Monday, June 29
These are the ones who . . . bear fruit with endurance. —Luke 8:15.
If you have ever felt discouraged when preaching in less responsive territories, you will relate to the apostle Paul. During his approximately 30-year-long ministry, he helped numerous individuals to become disciples of Christ. (Acts 14:21; 2 Cor. 3:2, 3) Still, he did not succeed in moving many Jews to become true worshippers. On the contrary, most rebuffed Paul, and some even persecuted him. (Acts 14:19; 17:1, 4, 5, 13) How did that adverse reaction from the Jews affect Paul? He freely admitted: “I am telling the truth in Christ . . . I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart.” (Rom. 9:1-3) Why did Paul experience such feelings? His heart was in the preaching work. He preached to the Jews out of deep concern for them. So it pained Paul to see them reject God’s mercy. Like Paul, we preach to people out of heartfelt concern. —Matt. 22:39; 1 Cor. 11:1. w18.05 13 ¶4-5
Christians preach and teach. That is what Christ did. Those who follow Jesus imitate his example. There were a few groups of itinerate preachers that popped up during the long ages of Catholic tyranny. The Waldenses in Italy and France and the Lollards in England that were organized by John Wycliff. But those groups were snuffed out and the preaching trailed off.
Since C.T. Russell came on the scene the Bible Students and now Jehovah’s Witnesses have been distinguished by our public preaching. The Watchtower has been instrumental in teaching, training, directing, and motivating millions of ministers.
I began preaching to people informally from the very first day. All of my druggie friends got an earful. One of my best former friends became so enraged with me that he socked me in the jaw.
My first formal preaching was in the winter of 1976-77. We were placing the oddly named little book: Holy Spirit – The Force Behind the Coming New Order. I memorized my presentation exactly as scripted from the Service Meeting. The next morning was cold— I mean like -10F! And I did not have a dress winter coat. So, I had on insulated underwear and a suit and scarf. That was it. The wind was howling too and with the windchill, it was about -25F. I worked by myself and could only take 5 doors because of the brutal cold. But in 5 doors I placed 4 books. I think the householders must have felt sorry for me and just wanted me to go away so they could close the door. But the car group was amazed at my success. And I was hooked on field service.
I guess I had a knack for starting Bible studies with people. Over the years I know I conducted over a hundred studies, with about a dozen of my students becoming JW’s themselves.
One occasion I was working alone in the late afternoon. It was another cold winter’s day in Indianapolis. My feet were so numb I could only walk on my heels. I stopped on the sidewalk and prayed. I told Jehovah that I had had it. I was going to call it quits for the day if I did not get in the next house. Amen.
I walked up the steps to the porch and knocked. The door swung open wide. An African-American lady, a mother, gave me a warm welcome and invited me in. She called her two teenage children down so I could talk with them while she went to the kitchen to make me some hot chocolate! I am not kidding. Talk about getting a prayer answered! Anyway, the older sister was very wary, having been a Pentecost. But after a few weeks, she was all in. She became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and still is as far as I know.
One more experience. It was probably 1984, thereabouts. I was living in Houston at the time. (No cold winters! Woohoo!) I walked up the wooden steps to a garage apartment, as are common in the south. I knocked on the door. Suddenly the inner door burst open. There was a man girded only with a towel around his waist. He looked like a wild-eyed cousin of Charles Manson. He was holding a huge machete!!! He was trembling. I could hear him breathing like he was trying to control an adrenaline rage. There was only a thin screen door separating me from this killer. I figured it was a case of mistaken identity, me being dressed in a suit and all; so, I slowly pulled a Bible up out of my bookbag and showed him. I said: “Bible?” He slammed the door! I was never so happy to have a door slammed in my face.
Okay, one more. My wife and I were staying in San Diego with a witness family who opened their home to us because we took my mother-in-law to a cancer clinic across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. I continued in the door-to-door work and found a lady who arranged to have me return at a precise time a few days later. I didn’t suspect anything. I should have though. When I arrived the house was full of people and this guy, who I later found out had been a circuit overseer turned apostate, went to work on me. It seems that he had become an evangelical pastor and gave his flock the lowdown on the Watchtower. The ex C.O. sprang a lot of things on me at the time I was not prepared to answer. I had been ambushed. I had the teenage son of my host family with me on the return visit. It did not go well. I was not able to defend the truth.
Looking back, I think that experience made me want to be better equipped. Years later I studied with a husband and wife. The wife read 30 Years a Watchtower Slave. She kept bringing up certain issues from the book in every study session. I got annoyed and so I read it, which was against the advice of the Watchtower. But I was able to help her over the stumbling blocks. She eventually got baptized and her husband has been an elder for quite a few years.
It is unfortunate that many have never experienced the ministry. I had so many wonderful experiences. It is where Jehovah’s spirit is. I have no regrets over the 30 years I was a Watchtower slave. I still am a minister of the good news. I am just in a different assignment now, that’s all.
Please feel free to leave comments regarding any field service experiences you may have had in your ministry.