QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
Regarding Ministry | Preaching
♦ How did people preach before Russell? Does a Christian have to preach?
On July 22, 2012, we received the following inquiry:
“Before Russell began to preach, how preaching anointed Christians in the time before Russell? (sic) I do not know how they preached to the people, maybe you know? Or perhaps there was no preaching, they were anointed and lived a Christian life without preaching.”
To the author, thank you for your inquiry. The answer to your question is pretty straight forward. If you read the book of Acts, and in fact the entire Christian writings, you will see how the Christians in the first century preached to people. It included in the synagogues, in the marketplaces, on the roads, in homes, in prisons, in public arenas, before civil officials, etc. And when you consider the small number of Christians that began the preaching work and compare that to the very large number of Christians today, it is evident that the preaching work continued throughout the centuries. And since preaching, teaching and making disciples is the one commission Christ gave (Matthew 28:19, 20; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20), we suspect that all Christians who truly had faith in Christ would have preached in some fashion.
We will say, however, that over time, the commission to preach and teach was usurped by a self-appointed clergy class and the individual Christian was relegated to the status of an audience member at church rather than an active kingdom preacher. Still, it appears the Christian message continued to spread. We are preparing an article on this change from a religion of the spirit to a religion of the mind that we hope to publish within the next 30 days. Please stay tuned.
This is one of many areas where we believe that Russell and Jehovah’s Witnesses got it right. Though their message is a bit off point, they did re-establish the importance of the Christian ministry. Given all the opportunities that 21st century Christians are privileged to have – among friends and family, work associates, while shopping, while vacationing, while commuting, by letter, by email – it is unlikely that an anointed Christian today can make a case for just living a Christian life without preaching about the Christ in some fashion. Of course, our preaching does not need to be “organized” and formal. It can, and should occur, as a part of our daily life.
If we are truly Christ-like and God-oriented, we should have a desire to shine a light on the Father and his eternal purpose to the extent we are able.
“You are the light of the world. A city cannot be hid when situated upon a mountain. People light a lamp and set it, not under the measuring basket, but upon the lampstand, and it shines upon all those in the house. Likewise let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.” – Matthew 5:14-16
If we fail to speak about the Father, the Christ, the Kingdom, the brotherhood, etc., we are placing our light under a basket which will be of no benefit to anyone, not even ourselves.
♦ Do you have a tip on how to start conversations about sonship?
On September 17, 2013, we received the following inquiry:
“I have a question to you, regarding this encouraging sentence: "We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to start conversations about sonship with even strangers." [Question and Response, September 13, 2013.] Do you have a tip how to do this in practice? "Do you believe in Jesus" doesn't seem as a good strategy. As [Jehovah’s Witnesses], we have these "newspaper strategies" that go like "Hey, have your heard about..., too? ... Fortunately soon will come paradise and ends everything." But this seems to be no good approach to give witness about Jesus' teachings. About his spirit and about our love he planted in our hearts. Looking forward to your response.”
To the author, we thank you for your inquiry. We respond here in a summary fashion, but we are hoping to write an article that provides a more comprehensive response. Please bear with us a few days as we first complete the next article in the Bringing Heaven Down series.
In the meantime, we want you to keep in mind that as a son of God, you are led by spirit, so you need not approach your ministry with a prepared script. If you do, you will be inhibiting the flow of spirit. You should allow the conversation to develop naturally and engage other people as equals. Realize that you are not converting, you are conversing, and that whomever you are speaking with is your brother ALREADY. He or she perhaps just does not know it yet.
As for how to begin, you can begin a conversation with any topic. Sometimes it is a sunset or a child playing outside, something that is happening in front of you, or something in the news, etc., or it might just be a kind word such as a cheerful hello. Allow your attitude to draw others toward you maybe because of your smile. As you find common ground, the subject of sonship with God may naturally present itself. But if it does not, consider yourself as having planted the seed of ‘the spirit of sonship’ for someone else to water.
The most important thing to remember is to be genuine and natural. As long as your approach is genuine, it will bear good fruit.
We hope these ideas serve as a seed for you to develop your own ideas. As you have success, please share your experiences with us so others can be built up and encouraged. And please keep an eye out for our more comprehensive article.
♦ A brother’s method of publicizing the private Memorial Suppers.
On March 7, 2014, we received the following encouraging email:
“Dear Brothers in Christ, I have made up a flyer that I have shared with a number of pastors in the local churches. I also put it out in Christian coffee shops and places around town. I have found that with the pastors, it has created good conversation and one said he did not know April 14th date was anything special. I asked if they would put it on their Church bulletin boards. Also I have a print ready copy that I have submitted to monthly Christian journals as a article to see if they will print it in April. Also I am working at making contact with the local Christian Radio Stations on this subject. You may like to join me in this joy.”
To the author, what bold efforts you are putting forth in publishing to the Christian community the anniversary of the most important celebration in Christianity. We are publishing your email along with the flyer you sent in hopes that it may encourage others to have a greater share in publicizing this most important event.
Flyer for April 14, 2014 Private Memorial Suppers
This is your ministry, brother, and you are doing well. We do not need to interject ourselves. But we wholeheartedly support you. Please keep us informed with how it goes.
♦ If the end is imminent, why have Jehovah’s Witnesses switched preaching tactics to silently standing by literature carts?
On July 20, 2014, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“Dear Brothers, We were taught over the past 100 years that the END or Armageddon is IMMINENT, as if it is coming in a hurry. But look now at the new way of sharing God's Kingdom in UK which I find as a complete irony.
"Thousands have switched tactics to stand on street corners in more than a dozen cities across Britain - and unusually for public preachers, they are staying almost completely silent... Unlike other evangelical preachers, they do not shout or call attention to themselves - instead standing in near-silence until someone approaches them."
1) If we are preaching with a sense of urgency - a matter of life and death - then why do it in silence, why be passive at this stage in history? Should it not be the reverse?
2) As the big day draws near, would it not be more logical to up the speed in reaching out to people for them to ACT without delay instead of standing in silence near a display stand of religious literature?
3) Would this approach send a CONFUSING signal to the rest of [the Jehovah’s Witness] community as well as to those to whom we have preached?
Your thoughts and comments appreciated.”
To the author, thank you for your email. However, your questions would be more appropriately directed to individuals who believe the end of the entire system of things is imminent. We do not. But these developments are an indication that many among the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves, do not believe it either.
It is our belief that the end that is imminent is the end to sorrow, suffering and distress as soon as the true good news of the kingdom is preached throughout the earth as Jesus commanded. (Matthew 24:14) See also Experiment No. 3 - Awaiting the Second Coming. We get several emails like this one that are designed to throw stones at a dying organization. We think it is better to use those stones for building up those who remain within the organization. Rather than standing around watching people drown, make a move to help. Do something positive. Lives are at stake.
Many ex-Witnesses feel: “Now that I have ‘seen the light,’ to hell with them!” And they go even further by criticizing those who are trying to help. It’s like escaping a burning building and then throwing gasoline while the fire department is trying to put the fire out. We want to remind those who have this mindset that they were once inside the building holding the same views and doing the same things. What if those who awoke before you were successful in ‘burning the organization down?’ Where would you be?
So, rather than just complaining and looking for others to complain with you, address your concerns to those at the head of the Watchtower organization who have the power to make changes. Even if your efforts do not achieve your objective, at least you can say that you made some effort to be a part of a solution rather than being part of the problem.
♦ Response to several visitors who ask us to respond to other websites.
On May 2, 2015, and on several other occasions, we received inquiries that can be summarized as follows:
“I saw a comment on another website about you. Are you going to respond?” OR “I saw a video on youtube.com that I think you should respond to. Are you going to?” OR “You should do/start a Facebook page, or a get on social media. Many people need to hear what you are saying.” OR “I want to be a part of the ministry, what should I do?” And things like these.
We thank each of our visitors for their inquiries. And while we responded to each of them privately, it seems we are repeating the same things over and over. So, we want to respond publicly, combining all our private responses, for those who may have similar questions who have not written us yet.
We know that our website is occasionally mentioned by others, and that some of those comments are not favorable. But it is not our desire to randomly interject ourselves into another person’s ministry. We interjected ourselves into the ministry of the Governing Body only because we were a part of their community. We were once members of the Watchtower organization and so we view our communications with them as a work in readjusting those within our own circle. We view individuals who start their own ministry as quite a different matter. However, if such a person chooses to write to us directly with their concerns or objections, we will, of course, respond, just as we had hoped the Governing Body would have done when we contacted them.
We know that many people do not want to engage us directly. They would much rather share their thoughts with their intimate circle or with those who look to them for direction. They certainly have the right to espouse whatever they want to on their own sites, and so we do not interfere.
We are emphatic that we do not want to become a governing body over anyone. While we welcome questions and will respond, we do not engage in debates. People are free to accept or reject our responses. We do not hold ourselves out as the sole source of truth or the leaders or masters over anyone’s faith. We are engaging in this ministry in response to the leading of the spirit within us. What we write is a reflection of where we are spiritually. Others may be led to promote the original teachings of Jesus in another media or another fashion. If so, we say, Amen!
We know that many, many of our visitors around the world have taken some of the ideas presented on any one of our three websites and begun their own ministry. Occasionally, they report their successes or challenges to us, and some of those reports are posted to our sites. But none are obligated to do so.
From the very beginning, we encouraged spiritual freedom from the oversight of men, including ourselves. We want our brothers and sisters to freely and authentically respond to the witness of the spirit within them. That is how one grows spiritually. When one subjects themselves to another, they can only grow up to the stature of their teachers and no further.
That is one of the problems we see in the Watchtower organization. Jehovah’s Witnesses are allowed only to grow up to the extent of the writings done at the direction of the Governing Body. And if they exceed the Governing Body in knowledge, or understanding or works, such individuals are counseled to wait on the Governing Body and not share it with the congregation, but to keep such knowledge confidential. As a result, there are thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are spiritually stifled, frustrated and suffering from a form of depression that they do not clearly understand. In many cases, this manmade restriction on their spirit is the source of their distress.
Jesus did not have that view. He said his followers would do greater things than he did. (John 14:12) He commanded his followers to let their own light shine. Accordingly, it is our hope that our audience grow past us, beyond us, to the height of their personal ability wherever that takes them. So instead of living in the light of others, we encourage all our visitors to live by the light you are providing, and the world will be a much brighter place. We are pleased to have had a hand in freeing many of our brothers and sisters from mental bondage and servitude to men and into the freedom of the sons of God!
We encourage everyone to follow the leading of the spirit in how they respond to the plain and open teachings of Jesus. Remember, these teachings are not ours. They are the original teachings of Jesus as contained in the Bible which is in the public domain. So, we hold no copyrights to them or how to apply them. And if you want to use our articles in your ministry (which articles we do hold a copyright to), just ask. In practically every instance where others have asked to use our materials, we have given permission. We only ask that our website address appear on any reproductions indicating our website as the source.
So, if you see a need to engage others on their websites, or to start you own website, or to introduce the plain teachings on your media pages, or to produce your own videos, or to engage in any other ministry endeavor, we say, Amen! Everyone has their own gift or special skill that allows them to stake out a unique place in the field of God. We will be happy to provide any assistance if we can, but such endeavors are your own ministry, your own place in the field under cultivation. So, pick a spot and be about the Father’s business!
And if you are so inclined, feel free to share your experiences with us and we will post them for the upbuilding of the brotherhood of faith sons who honor the original, authentic, actual, plain and open teachings of Jesus.
♦ If the earthly hope is false, how to you explain the number of people who were praying to God for help just when Jehovah’s Witnesses came to their door?
On December 8, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“Dear Brothers, I would like to know your views on the above watchtower study article [October 15, 2015] on page 4; The theme, Do you see God's hand in your life? As a missionary for over 30 years, I have always been supporting the thought that people who pray sincerely receive a God given answer to their prayer when they hear Jehovah's Witnesses knocking on their door. That is to say these people pray as shown in the picture on page 4. The person has no hope. Then the Witnesses call to give the person hope of living on earth for ever. My question is WHO is guiding this kind of work? As Jehovah's Witnesses, we understand it to be Jehovah through Jesus with the help of Holy Spirit and the Angels, All cooperating together to find this lost person who has no hope. If the earthly hope is a FALSE HOPE. Then there must be some other influence calling at the opportune to time to deceive. Either its Jehovah backing or it’s the False Comforter who is backing the work. Please Try to understand that I am trying to reason objectively from the view point of Jehovah's Witnesses. Thanks for your attention in this matter, Your brother.”
To the author, thank you for your email. Your question is probably being asked by many Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to see that the earthly hope is indeed a false hope. They look back over their religious career and see the many times Jehovah blessed their ministry and the many people who were helped by the study of the Bible along with Watchtower publications. It is true that many people gained a great deal of benefit from the Watchtower teachings, as we must confess we did. So it is understandable that one might have trouble reconciling how good can be accomplished by means of a false message.
There are a few factors to consider resolving this apparent dilemma. Chief among them is the erroneous belief that such positive encounters demonstrate God’s favoritism toward a particular group or message. That is not the case. God is not partial. (Acts 10:34-35) Life is a Deity created reality. It did not just spontaneously happen out of nothing. Our universe and everything in it exists as the outflowing of the perfect will of the Father, and everything in it operates according to His laws and is permeated with His holy spirit. Thus, God’s goodness and blessing are ever flowing at all times in all directions, and are bestowed upon mankind, faithful or unfaithful, good or bad, whether they are aware or wholly unconscious of it. It is as Jesus explained:
"You heard that it was said: `You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48
To think that one particular group is favored over another is to take a very small view of the world. A brief review of several other religious groups and humanitarian associations reveal that they all experience the very same type of positive and/or fortuitous responses in their work, though they have a variety of different messages.
The common denominator is the willing and giving attitude and actions of certain individuals who believe in their work. They are often at the right place at the right time with the right attitude. And because love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8), the ministry of a loving person supersedes the error in the delivery or in the message.
You asked, ‘who is directing this work.’ While it cannot truly be said that God is personally directing these various and unrelated ministries, it can rightly be said that angels are directing it. There were many examples in the Bible of angels directing and fostering the ministry of Jesus. (John 1:51; Acts 5:17-20; Acts 8:26-29; Acts 10:1-8) We are also told of angels who were assigned to various “congregations,” some of which were not teaching, nor acting in harmony with, truth. (Revelation 2:1-3:22) Thus, we believe there is a vast network of angelic overseers who work to foster truth in all of man’s religious endeavors. And as is expressed in Revelation, clearly some angels have a more difficult assignment than others. But all are commissioned to foster progress toward truth and liberty in the group they oversee. This, we believe, is how all things will be gathered together in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, and how God will eventually be all things to all persons. (Ephesians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28) So while the various groups and associations may have different methods and messages, it is through the angelic ministry that “God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God.” (Romans 8:28)
Another factor is that the search for truth is an evolving process. What one learns today will be built upon tomorrow and a greater understanding will be achieved. Look at the nation of Israel. They were given the Law Covenant as a tutor that led to the Christ. But once truth arrived, in the person of Jesus (John 14:6), the old tutor could be dismissed. (Galatians 3:24-25) In fact, the Apostle Paul often taught that the path to truth is progressive. For a couple of examples, see 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 or Hebrews 8:1-6. You may also be familiar with the saying “people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” Here is one explanation of that saying:
When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed or just felt. They have come to assist you through a hard time, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. Then, suddenly, the person disappears from your life. Your need has been met; their work is done.
Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share or grow or give back. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They give you great joy. Believe it; it is real. But only for a season.
Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons—things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all your other relationships.
Think about the people in your life over the years. Whether they were there for a reason, a season or a lifetime, accept them and treasure them for however long they were meant to be part of your life. And when they are gone, be thankful for the gifts you received from them when they were here—for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
The work of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others with limited and incomplete messages, are helpful for a reason or a season. And we should always be thankful for those encounters. But as we apply ourselves as Jesus directed – to keep asking, knocking and searching for truth (Matthew 7:7-8) – we find the greater understanding of the eternal message of truth as contained in the authentic, actual, plain and open teachings of Jesus. And when one finds that eternal, everlasting message of truth, know that it supersedes all other knowledge and is meant to endure and continue with you for a lifetime.
So, one need not stress over the reality that Jehovah’s Witnesses and their incomplete and inaccurate message has been helpful to many. Just realize that it is one step millions of people have taken in their quest for truth. Millions of others have taken other steps, but all lovers of truth will eventually move beyond the limited messages of men and find the eternal truth. We can say that while all roads do not lead to God, God can be found on any road! We hope this answers your question, but if you continue to have questions in this regard, please do not hesitate to write us again.