AROUND the globe, elders cherish the privileges of service they have among God’s people. What a blessing they are to all of us! Not too long ago, however, an adjustment was made. Older elders were asked to hand over some of their weightier responsibilities to younger elders. In what way?
The new arrangement is that circuit overseers and field instructors discontinue those particular types of service when they reach 70 years of age. Also, elders who are 80 years old will turn over to younger elders various other assignments, such as being coordinator of a Branch Committee or being coordinator of the body of elders in a local congregation. How have these dear older elders responded to this adjustment? They have shown loyalty to Jehovah and to his organization!
“I was totally in agreement with the decision,” comments Ken, who served as coordinator of a Branch Committee for almost 49 years. “In fact, on the very morning I found out, I had prayed to Jehovah, expressing the need for a younger brother to serve as the coordinator.” Ken’s reaction is typical of the sentiments expressed by faithful older ones worldwide. Of course, since they loved serving their brothers, there was some initial disappointment.
“It saddened me a little,” says Esperandio, who had been the coordinator of the body of elders in his congregation. But he acknowledges, “I needed more time to care for my failing health.” As we might expect, Esperandio continues to serve Jehovah faithfully and to be a blessing to his congregation.
What about longtime traveling overseers who have made the transition to other forms of service? Allan, who served as a traveling overseer for 38 years, admits, “When I found out, I felt numb.” Still, he recognized the benefits of training younger men for the work, and he continues to serve faithfully.
Russell, who served as a traveling overseer and a field instructor for a total of 40 years, says that initially he and his wife were disappointed. “We appreciated our privilege very much and felt that we had the stamina to continue.” Russell and his wife are using their training and experience in the local congregation, to the joy of the publishers who serve with them.
Even if you have not personally experienced feelings like those mentioned earlier, an account in 2 Samuel may help you to understand those who have.
A MAN MODEST AND REALISTIC
Think back to when King David’s son Absalom revolted. David fled from Jerusalem to Mahanaim, east of the Jordan River. There David and those with him were in need of some of life’s essentials. Do you remember what happened?
Three men in the area generously brought beds, various food items, and needed utensils. Barzillai was one of these men. (2 Sam. 17:27-29) Once Absalom’s rebellion was thwarted, David could return to Jerusalem, and Barzillai escorted him to the Jordan. David urged him to come to Jerusalem. The king offered, in turn, to supply him with food, even though Barzillai was “a very wealthy man” and would not need the food that was offered. (2 Sam. 19:31-33) But David likely appreciated Barzillai’s qualities and any suggestions that he might have to offer. It certainly would have been a fine privilege to live and work in the royal court!
Being realistic and modest, Barzillai pointed out that he was 80 years old. Then he added: “Can I discern between good and bad?” What did he mean? Barzillai must have gained wisdom during his long life. And he could still offer good advice, just as “older men” later did to King Rehoboam. (1 Ki. 12:6, 7; Ps. 92:12-14; Prov. 16:31) So Barzillai’s comment about discerning good and bad may have referred to the physical effects or limits that age had brought on him. He admitted that old age had already affected his sense of taste and his hearing. (Eccl. 12:4, 5) Thus Barzillai on his own urged David to take to Jerusalem the younger man Chimham, presumably Barzillai’s son.—2 Sam. 19:35-40.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
The age-related adjustment mentioned at the outset reflects a view similar to what Barzillai showed. Understandably, in our time, what had to be considered was more than just one person’s circumstances and abilities, as was the case with Barzillai. There was a need to consider realistically what was best for faithful elders serving earth wide.
These modest older Christian men could readily see that Jehovah’s organization will be strengthened for future growth if the responsibilities that they had long cared for could be handled by younger brothers. In most cases, the older brothers were the ones who trained the younger ones, as Barzillai likely trained his son and the apostle Paul did Timothy. (1 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 2:20-22) These younger brothers have proved that they are now “gifts in men,” able to help “build up the body of the Christ.”—Eph. 4:8-12; compare Numbers 11:16, 17, 29.
DIFFERENT OPPORTUNITIES TO HAVE A SHARE
Many in the worldwide congregation of God’s people who have relinquished certain responsibilities are able to take advantage of new or expanded opportunities in Jehovah’s work.
“My new circumstances allow me to reach out to the unbelieving husbands of sisters in our local congregation,” says Marco, who was a traveling overseer for 19 years.
“Our new goals include helping the inactive and conducting more Bible studies,” says Geraldo, who was in the traveling work for 28 years. He reports that he and his wife thus far are conducting 15 Bible studies and that a good number of inactive ones are now attending meetings.
Allan, quoted earlier, remarks: “We now have the opportunity to apply ourselves fully to the preaching work. We are enjoying public witnessing, business territory, and witnessing to our neighbors, two of whom have come to the Kingdom Hall.”
If you are a capable and loyal brother and you have received a new assignment among God’s people, there is another special way that you can contribute. You can support Jehovah’s work by sharing your invaluable experience with younger men in the congregation. “Jehovah is training and using beautiful, talented younger ones,” says Russell, quoted earlier. “The brotherhood is benefiting from their energetic teaching and shepherding!”—See the box “Help Younger Men Reach Their Full Potential.”
JEHOVAH TREASURES YOUR LOYALTY
If you have recently entered a different form of service, remain positive. You have already touched the lives of countless people with your heartfelt work, and you can continue to do so. You have been loved and certainly continue to be loved.
More important, you have made a permanent impression on Jehovah’s heart. He will not “forget your work and the love you showed for his name by ministering and continuing to minister to the holy ones.” (Heb. 6:10) That inspired verse assures all that his promise extends beyond our past labors. You are far too precious to Jehovah to be forgotten by him for your past and continuing efforts to please him!
What if you personally are not one who has had a change of assignment as discussed above? This matter may still have a direct bearing on you. In what way?
If you are now in contact with a faithful older brother who received a change in assignment, you can benefit from his maturity and years of experience. Seek his advice. Ask for his suggestions. And observe how in his current assignment, he loyally applies his experience.
Whether you are an older one serving in a new way or a brother or a sister in a position to benefit, bear in mind that Jehovah treasures the loyalty of those who have long served him and who continue to do so.