Can You, Too, Share in the Joy of Disciple-making?
JESUS commanded his followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them.” In 208 lands and islands throughout the earth today, over one and a half million praisers of Jehovah God are living testimony to the fulfillment of this commission of Jesus.
There is a special joy associated with making disciples. The apostle Paul wrote of this joy to a congregation he worked to establish in Thessalonica, Macedonia: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of exultation—why, is it not in fact you? . . . You certainly are our glory and joy.” (1 Thess. 2:19, 20) It is especially exhilarating to observe the happiness of sheeplike ones as they come to appreciate basic truths about Jehovah God and his purpose. Can you, too, share in that joy?
In modern times Bible studies have been the most effective means of making disciples. But some publishers may think that the Bible study work is not for them. Why? Possibly some feel unqualified due to old age, sickness or lack of secular education.
Others have worked hard for some time in the field ministry but have not been successful in starting studies. Many have discontinued unproductive studies after six months and have been unable to find replacements. Is there some way for these brothers and sisters to share in the joy of making disciples through Bible studies?
How Much Do You Want a Bible Study?
Success in the Bible study work is closely related to how much one really wants to share in it. Do you have a deep desire to teach someone the truth? Have you made it a matter of regular prayer? Have you exerted extra effort in harmony with your prayer?
A circuit overseer relates the experience of a sixteen-year-old girl who did so: “This young girl really wanted a Bible study and so she prayed to Jehovah, asking his direction upon her efforts. Then she opened the telephone book to the letter “A” and began calling people. She would introduce herself and say: ‘I am one of Jehovah’s witnesses offering free Bible studies to people.’ Many calls were made without success. But she did not give up. Then a woman was contacted who replied: ‘I would love to have a Bible study.’ How interesting, too, to learn that this woman lived in a building in which Jehovah’s witnesses had not been able to preach!” Is your desire to obtain a Bible study as strong as that? If you make it a matter of prayer and work at it, Jehovah will surely bless you.
How Can Studies Be Started?
There are many ways to start Bible studies. In some areas this can be accomplished on the first call by a direct offer to aid the householder to understand the Bible. This is especially so where people have a reverence for the Word of God. But in other places brothers may find it necessary to break down barriers such as prejudice, false doctrines or indifference. In cases like these, several Scriptural discussions may be necessary before a study can be established. You yourself are the best one to decide which approach to use in a particular situation.
Where you discern interest, be careful not to let it cool off by waiting too long before calling again. There is no Scriptural requirement to wait a week or two before returning to visit an interested person. Some publishers arrange for a return visit the very same day where unusual interest is detected. Others call again within the week of the initial contact and report excellent results.
Have you noticed that in some places our brothers work the territory over and over but few studies are started? Why is this so? Is it that the people simply are not interested in the truth? Of course, this is possible. But could it be that what the brothers are saying to the people does not arouse their interest? If you are to be successful in starting Bible studies you must find out what the people are interested in.
In some areas people do not respond to discussions of Bible doctrine. But frequently these people are disturbed about the dishonesty, immorality and lack of neighbor love in the world today. Would people in your territory who seem uninterested in Bible doctrine respond to a discussion of such matters that definitely are on their minds? We have just what they need in the new book True Peace and Security—From What Source? Direct their attention to chapter 10, 12 or 13, or read to them the opening paragraph of chapter 14 or chapter 15. Perhaps this will open the way for a fine study.
Or is it war, food shortage, pollution, disease or crime that disturbs them? The first two chapters of the Peace and Security book are ideal for discussions with such persons. Just select an appropriate section and start reading it to them. The reasonableness of the presentation may move them to realize that, really, this is exactly what they have been looking for.
A circuit overseer in New York observed: “People in the world frequently view Bible study as something dull and uninteresting. Our brothers must avoid making their presentations too general, simply mentioning the Bible or Bible study. They need to show people something specific.” How can this be done? This brother explains his own approach: “After introducing myself I often say: ‘We are asking a question of our neighbors today: Why do you think God allows innocent people to suffer?’” Then he directs their attention to chapter 8 of the Truth book. What subject would arouse people’s interest in your territory?
One good way to find out what people are interested in is to listen carefully to what they say. True, a person may bring up a subject completely different from your prepared presentation. But, instead of pressing forward with a matter that does not interest him, would it not be better to direct him to a section in one of the Society’s publications that deals with what he is interested in?
Another effective method is to show the householder the table of contents in the Truth book or the Peace and Security book. Then ask: “Which of these subjects would you like to learn more about?” One circuit overseer in New York says that in his territory people often pick the subjects “Why We Grow Old and Die,” “Why Has God Permitted Wickedness Until Our Day?”, and “How to Pray and Be Heard by God.” Would these subjects be effective in your territory? If not, which ones would?
Is it always necessary to conduct studies in a printed Bible study aid? Not at all. In fact, with some individuals it may be advantageous to use only the Bible for a period of time. A missionary tells of the experience of a sister in Niigata, Japan:
“A Truth book was placed with a woman but on the return visit she did not invite the publisher in. She had read some of the book and noticed that it did not harmonize with the Catholic religion.” Did this sister give up hope of starting a study there? The missionary continues:
“The sister suggested using only the Bible, and the woman agreed. These discussions went on for four months. Sometimes up to fifty scriptures would be used in one sitting. When this woman was convinced that she was learning the truth, the sister pointed out that she had gotten most of her material from the Truth book. Thereafter this interested person agreed to the use of printed publications. Soon she got rid of her Catholic images and began attending meetings. Then she wrote to her priest to have her name removed from the church roll.” This woman is now a Kingdom publisher with two Bible studies of her own and hopes to be baptized in the near future. Are there people in your territory who would be willing to discuss the Bible with you even though they refuse the offer of literature?
Search Out Every Possibility
In most countries the house-to-house ministry is the principal way interested people are contacted. But there are many other ways of obtaining Bible studies.
The place to look for an interested person may be in the household of someone who is already studying. Unbelieving mates will often respond favorably if approached in a friendly way. A missionary in Morocco tells of his visit to the home of a woman with whom his wife was conducting a Bible study:
“Previously her husband had shown no interest at all in the study. I began talking to him about his automobile and we became friendly. Then he mentioned that he would like to learn the French language. I explained that the English and French editions of our book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained go nearly page for page. I suggested that we study French together with the aid of this book. He accepted and we began a Bible study. Later he gave up on French but not on the truth. He and his two children are now Kingdom publishers and his wife is a pioneer.”
A district overseer for the United States tells of a pioneer couple in Concord, New Hampshire, who concentrated their efforts on unbelieving husbands. This helped them to achieve a total of twenty-six Bible studies between them.
Asking persons with whom you study for suggestions as to others who might be interested is another fine way of obtaining Bible studies. A circuit overseer relates the following experience of a sister in Massachusetts: “The sister started a study and out of this four additional studies were started which she turned over to other publishers. From these five studies twenty people are now serving Jehovah. Then the same sister started another study. After a while she encouraged the interested person to invite others. This, too, resulted in an additional four studies. On my last visit to that congregation twenty-six people were attending meetings from this last group of studies.” Thus through referrals two studies grew to ten and forty-six people got started on the road to everlasting life. Have you explored this avenue of finding Bible studies? Why not try it?
Those who have limited education and who may not read well can also be developed into fine Bible studies. These people may refuse offers of literature. But does this mean that they are not interested in the truth? Not necessarily. Often these persons have keen minds and are hungering for truth. Would you be willing to call on someone like that each week and read to him from the Bible or from a Bible study aid? Many zealous publishers learned the truth without being able to read.
What about children? Youngsters are usually eager to learn and delight to have someone teach them about God. In New England a seven-year-old girl spoke about Bible truth to another little girl of the same age. The girl became interested and asked her parents for permission to study, but they refused. So the little girl went to her friend’s house and asked if she could live there. It was explained that being one of Jehovah’s witnesses would mean giving up the celebration of birthdays and holidays and things like these. But she replied: “I don’t care. Living in paradise is more important.” Of course, this young girl continued to live in her own home, but she would visit the Witness family each week to obtain Bible articles written especially for children. Her desire to learn about Jehovah God was so strong that she would read these articles instead of playing.
Older people and those infirm or handicapped are another field where Bible studies may be cultivated. They are often pleased to have someone call on them to discuss the Word of God. A circuit overseer tells of two sisters in New York who made a special effort to study with elderly and infirm people: “One of them began by offering magazines to patients in a nursing home. She now conducts several studies there. The other sister points to a building housing senior citizens and says: ‘That’s my territory.’ She visits these older people and studies with them to the extent possible, even teaching some of them to read.”
When and Where Can Studies Be Conducted?
When you make return visits on interested people do you find they are seldom at home? Today’s high costs and the fast pace at which people live often keep them away from home for long hours each day. But some publishers have gone out of their way to share in the joy of conducting Bible studies with such people.
In Florida, for example, there is a sister who got out of bed and went to conduct a study with an interested couple each week at 3:30 a.m. because this was the only convenient time for that couple to study. An overseer from the Netherlands tells of a brother in Amsterdam who studied with a dance instructor weekly between two and four in the morning. This man eventually sold his dancing establishment and entered the pioneer ministry. He now serves as an elder in his congregation.
Perhaps you cannot study with a certain person in his home. But could the study go on somewhere else? Many Bible studies are held in Kingdom Halls, in automobiles or in places of business. An overseer from South Africa says that there many brothers conduct studies at work during lunch hour because the interested persons live far away from the brothers’ homes. A brother who is now a missionary tells of conducting a study in New York in a subway change booth. A circuit overseer started a study with a New York taxi driver, but they were not able to get together at a central location. What did they do? The brother explains: “Somehow we managed to study regularly. We held our study in his home, in his taxi, at the Kingdom Hall, in restaurants, in the park and in my home.” Now this interested man attends all meetings, has joined the Theocratic Ministry School and plans to be baptized soon. Would it be possible for you, too, to conduct a Bible study at an unusual time or place? Are you willing to make the necessary adjustments in your schedule to share in such a joy?
Do You Feel Unable to Conduct Studies?
Do you feel ill-equipped to conduct Bible studies for some reason? Some might feel that, because their secular education is very limited, the Bible study work is not for them. But is this necessarily true? Consider the experience of a brother from Guadaloupe who could neither read nor write. The branch overseer in that country relates: “This brother met a man from door to door and placed a book with him. When he made the return visit he did not mention that he could not read. Instead he encouraged the man to get his book. He would have the man read the paragraphs and then the questions. Then he would ask: ‘Could you give me the answer to the question you just read?’ In this way the man progressed to the point of meeting attendance and now shares in the field ministry.” Others with limited education take another publisher along with them to help them to conduct their Bible studies.
Is it sickness or some physical handicap that keeps you from sharing in the joy of conducting Bible studies? A circuit overseer from Massachusetts observed: “Often the ones conducting studies are those that are older or infirm, not the younger, healthy ones.” An example is a special pioneer in the Netherlands who became crippled for ten years. Did this keep her from teaching the truth to others? An overseer acquainted with her points out: “During all of that time this sister continued in full-time service as a regular pioneer. She would conduct studies by her bedside. In fact, she had such capabilities in this feature of the service that other publishers would bring their interested persons to her. This sister has aided scores of people to the point of dedication.”
Is it your heart’s desire to share in the joy of making disciples? Then make it a matter of prayer and explore every way open to you of obtaining a Bible study. Remember, success in the Bible study work does not depend on natural ability or worldly educational status. No, but “our being adequately qualified issues from God.”—2 Cor. 3:5.