1972 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Teen-agers are often quite ready to express their opinions on any subject as to the right or wrong of the matter under discussion. When they get older, having had more experience in life, they are usually a little more hesitant to express themselves. They come to realize that there is much that can be learned if one listens and reasons things out. (Jas. 1:19) When they apply the knowledge gained, putting it to work in a beneficial way, they show that they have wisdom. But the progress one makes in acquiring such wisdom is greatly influenced by one’s choice of associates. Solomon, a wise man, wrote: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Prov. 13:20) Do you associate with “wise persons”?
The dictionary defines “wise” as meaning “discerning and judging soundly concerning what is true or false, proper or improper.” To be able to do that, a person must have a broad knowledge of God’s Word, which shows what is right and what is wrong from the viewpoint of man’s Creator, and he must have depth of understanding in applying it to the problems of life. (Deut. 4:5, 6) Is the kind of people with whom you associate wise? The apostle Paul wisely counseled the young man Timothy: “Flee from the desires incidental to youth, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22) Heeding that advice is absolutely necessary if a person really wants to benefit himself and other people and, above all, if he wants to please God.
James, a half brother of Jesus, gave excellent counsel to Christians. He helps us to appreciate the difference between the true wisdom and the false. In his divinely inspired letter to Christians, James asks the question: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” He answers his own question, saying: “Let him show out of his fine conduct his works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom.” (Jas. 3:13) Or, as The New English Bible puts it: “Let his right conduct give practical proof of it, with the modesty that comes of wisdom.” Remember, true wisdom has to do with knowing and doing what is right, discerning between truth and error. God’s Word tells us that the “fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom,” and “the fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad.” (Prov. 9:10; 8:13) Wisdom is not gained by doing bad things. A person gains true wisdom by hating that which is bad. “But if you have bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your hearts, do not be bragging and lying against the truth,” James counsels. “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is the earthly, animal, demonic. For where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are.” (Jas. 3:14-16) Which kind of wisdom do you see among your associates? If you are associated with a religious organization, what kind of wisdom does it manifest? What about you personally?—Matt. 7:15-18.
TRUE CHRISTIANS REFLECT “THE WISDOM FROM ABOVE”
Among the millions of people who today claim to be Christians, are there many who give evidence of being guided by heavenly wisdom? There are many nations of Christendom that claim that all the people born in their countries are Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, and they are registered as such on their birth certificates. Do these people as they grow into adulthood show by their conduct that they are really Christians? James argues that “the wisdom from above is first of all chaste.” (Jas. 3:17) The first meaning of chaste is “innocent of unlawful sexual intercourse; virtuous.” It also means to be ‘pure in thought and to act modestly, free from the taint of the things that defile. To be chaste strictly implies that one refrains from all acts, thoughts, etc., that are not virtuous or in keeping with one’s marriage vows. It also implies avoidance of anything that would debase or cheapen, as in style, etc.’—Heb. 13:4.
Most of those claiming to be Christians certainly do not fit that description, because they choose to go along with what is called a “new morality.” Even the religious clergy who baptized these people into their denominations speak favorably of this “new morality,” which allows for adultery, fornication and homosexuality, and which gives rise to jealousy and every vile thing among those who practice it. Can all these people be called Christians? “Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) That is what God’s Word says, and still there is no effort being made on the part of the clergy of Christendom to cleanse their churches of people who practice these things. If the older men or elders of the congregations of Christendom’s religious system cleaned out of their houses that which is bad, there would not be much of an organization left.—Matt. 23:27, 28.
The clergy of Christendom have certainly not shown that they are governed by “the wisdom from above.” Instead, they ‘lie against the truth’ of God’s Word by saying that chasteness is not always necessary in order to please God. “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion, which includes Christendom, is well described by the apostle John in the Revelation. There he reports an angel of God as saying: “‘Come here, I will show you the sentence of the great prostitute seated on a great water, with whom the kings of the earth debauched themselves and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her unchaste embraces’; and he carried me away to a desert in the spirit. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast full of names of blasphemy, with seven heads and ten horns; and the woman was clad in purple and scarlet and jeweled with gold and precious stones and pearls, with a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and the filth of her prostitution, and written on her forehead a name with a secret meaning, ‘Great Babylon, mother of the prostitutes and abominations of the earth.’ And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of God’s people and with the blood of Jesus’s witnesses. And great was my wonder at seeing her.” (Rev. 17:1-6, Byington translation) Who are wise? Are those who make up Christendom?
James takes wisdom’s quality farther than chasteness and says: “The wisdom from above is . . . peaceable, reasonable.” Is Christendom “peaceable”? Do its members in everyday life show that they are “reasonable”? The clergy of all of its religious denominations have taken sides in war, World Wars I and II and all the wars of the nations since then, and history is filled with details of Christendom’s religious wars and crusades. The persons who claim to be members of Christendom’s churches are not notably peaceable and reasonable among themselves either. All one needs to do is to read the daily paper to see the contentiousness in families, between students and teachers, and between employers and employees. Look at the cities. Are the administrators and the people peaceable? Christendom claims to believe the Bible’s counsel on peace and to follow the “Prince of Peace.” But does its record support its claims?
Paul, in writing to the Philippians, said that Christians should be doing “nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” (Phil. 2:3, 4) How many rulers of the nations, how many heads of organizations, or how many people themselves, are handling matters in the way that God’s Word says Christians should? Not many, are there?
Another thing James said to Christians: “The wisdom from above is . . . ready to obey.” How many so-called Christians are ready to turn to the Word of God and obey what it says in regard to conduct? How many people truly hate what is bad? Do you? James goes on to say that we must be “full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.” But does that description fit Christendom? If you are a church member, does it fit your church? Mercy and goodness are notably lacking in the world. Partiality and discrimination are found everywhere. Church members themselves are among the first to admit that Christendom is full of hypocrites. Is that the kind of person that you want to be? If not, it is vital for you to heed the Bible’s urgent command: “‘Get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah.” (2 Cor. 6:17, 18) Concerning the action to take toward the entire world empire of false religion, God’s Word urges: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4) If it is your sincere desire to be well pleasing to your Creator, you will do that without delay. If you want to enjoy the benefits that come from being a “wise and understanding” person, you must make sure that you are “walking with wise persons,” those who manifest the “wisdom from above.”
There are such true Christians. Christendom’s failure has not made them give up and say: “What is the use? Why even try to be a Christian?” Because they look to God for wisdom they have a real hope. They look forward with confidence to the fulfillment of the prayer Jesus Christ taught his followers: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:10) They know that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” But they also know that “the Son of God has come, and he has given us intellectual capacity that we may gain the knowledge of the true one. And we are in union with the true one, by means of his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 5:19, 20) There are hundreds of thousands of people on this earth who have gained that “knowledge of the true one” and who believe that He as “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Dan. 2:44) They firmly believe that by means of God’s kingdom this earth will soon be made a Paradise where lovers of righteousness will enjoy eternal life. Would you like to have that kind of faith and be able to “say among the nations, ‘Jehovah himself has become king’”?—Ps. 96:10.
WHO ARE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES?
A million and a half men and women are doing just that world wide today. They want to do the will of Jehovah God as he has set it forth in his written Word. They call themselves Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. (Isa. 43:10-12) Are they better than anyone else calling himself Christian? They all have the same first parents as anyone else, Adam and Eve. But they certainly have a different outlook on life than those in Christendom. They believe very deeply what God’s Word says and they know that the Bible sets out the pattern for man to follow. They have dedicated their lives to Jehovah God and have promised to do his will as stated in his written Word. They earnestly endeavor to show out of their fine conduct their works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom.
Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have a theocratic organization of more than 27,150 congregations that reach out to the ends of the earth. These congregations range in size from 25 to 200 or more persons. Each dedicated Witness fully appreciates that to be a member of such a congregation he must hate that which is bad and put into application “the wisdom from above.” He knows and agrees with the words of Jesus: “For he that practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, in order that his works may not be reproved. But he that does what is true comes to the light, in order that his works may be made manifest as having been worked in harmony with God.”—John 3:20, 21.
Jehovah’s witnesses are interested in other people. They believe and preach that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) They believe, too, that Jesus is the “light of the world,” that he was sent forth by God to save the world of mankind. Jesus Christ died upon the torture stake and poured out his blood, gave his life for the purchase or redemption of the entire human family. The provision for you to get life has already been made. But do you accept it? Jesus himself said: “Now this is the basis for judgment, that the light has come into the world but men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked.” He that prefers to practice vile things hates the light. Do you?—John 3:19.
True Christians are not afraid of the light. They carefully study the Word of God, from the first book, Genesis, to the last one, Revelation, and freely discuss it with others, so that they can be guided by its heavenly wisdom. They want to be in the light and live by the light of God’s Word. Is that true of you? If so, we urge you to attend the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses regularly. As you learn God’s Word, apply it. Thus show that you are truly “wise and understanding,” that your conduct reflects “a mildness that belongs to wisdom.”—Jas. 3:13.
APPOINTED ELDERS TO SHEPHERD THE FLOCK OF GOD
The theocratic organization of Jehovah’s witnesses does not have paid ministers in its congregations. From the congregation itself mature, spiritually qualified men are appointed as elders and overseers. (Titus 1:5, 7) These men are interested in the welfare of the entire flock under their care. The word “overseer” is the English translation of the Hebrew word pa·qidhʹ and the Greek word e·piʹsko·pos. The Hebrew word is drawn from a term that means “to visit, turn attention to, inspect,” also “to appoint or commission.” The Greek term is related to e·piʹsko·peʹo (oversight), and means to “look or watch over.” So, then, an overseer in a Christian congregation is one who is appointed to watch over the congregation, to visit and upbuild those associated with it. The Christian “overseers” correspond to those recognized as the “older men” of the congregations, all such appointed “older men” or elders having responsibility as overseers of the flock of God.
When the apostle Paul, returning from one of his missionary journeys, reached Miletus, he sent a message to Ephesus and “called for the elders of the congregation.” (Acts 20:17, margin) When these elders came to see Paul, he reminded them of how he had expended himself on their behalf and he urged them to do the same for all the flock entrusted to their care. He said: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. . . . Nevertheless, I do not make my soul of any account as dear to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received of the Lord Jesus, to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God. And now, look! I know that all of you among whom I went preaching the kingdom will see my face no more. . . . I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God. Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.” (Acts 20:16-28) Paul took his work very seriously and he wanted to impress his fellow elders with the seriousness of their responsibility before God as overseers of the flock.
Be it noted that no elder was viewed as the principal one, the head of the congregation. That position has been given by God to his own Son, Jesus Christ. (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18) The elders as a body served under Christ. They were a group of equals as far as their responsibility was concerned. Paul spoke to them as a “body of elders”; all were required to set the same excellent example for the congregation. (1 Tim. 4:14, margin) How did these men qualify to be elders in the congregation of Ephesus? Surely there must be some organization, some order, some guidance of God’s flock. But why were these particular men appointed to be the shepherds?
DEFINITE QUALIFICATIONS NEEDED
For details on qualifications we can turn to the first letter that Paul wrote to Timothy. In the third chapter there is a description of what an overseer or elder must be. These requirements are not to be taken lightly. God’s blessing can be expected only when his Word is followed closely.—1 John 3:22.
It was a perfectly proper thing for any man in the Christian congregation of God to ‘reach out for the office of overseer,’ to endeavor to meet the standard required, because this showed that he was very desirous of a fine work. However, before a Christian man could be recommended for this office he would certainly have to “show out of his fine conduct his works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom,” as James pointed out. (Jas. 3:13) He has to be a man who hates what is bad. Otherwise he will not have the “fear of Jehovah,” which is “the start of wisdom.” (Prov. 9:10; 8:13) Basically, if a man is to qualify for appointment as an elder, he must consistently adhere to the highest moral standard. As we learned earlier in this book, the wisdom from above is first of all “chaste.” So the morals of an elder have to be correct and in full harmony with the Word of God. Paul, in writing to the young man Timothy in the third chapter, beginning with the second verse said: 1Ti 3:2 “The overseer should therefore be irreprehensible.” Irreprehensible means to be free from blame or reproach. His conduct, his dealings with people and his way of life cannot be the sort that can be called into question. He must be above reproach as to his conduct in the congregation, in his secular employment and everywhere else. He must be a man of the highest moral standards.—2 Cor. 6:3, 4.
The overseer, if married, should be “a husband of one wife.” Local customs do not alter this requirement. He cannot be a polygamist and have two or more wives.—Matt. 19:3-9.
The man who qualifies to be an overseer should also be “moderate in habits,” not a person who goes to extremes. He should have a balanced view of his responsibilities as a Christian and carry them out in a way that wins the respect of fellow Christians.
The next qualification mentioned is that he should be “sound in mind.” His viewpoint should always be governed by God’s Word. This would enable him to be balanced in his thinking. He would know what is proper and what is improper, true or false, as based on the Scriptures. So he needs to be well versed in the Word of God.—Rom. 12:2; Ps. 19:7.
He must likewise be “orderly.” This implies that he should be punctual. The meetings he conducts should be well thought out, and he should keep good order, recognizing only one person at a time to speak if there are comments to be made by members of the congregation. (1 Cor. 14:26-33) Whatever records are to be kept should be neat and well arranged. Orderliness includes something else too. It requires that he recognize theocratic order, that he appreciate the need for submission to Christ, the head of the congregation, and that he see his own position in relation to the flock, as a shepherd fully accountable to God.—1 Cor. 11:3; Jer. 23:1-4.
The overseer is also to be “hospitable.” He is to welcome strangers, making them feel glad that they have come. He ought to show that he is very happy to see those that he has known for a longer period of time too. With that in view, he would certainly display the fruitage of righteousness and be peaceful with all, young and old, in the congregation.—Heb. 13:1, 2.
“QUALIFIED TO TEACH”
A particularly important qualification of elders is that they be “qualified to teach.” (1 Tim. 3:2) A man must be spiritually minded to do this among Christians. Experience and years in the truth will help here. Breadth and depth of Bible knowledge are needed, and this is acquired by regular attendance at congregation meetings and diligent personal study over a period of years. An elder certainly should be able to read, for he would want to turn to God’s Word and be able to say, ‘Thus it is written.’ More than that, he should be able to apply what he reads, and convey to others the right ideas clearly and quickly. Teaching is an art.
Other men besides the appointed elders in the congregation will surely be mature Christians, zealous in the ministry and exemplary in conduct. But the elders must be qualified as teachers. This does not mean that they simply share in teaching the Bible to newly interested persons. It involves more than that. The elders are the ones that fellow Christians look to as teachers of God’s Word. They should be able to get up in front of the congregation and impart instruction from the Scriptures that will upbuild those who are already believers. They must have an accurate knowledge of the truth so that, when presiding at meetings of the congregation, they will know whether the comments given by others are correct and so can help the congregation to come to a proper understanding of matters. If they qualify as elders, they should have a clear grasp of the truth so that they are able, not only to “tell” others what is right, but also to reason on it with them and help them to understand it.—Eph. 4:11, 12.
When writing to Titus regarding the appointing of “older men,” Paul specified that, to qualify, a man should be “holding firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching.” (Titus 1:5, 9) He should not be one who is inclined to rely on his own opinion. As Paul advised Timothy, he should stick to God’s Word when speaking to the congregation; he should “preach the word.”—2 Tim. 4:2.
Being a teacher in the congregation of God is a great privilege, but it is also a serious responsibility. (Jas. 3:1) Those who are ‘reaching out for the office of overseer’ do well to work diligently to qualify in this respect. And those who do qualify should be glad to use this “gift” for the upbuilding of the congregation, not fearfully holding back, but relying on Jehovah for his guidance and blessing. (Rom. 12:6-8) As they humbly continue to look to Jehovah for direction, they will be aided to do the work in a way that will bring glory to God and blessing to those who love him.
If a man is to be an effective teacher, he must conduct himself in a manner that will not close the minds and hearts of those he is trying to assist. Understandably, then, it is required of one who is appointed to be an elder that he be “not a drunken brawler, not a smiter, but reasonable, not belligerent.” (1 Tim. 3:3) He should not be given to much wine. He should always have control of his senses and his powers of reason, never getting intoxicated. He must not be the kind of person who tries to settle things with his fist. Nor should he be one who constantly shouts at people, or repays unkindnesses with harsh remarks or refuses to talk to his brother who may have offended him. (Rom. 12:17, 18) On occasion, something may happen that irritates him, but, as is true of all Christians, he ought to have self-control, which is a fruit of God’s spirit. He must be approachable, not self-willed, but willing to listen to others and not be taking offense when someone offers him a suggestion for improvement in the way things are being done. From experience, and from the Bible, he may know that certain suggestions are not sound, but that is no reason to be impatient with a brother who is trying to be helpful. Remember, the disciple James said that “the wisdom from above is . . . reasonable.” One who is not belligerent but is reasonable helps to promote a peaceful atmosphere. And as James pointed out, “the fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions for those who are making peace.”—Jas. 3:18.
Appreciating what the Bible says about the relative value of material things, a mature Christian would not be a “lover of money.” He would never engage in dishonest business practices to get money. Nor would he allow even honest secular work to push his ministry into a secondary place. Overseers among Jehovah’s witnesses do not expect a salary to be paid for their services on behalf of the sheep in the congregation. The apostle Paul, himself an elder, did not expect the congregations to pay him for what he was doing. He used to make his own living by making tents. In this way he was never a burden on the congregation, but rather found pleasure in giving of himself on their behalf. (Acts 20:33, 34) He gave freely of his services and was not under obligation to anyone in this way. “Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things,” wrote the apostle Paul at Hebrews 13:5.
OVERSEERS ARE “OLDER MEN”
An elder, if a father, should be “a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner, having children in subjection with all seriousness.” This shows that he would be an orderly person and would have the respect of all the children living in his home and that they would listen to him and obey him. If a man cares well for his responsibilities at home he is in position to help others to learn what the Bible says about these matters. He can speak freely, and will not be inclined to water down Scriptural counsel because of a troubled conscience on his own part. (1 Tim. 3:12, 13) But, Paul adds, “if a man does not know how to control his own family how can he look after a congregation of God’s people?” (1 Tim. 3:4, 5, NEB) Taking care of a congregation of God’s people that may have from 25 to 200 persons in it is a very weighty responsibility. The Bible shows that the homelife of a man must be taken into consideration when one is determining whether he qualifies to be an elder.
If a father has children who are in subjection to him, he will not be a teen-ager himself. No specific age requirement is stated in the Bible, but in view of the requirement that their own children be in subjection with all seriousness (they being old enough to manifest such seriousness), it may be assumed that elders among the first-century Christians were not merely eighteen or nineteen years of age; they had experience in life and had demonstrated that they were “wise and understanding” men. They are referred to as “older men.” Timothy himself, to whom Paul was writing, may have been in his early twenties when “he was well reported on by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium.” (Acts 16:2) But Timothy may have been in his thirties when he was told: “Never lay your hands hastily upon any man; neither be a sharer in the sins of others; preserve yourself chaste.” (1 Tim. 5:22) Timothy by this time was fully capable of handling these weighty responsibilities and was showing wisdom in committing to other faithful men that which he had learned so that they were adequately qualified to teach others. While youth may often think they know all of the answers, it takes time, experience, living with people, to gain wisdom.
As is true of those who are young in a physical sense, so too a person who has only recently become a dedicated and baptized Christian has a need to gain experience. It takes time to get sufficient knowledge and experience in applying Bible principles so that one is “qualified to teach” these things to fellow Christians. Therefore, an overseer cannot be a “newly converted man.” Paul gives a very good reason why a “newly converted man” does not qualify as an elder. He says, “for fear that he might get puffed up with pride and fall into the judgment passed upon the Devil.”—1 Tim. 3:6.
If a newly baptized Christian received a responsible position in the congregation, it might go to his head, as the saying is. It is much better to let the person grow steadily to maturity. A person needs to mature in his knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. He must become wise and understanding and “show out of his fine conduct his works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom.” Then after some time he might qualify to be a ministerial servant and, after that, strive to be an elder in the congregation.
There is another matter that deserves consideration, as Paul admonished Timothy. One would expect that a Christian would deal kindly with fellow Christians and show love toward them. But for a person to be an overseer in a congregation of God’s people, “he should also have a fine testimony from people on the outside, in order that he might not fall into reproach and a snare of the Devil.” Christians are bound to have association with non-Christians. That is a necessary part of their life, because they must preach the good news of the Kingdom everywhere, to all kinds of people. These people on the outside form opinions of Jehovah’s witnesses, and they talk about them after these Christians visit their homes to try to help them. Interested people are also invited to the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s witnesses and they have association there with the overseers and other members of the congregation. What is the opinion of these people concerning one who is an overseer of Jehovah’s witnesses? “He must moreover have a good reputation with the non-Christian public, so that he may not be exposed to scandal and get caught in the devil’s snare.” (1 Tim. 3:7, NEB) He should practice in his daily life the things that he teaches others to do. The people for whom he works and with whom he works should see his honesty, his punctuality, his willingness to give his employer a full day’s work, not being a loafer. He ought to show kindness to his neighbors, and his moral behavior must be above question. All of these things have a bearing on whether he qualifies to be an overseer in the congregation of God or not.—1 Pet. 2:12; Dan. 6:4, 5.
The standard to be met by those appointed to be elders is a high one, but it is not unreachable. It requires genuine love for Jehovah and a willingness to be used by him. The apostle Peter, when writing to elders in the first-century congregation, said: “Therefore, to the older men among you I give this exhortation, for I too am an older man with them and a witness of the sufferings of the Christ, a sharer even of the glory that is to be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God in your care, not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:1-3) One thing Peter emphasizes is, do not take on this responsibility under anyone’s compulsion but do it willingly. There is no glory to the position of a shepherd; rather, it involves much time and work. Do not accept this position for the love of personal gain, but, rather, as The New English Bible puts it, “out of sheer devotion.”—1 Pet. 5:2, 3.
ABLE BOTH TO EXHORT AND TO REPROVE
In the inspired letter to Titus another important qualification of overseers is mentioned. It involves teaching, but it is a special aspect of it. The scripture says: “An overseer must be . . . holding firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching, that he may be able both to exhort by the teaching that is healthful and to reprove those who contradict.” (Titus 1:7-9) It usually is not difficult for a person who has a good knowledge of the truth to use the Bible to exhort his brothers, to encourage them to continued faithful service. But the responsibility of overseers does not stop there. When difficulties arise, they must also handle these. They must use the Scriptures “to reprove those who contradict” the truth. If you were appointed to be an elder, would you be willing to shoulder that responsibility?
When writing his second letter to Timothy, Paul emphasized the seriousness of this obligation that Timothy had as an overseer, saying: “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is destined to judge the living and the dead, and by his manifestation and his kingdom, preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season, reprove, reprimand, exhort, with all long-suffering and art of teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:1, 2) Would you refuse or hold back from giving a reproof or reprimand when needed, or would you turn to God’s Word and use it to help your brother to straighten out his thinking and bring his conduct back into line with what is written there? To be an elder you must be willing to administer needed reproof. What you do may not in every case be appreciated by the wrongdoer, but some will be grateful. “The commandment is a lamp, and a light the law is, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” (Prov. 6:23) Even though it might at times be difficult, would you take the initiative to administer “the reproofs of discipline” in order to help someone to stay on “the way of life”? It is indeed a blessing to the congregation that there are men who are willing to accept that responsibility.—2 Tim. 2:24-26.
Overseers must also have the fortitude to do something publicly when necessary. Paul admonished Timothy: “Reprove before all onlookers persons who practice sin, that the rest also may have fear.” (1 Tim. 5:20) Sometimes individuals in a congregation of God will refuse reproof. Would you be afraid then that this might happen: “A man repeatedly reproved but making his neck hard will suddenly be broken, and that without healing”? (Prov. 29:1) Another translation puts it this way: “A man who is still stubborn after much reproof will suddenly be broken past mending.” Could you go that far, out of concern for the spiritual condition of the congregation as a whole, or would you ignore the individual’s stubbornness and close your eyes from the very beginning to his wrongdoing? An overseer must be “able both to exhort by the teaching that is healthful and to reprove those who contradict.”—Titus 1:9.
Paul was moved by the spirit of God to write in advance that there would be persons who claimed to be Christians but who wanted to serve God in their own way, not according to the Scriptures. He said: “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.” (2 Tim. 4:3, 4) For an overseer there is no room for compromise. If he really loves the congregation and is determined to help them, he must show fortitude and speak truth and righteousness. The congregation needs “healthful teaching.” Would you as an elder, along with other elders in your congregation, be watchful enough to follow the advice of Paul wherein he writes: “As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned”? Paul’s further words on this mater are: “But now I am writing you to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. . . . Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”—Titus 3:10; 1 Cor. 5:11, 13.
There is no question about it, problems will arise in a congregation. All kinds of people will associate with the congregation and become Christians. But not all of them will remain Christians, and some will even try to subvert the faith of others and entice them into bad conduct. As Paul said: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” That was not pleasant to think about, but Paul expected trouble to come within the congregation of God back there. It did. Why should we think it to be any different today when there is so much turmoil in the world and people from all nations and tongues, with different ideas of life, are fleeing from “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion, and are seeking refuge in Jehovah’s theocratic organization? That is why it is so necessary to appoint elders in the congregation to shepherd the flock of God allotted to them and to keep the congregation clean. A true shepherd will protect the flock against wolfish elements.—Acts 20:29, 30.
The one dedicated to Jehovah God realizes that he is born in sin and shaped in iniquity. Everyone is going to make mistakes sometime. So, when an overseer in the congregation tries to help any of us to correct something that we may be doing that is wrong, we ought to appreciate why he is doing it. Jehovah does not want to see any of his sheep go astray. That is why we have the admonition: “My son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, neither give out when you are corrected by him; for whom Jehovah loves he disciplines; in fact, he scourges every one whom he receives as a son.” (Heb. 12:5, 6) Anyone who endures the discipline that he receives through Jehovah’s organization will certainly have proof that God is dealing with him. “For what son is he that a father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7) As was true in olden times when God dealt with the Jewish nation, so today God uses “the older men” among his people to administer discipline. (Deut. 22:18) Do you respond appreciatively to the discipline that comes from those who as elders shepherd the flock of God?—Prov. 8:33; 12:1-3; Heb. 12:11.
LOVING CONCERN FOR THE FLOCK
Outstanding in the life of any true Christian must be love for fellow Christians. This is not merely a matter of being pleasant in greeting other people. Love is unselfish concern that moves one to put the welfare of others ahead of one’s own interests, actively working for their good. The Lord Jesus said to his true followers: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” And he added: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you.” (John 13:35; 15:12) Is this quality dominant in the congregation with which you assemble for worship? Is it manifest in your own life? Elders must be exemplary in demonstrating such love for others in the congregation.
Paul in writing to the Philippian congregation addressed the letter to “all the holy ones in union with Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, along with overseers and ministerial servants.” He said to them: “This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment; that you may make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ, and may be filled with righteous fruit, which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.” Later, in the same letter, he added: “Make my joy full in that you are of the same mind and have the same love, being joined together in soul, holding the one thought in mind, doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism.” (Phil. 1:1, 9-11; 2:2-4) Love is the principal thing, for God is love and we must remember that we were made in his image.
Jehovah gave attention to sinful mankind because he loves his creation. “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love. By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him. The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins. Beloved ones, if this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.” (1 John 4:8-11) God did not stop loving mankind when sin made its appearance. And elders must not stop loving the flock when problems arise. At Galatians 6:1, 2, this counsel is given: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted. Go on carrying the burdens of one another, and thus fulfill the law of the Christ.”
Sometimes it is the wrongdoer who himself takes the initiative to get help. He may go to an overseer to make confession of his wrong. His desire to change his ways is commendable. “He that is covering over his transgressions will not succeed, but he that is confessing and leaving them will be shown mercy.” (Prov. 28:13) An overseer having love for his flock will take the time to hear one’s transgression and he will use the Bible to help the person to correct his thinking and his conduct. When anyone confesses his faults and gives them up, that is what an elder wants to see. In other words, the person is converted, he turns around from his wrongdoing and goes the right way. So, in harmony with Proverbs 28:13, the elder would be in a position to show mercy. It may be, though, that the elder will want the transgressor to see him every month so as to be sure he is making straight paths for his feet. A loving overseer will give that extra attention to those in the flock.
An elder must believe God’s Word. All of it! He must use it as his guide and he must show love to the brothers, the sheep allotted to him, appreciating that they are God’s sheep. Even when the elders exhort, admonish, encourage, reprove and discipline they are showing love because they are trying to help their brothers to take the right course in life. Does your congregation have such elders looking after you?
Paul certainly knew what it meant to be an overseer, an elder. He had deep love for the congregations. “Besides those things of an external kind, there is what rushes in on me from day to day, the anxiety for all the congregations,” he wrote. (2 Cor. 11:28) With loving concern Paul admonished the body of elders from Ephesus: “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.”—Acts 20:28.
It is absolutely necessary for all the overseers to keep awake and to work hard on behalf of everyone in the congregation, and they are glad to do so. Their experience is in accord with what is stated at Acts 20:35: “By thus laboring you must assist those who are weak, and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’”
APPOINTMENT OF ELDERS
Who is it that makes the appointment of elders? Acts chapter 14, verse 23, reports in connection with a missionary trip of Paul and Barnabas: “They appointed older men for them in [each] congregation and, offering prayer with fastings, they committed them to Jehovah in whom they had become believers.” There was no election held in the congregation. The appointments were made by Paul and Barnabas, representative members of the governing body. Similarly, Timothy and Titus evidently made such appointments according to instructions from Paul. (1 Tim. 5:22; Titus 1:5) Today, when there are congregations scattered throughout the earth, it is the older men in those congregations who, after giving the matter prayerful consideration, make recommendations to the governing body at headquarters as to others who measure up to the Scriptural qualifications, sending such recommendations to the branch office of the Watch Tower Society. The governing body then makes the appointments. But this is not done according to some standard that they have set up. It is done in accord with what is set out in God’s inspired Word, so it can truthfully be said to these elders or overseers: “The holy spirit has appointed you overseers.”—Acts 20:28.
Some congregations may have more elders than others. The Bible stipulates no specific number. (Phil. 1:1) But it does go into considerable detail as to the qualifications of those who are to be appointed as elders, and it is important to adhere to this God-given standard. Year by year, about September 1, it would be proper for the elders in the congregations to consider whether any others in the congregation now fit the Bible’s description of those who qualify to be elders. If any do, they may be recommended to the governing body for appointment, and, when appointed, they may begin to share with all the other elders the responsibility for shepherding the flock in that congregation. As long as they continue to measure up to the Bible’s requirements, they will continue to be elders in that congregation. However, if they were to move to another congregation, they would not, as newcomers in that area and as persons virtually unknown to the congregation, be viewed as elders or overseers by the ones associated there. They would have to establish their spiritual qualifications by their Christian activity there, and, in time, the local elders would no doubt recommend such ones for appointment as elders in that congregation. Of course, if an elder were ever to engage in unchristian conduct of such a nature that he was disfellowshiped or was put on probation, then notification would be made to the governing body and he would be removed as an elder, since he obviously would not be a good example to the flock. However, if he were simply unable to do some of the work of an overseer, because of sickness or old age, this would not cancel his appointment as an elder.
The elders have certain official assignments in the congregation to fill. If there are enough elders, they should be appointed to be congregation servant, assistant congregation servant, Bible study servant, Watchtower study servant and Theocratic Ministry School servant. Where possible, they should also be the congregation book study conductors and the public speakers, because these are teachers. If there are only two or three elders, they would always be appointed to the first three positions listed above. One of them may be filling two positions if there are only two elders. Usually the three different elders filling these positions constitute a judicial committee in the congregation. (1 Cor. 5:12, 13; 6:1-4) However, it would also be most advantageous for those who are elders to preside at all the congregation meetings, where that is possible. Even where there is just one elder in the congregation, it would be beneficial for him to preside at the Watchtower study, the service meeting and the Theocratic Ministry School, as well as a congregation book study, if he is willing and able to do so. Others can be asked to assist with organizational details, preparing schedules and caring for field service arrangements, but the elder is one who is “qualified to teach,” so, where there is an elder of the congregation regularly present at a meeting, it would be most beneficial to the congregation for him to be the one appointed to preside. Of course, it is understood that there may be some cases in which, due to sickness or advanced age, this is not possible.
The chairmanship of the body of elders rotates. So, each year on October 1, if there is more than one elder in the congregation, a new congregation servant, or chairman of the body of elders, will take up his work. Usually, that new congregation servant will be the man who was the assistant congregation servant during the preceding year. There will also be a shifting of those assigned to the other principal positions occupied by elders. In view of this, when the “older men” in a congregation recommend someone to be an elder they should have in mind that in time he will be called on to care for all these various assignments. Is he capable of doing so? Is he willing to do so?
When appointments of elders are made by the governing body, the entire congregation should be notified. Everyone associated with the congregation should know who the elders are, so they can benefit fully from their services. The elders are not bosses; they are not appointed to lord it over anyone. They are to be loving shepherds, examples to the flock, willing servants to their Christian brothers. (Matt. 20:25-28; 1 Pet. 5:1-3) They need to make themselves available to those who need help, being approachable, willing to listen when problems arise and giving loving encouragement to all.
ASSISTANCE FROM MINISTERIAL SERVANTS
But suppose a congregation does not have a sufficient number of brothers who qualify as elders to fill all of the principal positions on the servant body in the congregation. Or, even if the elders are able to take on more than one position, they may need help in caring for some of the details of the work. What then? The Bible provides for ministerial servants, di·aʹko·noi.
The qualifications to be met by such ministerial servants provide a safeguard against any legitimate accusation’s being made concerning the congregation as to the men to whom it entrusts responsibility. Those qualifications, set out in 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12, 13, are as follows: “Ministerial servants should likewise be serious, not double-tongued, not giving themselves to a lot of wine, not greedy of dishonest gain, holding the sacred secret of the faith with a clean conscience. Also, let these be tested as to fitness first, then let them serve as ministers, as they are free from accusation. Let ministerial servants be husbands of one wife, presiding in a fine manner over children and their own households. For the men who minister in a fine manner are acquiring for themselves a fine standing and great freeness of speech in the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.”
While no specific age requirement is stipulated, it is obvious that these ministerial servants were to be grown men, old enough to be married and have children. They were not to be novices in the congregation, but persons who had been “tested as to fitness.” Before being appointed as ministerial servants it would be beneficial if they had been dedicated and baptized for at least some time that would allow for their fitness to be tested. It is not required that they be “qualified to teach” in the congregation. The Scriptural qualifications show that they were not meant to be assigned as shepherds and teachers of the flock. They should certainly be zealous in the ministry, active in the work that Jesus assigned to his disciples, namely, preaching the Kingdom message and making disciples. But, in addition to this, the requirements set out in the Scriptures show that those who are ministerial servants must be exemplary in their private lives and in their relations with others. So, before anyone is recommended to the governing body for appointment as a ministerial servant careful consideration should be given to each of those Scriptural requirements; none should be ignored or treated as of little importance.
As is true when anyone becomes an elder in the congregation, the ones who are already elders make recommendations to the governing body of those who qualify to be ministerial servants. Appointment is then made by the governing body. (Acts 6:3-6) There is no set number of persons who may be ministerial servants in a congregation. (Phil. 1:1) Each year, about September 1, it would be appropriate for the elders to consider whether there are any more in the congregation who ought to be recommended for such service, and such recommendation can be made to the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses. Those thus appointed will continue to serve as long as they meet the Scriptural requirements, just the same as is true of elders. However, it is a good thing for these ministerial servants to do as suggested at 1 Timothy 3:1, that is, ‘reach out for the office of overseer.’ And, of course, when a person is appointed to be an elder, an overseer, he is no longer a ministerial servant, though he may continue to care for some of the same work that he did previously.
DUTIES OF MINISTERIAL SERVANTS
There is much work that ministerial servants can do in a congregation. In the first century, in the Jerusalem congregation, we have an example of work such as might be done by ministerial servants. The distribution of food supplies to needy widows in the congregation, while not as important as “the ministry of the word,” was classed as “necessary business.” Apparently there was much to be done, because it was not all assigned to one person but to “seven certified men.”—Acts 6:1-6.
In the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses today, there is likewise much “necessary business” that does not directly involve “the ministry of the word.” This includes caring for literature supplies, assigning territory for preaching, and caring for congregation accounts. There is necessary work to be done in caring for the upkeep of the Kingdom Hall, cleaning it each week, arranging the chairs, caring for ventilation, operating the sound equipment in larger halls, keeping a record of attendance, welcoming newcomers and introducing them to the elders of the congregation. In some congregations there may be enough ministerial servants so that a different one can be assigned to each of these duties. Elsewhere, someone may care for several of these assignments. In some instances, it may be beneficial to have more than one person assigned to share in certain work. Some of the elders may have records that come under their supervision, but, if there are ministerial servants available, they can be assigned to help in caring for these, in order to free the elders for the more important shepherding work. The ministerial servants may also help in assigning territory to be worked when groups of publishers meet for public preaching work. While the ministerial servants are officially appointed by the governing body, the local “body of elders” may assign them the specific work that they will do on behalf of the congregation. And, just as the elders are rotated to different assignments each year, so the elders can arrange for the ministerial servants to take on different assignments of work each year, to the extent that this proves to be practical. What a fine privilege it is to be able to serve one’s brothers as these ministerial servants do!
The situation may arise, in locations where there is a very rapid growth in the congregations, that there just are not enough elders to do all the teaching and shepherding work that is required. In a certain locality where all are quite new in the service of God, there may not even be one elder. Yet they can certainly have regular meetings for study and share in preaching to others, and, in time, no doubt someone in their midst will qualify as an elder. In a congregation where there are some elders, there may not be enough to care for all the congregation book studies. It may be beneficial to have larger groups in some cases; elsewhere an elder may be able to preside at more than one such study, doing so at different times during the week. But, where necessary, ministerial servants may help out by caring for some of these study groups until there are elders available. Similarly, due to local circumstances, a ministerial servant may be asked to care temporarily for one of the five principal positions held by an elder. However, his being given such an assignment by local elders does not make him an elder. And if he was a temporary assistant congregation servant or Bible study servant, he would not be viewed as one of the congregation’s judicial committee. To handle such matters another elder from a nearby congregation would be invited to help out. Yet, with diligent effort, the one who is helping out with the work that would normally be done by an elder may himself in time qualify as one of the “older men” who are overseers of the flock.
It is good for all Christians to be progressive in their outlook. No one wants to remain an infant, either physically or spiritually. Early Hebrew Christians were admonished: “Now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity.” (Heb. 6:1) Timothy was told: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.” (1 Tim. 4:15) Are you making such advancement as a Christian? Is your devotion to Jehovah growing stronger? Are you progressing in development of the fruitage of the spirit? Are you widening out in your love for your Christian brothers? Are you endeavoring to conform your own life more fully to God’s Word? Because the organization of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses has endeavored to adhere closely to God’s Word, and to make adjustments where necessary to conform to it more closely, God’s spirit has obviously been upon it. Today, on an unprecedented scale, Jehovah’s witnesses in all parts of the earth are proclaiming God’s kingdom as the only hope of mankind. They are helping sincere persons to learn what the Bible teaches, to act in harmony with it, and thus to be truly “wise and understanding.” If you would like assistance so that you can learn and benefit fully from the good things contained in God’s Word, they will count it a pleasure to be of help to you too.
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES ARE PREACHING AND TEACHING
Jehovah’s witnesses are helping all kinds of people world wide; they are active in 207 different lands. Under the direction of ninety-three branch offices of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1,510,245 Christian men and women arranged to go from house to house or to declare the good news of God’s kingdom in some other way every month during the past year. This was 125,000 more Witnesses preaching and teaching from God’s Word than in the service year of 1970. However, before the year ended, the number grew to 1,590,793.
Because Jehovah’s witnesses are interested in helping others to a better understanding of the Bible and its meaning for mankind today they devoted 291,952,375 hours last year to talking about God’s Word. Is this not good evidence that they were truly trying to comfort people of all nations? Would not a careful study of God’s written Word help people to become “wise and understanding”? To accomplish this, every week throughout the year Jehovah’s witnesses conducted 1,257,904 free Bible studies in the homes of interested people. Do the members of the religious denomination to which you belong try to help people in this way? Not only do Jehovah’s witnesses preach from house to house and teach in private homes, but they leave Bible study helps wherever they can so that, if the listener does not have time to study when one of Jehovah’s witnesses calls on him, the person can read about the “good news” at his own convenience. During the year Jehovah’s witnesses distributed 18,168,032 bound books and Bibles, 10,590,176 booklets, 218,898,563 copies of The Watchtower and Awake! and obtained a total of 2,702,972 new subscriptions for these magazines.
So that you might appreciate more fully just what has been done by Jehovah’s witnesses in their ministry and where, we are reproducing herewith a chart setting out the 1971 service year report of Jehovah’s witnesses world wide. See pages 34-41.
Jehovah’s witnesses are not great in numbers when compared with the world’s population, but they do love Jehovah God and his Word the Bible. They believe what James wrote, in the fourth chapter, the fourth verse:Jas 4:4 “Do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” Think of that! Is it not true that all the nations of the world are in trouble? Can you not see that almost every man’s hand is against his neighbor, even in Christendom? Obviously, they do not manifest the spirit of God. Are you really different from them? Do you truly love God, and do you “love your neighbor as yourself”? If that is the kind of person you want to be, then, as the Bible says, you must ‘subject yourself to God, but oppose the Devil and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.’ (Jas. 4:7, 8) If you do this, you will come to enjoy the loving oversight that Jehovah provides for all the ‘flock of God.’
“DIVINE NAME” ASSEMBLIES CLIMAX THE YEAR
The outstanding, happy event for Jehovah’s witnesses during 1971 was the wonderful series of “Divine Name” District Assemblies. These have been held throughout the earth. As we all recall, the keynote speech was “Whose Name Do You Respect More—Your Own or God’s?” The entire convention program breathed respect for God’s name and his organization. Fine instruction on right conduct was presented. Greater love was urged upon all of us.
While our brothers spoke highly of the assemblies, this was also true of worldly men. In Austria a transportation official commented: “You are really fine people, people with high standards. Your members have had upbringing.” The vice-director of the Office of Tourism in Berne, Switzerland, said: “You are welcome to come back to our stadium at any time.” The manager of a stadium in Tokyo commented: “I wish you people would come more often. This is the only time the stadium really gets clean.” The conduct of Jehovah’s witnesses reflects their worship of the God of truth.
A discourse that really stirred the entire convention—and Jehovah’s witnesses have not stopped talking about it yet—was the one entitled “Theocratic Organization Amidst Democracies and Communism.” What was presented there as to “elders” shows the willingness of Jehovah’s slaves to readjust, when necessary, to conform more fully to the Bible. The closing comments enlarged on this subject, showing how the body of elders, overseers, all equals, will function in each congregation. As one brother remarked, this arrangement will make the internal structure of the organization much more firm so that, when the worldly system collapses, the love that the brothers have for one another will be strong. Another commented that the new arrangement will focus more attention on our principal overseers, Jehovah God and Christ Jesus.
In the English-speaking conventions all were overjoyed with the 1971 large-print revised edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures as well as the completed Aid to Bible Understanding. The releases at the convention, including Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook, Listening to the Great Teacher, and climaxed with the book “The Nations Shall Know that I Am Jehovah”—How?, were just beyond anyone’s imagination. How grateful all in attendance were for these fine publications! What a vivid description they contain of the destruction that is hanging over Christendom, and of the ‘marking work’ in which Jehovah’s witnesses today are sharing, as foretold in Ezekiel chapter nine.
We were all given much to think about during this five-day assembly. Christian morals and responsibilities of overseers were discussed thoroughly. The declaration presented after the talk “Has the King’s Secretary Called on You Recently?” was enthusiastically received. All felt the urgency of the times while listening to the talk “When All Nations Collide, Head On, with God.” Well over a million people heard that talk world wide. Another thing that none of us will forget is the great number of persons baptized at these assemblies.
TAKING A BROADER LOOK
Outstanding during the service year was the number of persons baptized. The grand total for the 207 lands came to 149,808. That means, in just the past three years, 1969, 1970 and 1971, a total of 434,906 persons have presented themselves for baptism, having dedicated their lives to Jehovah God. What an increase! This places a great responsibility upon God’s people and we feel that responsibility.
The mature brothers in the congregation must care for these newly interested people and see to it that they are spiritually fed and kept close to the organization, and this they have done. The tremendous increases in the number baptized are reflected in the publishers in the field. On the average there were 125,463 more publishers engaged in the field service each month than during 1970. This was a 9.1-percent increase. Marvelous!
The congregations have grown in the past year. Now there are 27,154, and they are building many new Kingdom Halls. This is evidenced in reports coming from all parts of the earth. For example, in Alaska, where there are thirteen congregations, they dedicated three new Kingdom Halls just this past year, and they are large ones too. This expansion in the congregations in turn reflects itself in the Society’s printing and building programs.
In order to keep supplies of literature in the hands of our brothers all over the world the Society has arranged to print literature in many parts of the earth—in the United States, Canada, England, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, South Africa, Australia, and so forth. Printing in these branches is all done by ordained ministers, and we are very happy that upward of 2,500 have volunteered to learn these printing trades, in addition to preaching from house to house, so that literature can be produced in many languages at a nominal cost. Also, at the present time we are doing considerable printing in Korea and Japan and India and a few other countries where the governments will not allow importation of printed material in their own language. It must be done by local printing firms, so it is at greater cost. It is truly amazing to observe what the Society was able to print in all its plants during the 1971 service year. The printing of Bibles and bound books amounted to 28,103,172; booklets, 13,454,806. Copies of The Watchtower, produced in 73 different tongues, amounted to 195,807,217, and Awake! magazine was not far behind, being printed in 27 different languages to a total of 192,406,252.
Being a Tract Society too, we did considerable other printing, such as handbills, tracts, leaflets, letterheads, forms and other necessary items, and this came to a total of 592,415,138 pieces. Jehovah’s witnesses are printers, and the demand has become greater every year, especially in the past three years.
The Society is cognizant of the demands on it for printed literature. That is why it has enlarged its printing facilities in Argentina, where we just finished building a fine three-story structure. Austria made an addition to their present branch building, including a fine Kingdom Hall and storage space for literature. In Brazil we purchased new property adjoining our present location in São Paulo and we have just begun building a fine new factory and Bethel home there. Italy is just finishing its new branch office and Kingdom Hall, and the Congo (Kinshasa) branch is at this time erecting a large addition next to our present building. Germany is constructing two more floors above their present bindery, which will enlarge the space for the manufacture of bound books and will give us more room for our offices as well as housing facilities. Ghana has just about finished putting the roof on a two-story printing plant with housing facilities, enlarging that branch. Japan is prepared to build a three-story factory and five-story new Bethel home in Numazu next year. The Society purchased a very fine stone structure on the outskirts of Nairobi, where the missionaries and branch office are now established, and a new Kingdom Hall is going to be built on the property by a local congregation. Nigeria must expand during the coming year and they have planned a three-story building. The Philippine Islands have drawings approved for an additional two-story factory and a two-story Bethel home. South Africa is just finishing a 15,000-square-foot enlargement of their factory and home. Jehovah gives the increase! We are growing!
What a joy it is to learn that Jehovah’s witnesses in Spain have come out from underground. They now have a fine office, and the brothers are building Kingdom Halls all over the country. We are grateful for the change in the law of Spain.
While all of this is going on, it does not mean the ministry is now carried on without opposition. Pressures are being brought to bear against the brothers in Congo (Brazzaville). Many of our brothers have been challenged and threatened in their preaching from house to house. Our work in Gabon has been suppressed. In Greece, even though the Kingdom work moves ahead steadily, there is much opposition from the Orthodox clergy. The brothers have many problems to handle in courts in fighting for freedom of worship. Big pressures have been brought against God’s people in Lebanon, Malagasy Republic, Cameroon and Angola. While problems are difficult to handle in these countries Jehovah’s witnesses continue to preach the good news, and you can observe the success they have had by examining the chart (pages 34-41). In Malawi, where there was so much trouble just a few years ago, they had a 14-percent increase, with 21,949 Witnesses preaching in that land. They now have a ratio of one witness of Jehovah to every 206 persons in that country. Persecution has not slowed them down. Jehovah’s witnesses have learned to endure.
Newspapers report troubles in the Emerald Isle between Catholics and Protestants. While these two religious elements fight one another, Jehovah’s witnesses have increased by 10 percent in the land.
Another outstanding feature of the year was the marvelous series of conventions held in West Africa, starting in Dakar, Senegal, and going down the west coast and across to Kenya. It was a great boon to the African brothers. What a joy it was to read the details of these conventions in The Watchtower!
There is always trouble for Jehovah’s witnesses in the countries behind the Iron Curtain. How our brothers there work under adversity! But still, along with some other troubled areas, they had an increase of 4.3 percent in publishers. Those eleven countries were Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, United Arab Republic, Turkey and Yugoslavia. It was a joy to see that there were 140,186 publishers working in these lands, though it is not wise to set out the details of the report here.
Jesus said, ‘You will be witnesses of me even to the ends of the earth,’ and he has proved to be a true spokesman. His faithful servants today are happy to be able to do this in fulfillment of his words.
The experiences that the branches have sent in from all parts of the world concerning what has been done have proved to be very interesting, and you may read some of these experiences in the Watchtower and Awake! magazines during the year.
[Chart on pages 34-41]
1971 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLDWIDE