[From ws15/04 p. 3 for June 1-7]
“There is an appointed time for everything.” – Eccl. 3:1
A friend who is still serving as an elder was complaining to me that more than half his elder body is too old or infirm to function as overseers. Of the few remaining, all are in their sixties. The amount of work he is called upon to do, what with preparing parts and handling all the paperwork and administrative duties that the Organization imposes, has stripped him of all joy. He feels overburdened and tired all the time, and would like to resign from his position, but can’t because that would just add to the burden of the others. They have many younger ones, but none are reaching out. All keep their hours down to the point where they are just at or under the congregation average so that they will not even be considered when the circuit overseer comes. Another friend who is getting close to 70 complained that his annual convention assignment is getting more and more difficult to fulfill, yet no one wants to take over for him and it’s becoming increasingly harder to get volunteers to help out. I remember a time when we were all eager to volunteer to work at the conventions, and when such overseer assignments as my friend has were esteemed. Now he’s looking to offload it but can find no takers.
As I have traveled from congregation to congregation, I’ve taken note of who the elders are and find this situation is common. The elder bodies are aging and fewer and fewer young ones are stepping up to the plate.
Based on the May broadcast, donations are declining. Now we find evidence that enrollment in areas of service is also declining. What is happening?
The two opening articles in this month’s study edition of The Watchtower are an attempt to reverse this trend. This is going to seem glib, but I’m afraid that this is the Organizational equivalent of “Take two Aspirin and call me in the morning.” The problem isn’t a lack of adequate training. The problem is a lack of spirit!
At Ps 110:3 the Bible prophesies:
“Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day of your military force.
In the splendors of holiness, from the womb of the dawn,
You have your company of young men just like dewdrops.” (Ps 110:3)
God’s holy spirit and a steady diet of Bible truth are what cause young men and women to willingly offer themselves for service to the Lord. (John 4:23) If the spirit is lacking, if the food consists of a mixture of truth and falsehood, then no amount of spiritual training will help.
Jesus was the best teacher who ever walked this earth, but people didn’t follow him for his training abilities. They followed him because he loved them and they felt the love. They wanted to be like him. Those who succeeded, learned how to love others as he did. They became filled with the holy spirit.
This week’s article encourages elders to want to train others. If the holy spirit is in a man, then he will manifest that first fruit of the spirit: Love! (Ga 5:22) Willingness to train others will follow as night follows day.
There are elders who are full of the spirit, but in my experience, having worked with them at all levels of the Organization and in several countries and branches, these spiritual men are in an ever-shrinking minority. When I look back over the past 40 years and reflect on every case I’ve seen where elders (and others) were mistreated, it is always—and I say this without exaggeration—those who were the most faithful, loyal, and loving. Those who were persecuted were the exemplary ones, the ones who stood up for what was right. If you really wanted training, they were the ones the “learner” would be drawn to. If the student feels little or no respect for the teacher, it is very difficult to learn from him and almost impossible to imitate him.
So the issue isn’t lack of training. The rank and file are not sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to train them. Having received a steady barrage of organizational indoctrination, repeated calls for loyalty and obedience to men, and a steady McDiet of ‘food at the proper time’, the evidence is now plain for all to see that this people is not offering themselves willingly on the day of Jehovah’s military force.
Jehovah’s word cannot fail to come true, so the Governing Body must look to themselves and the food they are dispensing to explain why the offerings, both of time and money, are now declining.