New Initiatives for Public Witnessing
1. What example did first-century Christians set?
1 First-century Christians did more than preach from house to house. They also preached publicly. (Acts 20:20) For example, they went to the temple, where they knew many people could be found. (Acts 5:42) When in Athens, the apostle Paul preached every day to those on hand in the marketplace. (Acts 17:17) Today, our primary way of spreading the good news continues to be the house-to-house ministry. However, we also go to parking lots, businesses, parks, busy thoroughfares, and other places in order to preach to people wherever they can be found. While every publisher is encouraged to engage in public witnessing where possible, many will have the opportunity to participate in two exciting new initiatives for public witnessing.
2. What trial initiative began in November 2011?
2 Special Metropolitan Public Witnessing: As reported in the 2013 Yearbook on pages 16 and 17, a trial initiative for public witnessing began in New York City in November 2011. Tables and carts with attractive displays and literature in several languages were strategically placed in areas of the city with high pedestrian traffic. Each day thousands of people walked by, including many who live in secured apartment buildings and persons who are often away from home. The response was overwhelming. In just one recent month, 3,797 magazines and 7,986 books were placed. Many passersby requested a Bible study. Since the emphasis was on starting Bible studies, any addresses left by interested ones were immediately forwarded to the appropriate congregation to follow up on the interest.
3. How is this initiative being expanded?
3 In view of the initiative’s success, it is now being expanded worldwide to other densely populated metropolitan areas. The local branch office will identify which cities would benefit. Usually, these are cities with transportation hubs or a large concentration of office or apartment buildings that results in high pedestrian traffic. Thereafter, the branch office will initiate correspondence to the congregations that will participate and provide additional instructions. Regular and special pioneers are generally used, although in some places auxiliary pioneers also have a share in the work.
4. How is special metropolitan public witnessing done?
4 How the Witnessing Is Done: Those involved in special metropolitan public witnessing usually wait for someone to come to the table or mobile display. When someone approaches, he is invited to take any literature that interests him. The pioneers gladly answer from the Scriptures any questions he may have. If he takes literature, the pioneers do not mention the donation arrangement. But if he inquires about how our work is funded, they may explain that donations can be sent to the address listed in the literature. When possible, they ask: “Would you like someone to visit your home?” or “Are you aware that a free Bible study comes with that publication?”
5. How has sharing in this new initiative been rewarding for one couple?
5 Sharing in this initiative has been very rewarding. One couple wrote: “Standing at the table and seeing thousands of people go by each day has impressed upon our hearts the vast work that is being done to reach people all around the world. Seeing these masses of people and thinking about how Jehovah truly cares for each person has strengthened our resolve to continue putting the preaching work at the center of our lives. We imagine Jehovah scanning the hearts of all those who pass by the table, searching for those who are worthy. We have rarely felt so close to our angelic coworkers.”
6. (a) What additional initiative for public witnessing is being organized in many congregations, and how is it different from special metropolitan public witnessing? (b) How may congregations cooperate when engaging in public witnessing?
6 Public Witnessing That Is Organized Locally: In addition to special metropolitan public witnessing, another new initiative is being organized by many bodies of elders in their local territory. With this initiative, publishers use a table or a mobile display at a busy location within the congregation’s territory boundary. This is different from special metropolitan public witnessing, which uses participants from many congregations to preach in the same high-traffic areas in cities chosen by the branch office.—See the box “Good Cooperation Needed.”
7. Where it is practical, how will the elders organize public witnessing locally?
7 The elders will consider whether the congregation’s territory has areas of high pedestrian traffic and determine if it would be practical to organize public witnessing. Possible locations for a table or mobile display include transportation hubs, public squares, parks, busy streets, shopping malls, college campuses, airports, and locations of annual events. There is an advantage in having a table set up in the same location, on the same days, and at the same times. It has been found that tables set up at shopping malls are more effective than those outside a single large store where individuals are usually focused on their reason for visiting that specific store. Some locations, such as busy sidewalks, may be more conducive to a smaller mobile literature display. Elders can download from our Web site special files for making displays of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines and the Bible Teach book. These files have been prepared specifically for use in this form of public witnessing. Those who participate will carry out the work in much the same way as those engaged in special metropolitan public witnessing and should follow the direction of the service overseer closely. If they obtain an address from an interested person who does not live in their territory, they should promptly fill out a Please Follow Up (S-43) form and give it to the secretary.
8. If there are no organized efforts in the congregation for public witnessing, what opportunities to preach publicly may still be available?
8 Public Witnessing in Your Personal Ministry: Some congregations may not have a location in their territory that has sufficient pedestrian traffic to justify setting up a table or making use of a mobile literature display. However, even in those congregations, publishers are encouraged to consider including public witnessing in their personal ministry. Is there a shopping area, a strip mall, or a busy store in your territory? Is there a park or a place where people gather? Are there public events that are periodically held in the territory? If so, you may still be able to enjoy public witnessing.
9. Why should we be conscientious about preaching to people wherever they may be found?
9 It is Jehovah’s will that “all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4) Therefore, we are trying to reach as many people as possible with the Kingdom message before the end comes. (Matt. 24:14) In many places it is a challenge to find people at home. Yet, we may be able to speak to them when they are away from home in a public setting. Public witnessing may be the only way that some people will get an opportunity to hear the good news. Therefore, may we fully accomplish our ministry by preaching to people wherever they may be found.—2 Tim. 4:5.
[Box on page 5]
Good Cooperation Needed
It has been reported that publishers from neighboring congregations sometimes engage in public witnessing on the same street, in the same parking lot, and in front of the same businesses or transportation hubs. Publishers from different congregations have left magazines in the same lobby, waiting room, or laundromat and have preached to the same businesses. This has caused businesspeople and neighborhood residents to feel overwhelmed on occasion, even when publishers are not preaching at the same time. Therefore, it is generally best to stay within the congregation’s assigned territory when witnessing publicly.
If publishers wish to witness publicly in a neighboring congregation’s territory, they should talk to their service overseer. He can then contact the service overseer of the other congregation to obtain permission before those in his congregation proceed. Where different-language congregations are assigned to preach in the same area, the service overseers should communicate with each other so as to avoid irritating people in the neighborhood unnecessarily. By means of good cooperation, all things can take place “decently and by arrangement.”—1 Cor. 14:40.
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