be, Jehovah’s recommendation to all of his faithful ones is: “Speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all.”—1 Thess. 5:14.
“Kindly Forgive and Comfort Him”
13, 14. (a) What serious action did the Corinthian congregation take, and why? (b) What was the effect of the disfellowshipping action?
13 The first-century Corinthian congregation faced the situation of a man who unrepentantly practiced fornication. His conduct threatened the purity of the congregation and was a scandal even among nonbelievers. Hence, Paul rightly directed that the man be removed from the congregation.—1 Cor. 5:1, 7, 11-13.
14 That discipline had a good effect. The congregation was protected from a corrupting influence, and the sinner was brought to his senses and to sincere repentance. On the basis of the man’s works befitting repentance, Paul indicated in his second letter to that congregation that the man should be reinstated. This was not all that was required, however. Paul also directed that the congregation “kindly forgive and comfort [the repentant sinner], that somehow such a man may not be swallowed up by his being overly sad.”—Read 2 Corinthians 2:5-8.
15. How should we view repentant wrongdoers who are reinstated in the congregation?
15 What do we learn from this account? It saddens us when individuals have to be disfellowshipped. They may have brought dishonor upon God’s name and discredited the congregation. They may even have sinned against us personally. Yet, when the elders appointed to examine the case determine, in line with Jehovah’s direction, that a repentant sinner ought to be readmitted to the congregation, it indicates that he has been forgiven by Jehovah. (Matt. 18:17-20) Should we not seek to imitate Him? Indeed, to be harsh and unforgiving would be tantamount to opposing Jehovah. In order to contribute to the peace and unity of God’s congregation and to have Jehovah’s approval, should we not, rather, ‘confirm our love’ for sinners who truly repent and are reinstated?—Matt. 6:14, 15; Luke 15:7.
“He Is Useful to Me”
16. Why was Paul disappointed in Mark?
16 Another Scriptural account shows that we should not harbor negative feelings against those who have disappointed us. John Mark, for example, bitterly disappointed the apostle Paul. How? When Paul and Barnabas began their first missionary journey, Mark went along to assist them. But at a certain point in their journey and for a reason not specified, John Mark left his companions and returned home. Paul was so disappointed about this decision that in the planning stages for a second journey, he had a disagreement with Barnabas about whether Mark should accompany them again. In view of what had happened on the first journey, Paul did not want Mark to travel with them.—Read Acts 13:1-5, 13; 15:37, 38.
17, 18. How do we know that the breach between Paul and Mark was resolved, and what can we learn from this?
17 Evidently, Mark did not allow himself to become overly discouraged by Paul’s rejection, for he continued his missionary activity in a different territory along with Barnabas. (Acts 15:39) That he proved faithful and trustworthy is shown by what Paul wrote about him some years later. Paul, now a prisoner in Rome, summoned Timothy by letter. In the same letter, Paul said: “Take Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministering.” (2 Tim. 4:11) Yes, Mark had grown in Paul’s estimation.
18 There is a lesson to be learned from this. Mark developed the qualities of a good missionary. He did not get stumbled over Paul’s initial rejection. Both he and Paul were spiritual men, and there was no lasting ill will between them. On the contrary, Paul later recognized Mark as a valuable assistant. So when brothers overcome difficulties and the problems pass, the right thing to do is to move on and continue to help others make spiritual progress. Being positive builds up the congregation.
The Congregation and You
19. What help can all members of the Christian congregation offer to one another?
19 In these “critical times hard to deal with,” you need the help of your brothers and sisters in the congregation, and they need yours. (2 Tim. 3:1) Individual Christians may not always know what course to take in order to handle successfully the situations they are facing, but Jehovah knows. And he can use different members of the congregation—including you—to help others follow the right course. (Isa. 30:20, 21; 32:1, 2) By all means, then, take to heart the apostle Paul’s exhortation! Keep on “comforting one another and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.”—1 Thess. 5:11.
How Would You Answer?
• Why is building others up needed in the Christian congregation?
• What kinds of difficulties might you help others to overcome?
• Why do we need the help of others in our congregation?
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When a fellow Christian is struggling in a difficult situation, we can provide support
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Many young men and women in the Christian congregation today have great potential