“May the God of peace . . . equip you with every good thing to do his will.”—HEB. 13:20, 21.
1. How important was the preaching work to Jesus? Explain.
JESUS loved to talk about God’s Kingdom. According to the Bible record, he spoke more about the Kingdom than about any other subject—referring to it more than 100 times during his ministry. The Kingdom was truly dear to his heart.—Read Matthew 12:34.
2. How many may have been present when the commission at Matthew 28:19, 20 was given, and why can we draw that conclusion?
2 Shortly after his resurrection, Jesus met with more than 500 prospective Kingdom proclaimers. (1 Cor. 15:6) Perhaps it was on that occasion that he gave the command to take the Kingdom message to “people of all the nations”—a daunting task back then!* This great work, Jesus foretold, would be carried on right up to “the conclusion of the system of things,” and that has proved to be the case. Quite likely you are having a share in the fulfillment of that commission and prophecy.—Matt. 28:19, 20.
3. In what three areas have we been well-equipped to carry out the commission to preach the good news?
3 After giving the commission to preach, Jesus promised his followers: “I am with you.” (Matt. 28:20) So this vast preaching work would be carried out under his direction. And our God has equipped us with “every good thing” to help us fulfill that commission. (Heb. 13:20, 21) In this article, we will consider three of these good things: (1) the tools we have been given, (2) the methods we have used, and (3) the training we have received. First, consider some of the tools we have used during the past 100 years.
THE KING EQUIPS HIS SERVANTS TO PREACH
4. Why have we used a variety of tools in our preaching work?
4 Jesus compared “the word of the Kingdom” to seed that is sown on various types of soil. (Matt. 13:18, 19) A gardener may use a variety of tools to prepare his garden to receive seed. Similarly, over the years our King has given us tools to use to help prepare the hearts of millions to receive the Kingdom message. Some tools were useful for perhaps a decade or so, while others have proved to be of timeless value. But all these tools have allowed us to develop our skills as evangelizers in some way.
5. What was a testimony card, and how was it used?
5 One tool that helped many get started in the ministry was the testimony card, which Kingdom publishers began using in 1933. The card was about three by five inches (7.6 by 12.7 cm) in size and contained a brief Bible message. From time to time, a new card containing a new message was issued. The presentation was simple! C. W. Erlenmeyer was about ten years old when he first engaged in this form of witnessing. He explained: “The standard introduction was, ‘Would you please read this card?’ After the householder read the card, we would present the literature and be on our way.”
6. What practical purpose did the testimony card serve?
6 The testimony card was helpful in more ways than one. Although having a strong desire to share in the preaching work, some publishers were shy and did not know what to say. Others had plenty to say. They would tell the householder everything they knew in just a few minutes, but their presentation was not always tactful! In contrast, in a few concise, well-chosen words, the testimony card “did the talking” for the publisher.
7. What challenges did some face in using the card?
7 There were challenges, of course. Grace A. Estep, a longtime Witness, recalled: “At times, we would be asked, ‘Well, what does it say? Can’t you just tell me about it?’” Moreover, some householders could not read what was on the card. Still others, thinking that the card was theirs to keep, accepted it from the publisher and closed the door. If the householder was very opposed, he might tear the card to pieces. Nevertheless, our brothers were learning to meet the public and to identify themselves openly as representatives of the Kingdom.
8. Explain how the portable phonograph was used. (See opening image.)
8 Another tool that was used in the 1930’s and early 1940’s was the portable phonograph, which some brothers nicknamed Aaron because the machine did most of the talking for them. (Read Exodus 4:14-16.) With the householder’s permission, the publisher would play a four-and-one-half-minute Bible lecture, and then he would offer some literature. At times, entire families gathered to listen to a recorded message from the Bible! In 1934 the Watch Tower Society began producing portable phonographs especially designed to be used in the ministry. Eventually, recordings covering 92 different subjects were made available.
9. How effective was the use of the phonograph?
9 On hearing one of the recorded Bible talks, a householder named Hillary Goslin obtained the publisher’s permission to borrow the phonograph for a week in order to acquaint his neighbors with the Kingdom message. When the publisher returned, he found several newly interested ones waiting for him. In time, a number of these dedicated themselves to Jehovah, and Hillary’s two daughters eventually attended Gilead School and received a foreign assignment. Like the testimony card, the phonograph helped many to get started in the preaching work. Later, the King would put words in their mouths by means of the Theocratic Ministry School.
USING EVERY POSSIBLE METHOD TO REACH PEOPLE
10, 11. How were newspapers and the radio used in spreading Bible truth, and why were these methods effective?
10 Under the King’s direction, God’s people have used a variety of methods in order to reach as many as possible with the good news. This was especially important when ‘the workers were few.’ (Read Matthew 9:37.) In the early 20th century, newspapers were used to reach large audiences in areas where Jehovah’s people were few in number. Each week, Charles Taze Russell would telegraph a sermon to a newspaper syndicate. In turn, the syndicate retelegraphed the sermon to newspapers in the United States, Canada, and Europe. It is estimated that by 1913, Brother Russell’s sermons were reaching 15,000,000 readers by means of 2,000 newspapers!
11 After Brother Russell died, another effective method of spreading the good news began to be used. On April 16, 1922, Joseph F. Rutherford made one of his first radio broadcasts, speaking to an estimated 50,000 people. Then, on February 24, 1924, the organization’s first radio station, WBBR, began broadcasting. Regarding this new method of reaching people, The Watch Tower of December 1, 1924, observed: “We believe that the radio is the most economical and effective way of spreading the message of the truth that has yet been used.” Like the newspaper, the radio was useful for reaching large audiences in areas where few Kingdom publishers lived.
12. (a) What features of public witnessing do you enjoy most? (b) What can help us to overcome any fears we might have about engaging in public witnessing?
12 Increased emphasis is now being placed on public witnessing: at bus stops, train stations, parking lots, in public squares, and markets. If engaging in some of these features of service makes you nervous, why not give prayerful thought to this comment of longtime traveling overseer Angelo Manera, Jr.: “We looked at each new feature of service as another way to serve Jehovah, as another way to prove our loyalty to him, as another test of our integrity, and we were eager to prove ourselves willing to serve him in any way he asked.” Engaging in a new feature of the work, perhaps one outside our comfort zone, helps us to build trust and faith in Jehovah, leading to greater spirituality.—Read 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10.
13. What need is being filled by our website, jw.org, and what experiences have you had in directing people to it?
13 Many publishers have enjoyed directing people to our website, jw.org, where they can read and download Bible-based literature in over 700 languages. Each day, over 1.6 million people visit our website. As the radio did in the past, our website today is reaching people with the good news, even in remote areas.
TRAINING MINISTERS OF THE GOOD NEWS
14. What training did Kingdom publishers need, and what school has helped them to become effective teachers?
14 We have considered a few of the tools and methods that have been used to spread the good news. However, what of the training we have received? Suppose the householder objected to what he heard on a phonograph recording or expressed interest in what he read on the testimony card. Publishers needed to know how to overcome objections tactfully and how to teach honesthearted ones skillfully. Doubtless moved by God’s spirit, Nathan H. Knorr saw the need to train publishers to use the gift of speech in the ministry. The solution? The Theocratic Ministry School, which was first organized in congregations in 1943. That school has helped us to become effective teachers.
15. (a) What have some experienced when handling a part on the Theocratic Ministry School? (b) How has Jehovah’s promise recorded at Psalm 32:8 proved true in your case?
15 For many, it took time to get used to speaking before an audience. Julio S. Ramu recalled his first talk in the school back in 1944. The subject? Doeg, a man mentioned in only five verses of the Bible! “My knees were knocking together, my hands were shaking, and my teeth were chattering,” Julio said, adding that he had to build the entire talk around those five scriptures. “I gave my talk in three minutes. That was my first experience in platform speaking, but I did not quit.” Children too joined the school, although it was not necessarily easy for some to present a talk to the congregation. Angelo Manera, mentioned earlier, remembered a first student talk given by a young lad who had just started public school. “He was so nervous that when he started his talk, he began to sob. But determined to give it, he sobbed his way through the entire talk.” Have you held back from commenting or participating in meetings in other ways because of shyness or some limitation? Ask Jehovah to help you overcome your fears. You may find that he will help you just as he helped those early Theocratic Ministry School students.—Read Psalm 32:8.
16. What purpose has been served by Gilead School (a) in the past and (b) since 2011?
16 The training available to Jehovah’s people is not limited to the Theocratic Ministry School. Missionaries and others have greatly benefited from attending Gilead School. According to one instructor, an objective of the school is “to instill in the students a more intense desire to share in the evangelizing work.” Gilead was inaugurated in 1943, and since then over 8,500 have been trained. Gilead-trained missionaries have served in some 170 lands. Since 2011, enrollment is limited to those who are already in special full-time service—special pioneers, traveling overseers, Bethelites, or field missionaries who have not attended Gilead.
17. How effective has training at Gilead proved to be?
17 How effective has this extra training been? Consider an example. In August 1949, there were fewer than ten local publishers in Japan. By the end of that year, 13 Gilead-trained missionaries were busy preaching there. Today, there are some 216,000 publishers in Japan, and nearly 42 percent of them serve as pioneers!
18. Name some of the other schools that have helped qualified Witnesses to grow spiritually.
18 Other schools, such as the Kingdom Ministry School, the Pioneer Service School, the School for Kingdom Evangelizers, the School for Circuit Overseers and Their Wives, and the School for Branch Committee Members and Their Wives, have contributed immeasurably to increased spirituality and the effectiveness of Jehovah’s people. Without a doubt, the King is continuing to train his subjects!
19. What perceptive comment did Charles Taze Russell make about the preaching work, and how has this proved to be true?
19 More than 100 years have elapsed since the birth of God’s Kingdom. Our King, Jesus Christ, continues to train us. Shortly before his death in 1916, Charles Taze Russell showed remarkable foresight regarding the extent to which the preaching work would be accomplished. He told a close associate: “The work is increasing rapidly, and it will continue to increase, for there is a world-wide work to be done in preaching the ‘gospel of the kingdom.’” (Faith on the March, by A. H. Macmillan, p. 69) How right he was! And how grateful we are that the God of peace continues to equip us for this most enjoyable work! Indeed, he gives us “every good thing” we need to do his will!
There is reason to believe that most of those present on that occasion became Christians. Paul refers to them as “500 brothers” in his letter to the Corinthians. Significantly, he adds: “Most of [them] are still with us, though some have fallen asleep in death.” So it seems that Paul and other first-century Christians were acquainted with many who had heard that command firsthand.