STUDY ARTICLE 1
“Go, Therefore, and Make Disciples”
OUR YEARTEXT FOR 2020: “Go, therefore, and make disciples . . . , baptizing them.”—MATT. 28:19.
SONG 79 Teach Them to Stand Firm
1-2. What does an angel tell the women at Jesus’ tomb, and what direction does Jesus himself give them?
IT IS daybreak, Nisan 16, 33 C.E. With heavy hearts, a group of God-fearing women make their way to the tomb where more than 36 hours earlier the body of the Lord Jesus Christ was laid to rest. When they arrive at the burial site, intending to apply spices and perfumed oils to the body, they are astonished to find that the tomb is empty! An angel tells the disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead, adding: “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there.”—Matt. 28:1-7; Luke 23:56; 24:10.
2 After the women leave the tomb, Jesus himself approaches them and gives the following direction: “Go, report to my brothers so that they may go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matt. 28:10) Jesus must have some very important instructions to give his disciples, for this meeting is the first thing he arranges after his resurrection!
A COMMAND GIVEN TO WHOM?
3-4. Why can we say that the commission recorded at Matthew 28:19, 20 was not directed only to the apostles? (See cover picture.)
3 Read Matthew 28:16-20. At the meeting that Jesus organized, he outlined the vital work that his disciples would accomplish throughout the first century—the same work that we are accomplishing today. Jesus said: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”
4 Jesus wants all his followers to preach. He did not limit this command to the 11 faithful apostles. How can we be so sure? Well, were only the apostles present when the command to make disciples was given on that mountain in Galilee? Recall that the angel said to the women: “You will see him [in Galilee].” So faithful women must also have been present on that occasion. But that is not all. The apostle Paul reveals that Jesus “appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time.” (1 Cor. 15:6) Where?
5. What do we learn from 1 Corinthians 15:6?
5 We have good reasons for thinking that Paul had in mind the very meeting in Galilee described in Matthew chapter 28. What reasons? First, most of Jesus’ disciples were Galileans. So a mountain in Galilee—rather than a private home in Jerusalem—would be a reasonable place to gather with a large number of people. Second, the resurrected Jesus had already met with his 11 apostles in a private home in Jerusalem. If Jesus wanted to instruct only the apostles to preach and make disciples, he could have done that in Jerusalem instead of asking them and the women and others to meet him in Galilee.—Luke 24:33, 36.
6. How does Matthew 28:20 show that the command to make disciples applies today, and to what extent is this command being obeyed?
6 Note a third important reason. Jesus’ command to make disciples was not limited to Christians living in the first century. How do we know? Jesus concluded his instructions to his followers with the words: “I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:20) True to Jesus’ words, today the disciple-making work is in full swing. Think of it! Nearly 300,000 people each year get baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses and become disciples of Jesus Christ!
7. What will we now discuss, and why?
7 Many who study the Bible progress to baptism. However, some who regularly study the Bible with us seem reluctant to become disciples. They enjoy their studies, but they are not progressing to baptism. If you are conducting a Bible study, we are sure that you want to help your student to apply what he learns and to become a disciple of Christ. This article will discuss how we can reach the student’s heart and how we can help him grow spiritually. Why do we need to discuss this topic? Because at some point we might have to decide whether to continue the study or not.
TRY TO REACH THE HEART
8. Why can it be challenging to reach the heart?
8 Jehovah wants people to serve him because they love him. So our goal is to help our students to understand that Jehovah cares deeply about them as individuals and that he loves them very much. We want to help them to see Jehovah as “a father of the fatherless and a protector of widows.” (Ps. 68:5) As your students come to appreciate God’s love for them, their heart will likely be touched and their own love for him will grow. Some students may find it difficult to view Jehovah as a loving Father because their own father did not show them love and affection. (2 Tim. 3:1, 3) As you conduct the study, then, emphasize Jehovah’s appealing qualities. Help your students to understand that our loving God wants them to gain everlasting life, and he is ready to help them to achieve that goal. What else can we do?
9-10. What publications should we use when conducting Bible studies, and why those books?
9 Use the books “What Can the Bible Teach Us?” and “How to Remain in God’s Love.” Those publications are specially designed to help us reach the heart of our students. For example, chapter 1 of the Teach Us book answers the questions: Does God care about us or is he cruel?, How does God feel when people suffer?, and Can you be Jehovah’s friend? What about the Remain in God’s Love book? That publication will help the student to understand how applying Bible principles can improve his life and draw him closer to Jehovah. Even if you have already studied these publications with others, prepare well for each study, and keep the specific needs of the student in mind.
10 Suppose, however, that the student is interested in a subject that is discussed in a publication that is not included in our Teaching Toolbox. Perhaps you can encourage him to read that publication on his own so that you can continue to conduct the study in one of our recommended Bible study aids that were just mentioned.
11. When should we begin opening and closing the study with prayer, and how might you raise the subject?
11 Start the study session with prayer. Generally speaking, it is best to begin opening and closing the study with prayer as soon as possible, usually within the first few weeks after starting a regular study. We must help the student to realize that we can understand God’s Word only with the help of God’s spirit. Some Bible teachers raise the subject of prayer by reading James 1:5, which states: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep asking God.” The conductor then asks the student, “How can we ask God for wisdom?” The student will likely agree that we should pray to God.
12. How would you use Psalm 139:2-4 to help a student to improve the quality of his prayers?
12 Teach your student how to pray. Reassure him that Jehovah wants to hear his heartfelt prayers. Explain that in our private prayers, we can really open our heart to Jehovah—expressing feelings that we might hesitate to share with any human. After all, Jehovah already knows our innermost thoughts. (Read Psalm 139:2-4.) We can also encourage our student to ask for God’s help to change wrong thinking and overcome bad habits. Suppose, for example, that someone who has been studying for some time is fond of a certain holiday with pagan origins. He knows it is wrong, but the truth is that he enjoys certain aspects of it. Encourage him to tell Jehovah precisely how he feels and to beg for help to love only what God loves.—Ps. 97:10.
13. (a) Why should we invite our students to attend the meetings as soon as possible? (b) How can we make a student feel more at home in the Kingdom Hall?
13 Invite your Bible student to attend the meetings as soon as possible. What your student hears and observes at Christian meetings can touch his heart and help him to progress. Show the video What Happens at a Kingdom Hall? and warmly invite him to accompany you. Offer to provide transportation if possible. It is a good idea to invite a variety of publishers to accompany you on the study. In that way, your student will get acquainted with others in the congregation, and he will likely feel more at home when he attends our meetings.
HELP THE STUDENT TO GROW SPIRITUALLY
14. What can motivate a student to grow spiritually?
14 Our goal is to help our Bible student to grow spiritually. (Eph. 4:13) When someone agrees to a study of the Bible, he may mainly be interested in how the study will benefit him personally. As his love for Jehovah grows, however, he will likely begin to think about how he can help others, including those who are already part of the congregation. (Matt. 22:37-39) When the time is right, do not hold back from mentioning the privilege of supporting the Kingdom work financially.
15. How can we help a Bible student to respond well when problems arise?
15 Teach your Bible student what to do when problems arise. Suppose, for example, that your student, an unbaptized publisher, tells you that he has been offended by someone in the congregation. Rather than take sides, why not explain what his Scriptural options are? He can either forgive the brother or, if he cannot let the matter go, approach the person kindly and lovingly with the goal of ‘gaining the brother.’ (Compare Matthew 18:15.) Help your student to prepare what he is going to say. Show him how to use the JW Library® app, the Research Guide for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and jw.org® to learn practical ways to deal with the situation. The more training he receives before he gets baptized, the better he will get along with others in the congregation afterward.
16. What advantages do you see in inviting another publisher to sit in on the study?
16 Invite others from the congregation—and the circuit overseer when he visits the congregation—to sit in on the study. Why? In addition to the reasons mentioned earlier, other publishers may be able to give your student help that you are not in the best position to provide. Suppose, for example, that the student has tried to quit smoking but has failed several times. Invite a Witness who overcame the habit, perhaps after experiencing several setbacks, to join you on the study. Your fellow Witness may be able to provide practical advice that the student needs to hear. If you are not comfortable conducting the study in the presence of an experienced brother, invite him to conduct the study on that occasion. In any event, take advantage of the experience of others. Remember, our goal is to help the student to grow spiritually.
SHOULD I STOP THE STUDY?
17-18. What should you consider when deciding whether you should stop a study?
17 If your Bible student is not making steady progress, at some point you will have to ask yourself, ‘Should I stop the study?’ In analyzing the situation, you should consider the person’s aptitude. It takes longer for some people to progress than it does others. Ask yourself: ‘Is my student progressing at a reasonable pace for his situation?’ ‘Is he beginning “to observe,” or apply, the things he is learning?’ (Matt. 28:20) A student may progress slowly, but he should grow at a steady pace.
18 What, though, if someone who has studied for some time gives little or no indication that he appreciates the study? Consider this scenario: Your student has completed a study of the Teach Us book and has perhaps even started the Remain in God’s Love book, but he has not yet attended a single congregation meeting—not even the Memorial! And he often cancels the study for trivial reasons. In such a case, you would do well to have a frank talk with the student.b
19. What might you say to someone who does not seem to appreciate his Bible study, and what will you need to consider?
19 You might begin by asking him, ‘What do you think will be your biggest challenge in becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?’ The student might answer, ‘I do not mind studying the Bible, but I will never become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses!’ If that is his attitude after he has studied for some time, is there any point in continuing the study? On the other hand, your student may for the first time reveal what is holding him back. For example, he may feel that he could never preach from house to house. Now, knowing how he feels, you will be in a better position to help him.
20. How can understanding Acts 13:48 help us to discern whether to continue conducting a study or not?
20 Sad to say, some students are like the Israelites of Ezekiel’s day. Of them, Jehovah told Ezekiel: “Look! You are to them like a romantic love song, sung with a beautiful voice and skillfully played on a stringed instrument. They will hear your words, but no one will act on them.” (Ezek. 33:32) We may find it hard to tell a person that we will stop studying with him. However, “the time left is reduced.” (1 Cor. 7:29) Rather than spend more time conducting an unproductive study, we need to find someone who gives evidence that he is “rightly disposed for everlasting life.”—Read Acts 13:48.
21. What is our yeartext for 2020, and why is it appropriate?
21 During 2020, our yeartext will help us to focus on improving the quality of our disciple-making work. It features some of the words Jesus spoke during that momentous meeting on a mountain in Galilee: “Go, therefore, and make disciples . . . , baptizing them.”—Matt. 28:19.
SONG 70 Search Out Deserving Ones
a Our yeartext for 2020 encourages us to “make disciples.” That command applies to all of Jehovah’s servants. How can we reach the hearts of our Bible students so that they become disciples of Christ? This article will show how we can help our Bible students to draw closer to Jehovah. We will also consider how to decide whether we should continue the study or not.
b Watch the video Discontinuing Unproductive Bible Studies on JW Broadcasting®.