“All things . . . that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.”—MATT. 7:12.
1. Does the way we treat people in the ministry make a difference? Give an example. (See opening image.)
A FEW years ago, a Christian couple in Fiji were sharing in a campaign to invite people to the Memorial of Christ’s death. It began to rain as they were speaking to a woman outside her home. The brother handed the woman an umbrella while he shared one with his wife. The couple were delighted to see the woman present on the night of the Memorial. She admitted that she did not recall much of what the Witnesses said during their visit. But she was so impressed by the way they treated her that she just had to attend the Memorial. What contributed to such a fine reaction? The couple had followed what is often called the Golden Rule.
2. What is the Golden Rule, and how can we apply it?
2 What is the Golden Rule? It is the counsel Jesus gave when he said: “All things . . . that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.” (Matt. 7:12) How can we apply that rule? Basically, by taking two steps. First, we should ask ourselves, ‘If I were in the other person’s shoes, how would I want to be treated?’ Then, we need to follow through, accommodating the other person to the extent possible.—1 Cor. 10:24.
3, 4. (a) Explain why the Golden Rule does not apply only when we deal with fellow believers. (b) What will we discuss in this article?
3 We often apply the Golden Rule in our dealings with fellow believers. But Jesus did not indicate that we should extend this consideration only to those related to us in the faith. He actually mentioned the Golden Rule when he was discussing how we are to treat people in general and even our enemies. (Read Luke 6:27, 28, 31, 35.) If we are to apply the Golden Rule toward our enemies, how much more should we follow it when witnessing to people—many of whom may be “rightly disposed for everlasting life”!—Acts 13:48.
4 We will now discuss four questions that we can keep in mind when we engage in the ministry: Who are the individuals I am approaching? Where am I approaching them? When is the best time to approach people? How should I approach them? As we shall see, these questions can help us consider the feelings of those to whom we preach and adapt our approach accordingly.—1 Cor. 9:19-23.
WHOM AM I APPROACHING?
5. What questions could we ask ourselves?
5 In our ministry, we usually speak to individuals. Each person has his or her unique background and problems. (2 Chron. 6:29) When trying to share the good news with someone, ask yourself: ‘If our roles were reversed, how would I want this person to view me? Would I be pleased if he viewed me only as a nondescript resident of the neighborhood? Or would I prefer that he get to know me as a person?’ Considering such questions can remind us to treat each householder as an individual.
6, 7. What should we do if someone we meet in the ministry seems to be belligerent?
6 No one likes to be labeled “a negative person.” To illustrate: As Christians, we do our best to apply the Bible’s counsel to ‘let our words always be gracious.’ (Col. 4:6) Being imperfect, however, we sometimes say things that we later regret. (Jas. 3:2) If we were to speak unkindly to someone—perhaps because we were having a bad day—we would not want to be labeled “rude” or “inconsiderate.” We would hope that the other person would be understanding. Should we not show others the same consideration?
7 If someone you meet in the ministry seems to be belligerent, would it not be good to give him the benefit of the doubt? Could it be that he is under pressure at work or at school? Is he dealing with a serious health problem? In many cases, householders who initially were upset have responded favorably when Jehovah’s people treated them with mildness and respect.—Prov. 15:1; 1 Pet. 3:15.
8. Why should we not hold back from sharing the Kingdom message with “people of all sorts”?
8 Our ministry reaches individuals from all walks of life. In just the past few years, for instance, over 60 experiences have been published in the Watchtower series “The Bible Changes Lives.” Some of the people featured in these articles were formerly thieves, drunkards, gang members, or drug addicts. Others were politicians, religious leaders, or career-focused individuals. Some were pursuing an immoral lifestyle. Yet, all of them heard the good news, accepted a Bible study, made changes in their lives, and came into the truth. Therefore, we should never assume that certain people are beyond the reach of the Kingdom message. (Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.) Instead, we recognize that “people of all sorts” can respond to the good news.—1 Cor. 9:22.
WHERE AM I APPROACHING PEOPLE?
9. Why should we show respect for the homes of others?
9 Where do we approach people in our ministry? Often, we do so at their home. (Matt. 10:11-13) We appreciate it when others show respect for our home and personal property. After all, our home is important to us. We want it to be a place where we have privacy and security. We should show our neighbors the same respect. In our house-to-house ministry, therefore, we do well to think about how we treat their home.—Acts 5:42.
10. How can we avoid disturbing others in our ministry?
10 In today’s crime-filled world, many householders are suspicious of strangers. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) We should avoid adding to such suspicion. For example, suppose we approach a house and knock on the front door. If no one answers, we could be tempted to look through the window or walk around the property, searching for the householder. In your area, would that most likely disturb the householder? What might his neighbors think? True, we should be thorough in our preaching work. (Acts 10:42) We are eager to spread a positive message, and our motives are good. (Rom. 1:14, 15) Nevertheless, we wisely avoid doing anything that could unduly disturb people in our witnessing territory. The apostle Paul wrote: “In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.” (2 Cor. 6:3) When we show respect for the home and property of those in our territory, our conduct may attract some individuals to the truth.—Read 1 Peter 2:12.
WHEN AM I APPROACHING PEOPLE?
11. Why do we appreciate it when others respect our time?
11 As Christians, most of us lead busy lives. In order to meet our obligations, we set priorities and plan our schedule carefully. (Eph. 5:16; Phil. 1:10) If something interrupts our schedule, we may feel frustrated. We therefore appreciate it when others respect our time, showing reasonableness when they approach us and in the amount of our time that they take. Bearing in mind the Golden Rule, how can we show that we respect those to whom we preach?
12. How can we determine the best time to approach the people in our territory?
12 We should try to determine the best time to approach householders. In our territory, when are people usually at home? When are they likely to be receptive? We do well to look for ways to adjust our schedule accordingly. In some parts of the world, our house-to-house work is most productive in the late afternoon or early evening. If that is true in your witnessing area, could you arrange to do at least some of your house-to-house preaching during those hours of the day? (Read 1 Corinthians 10:24.) We can be sure that Jehovah will bless any sacrifices we make in order to share in the ministry at times that are best for those in the territory.
13. How can we show respect for a householder?
13 How can we further show respect for an individual? When we find someone who is receptive, we should give a good witness but we should not overstay our welcome. The householder may have set this time aside to do something else that he views as important. If he says he is busy, we can state that we will be brief—and we should keep our promise. (Matt. 5:37) When ending a conversation, we do well to ask the person when it would be convenient for him to see us again. Some publishers have found it effective to say: “I would enjoy visiting you again. Would it be best if I were to call or send a text message before I stop by?” When we adapt to the schedule of those in the territory, we are following the example of Paul, who ‘was not seeking his own advantage, but that of the many, so that they might be saved.’—1 Cor. 10:33.
HOW SHOULD I APPROACH PEOPLE?
14-16. (a) Why should we make the purpose of our visit clear to the householder? Illustrate. (b) What approach has one traveling overseer found to be effective?
14 Imagine that one day we receive a phone call but do not recognize the caller’s voice. He is a stranger, but he asks a question about the types of food we prefer. We wonder who the caller is and what he really wants. Out of politeness, perhaps we might briefly converse with him, but then we would likely indicate that we prefer to end the conversation. On the other hand, imagine that the caller identifies himself, lets us know that he works in the field of nutrition, and kindly tells us that he has some helpful information. We would probably be more receptive. After all, we appreciate it when people are straightforward yet tactful when approaching us. How can we extend the same courtesy to those we meet in our ministry?
15 In many territories, we need to make the purpose of our visit clear to the householder. True, we have valuable information the householder does not have, but suppose we did not really introduce ourselves and merely began our presentation abruptly with a question like this: “If you could solve any problem in the world, what would it be?” We know that the purpose behind such a question is to find out what is on the person’s mind and then direct the conversation to the Bible. However, the householder might wonder: ‘Who is this stranger, and why is he asking me this question? What is this all about?’ So we should try to put the householder at ease. (Phil. 2:3, 4) How can we do so?
16 One traveling overseer has found the following approach to be effective. After exchanging greetings, he hands the householder a copy of the tract Would You Like to Know the Truth? and says: “We’re giving one of these to everyone in the area today. It discusses six questions that many people ask. Here is your copy.” The brother reports that most people seem to relax a bit once they know the purpose of the visit. At that point, it is often easier to get a conversation under way. The traveling overseer next asks the person: “Have you ever thought about any of these questions?” If the householder chooses one, the brother opens the tract and discusses what the Bible says about that question. Otherwise, he selects a question and continues the discussion without putting the householder on the spot. Of course, there are many ways to start a conversation. In some areas, householders may expect more formalities before we get to the point of our visit. The key is to adjust our presentation to the way that people in our area likely want to be approached.
KEEP ON FOLLOWING THE GOLDEN RULE IN YOUR MINISTRY
17. As considered in this article, what are some ways in which we can follow the Golden Rule?
17 What, then, are some ways in which we follow the Golden Rule in our ministry? We treat each householder as an individual. We show respect for the householder’s home and other property. We endeavor to participate in the ministry at times when householders are most likely to be at home and receptive. And we introduce our message in a way that is well-received in the local territory.
18. What benefits come from treating those in our territory as we would like to be treated?
18 Many benefits come from treating those in our territory as we would like to be treated. By acting in a kind and considerate manner, we are letting our light shine, are underscoring the value of Scriptural principles, and are giving glory to our heavenly Father. (Matt. 5:16) We may attract more people to the truth by the way we approach them. (1 Tim. 4:16) Whether those to whom we preach accept the Kingdom message or not, we have the satisfaction of knowing that we are doing our best to accomplish our ministry. (2 Tim. 4:5) May each of us imitate the apostle Paul, who wrote: “I do all things for the sake of the good news, in order to share it with others.” (1 Cor. 9:23) To that end, let us always follow the Golden Rule in our ministry.