Congregation Book Study:

Chapter 5, par. 18-21, box on p. 55

Theocratic Ministry School

Bible Reading: Exodus 11-14
Jehovah brings the final plague. He could have done this at the start; a really powerful manifestation of his power to knock the Egyptians on their backsides, but he chose to do so gradually. He could have simply walked his people out of Egypt with no bloodshed at all, using His powerful angels as invisible guardians. However, His purpose wasn’t to simply free His people. They had been enslaved for years, abused by cruel task masters who even stooped to infanticide. Justice demanded retribution. But there was more. The world of the time and that to come needed to learn that Jehovah is King and that there are no other Gods besides Him. Still, He gave the Egyptians a way out. Pharaoh could have simply acquiesced and spared his people all manner of pain. By being proud and willful, his conduct shows yet another failing of human rulership: The people suffer because of the stupidity of their ruler. Has anything changed?

On a new tangent: I don’t know how many times I’ve read this account, but I never realized that the Red Sea incident happened at night, even though Exodus 14:20-25 clearly indicates that. I guess I can blame Cecil B. DeMille and the power of Hollywood imagery for that.   It now makes more sense to me in that the Egyptians would not see the walls of water as they entered the dried up Red Sea bed. By the morning, it was too late and though they wanted to flee, Jehovah’s angels were making that impossible.

No. 1: Exodus 12:37-51
How timely our Bible reading this week as we commemorate the memorial of Christ’s death, which was typified by the Passover lamb.

No. 2: What Are Some Events Associated With the Presence of Christ?—rs p. 344 par.1-5
According to the Scriptures quoted in the Reasoning book, some of the events associated with the presence of Christ are the resurrection of faithful Christians who ascend to heaven at the same time that their living counterparts are transformed and join them. (1 Thess. 4:15, 16 – Hasn’t happened yet.) The nations being judged and the sheep and the goats being separated. (Mat. 25:31-33 – Hasn’t happened yet.) Those who caused tribulation for Christ’s anointed ones being punished. (2 Thess. 1:7-9 – Hasn’t happened yet.) The start of the paradise. (Luke 23:42, 43 – Hasn’t happened yet.)

Again, according to the Reasoning book, these are all events which are associated with the presence of Christ. I think we can all concur with that. Also, these are all future events.

By the way, we also teach that Christ’s presence happened a 100 years ago.

This is what will be taught in 110,000 congregations worldwide and I wonder if anyone will notice the glaring incongruity.

No. 3 Abner—Those Who Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword—it-1 p. 27-28
This is a rich historical account from which many lessons can be learned. However, the theme chosen for this talk is not one of them. Jesus’ words to Peter at John 18:10 were not intended as a catch-all to cover all acts of violence.   Some acts of violence are just. Jesus himself takes up the sword and will execute the wicked by it. The Israelites were commanded by Jehovah to eradicate the Canaanites. Abner was the duly appointed Chief of the Army. David was a warrior. All wielded swords and some died by them, while others lived to old age.

What are we suggesting with this chosen theme? That Abner should have refused the King’s appointment to serve as Chief of the Army for fear he would die by the sword? Should David have rejected his anointing by Samuel because it would mean taking up the sword and thereby dying by it. Abner’s sin wasn’t in living by the sword, it was in supporting the wrong man.  Saul was anointed by God.  So was David.  After Saul’s death, Abner should have supported the newly anointed King.  Instead he tried to install a rival and in doing so, put himself in opposition to God.

Service Meeting

15 min: Make Good Use of the 2014 Yearbook
This is the “fun with numbers” portion of the evening in which we reaffirm Jehovah’s blessing on the Organization based on our rapid numerical growth.

Let’s see.

We had 277,344 baptized in 2013. Over a quarter of a million! Impressive, isn’t it? However, comparing the average number of publishers from 2012 with 2013 shows a growth of only 150,383. What happened to the missing 126,961? Death? There were 7,538,994 publishers reporting in 2012. At an annual death rate of 8 per thousand we can subtract 60,000 from that number. That still leaves about 67,000 unaccounted for. These must be either disfellowshipped ones, or ones who just stopped reporting. That’s like losing close to 700 congregations a year!

Now if you work out the growth rate and compare it with the population growth in the countries where we preach, you’ll find that we’re not even keeping pace. We are digressing! But it gets even worse. How many of the 150,000 new ones are from the field? We all see the baptismal candidates standing at the assemblies. How many are children of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Let’s be conservative and say half, though the figure is likely higher. That means that 75,000 came in to the Organization from the field service last year. Okay, now we spent 1.8 billion hours in the preaching activity in 2013. That’s 24,000 hours per new member, or working it out on the basis of work weeks at 40 hours per week, it means just under 12 years of preaching per candidate!

Now if it saves lives, we should have no problem with whatever time is spent. However, Jesus didn’t tell us to go door-to-door. He told us to make disciples. If you are given a job to do and the discretion to do it any way you like, wouldn’t you want to use the most efficient way so as to report back to your boss—in this case our Lord Jesus Christ—that you’d been smart and done your best? It seems that what we are engaging in is “make work” preaching. The appearance of being busy. How often have you been out in the field service work, four to a car group, traveling around doing return visits on people we’ve been visiting for years, even decades. We used to call them magazine routes, because we were little more than delivery men. The name has changed but not much else.

We should be zealous in the preaching work.  No one is arguing against that. We should strive to make disciples. Who would disagree? It is a command from Christ.  The question is, Are we going about it the right way or is there a better way that we are closing our tradition-bound eyes to? A way that will result in greater growth and a more efficient use of our time?  I leave it as an open question.

All I know is that we are not even willing to try anything else. Why? Because we believe our salvation is tied to the number of hours we spend knocking on doors.  To the average Jehovah’s Witness, going from door-to-door is an identifying mark of true Christianity.  To the average Jehovah’s Witness, his salvation is tied to the amount of time he spends going door to door.

15 min: “Improving Our Skills in the Ministry—Being a Helpful Companion