[This is a review of highlights from this week’s Watchtower study. Please feel free to share your own insights using the comments feature.]

Par. 4-10 – Oh, that the counsel expressed here were the norm in our congregations.  I particularly liked this from par. 9 – “The apostles needed to resist a tendency toward wanting to “lord it over” their companions, or to ‘order people around’”. 

Par. 12 – “The only authority that Christian overseers have comes from the Scriptures.  Therefore, it is vital that they use the Bible skillfully and adhere to what it says.  Doing so helps elders to avoid any possible abuse of power.”

Both true and false.  True in the Scriptural sense, but not true in reality.

Having served as an elder myself for many decades, I have seen a steady decline in the ability of elders to manage and reason from the Scriptures.  When there is a point of disagreement, they are far more likely to pull out either a letter from the Governing Body or one of the publications, often the Shepherd the Flock of God book (ks10)  Phrases like, “the Slave says…” or “the direction from the branch is…” are the norm.  I can’t recall ever sitting in an elders meeting and hearing, “Jesus instructs us to…”  This isn’t to say that the brothers don’t use the Bible in elders meetings.  They do, but the trump card is never the Bible, but always the direction from “the Slave”.  At times, a course of action might be uncertain.  One or two on the body might even bring out a few Scriptures to provide direction as to what decision to make. However, almost without fail, the final decision would be to write the branch or call the circuit overseer for direction.  These would in turn consult letters from the Governing Body in rendering their decision.

There may be those reading this who will take exception to what I say, but I have seen overseers removed for not compromising on a Scriptural principle.  Our authority comes from men first and God only second.

Par. 13 – In discussing how elders are to be examples to the flock, much emphasis is given to taking the lead in the door-to-door preaching work.  When discussing with the circuit overseer the qualifications of a prospective elder, one of the key things considered without fail is his service time.  Not just his, but his wife’s and children’s as well.  Ideally, the brother has to have more hours in service than the congregation average.  His wife and children have to also be exemplary in this regard.  If he has children, then he must be counting a family study and his hours should be even higher to make up for the hours devoted to his family.  I’ve heard the C.O. say on more than one occasion that the brother in question doesn’t really have 11 or 12 hours average, but really just 7 or 8 because he spends 4 hours a month in his family study.  It should be remembered that this is purely an Organizational qualification, not to be found anywhere in Scripture.

Par. 15-17 – These concluding paragraphs offer good counsel to the elders as regards shepherding and caring for the ailing and weak ones.  Combined with the rest of the study, there is much fine scripturally based counsel here.  Sad to say that in my experience, most of this is “more honor’d in the breach than in the observance.” (Hamlet Act 1, scene 4)