A number of you have been writing in of late to discuss what you perceive as a disturbing trend. It appears to some that there is undue attention being focussed on the Governing Body.
We are a free people. We avoid creature worship and disdain men who seek prominence. After Judge Rutherford died, we stopped publishing books with the author’s name attached. We no longer used phonograph records of his sermons to play from sound cars or at the door in field service. We advanced in the freedom of the Christ.
This is as it should be because no man or group of men will stand for us when judgment day comes. We will not be able to use the excuse, “I was only following orders”, when we stand before our maker.
(Rom. 14:10,12) “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God…each of us will render an account for himself to God.”
So while we appreciate the help and guidance provided by the Governing Body, the local branch office, the district and circuit overseers, and the local elders, we strive to build a personal relationship with God. He is our father and we, his children. His holy spirit works directly through all of us individually. No man stands between us and him, except the one man, Jesus, our redeemer. (Rom. 8:15; John 14:6)
Still, we have to be on guard due to the human tendency to willingly appoint someone to lead us; someone to take responsibility for our actions; someone who will tell us what to do and so free us from the weighty responsibility of making our own decisions.
The Israelites had it so good in the days of the Judges.
(Judges 17:6) “In those days there was no king in Israel. As for everybody, what was right in his own eyes he was accustomed to do.”
What freedom! If there was a dispute to be resolved, they had the Judges whom Jehovah had appointed. Yet what did they do? “No, but a king is what will come to be over us.” (1 Sam. 8:19)
They threw it all away.
May we never be like that; nor may we be like the first-century Corinthians whom Paul rebuked:
(2 Corinthians 11:20) .?.?.In fact, YOU put up with whoever enslaves YOU, whoever devours [what YOU have], whoever grabs [what YOU have], whoever exalts himself over [YOU], whoever strikes YOU in the face.
I am not suggesting we are that way. Quite the contrary. Yet, we have to remain vigilant, because our sinful human state can easily lead us in that direction if we are not careful.
We must be wary of the thin edge of the wedge. We need to recognize in ourselves the ever-present desire to have someone between us and God, someone to make our decisions for us and tell us what we must do to please God. Someone else to take responsibility for our souls. If we start to give undue attention to others, if we begin to exalt others over us or engage in even mild adulation of men, there is another danger to be wary of. When we elevate someone, he becomes more susceptible to the corrupting influence of power. Saul, the first King was handpicked by Jehovah. He was a humble, self-effacing man. However, it took the power of his office only two short years to corrupt him.
Some have expressed concern that we are starting to see a manifestation of these two elements in our worship. One of our readers wrote:
“As to the article “A Royal Priesthood to Benefit All Mankind” which was in the Jan.15, 2012 Watchtower I was shocked to read in this article which was obviously a Memorial article that the emphasis was on the Royal Priesthood and what they will bring to mankind, and not Jesus who is the reason for the Memorial. I especially took exception to paragraph 19. I will quote here:
“When we gather to observe the Memorial of Jesus’ death on Thursday, April 5, 2012, these Bible teachings will be on our minds. The small remnant of anointed Christians still on earth will partake of the emblems of unleavened bread and red wine, signifying their being party to the new covenant. These symbols of Christ’s sacrifice will remind them of their awesome privileges and responsibilities in God’s eternal purpose. May all of us attend with profound appreciation for Jehovah God’s provision of a royal priesthood to benefit all mankind.“
I don’t know about you but I find the emphasis on the anointed in an article which should have been devoted to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us very disturbing. I have highlighted the last paragraph but in fact the whole article was disturbing.”
Another reader sent me the following comment regarding observations from his Special Assembly Day.
“The theme was “Safeguard Your Conscience”. I was also struck by a prayer offered in the elders meeting which repeatedly thanked Jehovah for the GB and the teaching committee. I find this so offensive when I think it was Jehovah who provided this information in the first place. One thing flows from the other. Truth flows from Jehovah, but the way they are self-congratulating…it seems they invented truth themselves.”
Yet another reader sent me an email in which he explained a trend in the prayers offered in his congregation. It seems that Jehovah is continually asked to bless and protect the Governing Body. He counted in one prayer five references to the Governing Body, yet not a single reference to Jesus, the head of the congregation, except to close the prayer in his name.
Now there is nothing wrong with asking for Jehovah’s blessing upon any group of individuals within our brotherhood, and we are not here expressing any disrespect for the role the Governing Body plays in assisting us to carry out our preaching work.. However, there does appear to be an overemphasis on the function this small group of men perform. We have the master and we have the good-for-nothing slaves, yet we seem to be focusing far too much attention on the slaves and far too little on our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
Now you may not be experiencing this yourself. The trend seems to be emanating from the top down. Congregations with Bethelites are reporting this. It shows up in assemblies and conventions. However, when the rank and file observe the district or circuit overseer make such utterances, many will choose to emulate them and the trend will spread.
If you, like many of our readers, have been serving Jehovah since the middle of the last century, you will quickly realize that this is a new trend. I can recall no precedent for it in our past. (I wasn’t around in Rutherford’s time, so I can’t speak to what the prayers contained in those days.)
If you think we are all being picayune, have a look at the illustration on page 29 of the April 15 Watchtower. Jehovah is depicted in the heavens with the complete earthly hierarchy below. If you look carefully you can actually identify individual members of the Governing Body at the top of that chain of command. But where is the head of the Christian congregation? Where is Jesus Christ in this illustration? If we are not overemphasizing the role of the Governing Body, why are individual Governing Body members identifiable, while there is no place given to our Lord and King? Remember that we are taught that the illustrations are a teaching tool and everything in them has significance and has been reviewed carefully.
Still, some of you may feel this is much ado about nothing. Perhaps. However, when you couple it with the recent urging from last year’s district convention and our most recent circuit assembly program to treat the teachings of the Governing Body as we do the inspired Word of God, it is difficult to dismiss this simply as the product of a paranoid imagination.
We shall have to wait to see where this all leads. It is certainly proving to be a test for an increasing number of us. Still, if we are alert and continue to examine all things, holding fast to what is fine and rejecting what is not, we can with the help of the holy spirit continue to build a personal, intimate relationship with our Father in the heavens.