Preserve the Positive Spirit of the Congregation
“The undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ be with the spirit you show.”—PHIL. 4:23.
HOW CAN WE PROMOTE A HEALTHY SPIRIT IN THE CONGREGATION . . .
while associating with our brothers?
by our zeal in the field ministry?
by reporting serious wrongdoing?
1. For what were the congregations in Philippi and Thyatira commended?
THE first-century Christians in Philippi were materially poor. However, they were generous and showed exemplary love for their fellow believers. (Phil. 1:3-5, 9; 4:15, 16) In closing his inspired letter to them, the apostle Paul could therefore write: “The undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ be with the spirit you show.” (Phil. 4:23) Because a similar spirit was shown by the Christians in Thyatira, the glorified Jesus Christ told them: “I know your deeds, and your love and faith and ministry and endurance, and that your deeds of late are more than those formerly.”—Rev. 2:19.
2. What part do we play in cultivating the spirit that our congregation displays?
2 Each congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses today likewise manifests a certain spirit, or dominant attitude. Some congregations are especially known for showing a warm, loving spirit. Others are exceptional in their zealous support of the Kingdom-preaching work and in showing high regard for the full-time ministry. When we as individuals cultivate a positive spirit, we contribute to the unity of the congregation and further its spiritual advancement in general. (1 Cor. 1:10) On the other hand, a negative spirit on our part can contribute to spiritual drowsiness, a lukewarm attitude, and even the toleration of wrongdoing in the congregation. (1 Cor. 5:1; Rev. 3:15, 16) What is the spirit of your congregation? How can you personally help to promote a positive spirit in the congregation?
ENCOURAGE A POSITIVE SPIRIT
3, 4. How can we “laud [Jehovah] in the big congregation”?
3 The psalmist sang: “I will laud you [Jehovah] in the big congregation; among a numerous people I shall praise you.” (Ps. 35:18) The psalmist did not hold back from praising Jehovah when he was with other servants of God. Weekly congregation meetings, including the Watchtower Study, present fine opportunities for us to display a zealous spirit when we comment and make expressions of faith. All of us may well ask ourselves: ‘Am I taking full advantage of the privilege to participate in meetings? Do I prepare well for them and make meaningful comments? As a family head, do I help my children to prepare comments in advance and teach them to answer in their own words?’
4 The psalmist David associated the steadfastness of our heart with our singing. “My heart is steadfast, O God,” he said, “my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make melody.” (Ps. 57:7) The songs used at Christian meetings provide us a fine opportunity to “sing and make melody” to Jehovah with a steadfast heart. If we are not familiar with some of the songs, why not practice singing them during Family Worship evening? May we be determined to ‘sing to Jehovah throughout our life and make melody to him as long as we are.’—Ps. 104:33.
5, 6. How may we be hospitable and generous to others, and what does doing so engender in the congregation?
5 Showing hospitality to our brothers and sisters is another way to engender a loving spirit in the congregation. In the final chapter of his letter to the Hebrews, Paul includes this exhortation: “Let your brotherly love continue. Do not forget hospitality.” (Heb. 13:1, 2) Providing a meal for traveling overseers and their wives or for full-time servants in the congregation is an excellent way to display hospitality. Think also of widows, single-parent families, or other individuals who may benefit from occasionally joining us for a meal or during our family worship.
6 Paul directed Timothy to admonish others “to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.” (1 Tim. 6:17-19) Paul was recommending that his fellow worshippers cultivate the spirit of generosity. Even in difficult economic times, we can promote a generous spirit. A fine way to do this is to provide transportation in the field ministry and to and from the meetings for those needing it. And what about those who benefit from such acts of loving-kindness? They would be encouraging a positive spirit in the congregation if they showed appreciation, perhaps by offering what they can to help defray the increasingly high cost of fuel. Moreover, would not our arranging to spend more time with our spiritual brothers and sisters make them feel needed and loved? When we abound in good deeds “toward those related to us in the faith” and are ready to share our time and resources with them, we not only deepen our love for them but also help to build a warm and positive spirit in the congregation.—Gal. 6:10.
7. How does keeping the personal matters of others confidential help to preserve a good spirit in the congregation?
7 Consider yet other factors that strengthen the bond of love with our fellow believers: friendship and confidentiality. (Read Proverbs 18:24.) True friends keep personal matters confidential. When our brothers reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings to us and are sure that these will not become public knowledge, the bond of love that may already exist will grow stronger. May we promote a loving, familylike spirit in the congregation by being a trustworthy friend who can keep things confidential.—Prov. 20:19.
BE ZEALOUS IN THE MINISTRY
8. What counsel did the Laodiceans receive, and why?
8 When addressing the congregation in Laodicea, Jesus said: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or else hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15, 16) The Laodiceans lacked zeal for the Christian ministry. Such an attitude likely affected their personal relationships as well. So Jesus lovingly counseled them: “All those for whom I have affection I reprove and discipline. Therefore be zealous and repent.”—Rev. 3:19.
9. How does our attitude toward the field ministry affect the spirit of the congregation?
9 To promote a healthy, positive spirit in the congregation, we should give attention to our zeal for the field service. The congregation is organized for the purpose of searching out sheeplike individuals in the territory and building them up spiritually. Hence, we need to share in the disciple-making work with enthusiasm, as Jesus did. (Matt. 28:19, 20; Luke 4:43) The greater our zeal for the ministry, the more united we will be as “God’s fellow workers.” (1 Cor. 3:9) As we observe others in the field service defending their faith and expressing appreciation for spiritual things, we are moved to love and respect them more. Also, serving “shoulder to shoulder” in the ministry produces a united spirit in the congregation.—Read Zephaniah 3:9.
10. What effect does improving the quality of our field service have on the spirit of others in the congregation?
10 Our efforts to improve the quality of our ministry also have a good effect on others. As we show greater concern for the people we meet, and as we endeavor to improve our effectiveness in reaching the hearts of our listeners, our enthusiasm for the ministry increases. (Matt. 9:36, 37) Enthusiasm tends to rub off on our companions. Jesus sent his disciples out to preach in twos rather than individually. (Luke 10:1) This not only provided encouragement and training but also heightened their zeal for the ministry. Do we not appreciate working with zealous Kingdom publishers? Their enthusiastic spirit encourages us and spurs us on in the preaching work.—Rom. 1:12.
GUARD AGAINST MURMURING AND WRONGDOING
11. What kind of spirit did some Israelites in Moses’ day develop, and what effect did this have on them?
11 Within just several weeks of their existence as a new nation, the Israelites developed a spirit of discontent and murmuring. This led to rebellion against Jehovah and his representatives. (Ex. 16:1, 2) Only a small number of the Israelites who left Egypt lived to see the Promised Land. Why, even Moses was denied entry to that land because of his reaction to the bad spirit of the congregation of Israel! (Deut. 32:48-52) What can we do today to keep from falling prey to a negative spirit?
12. How can we guard against developing a complaining spirit?
12 We must guard against developing a spirit of murmuring. While cultivating humility and respect for authority will help us, we need to be concerned about those with whom we associate. A poor choice of entertainment or spending too much time with workmates or school associates who have no regard for righteous principles takes its toll. We are wise to limit our association with people who are negative or who are promoting an independent attitude.—Prov. 13:20.
13. The corruptive influence of murmuring can lead to what other spiritually damaging developments in a congregation?
13 The corruptive influence of murmuring can lead to other spiritually damaging developments. For example, murmuring can disrupt a congregation’s peace and unity. Moreover, voicing complaints against fellow believers may not only cause them pain but may also deteriorate into the sins of slander and reviling. (Lev. 19:16; 1 Cor. 5:11) Some murmurers in the first-century congregation were “disregarding lordship and speaking abusively of glorious ones.” (Jude 8, 16) Such murmuring against responsible men in the congregation certainly did not have God’s approval.
14, 15. (a) Allowing wrongdoing to go on unchecked can have what effect on the entire congregation? (b) What should we do if we become aware that someone is involved in a secret sin?
14 What if we become aware that someone is involved in a secret sin, perhaps abusing alcohol, viewing pornography, or living an immoral life? (Eph. 5:11, 12) Our turning a blind eye to gross wrongdoing can hinder the free flow of Jehovah’s holy spirit and threaten the peace of the entire congregation. (Gal. 5:19-23) Just as the early Christians in Corinth had to clear out badness, so today any corrupting influence must be kept out of the congregation in order to preserve its healthy, positive spirit. What can you do to contribute to the congregation’s peace?
15 As was previously mentioned, it is important to maintain confidentiality in certain matters, especially when others share with us their feelings and thoughts. How wrong and hurtful it is to spread confidential information about someone! Even so, when serious sin has been committed, those Scripturally obligated to handle the matter—the elders in the congregation—should be informed. (Read Leviticus 5:1.) So if we know that a brother or a sister has fallen into such wrongdoing, we should encourage that one to approach the elders and seek their help. (Jas. 5:13-15) If he or she does not do so within a reasonable period of time, though, we should report the wrongdoing.
16. How does our reporting serious wrongdoing help to preserve the spirit of the congregation?
16 The Christian congregation is a spiritual haven, and we must help to protect it by reporting serious wrongdoing. If the elders bring the wrongdoer to his senses and he repentantly accepts reproof and correction, he no longer endangers the spirit of the congregation. But what if the practicer of gross sin is unrepentant and does not respond to the loving counsel of the elders? His expulsion from the congregation results in “the destruction,” or removal, of the corrupting element from among us, and the spirit of the congregation is preserved. (Read 1 Corinthians 5:5.) Yes, preserving the spirit of the congregation requires that each of us take proper action, cooperate with the body of elders, and protect the welfare of fellow believers.
ENCOURAGE “THE ONENESS OF THE SPIRIT”
17, 18. What will help us to “observe the oneness of the spirit”?
17 By “devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles,” Jesus’ early followers helped to develop a spirit of unity within the congregation. (Acts 2:42) They valued the Scriptural counsel and direction received from the older men. Because present-day elders cooperate with the faithful and discreet slave class, all in the congregation are encouraged and assisted to remain united. (1 Cor. 1:10) When we submit to the Bible-based instruction from Jehovah’s organization and follow the direction of the elders, we give proof that we are “earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.”—Eph. 4:3.
18 By all means, then, let us work to preserve a healthy, positive spirit in the congregation. If we do so, we are assured that ‘the undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ will be with the spirit we show.’—Phil. 4:23.
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Do you contribute to a positive spirit by preparing meaningful comments?
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Contribute to a positive spirit by becoming familiar with our songs