Do You Share in Making Christian Meetings Upbuilding?
“When you come together, . . . let all things take place for upbuilding.”—1 COR. 14:26.
1. According to 1 Corinthians chapter 14, what is an important objective of Christian meetings?
‘THAT was such an upbuilding meeting!’ Have you expressed similar sentiments after attending a meeting at the Kingdom Hall? No doubt you have! Congregation meetings truly are a source of encouragement, but that is not surprising. After all, just as in the days of the early Christians, an important objective of our meetings today is to strengthen spiritually all in attendance. Note how the apostle Paul emphasizes that specific goal of Christian meetings in his first letter to the Corinthians. Throughout chapter 14, he states time and again that each part delivered at congregation meetings should have the same objective—“the upbuilding of the congregation.”—Read 1 Corinthians 14:3, 12, 26.*
2. (a) Upbuilding meetings are the result of what? (b) What question will we consider?
2 We realize that upbuilding, or edifying, meetings are first of all the result of the influence of God’s spirit. Therefore, we begin each congregation meeting with a heartfelt prayer to Jehovah in which our heavenly Father is asked to bless our gathering by means of his holy spirit. Still, we know that all members of the congregation can have a share in making the meeting programs as upbuilding as possible. So, then, what are some of the steps we can personally take to make sure that the weekly meetings conducted at our Kingdom Hall are always a source of spiritual refreshment and encouragement?
3. How important are Christian meetings?
3 To answer, we will examine some aspects of our meetings that should be kept in mind by those who conduct them. We will also consider how the congregation as a whole can share in making meetings uplifting occasions for all who attend. This subject is of great interest to us because our meetings are sacred gatherings. Indeed, attending and participating in meetings are important features of our worship to Jehovah.—Ps. 26:12; 111:1; Isa. 66:22, 23.
A Meeting Designed for Studying the Bible
4, 5. What is the objective of the Watchtower Study?
4 All of us want to benefit fully from our weekly Watchtower Study. Hence, to understand clearly the principal objective of that meeting, let us review some of the adjustments that have been made to the Watchtower magazine and the study articles.
5 Starting with the first study edition of The Watchtower, the January 15, 2008, issue, a significant detail was included on the front cover. Did you notice it? Take a good look at the cover of the magazine you are holding. There, at the base of the tower, you will note an open Bible. That added feature underscores the reason why we have the Watchtower Study. It is to study the Bible with the help of this magazine. Yes, at our weekly Watchtower Study, God’s Word is “being expounded,” and just as in the time of Nehemiah of old, there is “a putting of meaning into it.”—Neh. 8:8; Isa. 54:13.
6. (a) What adjustment was made to the Watchtower Study? (b) What should be kept in mind regarding “read” scriptures?
6 Because the Bible is our main textbook, an adjustment was made to the Watchtower Study. Several cited scriptures in the study articles are marked “read.” All of us are encouraged to follow the reading of these scriptures during the meeting, using our own copy of the Bible. (Acts 17:11) Why? When we see God’s counsel in our own Bible, it makes a deeper impression on us. (Heb. 4:12) Therefore, before such scriptures are read out loud, the one conducting the meeting should give all in attendance sufficient time to look up these scriptures and to follow along as the verses are read.
More Time Available to Express Our Faith
7. What opportunity do we have during the Watchtower Study?
7 Still another adjustment to the Watchtower study articles has to do with their length. In recent years, they are shorter. Thus, during the Watchtower Study, less time is used for reading paragraphs while more time is available for giving comments. More in the congregation now have an opportunity to make a public expression of their faith by answering a printed question, by giving an application of a scripture, by relating a brief experience that illustrates the wisdom of following Bible principles, or in other ways. Some time should also be spent discussing the artwork.—Read Psalm 22:22; 35:18; 40:9.
8, 9. What is the role of the Watchtower Study conductor?
8 However, that additional time for giving a variety of comments will be available only if participants comment briefly and the one conducting the meeting refrains from commenting too often himself during the Watchtower Study. So, then, what may help a conductor to find the proper balance between his comments and those given by the congregation so that the meeting will be upbuilding to all?
9 To answer, consider an illustration. A Watchtower Study that is well-conducted is like a bouquet of flowers that delights the eye. Just as a large bouquet is made up of many individual flowers, so a Watchtower Study is made up of many different comments. And just as the individual flowers in a bouquet differ in size and color, so the comments given during the meeting vary in length and manner of presentation. And where does the conductor fit in? His occasional comments are like the few pieces of greenery that are carefully added to a bouquet. These pieces do not dominate; rather, they serve to provide structure and to unify the whole. Similarly, the one who conducts needs to keep in mind that his role is, not to overwhelm, but to complement the expressions of praise that are offered by the congregation. Yes, when the many diverse comments given by the congregation and the few well-placed remarks made by the conductor are skillfully put together, they form a beautiful bouquet of words that will delight all in attendance.
“Let Us Always Offer to God a Sacrifice of Praise”
10. How did early Christians view congregation meetings?
10 Paul’s description of Christian meetings found at 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 gives us insight into how those gatherings were conducted in the first century. In commenting on these verses, one Bible scholar writes: “The really notable thing about an early Church service must have been that almost everyone came feeling that he had both the privilege and the obligation of contributing something to it. A man did not come with the sole intention of being a passive listener; he came not only to receive but to give.” Indeed, early Christians viewed congregation meetings as opportunities to express their faith.—Rom. 10:10.
11. (a) What contributes greatly to upbuilding meetings, and why? (b) Applying what suggestions may improve our comments at meetings? (See footnote.)
11 Expressing our faith at meetings greatly contributes to “the upbuilding of the congregation.” Surely you will agree that no matter how many years we may have been attending meetings, it remains a true pleasure to listen to the comments made by our brothers and sisters. We are touched by a heartfelt answer expressed by an elderly, faithful fellow believer; we feel uplifted by an insightful observation made by a caring elder; and we cannot help but smile when a child blurts out a spontaneous comment that expresses genuine love for Jehovah. Clearly, by giving comments, all of us share in making Christian meetings upbuilding.*
12. (a) What can be learned from the examples of Moses and Jeremiah? (b) What role does prayer play in giving comments?
12 For those who are timid, though, giving comments can be a real challenge. If that is the case with you, it may be helpful to remember that your situation is not unusual. In fact, even such faithful servants of God as Moses and Jeremiah expressed a lack of confidence in their ability to speak in public. (Ex. 4:10; Jer. 1:6) Yet, just as Jehovah helped those servants of old to praise him publicly, God will help you to offer sacrifices of praise. (Read Hebrews 13:15.) How can you receive Jehovah’s help in overcoming your fear of giving comments? First, prepare well for the meeting. Then, before you go to the Kingdom Hall, approach Jehovah in prayer and specifically petition him to give you the courage to give a comment. (Phil. 4:6) You are requesting something that is “according to his will,” so you can be confident that Jehovah will answer your prayer.—1 John 5:14; Prov. 15:29.
Meetings That Aim to ‘Upbuild, Encourage, and Console’
13. (a) What effect should our meetings have upon those in attendance? (b) What question is of special importance to elders?
13 Paul states that an important purpose of congregation meetings is to ‘upbuild, encourage, and console’ those in attendance.* (1 Cor. 14:3) How can Christian elders today make sure that their meeting parts indeed lift the spirits of their brothers and sisters and leave them consoled? To answer, let us consider a meeting that Jesus conducted shortly after his resurrection.
14. (a) What events preceded a meeting that was arranged by Jesus? (b) Why must the apostles have been relieved when “Jesus approached and spoke to them”?
14 First, note the events that preceded that meeting. Just before Jesus was put to death, the apostles “abandoned him and fled,” and as foretold, they were “scattered each one to his own house.” (Mark 14:50; John 16:32) Then, after his resurrection, Jesus invited his downhearted apostles to attend a special meeting.* In response, “the eleven disciples went into Galilee to the mountain where Jesus had arranged for them.” When they arrived, “Jesus approached and spoke to them.” (Matt. 28:10, 16, 18) Imagine how relieved the apostles must have been when Jesus took that initiative! What did Jesus discuss?
15. (a) What subjects did Jesus consider, but what did he not discuss? (b) How did that meeting affect the apostles?
15 Jesus began by making an announcement: “All authority has been given me.” Then he gave them an assignment: “Go therefore and make disciples.” Finally, he gave them warm assurance: “I am with you all the days.” (Matt. 28:18-20) But did you note what Jesus did not do? He did not reprimand his apostles; nor did he use that meeting to question their motives or to deepen their feelings of guilt by referring to their momentary weakness of faith. Instead, Jesus reassured them of his and his Father’s love by entrusting them with a weighty assignment. How did Jesus’ approach affect the apostles? They were so upbuilt, encouraged, and consoled that some time after that meeting, they were once again “teaching and declaring the good news.”—Acts 5:42.
16. How do Christian elders today imitate Jesus’ example in conducting meetings that are a source of refreshment?
16 In imitation of Jesus, elders today view meetings as opportunities to reassure fellow believers of the unfailing love that Jehovah has for his people. (Rom. 8:38, 39) Hence, in their meeting parts, elders focus on their brothers’ strengths, not on their weaknesses. They do not question their brothers’ motives. Rather, their expressions reveal that they view their fellow believers as individuals who love Jehovah and want to do what is right. (1 Thess. 4:1, 9-12) Of course, the elders may at times need to give corrective counsel to the congregation in general, but if just a few individuals need to be readjusted, such counsel is usually best given in a private conversation with those involved. (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26) When addressing the entire congregation, elders aim to give commendation whenever it is fitting. (Isa. 32:2) They strive to speak in such a way that at the end of the meeting, all in attendance are refreshed and energized.—Matt. 11:28; Acts 15:32.
A Safe Haven
17. (a) Why is it more important than ever that our meetings are a safe haven? (b) What can you personally do to make meetings upbuilding? (See the box “Ten Ways to Make Meetings Upbuilding for Yourself and Others.”)
17 As Satan’s world becomes ever more oppressive, we need to make sure that our Christian gatherings are a safe haven—a source of comfort for all. (1 Thess. 5:11) A sister who together with her husband coped with a severe trial some years ago recalls: “Being at the Kingdom Hall was like being held in Jehovah’s caring hands. During the hours we were there, surrounded by our Christian brothers and sisters, we felt that we were able to place our burden on Jehovah, and we experienced a measure of inner calm.” (Ps. 55:22) May all who attend our meetings feel similarly encouraged and consoled. To make sure that this will be the case, let us keep on doing our share in making Christian meetings upbuilding.
It was foretold that some features of first-century Christian meetings would cease. For example, we no longer “speak in tongues” or “prophesy.” (1 Cor. 13:8; 14:5) Even so, Paul’s instructions give us insight into how Christian meetings should be conducted today.
For suggestions on how to improve our comments at the meetings, see The Watchtower, September 1, 2003, pages 19-22.
As to the difference between “encourage” and “console,” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words explains that the Greek word translated “console” denotes “a greater degree of tenderness than [encourage].”—Compare John 11:19.
This may have been the occasion to which Paul later referred when he said that Jesus “appeared to upward of five hundred.”—1 Cor. 15:6.
How Would You Answer?
• How important are Christian meetings?
• Why do comments given at meetings contribute to “the upbuilding of the congregation”?
• What can be learned from a meeting that Jesus conducted with his followers?
[Box/Pictures on page 22, 23]
TEN WAYS TO MAKE MEETINGS UPBUILDING FOR YOURSELF AND OTHERS
Prepare in advance. When you study in advance the material that will be discussed at the Kingdom Hall, the meetings will capture your interest more fully and leave a deeper impression.
Attend regularly. Since a good attendance is more encouraging to everyone present, your presence makes a difference.
Arrive on time. If you are seated before the program starts, you can join in the opening song and prayer, which form part of our worship to Jehovah.
Come well-equipped. Bring your Bible and the publication(s) used during the meeting so that you can follow along and better grasp what is being discussed.
Avoid distractions. For example, read electronic text messages after, not during, the meetings. In that way, you keep personal affairs in their proper place.
Participate. When more give comments, more are encouraged and built up by the diverse expressions of faith.
Keep your comments brief. This gives as many as possible an opportunity to share in commenting.
Fulfill assignments. As students in the Theocratic Ministry School or as participants in the Service Meeting, prepare well, rehearse in advance, and try hard not to cancel your assignments.
Commend participants. Tell those who have a part at the meeting or who give comments how much their efforts are appreciated.
Associate. Kind greetings and upbuilding conversations before and after meetings add much to the pleasure and benefits that come from being present.