Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why Do Jehovah's Witnesses Preach Door to Door? (How Is Their Preaching Work Organized?) [Updated 9/1/2014]

Note: I discovered that there were some who were interested in more specific subjects regarding the ministry and have seen criticisms of such that painted the ministry as unscriptural or excessive. So I added four more headings to the bottom of this blog post.
Many people claim that the house to house work (also called "door to door" because of our canvasing apartments as well) that what Jehovah's Witnesses do is unscriptural, but if you take a look at Luke chapter 10, you will see that the house to house ministry is spelled out quite clearly by Jesus himself. It was also described at Matthew 10:5-11:1, Mark 6:7-13, and Luke 9:1-6.

Jesus said: "Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you all." (Matthew 28:18-19) He also said: "And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14) But he did not say these things and then just leave it to us to figure out how to do it. No, but we are given very specific instructions and an example of how it is carried out.

Biblical Instructions For Preaching House to House
Jesus was the one who gave the command to preach from house to house. Read Luke chapter 10. The Bible says: "After these things the Lord designated seventy others and sent them forth by twos in advance of him into every city and place to which he himself was going to come. Then he began to say to them: '...Go forth...Wherever you all enter into a house say first, "May this house have peace...Do not be transferring from house to house"'" So we go to houses seeking someone to listen to our message and we preach it to them thoroughly, not transferring to another house until we have preached the message thoroughly or we are rejected. If they do not listen, we move on to the next house. Indeed, in two places the Scriptures say that first century Christians did the house to house preaching work. (Luke 10:1-7; Acts 5:42; 20:20)

So Jesus sent seventy disciples (not just the apostles) off to preach "by twos", and he himself said to go into houses to preach the message. Are these "houses of worship"? No, because there is only one person of concern in the house, a "friend of peace." Jesus also said "Do not be transferring from house to house." So while we call it the "house to house work", this does not mean we just move from house to house saying simply "repent, for the kingdom of God is near." But we are to actually enter into the house with the householder's permission. Jesus said: "Wherever you all enter into a house say first, 'May this house have peace.' And if a friend of peace is there, your all's peace will rest upon him. But if there is not, it will turn back to you all. So stay in that house, eating and drinking the things they provide, for the worker is worthy of his wages." He also said, "He that listens to you all listens to me. And he that disregards you all disregards me. Moreover, he that disregards me disregards him that sent me forth." —Luke 10:16

To "stay there" means to focus on teaching the message. We do not overstay our welcome. (Proverbs 25:17) If we perceive that a person is in a hurry, but willing to listen, we arrange another time to talk with them. If we find that they have questions, we stay there and answer their questions. We have found through many years in the ministry that one hour is the prime amount of time to stay at a house unless a householder indicates they wish us to stay longer.

Instructions for Being Rejected
But if the whole territory rejects us, such as one person who told me he gathered his neighbors together and kicked our brothers out of his neighborhood, here is what Jesus said: "But wherever you all enter into a city and they do not receive you all, go out into its broad ways and say, 'Even the dust that got stuck to our feet from your all's city we wipe off against you all. Nevertheless, keep this in mind, that the kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you all that it will be more endurable for Sod'om in that day than for that city." —Luke 10:8-15

Return with Rejoicing
And what happens when we're done with the preaching work for the day? The seventy returned to Jesus "with joy", declaring: "Lord, even the demons are made subject to us by the use of your name." And what is the purpose of our preaching work? Jesus said: "I began to behold Satan already fallen like lightning from heaven. Look! I have given you all the authority to trample underfoot serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will by any means do you all hurt." (Luke 10:17-20) Yes, it is to defeat Satan and his poisonous spirit servants who have no authority to hurt us directly, but yet we are to rejoice, not for having power over the wicked things, but because we have everlasting life. Thus we gain the joy of knowing that we have everlasting life.

Rewarded with Truth
After those words, Jesus then praised his Father in heartfelt prayer and then blessed all of us, saying "I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have carefully hidden these things from wise and intellectual ones, and have revealed them to babes. Yes, O Father, because to do thus came to be the way approved by you." Yes, we have the joy and are assured that the preaching work is approved by Jehovah God himself and instituted by Jesus Christ himself. —Luke 10:21

And Jesus concluded a blessing saying that his servants who do this work would know what the relationship between him and his Father is, saying: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and who the Son is no one knows but the Father; and who the Father is, no one knows but the Son, and he to whom the Son is willing to reveal him." —Luke 10:22

Is "House to House" Simply Meetings?
Some object, saying that "house to house" referred to places where meetings for worship were held. The question that should be asked is, "Where is the scriptural proof that they had meetings for worship in houses?" With the scriptures being the only thing we need to interpret scripture, certainly the scriptures themselves would indicate such meetings in order to help this text be made clear. But they are entirely silent on the issue. Every other mention of "house" or "home" fails to suggest any regular meetings for worship. In fact, Acts 5:42 also makes it clear that they did this "every day", not just on meeting days.

According to what we can see in the scriptures, there appear to have only been one approved place for weekly meetings for worship in those days: the synagogues. (Acts 5:42; Acts 13:14; 17:10; 18:4; 19:8) It was Jesus' and Paul's "custom" to go to the synagogues for worship, not to the houses. (Luke 4:16; Acts 17:1-4) In fact, the synagogues are the only places in the scriptures where weekly meetings are described as being held.

Both public and home witnessing were demonstrated in Acts chapter 16. A witnessing at a house is demonstrated at Acts 16:29-34, where, after they impressed the jailer with their fine conduct, he invited them to his house where Paul and the disciples with him "spoke the word of Jehovah to him together with all those in his house." He and the other disciples did not stay the night at the jailer's home, as evidenced in verse 40. Further household witnessing is demonstrated at Acts 18:7-8.

Acts 20:7-8 does mention Paul giving a talk while they were gathered at a meal in an upper room, but the only ones in attendance were those who were traveling with him through Macedonia and whatever family was in that house, and it took place on the first day of the week, not the last, therefore, it was not a Sabbath meeting. (Acts 20:3-6) This was therefore an impromptu talk, but it also demonstrated the unforeseen occurrences that can happen in such an impromptu setting in an unfamiliar place. (Acts 20:9-12) This setting was clearly not common except to traveling overseers and their traveling companions and therefore does not qualify as "house to house" according to Acts 5:42.

Acts chapter 2 was not a weekly meeting for worship, but was a gathering for a festival. In the book, Bearing Thorough Witness (2009), p.80, par. 13, it explains that at Acts 12:12, it refers, not to a weekly meeting, but to a gathering for prayer, likely on behalf of Peter, who had been arrested, though considering that it was autumn, it may even be the Day of Atonement (Known as Yom Kippur today), in which prayers and fasting occur into the night in homes. While none of these accounts make it expressly clear that meetings for worship were not held at those homes, there is no indicator in those texts that meetings for worship were held in those homes. Meetings likely did occur in homes in those days, especially in those outside Israel, but the Bible does not record a single one.

No example is given in the scriptures of giving talks in multiple synagogues on the same day, especially not at homes.

Who Is to Blame for the House to House Ministry?
So if people want to blame someone for the thoroughness of our ministry and for our going from house to house, they should blame Jesus, not us. Indeed, Jehovah's Witnesses alone have the blessing, because they alone do the preaching work in the way Jesus commanded.

So why do other Christians not preach as Jehovah's Witnesses do? The reason is that most nominal Christians don't put much thought into the Scriptures if they read them at all, and their leaders don't know how to motivate their congregations to do the preaching from house to house. Many have tried and very few succeed and still don't get many of their members to do so, thus often end up hiding the fact that they're supposed to do it all, ignoring the meaning of such Scriptures, and even calling those that do "dangerous cults". But is it really a dangerous cult that does what Jesus Christ himself directed Christians to do?

Do Jehovah's Witnesses Lie When They Preach House to House?
Jehovah's Witnesses are as human as anyone else, and therefore will occasional not fully understand something. Some may even speak on subjects that they are not well versed in, making mistakes of accuracy or mix up information. While others may avoid talking about something they are not familiar enough with to talk about. How many people do you know that know everything about their religion? How many people do you know always get everything they say correct? But Jehovah's Witnesses do not lie about their religion, nor do they lie about other things. There is no need to. We are not taught to lie, and we are in fact instructed to tell the truth at all times. Though in the event that the safety of their brothers in the faith and their families are in danger, we do not hold their words against them. But lying in the ministry or to the congregation is considered a disciplinary offense that can even result in expulsion. (John 8:42-47; Revelation 21:8) Being truthful though being accused of lying is one of the things Paul said recommends Christians as ministers. (2 Corinthians 6:8)

What Happens if a Witness Doesn't Preach?
What Happens if a Witnesses Doesn't Go House to House? Nothing. What is important is the ministry. Whether they write letters, write emails, knock on doors, witness informally, witness at businesses or in public places, doesn't matter, as long as they are out there preaching. (Acts 20:18-21) So what happens if a witness does not preach at all? If they have not reported preaching activity for two consecutive months, they are classified as "inactive". This means that we do not even count them on our membership rolls during the time they are inactive. We count this as an accurate indicator that their spirituality is waning. Thus, the elder body in the congregation will attempt to help the member become active again, providing any spiritual assistance they may need and encouragement, as well as making plans to get out in the ministry at least 1 hour in the month. Once reporting activity again, they will once again be counted as "active".

There are no penalties for being inactive. But in order to qualify for greater service, such as ministerial servant or elder, a member must be active in the ministry. Contrary to the claims of some, inactive members are not hounded by the body of elders in the congregation. If a member avoids them or states that they do not want visits, the elder body will not force the issue. They will let the member be. They are encouraged to seek out "lost sheep", but they can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped, and are not inclined to waste their time with such.

Reporting Time
As indicated in the previous heading, we report our activity to the organization. Some have likened this to a census, but it is actually quite different and is of benefit of all. A census is not for the purpose of helping people spiritually. It is for taxing and military and governmental conscription. Since all things are voluntary within the congregation, and no one is called to fight physically, then a census would be meaningless.

The previous heading mentioned that when we do not report time for two consecutive months, the member is considered inactive and that this allows elders to know when someone's spirituality is on the wane. Thus recording our time benefits the spirituality of all, helping the elders know who needs help spiritually. (James 5:14-15) But then, why don't we just let people report themselves as "active in the ministry" if they have an hour or more? Why do they need to report every hour in the ministry?

To qualify for ministerial service or as an elder, a member is expected to have at least 7 hrs a month in the ministry. No, this is not in the Scriptures, but it is not entirely arbitrary. 7 hrs a month is actually pretty easy to accomplish even with a full-time job. All one has to do is go out in service just a couple of hours for 1 day each week to accomplish it. But this tells the elder body, and those at the regional branch that the elder or ministerial servant is spiritually healthy and setting an example for the rest of the flock.

For both men and women, young and old alike, to qualify for greater service outside the ministerial servant and elder arrangement, they have goals to reach out for, including auxiliary, regular and special pioneers, as trusted evangelizers who expend themselves in the ministry. (See "Pioneering" below.)

Knowing how many average hours a congregation spends in the ministry can also indicate that a congregation needs help. In that case, the circuit overseer (One who travels to various congregations to build them up spiritually and make sure the congregations are operating properly, the way Paul and Barnabas did,) will address the issue when they arrive at the appointed time. (2 Corinthians 12:20-13:1) These traveling overseers help the congregation by means of talks addressing weaknesses and needs, and checking to make sure the congregation records are in order and having meetings with the elder body to encourage them and make any needed adjustments, and going out in service with the congregation to encourage the ministry.

The yearly report of the number of hours spent in the ministry, as well as the growth in active membership also helps all of Jehovah's Witnesses to be able to see that the preaching work continues to grow and move forward. And it helps the governing body at the world headquarters to know if certain encouragment needs to be provided in the publications, and informs them of needs in various regions.

Is reporting difficult? No. Reporting time does not even figure in comparison of difficulty to making the effort to keep return visit appointments. (See below.) To report time, you simply write a few numbers, your name and month on a slip of paper and put it in a box once a month. Not that difficult, especially since the service overseer gives repeated reminders to turn in time. (A service that is essential and appreciated by a scatterbrain like me.) No one could ask for simpler.

If someone were to refuse to report time, though performing the ministry, while it is certainly their right to do so, it would demonstrate a low interest in obedience to those taking the lead, and thus a low spirituality, which is good reason not to allow them in positions of responsibility within the congregation. (1 Timothy 3:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:23-3:2; Galatians 6:1-5; Hebrews 13:17)

Return Visits
My biggest problem has nothing to do with reporting time, but with returning to interested ones. (1 Corinthians 9:16; Acts 17:11-12; 19:9; 20:18-20) We each have a responsibility to keep track of interested ones and to make return visits to help them come to know Jehovah and his ways in order that they may be able to make an informed choice about whether they wish to serve Jehovah or not, and to help them be informed of what the Bible says. This allows us to "let all things take place decently and by arrangement" with those whom we return to. (1 Corinthians 14:40)

We also encourage those we study with to reason on the Scriptures, not just accept what we or anyone else tells them, as the ability to reason and think out one's way is fundamental to service to God. (Romans 12:1) Return visits allow us to return to them at a time and place they are comfortable with. But if we do not keep accurate records, we cannot begin to make consistent return visits and keep our appointments. For some, such as myself, this is harder than others. While I keep decent records, I have a hard time motivating myself, and if I have not returned to somone in a while, I become agitated because of my post traumatic stress disorder that I have had since childhood. So often, I have to hand my return visits over to others if I think I am going to have a hard to revisiting them. (Note that I am not required to make my own return visits if I lack the capability. My handing them over to others is often best for the interested one's spiritual need.)

An aspect of the ministry among Jehovah's Witnesses is something many have claimed is unscriptural. We provide opportunities for brothers and sisters alike to reach out for greater responsibility in the congregation through what we call the "pioneering work" or "full-time ministry", which we consider one of the most fundamental responsibilities within the congregation.

According to the World English Dictionary, the word "pioneer" can mean, "a colonist, explorer, or settler of a new land, region, etc." and "an innovator or developer of something new." The verb can be used to mean, "to initiate, prepare, or open up." Thus, the service pioneers are full-time evangelizers with the responsibility of leading the way out into the ministry. They set the example in the ministry and help others to greater service. They will often give up employment prospects in order to volunteer to perform this essential function, while others may help facilitate this. (Matthew 6:31-33; 1 Timothy 6:6-8)

Is it unscriptural? Consider Acts 5:42, 1 Corinthians 9:16 and Philippians 2:16-17. In those scrpotures, Paul gave very clear indication of the efforts he went through to preach. Philippians 4:2-3 mention two women, Euodia and Syntiche, who also strove in the same efforts. So there were those that expended themselves greatly in the ministry. The apostle Paul depended greatly on such ones and also encouraged them in the ministry. So likewise today, the circuit overseers have the responsibility of encouraging the pioneers and those reaching out for greater service.

"Pioneer" is just a label. The qualification is an indicator that they can be and are willing to be used for specific purposes relating to the ministry. So while the name "pioneer" does not appear in the Scriptures, it is an appropriate designation for those who seek to make time for the ministry and wish to qualify for more responsibilities related to their roles as pioneers. While it is not a position of authority, it is a position of great respect due to their efforts, spiritual strength, desire to be used and example to look to. (Philippians 3:17) The purpose of this position is to provide the congregation with a goal of service toward which to strive. Having a goal is very important to encouraging greater service. (Hebrews 11:26)

The pioneer ministry is broken down into three parts. There are the Auxiliary Pioneers, Regular (or "full-time") Pioneers and Special Pioneers.

The auxiliary (assistant) pioneers help to offset the needs of the ministry and make themselves available to help the regular pioneers. The have a lower service requirement (30-50 hrs/mo or around 8-12 hrs a week,) and may serve simply for one month or as ongoing. It is also an obtainable stepping-stone toward becoming a regular pioneer, demonstrating that one has time and ability to pursue the full-time work. Though some have moved directly into the pioneering work.

Regular pioneers have a service requirement of 70 hrs a month (or 17-18 hrs a week) in the ministry and serve yearly. Each year they are evaluated for continued qualification as pioneers. These help those in need and assist the body of elders in helping new and returning ones in the ministry and helping others in their service, as well as trying out new methods of preaching and developing and fine-tuning presenations that often appear in the publications.

Special pioneers have an even greater goal of service. (130 hrs a mo. or 32-33 hrs a week.) These voluneer to spend most of their available time in their week to the ministry, while still having time for relaxation in the evening and recreation on days they choose. They are occasionally called upon for assisting circuit overseers and performing special duties related to the ministry. They truly view the ministry as a full-time job for which they are happy to serve.

Pioneers of any kind are not housed or paid. They receive a meager amount that is enough to offset their fuel expenditures to some extent in relation to their hours of service and local economy, but they are not given enough to make a living from or even have enough left over for food in the ministry. Firemen are not viewed as fanatics for being volunteers, so Jehovah's Witness pioneers, who are also saving lives, should not be viewed as any more fanatical, but devoted to their chosen volunteer profession.

It should cause no one any stress to stop being a pioneer, or not to qualify as one. It is not a position of authority and no one is dependent upon them. They can still set a fine example without it. But if anyone is anxious for the things of the Lord, then reaching out for pioneer is a good way to fulfill that need.

How Do I Get Jehovah's Witnesses to Stop Knocking On My Door?
Jehovah's Witnesses keep track of notes on houses. If you ask them to do not come back to your house again and ask them to put it in their permanent notes, they will put a note attached to the slip covering your territory and the note will be viewable by each witness that covers the territory. You can't ask them to not visit the territory or other people's houses, but you can ask them never to visit yours. If you get a phone call, that's a different part of the ministry that isn't related to the house-to-house work. They are simply going through the phonebook or following up on a specific person's request. Remember that there may be other people in your house who request someone to call or come by, so be aware by asking and be understanding of their interests.

Jehovah's Witnesses are human and they make mistakes. Some, such as myself, aren't very good note takers, so it may take a few times. You might even make sure they take the note in front of you and slip it into the territory card if they have it with them. Someone may even fail to see the note later, but you should at least see a drastic drop in visits. Typically with territories with fewer houses, or where there are lots of Witnesses in the area, they get covered often.

Be gracious with them, but firm (express the seriousness of your request, it helps memory); try not to be aggressive, as they have feelings like anyone else. They are simply trying to 'fully accomplish their ministry.' It is not the intent of Jehovah's Witnesses to irritate anyone. We are simply imperfect as anyone else. And just like any other religion, there are some that may be a little misguided in their efforts to fulfill what they think God's will is.

But you could also keep it simple and say "no thank you" and close the door. On the rare occasion you may get an older Witness who was raised in the days of aggressive salesmen who stick their foot in the door to keep the person from closing it. Again, this is just the fault of the individual, but you can take comfort in that they are becoming an increasingly rare breed. Simply say very firmly: "Get your foot out of my door," and then close it on them. It is rude outdated behavior not endorsed by the modern organization.

Also view the following link:
What Happens at a Bible Study?
How Is Our Kingdom-Preaching Work Organized?
What is a Pioneer?
Ways [Jehovah's Witnesses] Use to Share the Good News

1 comment:

  1. Brother Williams,

    Found this site during private study - keep up fighting the fine fight. If only the veil could be lifted off those who are following this system of things......


This site is for research. Your input is appreciated. Comments may be edited for accuracy and content.