Planting and Watering—Steps Toward Making Disciples
1 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow.” (1 Cor. 3:6) The apostle Paul thus identified three basic steps in the process of making disciples of Christ. The first two steps, planting and watering, involve a privilege and responsibility resting on dedicated, baptized servants of God.
2 This calls for preaching publicly and from house to house, informally, and in other ways. It also involves progressively teaching people to observe all the things Jesus commanded. (Matt. 28:19, 20) This latter step can be carried out only by making return visits on those who show interest, engaging them in Bible discussions, and conducting Bible studies with them. Are you proving yourself to be a loyal fellow worker, cooperating with Jehovah by planting seeds of truth and then following through with the necessary watering and cultivating?—1 Cor. 3:9.
RECOGNIZE POTENTIAL AND NEED
3 In the United States during the 1990 service year, we distributed almost 11.5 million books and booklets and close to 94 million magazines! We also had over 1.8 million people at the Memorial, far exceeding the 816,417 average publishers for the year. Literature distribution is an integral part of the planting aspect of our work. The seeds of truth thus sown hold tremendous potential for producing new disciples, but do we, as God’s fellow workers, feel moved to make return visits on these people and cultivate their interest in Bible topics? Congregation publishers in the United States now average 0.5 Bible studies. We are confident that this average would improve if each publisher would assess more accurately his personal responsibility to go beyond the initial step of just planting seeds of truth and reach out to conduct progressive home Bible studies. Although some, because of various limitations, may not be able to conduct one or more home Bible studies, it is good for each one to review his personal circumstances.
4 It is interesting to see what is taking place in some areas. Congregations have fruitful territory and report an average of from one to two Bible studies per publisher. The increase in new disciples is proportionate to the number of Bible studies being conducted. This can be seen by comparing the average number of publishers with the number of Bible studies in various countries as reported in the 1991 Yearbook.
5 Our motivation to conduct Bible studies should be our love for people who respond to the Kingdom message we preach. We must sincerely share Jehovah’s loving concern for people and appreciate that their salvation is connected with spiritual growth. (1 Pet. 2:2) Like literal plants that require water to nurture their progress, people who show an initial interest in the Kingdom message will not usually start attending meetings unless through home Bible studies they are regularly directed to God’s organization.
6 Obedience on our part also enters into the picture. Jesus said that those on the side of the truth listen to his voice. (John 18:37) He commanded his disciples to preach and to teach, and he equipped them to carry out that work. By his outstanding example as a teacher and by his deep concern for people, Jesus set the pattern for us to follow in helping others. (Luke 6:40; John 13:13; 14:12) Our efforts can contribute toward the salvation of both ourselves and those we teach.—1 Tim. 4:16.
AIDS FOR STARTING BIBLE STUDIES
7 To perfect his work, a skilled craftsman selects his tools from a variety at his disposal. As teachers, we have at our disposal a host of publications, including brochures and tracts, designed as tools to help us reach the heart of people with varying backgrounds and points of view.
8 Some publishers have experienced good results in using tracts and brochures to introduce Bible discussions. For example, the tract Life in a Peaceful New World cites or quotes more than 20 different texts in outlining this wonderful hope. These scriptures can be used for developing several stimulating Bible discussions. Our brochures, in an eye-catching and simple way, can also acquaint people with basic Bible truths and stimulate them to investigate further.
9 Do you know someone with limited education or who is visually impaired? Have you tried using the brochure Enjoy Life on Earth Forever! to establish a progressive Bible discussion with such a one? The “Look!” brochure is another fine tool with opening paragraphs that skillfully involve the householder in learning about God’s promises for the future. And certainly the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, released in 1982, has been effective in aiding a large percentage of the more than 1,700,000 that have been baptized since then.
ACTING RESPONSIBLY TOWARD INTERESTED ONES
10 You may find it beneficial to look at your Congregation’s Publisher Record card and take note of the number of books, booklets (including brochures), and magazines you placed during the past 12 months. Were those placements an end in themselves? Or did you go beyond the step of planting? Of those individuals who showed enough interest to take some of our literature, how many did you promptly contact again? Did you return to see if the seed you planted had sprouted? Did you follow through with needed watering and then pray to Jehovah to make it grow?—Compare Acts 16:14 and; 2 Thessalonians 3:1.
11 Maybe you are not making return visits or conducting a Bible study because you feel inadequate. Likely, this is due to your attitude more than to a lack of ability. Jehovah has not sent his people out to do a work without adequately equipping and qualifying them. Through his holy Word and organization, he prepares us for “every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Cor. 3:5, 6) By holy spirit, printed page, and oral instruction and demonstrations from the platform, not to mention living examples of skilled and devoted servants ready to help us, He gives us what we need. We do not need the higher education of the world in order to conduct a Bible study. We do need to respond to the superior spiritual education given through Jehovah’s organization.—Compare Acts 4:13.
12 Personal application of what is provided in Our Kingdom Ministry, the Theocratic Ministry School, Service Meetings, and other avenues of instruction is necessary. The apostle Paul straightforwardly told the Hebrew Christians: “For, indeed, although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God.” (Heb. 5:12) A person working at a trade for several years is expected to have gained a measure of skill in the use of his tools. Progress in learning how to carry on Bible discussions will be evident when we show sincere interest and put forth diligent effort.—Prov. 12:24; 22:29.
13 Calling back and further discussing Bible topics with those who show interest in the Kingdom message costs something in the way of time and effort. But we should appreciate that our being in the truth is an expression of Jehovah’s love and undeserved kindness. This was expressed through someone who spent many hours patiently teaching us the truth. Likewise, love should compel us to buy out the necessary time and devote it to this more important work of making disciples.—2 Cor. 5:14, 15; Eph. 5:15, 16.
14 Many congregations have followed the Society’s suggestion to make arrangements for evening witnessing. The early evening hours are usually a good time to make return visits on those who have shown interest. A house-to-house record, providing pertinent information about the individuals witnessed to, is essential for making effective return visits and initiating Bible discussions. Do not tuck such records away in a book or in a Bible and forget them. Not remembering to make a return call until weeks later when you happen to be in the neighborhood leaves the person open to being visited by Satan’s agents, who delight in snatching away what may have been sown in the person’s heart. (Luke 8:12) Will you thwart Satan’s tactics by returning promptly? If you sense your responsibility and appreciate your privilege, you will return promptly, when at all possible.—1 Cor. 9:16, 23.
HOW TO START A BIBLE STUDY
15 Starting a Bible study does not involve some difficult, complicated procedure. Some people may readily accept your direct offer to conduct a home Bible study with them. However, many publishers prefer not to mention study but just direct the Bible discussion to that end.
16 Love for people and a sincere desire to help them is needed. Good preparation is also necessary. This should include reviewing notes you may have made on what you have already discussed with the individual and deciding on the approach you will take in furthering the Bible discussion. Have the general direction of your comments in mind. Will you select a few additional texts on the subject previously discussed? Or could you open the tract or book the person has and consider a few of the opening paragraphs with him? You may choose a subject in which he has expressed interest. Initially, take only 10 or 15 minutes. The time can be gradually increased, depending on the depth of interest shown. Your good judgment should help you discern how to proceed and how long to stay.
17 An abundance of helpful suggestions have been given over the years to assist you in taking progressive steps toward making disciples. As part of a series, the October and November 1990 issues of Our Kingdom Ministry carried helpful articles entitled “Reach Hearts Through Effective Bible Studies” and “Directing Bible Students to Jehovah’s Organization.” Our Kingdom Ministry for February 1987 contained the article “Preparing for and Conducting Home Bible Studies.” A quick check of the Index under “Bible Studies” will direct you to additional helpful information.
18 As a model of how to conduct a study, pay attention to what is done at the Congregation Book Study. Of course, at a home Bible study, you do not have a preassigned amount of material to cover. So you should pace your coverage of material according to the student’s capacity and needs. Additionally, the service overseer and other experienced publishers and pioneers are more than glad to go along with you and offer practical suggestions on conducting effective Bible studies.
19 Realizing that Jehovah plays the key role in our efforts to help people, we should pray not only about finding someone to study with but also about the progress of interested ones we have located. Our attitude and feelings should be like those of the apostle Paul when witnessing to King Agrippa: “I could wish to God that whether in a short time or in a long time not only you but also all those who hear me today would become men such as I also am.” (Acts 26:29) Paul wanted his hearers to become genuine disciples of Christ, whether it required a short time or a more extended period of personal assistance.
20 Conducting Bible studies enables us “to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God.” (Acts 20:24) Untold numbers may yet be turned from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God. (Acts 26:18) You, the individual dedicated, baptized servant of Jehovah, must do your part by planting seeds of truth and then following through with needed watering by means of Bible discussions and regular home Bible studies. You can thus find great joy in seeing people become disciples and join with you in helping still others to become disciples of Jesus Christ.