[There are some insightful and thought-provoking comments under the post “The Devil’s Great Con Job” which got me thinking about what congregation membership really entails. This post is the result.]
“Membership has its privileges.”
This is not only the advertising slogan for a popular credit card, but it is a key part of the JW psyche. We are taught to believe that our salvation depends on the continued good standing of our membership within the Organization. This has been the case since the days of Rutherford.
How urgent it is in the short remaining time for one to identify himself with the New World society within the arklike new system of things! (w58 5/1 p. 280 par. 3 Living Up to the Name)
Will you remain in the ark-like spiritual paradise into which you have entered? (w77 1/15 p. 45 par. 30 Facing the “Great Tribulation” with Confidence)
For the security and survival of true worshipers, an arklike spiritual paradise exists. (2 Corinthians 12:3, 4) To be preserved through the great tribulation, we must remain in that paradise. (w03 12/15 p. 19 par. 22 Our Watchfulness Takes On Greater Urgency)
‘Membership has its privileges, foremost of which is salvation.’ That is the message.
Of course, the concept of the organization acting as a sort of modern-day Noah’s ark is a fabrication found only in our publications. We use the simile found in 1 Peter 3:21 which compares the Ark to baptism, and by some theological sleight of hand transform it into a metaphor for the protection that membership affords.
The idea that simply staying inside the organization is a guarantee of salvation is a most appealing one. It is a sort of paint-by-numbers route to salvation. Just do what you are told, obey the elders, the traveling overseers, and of course, the direction from the Governing Body, participate regularly in field service, attend all the meetings and your salvation is pretty much assured. Like walking into the ark of Noah’s day, it’s really quite simple. Once inside, and as long as you remain inside, you’re safe.
This idea is not new. C.T. Russell wrote in Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 3, p. 186: “It is begotten of the false idea, first promulgated by Papacy, that membership in an earthly organization is essential, pleasing to the Lord and necessary to everlasting life.”
He also wrote on the following page: “But no earthly organization can grant a passport to heavenly glory. The most bigoted sectarian (aside from the Romanist) will not claim, even, that membership in his sect will secure heavenly glory.” Hmm…. “The most bigoted sectarian (aside from the Romanist [and the Jehovah’s Witness]”, it would seem. How very ironic those words now seem in light of the above excerpts from our publications.
He also eschewed the naming of a religion, which is why under his term we were known simply as Bible students. That didn’t suit brother Rutherford, however. He worked from the beginning of his presidency to get all the congregations under centralized control. What he liked to call a theocratic arrangement. Under Russell, congregations of Bible Students were loosely affiliated with The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. Rutherford needed to give us an identity, just like every other religion out there. Here’s how that came about just days before the 1931 Columbus, Ohio convention, according to A.H. Macmillan.
“…Brother Rutherford told me himself that he woke up one night when he was preparing for that convention and he said, ‘What in the world did I suggest an international convention for when I have no special speech or message for them? Why bring them all here?’ And then he began to think about it, and Isaiah 43 came to his mind. He got up at two o’clock in the morning and wrote in shorthand, at his own desk, an outline of the discourse he was going to give about the Kingdom, the hope of the world, and about the new name. And all that was uttered by him at that time was prepared that night, or that morning at two o’clock. And [there is] no doubt in my mind—not then nor now—that the Lord guided him in that, and that is the name Jehovah wants us to bear and we’re very happy and very glad to have it.” (yb75 p. 151 par. 2)
Be that as it may, the basis for the name is Isa. 43:10 as every Jehovah’s Witness knows. However, that was directed at the Israelites. Why was he adopting a name that predates Christianity? Were Christians in the first century known by that name? The Bible says they were referred to as “the Way” and as “Christians”, though it appears that the latter was given them by divine providence. (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 11:26) Was our name also given by divine providence as brother MacMillan claims?[i] If so, why weren’t first century Christians known by it. In fact, why didn’t we go with a name for which there might be a basis in the Christian era.
(Acts 1:8) “. . .but YOU will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon YOU, and YOU will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”
It might be argued that if we need a unique name, we can call ourselves Jesus’ Witnesses based on Acts. 1:8. I’m not advocating that for a moment, but simply showing that our basis for calling ourselves Jehovah’s Witnesses is simply not to be found in the Christian Scriptures which are, after all, the basis for the Christianity.
However, there is another problem with the name. It focuses all our attention on witnessing. The premise is that we are bearing witness to the righteousness of Jehovah’s rulership by our conduct and our way of living. By these things we demonstrate that human rule is a failure and divine rulership is the only way to go. Moreover, we refer to our preaching work as the “witnessing work”. This witness work is done from door to door. Therefore, if we don’t “witness” in the field service we are not real “witnesses”.
Here is where this thinking leads.
If a publisher fails to report his or her time for six consecutive months, he (or she) will be deemed “inactive”. At that point, the publisher’s name is to be removed from the congregation listing of Service Groups, which is posted on the announcement board at the hall. Ostensibly, the purpose of this list is to organize the witnessing work into manageable group sizes. In practice, it has become the official congregation membership list. If you doubt that, just watch what happens is someone’s name is removed from it. I have personally seen how very upset a publisher gets when they find that their name isn’t on the list.
The fact is, the list is used when the C.O. comes and questions the elders on their shepherding activity. The elders assigned to each group are expected to pay special attention to those in their group for purposes of shepherding. In large congregations where it is hard to keep track of everyone, this arrangement helps the elders—if they are truly doing their jobs—to monitor a smaller number of sheep to ensure the spiritual health of all under their care.
If a name is dropped from the list for inactivity in the field service, there is no one charged with watching over the ‘lost sheep’. The one needing the most care is removed from sight. This demonstrates that those who do not participate in field service are not considered Jehovah’s Witnesses and are not really in the ark-like organization that ensures their salvation. I know of one sister who wrote in to me explaining how she went to get her Kingdom Ministry for the month and was told that the KMs were only for publishers. This sister was a regular meeting attender though at considerable personal difficulty and was also on the Theocratic Ministry School. All that didn’t matter. She was inactive and therefore a non-member. The unfeeling nature of the application of this ‘theocratic rule’ so upset her that she would have dropped out completely had it not been for the loving concern of one elder who, upon learning of her plight, made private arrangements to get her a KM and put her in his group. In time she was reactivated and is still active, but a sheep was almost driven from the flock because adherence to the rule was more important than an expression of love.
The whole concept of irregular publishers and inactive publishers; in fact, the whole concept of publishers has no foundation in scripture. Yet, it has become the basis for membership in the congregation, and therefore, the basis for our salvation and for attaining to everlasting life.
The fiction that the Field Service Report each of us is expected to hand in monthly is needed for the Governing Body to plan the worldwide work and the production of literature hides the real truth. Put simply, it is a control mechanism; a way of tracking who is active and how is falling behind. It is also a source of considerable stress-inducing guilt. If one’s hours fall below the congregation average, one is considered weak. If a consistently higher level of hours drops one month due to sickness or family responsibilities, one feels the need to make excuses to the elders. Our service to our God is being measured and monitored by men, and it is to men that we feel an obligation to make excuses. This makes a twisted sense, because our salvation depends on staying in the Organization, and that depends on pleasing men.
Where is the scriptural basis for any of this?
I remember many years ago at the elders meeting during the visit of the circuit overseer, he brought it to my attention that my wife was irregular, having not handed in her report for the previous month. There were a number of irregulars because we were not big on report collecting. If they missed one month, they handed in two reports the next. No big deal. But it was a big deal for the C.O. I assured him that my wife had been out, but he wouldn’t count her on his report. Not without an actual written report from her.
We obsess about these things to such an extent that brothers and sisters feel that if they do not accurately report their time, they are lying to God—as if Jehovah cares one iota for a report card.
I would love to see what would happen if a congregation full of zealous publishers decided to hand in their reports without affixing any names. The Society would still have all the information it supposedly needs, but there would be no way of updating the publisher record cards for anyone. I’m sure this simple act would be seen as rebellion. My guess is the circuit overseer would be dispatched to assess the congregation. A talk would be given, supposed ring leaders would be rounded up and questioned. It would get very messy. And remember, the sin in question is simply not putting one’s name on a piece of paper. It isn’t even a desire for anonymity, because our witnessing is public and the elders know who goes out because they go out with us.
As each of us looks back on our personal experience in the organization, it is clear that nothing in this control mechanism generates an atmosphere of Christian freedom and love. In fact, if we want to find a counterpart to it in other religions, we have to look at cults. This policy started with Rutherford and by continuing to perpetuate it, we degrade ourselves and dishonor the God we claim to serve.
I would love to see what would happen if a congregation full of zealous publishers decided to hand in their reports without affixing any names. The Society would still have all the information it supposedly needs, but there would be no way of updating the publisher record cards for anyone. I’m sure this simple act would be seen as rebellion. My guess is the circuit overseer would be dispatched to assess the congregation. A talk would be given, supposed ring leaders would be rounded up and questioned. It would get very messy. And remember, the sin in question is simply… Read more »
[…] into filling in a monthly report. Whether we should be required to fill in one is another matter, discussed before on these […]
[…] For a more detailed analysis of the requirement for reporting time, see “Membership Has Its Privileges”. […]
Could you give us the source of the quote from A.H. Macmillan about Rutherford’s dream to adopt the name Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Yearbook of 1975, p. 151 par. 2
I’ve amended the post to include the missing reference.
Hi all, This post is addressed to anyone who wants to comment on it. Many thanks for the comments already received so far on this topic. I appreciate it. 🙂 As I mentioned earlier in one of my previous posts, I like to surf the net and try to read almost anything I can, about differing viewpoints on the bible. In doing so, I have become somewhat familiar with the views of the Preterists. They have a strong following over at Paltalk, in case some of you have been over there and noticed that. They believe everything was fulfilled in… Read more »
Matthew 24:34 tells us: “Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.” In verse 3 of this chapter, Jesus was asked: “…Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence [parousia] and of the conclusion of the system of things?” From verse 3 all the way up to verse 33, Jesus tells us many things that were to happen. However, according to verse 34, all of these things were to happen WITHIN ONE GENERATION. Which means, Jesus’ invisible “parousia” [if one believes… Read more »
Hi Meleti, 🙂 I am “Fugitive1.” I was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness family all my life. But, I never got baptized. However I’m pretty familiar with their doctrines and teachings. Also after becoming an adult, I’m learning many things off the net, as I like to surf and visit religious sites. Especially those that deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses and what’s happening among them of late. I have a question that I have been talking with my friends and relatives about, but no one seems to be able to answer it for me. Some even say I’m trying to “trick”… Read more »
Hi Fugitive1, Good question. I can’t say for sure, but while Paul wrote under inspiration, he would only write about what God revealed to him and the times and the seasons of the coming of the kingdom were things Jehovah reserved for himself. (Acts 1:7) Therefore, it must be that Paul was expressing his expectation. He could not know whether he would be alive when the presence began or not. Not knowing enough about the language in which this was written I cannot speak with authority on what flexibility of meaning exists in his wording. The verb rendered “remain” in… Read more »
I can think of two possibilities for Paul’s use of “we the living”: 1. He said “we THE LIVING” to mean “those alive – like we currently are”. He was not using the pronoun “we” to indicate that his immediate first century audience would necessarily be alive for the arrival of Christ’s presence as much as he was using “we” to identify with the quality of being alive, which he, his audience, and future Christians who will be alive at Christ’s presence, all have in common. From the context you would notice that his whole point was about whether the… Read more »
Let me give you an example to illustrate my point. An African American might say to an audience of other African Americans: “We came to this country centuries ago”. His use of “We” does not mean that he and his immediate audience were actually literally alive centuries ago and journeyed to America from Africa. The pronoun “We” as used in his statement links only to the quality of being of African descent. Likewise, looking forward to the future he might say something like “We will land on Mars”. Again, the “we” as used here does not mean that the speaker… Read more »
Nicely put, Jude. Thanks.
Hello Fugitive1, and this was a major contention with me too, perhaps more so because I was attempting to interpret Hebrew with Greek thought and culture. Recently, I’ve been studying Hebrew (of which the epistle writers were, exclusively) and came to a conclusion….first, that we weren’t really meant to know. Not yet anyway. For one thing, we haven’t fully entered the fulfillment of Paul’s words yet. What I mean to say is that Greek language and culture (as well as the entire Greco-Roman way of thinking) is linear, i.e., its time/space equation doesn’t relate to Hebraic language and culture (which… Read more »
Dear fugitive 1 thessalonians 4 -s the section of scripture that i am studying and discussing this week. Looking at the context it seems that the reason why paul wrote these words was that the congregation seemed to be grieving about those among them who had died perhaps feeling that they had missed out on the glory of being with Jesus. Paul was assuring them that this would not be the case because just as Jesus died and rose again so would they but only at his presence or coming. He then went on to express the doctrine. We the… Read more »
Hi Fugitive 1,
Since you were never baptized, it begs the question, do you consider yourself a Christian? If not, would you like to become one?
Yes Meleti, I would. I want to get baptized as a true disciple of Jesus, like so many others have done, especially since I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and come from a very strong religious background. But before I commit myself to any one specific religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses or who ever, I’d like to be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, or at least to a reasonable degree, that these people have the truth, the real truth about the bible. Like John 8:32 and John 17:17 says. (I know some of you feel that no religion on earth… Read more »
Hi Fugitive, Religion is a funny term. While I know what you mean, and it is often the only way to express it, religion is a product of men. The Jews started out being God’s people and as such theirs was the truest expression of faith possible at that time. Essentially there was no Jewish religion, but it could be said that the nations around them were false religions. As Christians we do not belong to a religion or creed but to Christ. It may seem pedantic but it will help you to see through the works of men and… Read more »
I have come to believe that any form of organized religion–which means religion organized by men–will fall short of the Christian standard.
That is because they are taught to look at metrics to measure spiritual health. Meeting attendance, FS reports, how many pioneers, elders MS they have .Oh don’t forget how many aux pioneer slips they have for the month. They look at those numbers and then focus the stragglers in the local needs parts. Recently at our CO assemblies our CO reads off the top two congregations who are excelling in meeting attendance. My congregation is one of those. Thunderous applause usually follows. Then in local field service groups we whispering about what the other numbers for the other congregations might… Read more »
I can honestly say I have never heard a local needs part on ‘stranglers’. A congregation with that problem would definitely have negative growth, which would probably be the topic of the following month’s local needs part.
They are usually dealt with quietly by the elders. I am sure I recall something about it in the elders manual. Ahh yes here it is ” …..if there is a known or suspected strangler in the congregation then please phone the WTS legal department for direction” Also ” before accusing someone of strangling it is best to ask the deceased how they came to have hand marks around their neck, if they choose not to answer then the matter cannot be confirmed, nonetheless it would be prudent to ask the accused strangler to keep his hands in his pockets… Read more »
Sorry guys it was a typo 🙂 I meant “stragglers” (spell check) . It was a term that an older pioneer sister in my congregation would use when referring to those who are considered falling by the wayside. The local needs parts at our Hall are usually field service driven .Encouraging people to meet the national average, turning reports in on time etc. Most recently on how to avoid being considered inactive (“ask yourselves…. Can I give Jehovah at least one hour a month in the preaching and teaching work”?)
As my act of mercy for the day, I’ve corrected the type, though it gave us all some good laughs. We all knew what you meant, and may I say all your comments are spot on.
Thank you very much Meleti 🙂 🙂
The two day assembly for 2014 has a talk devoted entirely to pioneering and my skin began to seriously crawl at the intimation that it is the only way to be acceptable. It is like some forgot the ” un” in ” underserved kindness.”
Yes, I feel like the organization wields a harsh spiritual whip! Do more, do more, you’re not doing enough!! This is what I have experienced … I see your hours are low, you must not be studying enough, you must not be praying enough, you must be spiritually weak. (In other words, there must be something wrong with you, you need to do more, you’re not doing enough!) This is motivation by guilt which never works, and if it does work it’s not lasting. You never get … Thank you so much for what you are doing in the field… Read more »
I was wondering what would happen if no witnessing report were required AT ALL! That would REALLY prove what is the stimulus behind going from door to door: love for God or fear of men (fear of appearing a weak spiritual brother/sister)
I believe that you get accused of “phantom witnessing” when the majority of your time is informal witnessing. Several Pioneers that I know (in different congregations and circuits) were approached by the Elders (or gossiped about by others in the congregation unfortunately) when the hours that they report don’t “match up” with how often they are seen out in the Field Ministry. These pioneers informal witnessed mostly, but they were still counseled to be “more visible” to the congregation. One of those Pioneers came off the list, the others adjusted their work schedules (some quit their jobs) in order to… Read more »
We had a few pioneers in our congregation like that didnt very often see them out on the work. I dont think i ever got to even work with them. I dont really know how they were getting the hours. But one thing i do know if they did have to fabricate the hours to keep up appearances then its a really sad indictment against the whole arrangement. Again where is the scriptural precedent for performing x amount of hours in a given time period. It seems more like a career in a big. Multi national company. With a big… Read more »
As we have all come to realize, counting hours is just another way the WTS has moved away from promoting and nurturing genuine Christian freedom to its own system of righteousness based on laws and dictates of men.
They have truly become blind guides.
Jesus could be standing in front of them with a 10,000 watt flood lamp of Biblical truths and they couldn’t see him if they tried.
They probably wouldn’t be able to see it . How would they if they are closing their minds and they expect Jesus to fit within their timetables and declarations of prophecy . As a side note , the obsession with recycling old prophecies mainly from the old testament and passing them off as new light is redundant, odd, and very annoying. Words like “antitypical” “greater fulfillment” “great significance to our day “and alleging that we are modern day ( insert here Johnadabs, Dukes, Gideonites, etc.) is overreaching . I wish they could show me just one valid example from the… Read more »
Hello Kev, we are in a big multinational corporation. Complete with a logo and mission statement. Hours in field service are the currency and new publishers are our profit.
Yes hezekiah we are and theres also managers that will fire us if we dont do exactly as we are told.
I feel like reporting field service creates the opposite effect than the one intended. In the scriptures sharing the good news of the Christ with others never made those doing the witnessing feel incompetent or doubt that they had said or did enough. Rather it spurred them to even more action and like Jeremiah it became a fire in their bones and inspired them to speak and act with boldness. When any society or organization uses outward actions to measure inward faith it dooms those beholden to them to emptiness. It gives to men what belongs to God… our time.… Read more »
*to high for me
I notice that some have made mention of the non-scriptural based requirement of reporting time and its purpose in the organization. The entire 40 yrs. as an active witness I have never agreed with this and felt it was just a control mechanism used by the org. When serving as an elder and yes a pioneer, I refused to give parts that focused on the need for the publishers to increase their time and at least reach the national average.This of course disturbed the body and I was counseled to be loyal to the theocratic arrangement. On the other hand… Read more »
Very true gogetter. I was on a shepherding call recently where a pioneer disclosed that they were under a great deal of stress to get the required hours. It even caused them health problems. I asked perhaps if this was causing health problems, it would be better to just regular auxiliary pioneer. They rejected the idea. Why? It was because the friends of the pioneer looked down on regular publishers with great disdain. He was afraid that if he didn’t have the status of pioneer he would lose all of his friends. While I didn’t offer a comment at the… Read more »
Never mind for some reason it is back there again, maybe it is something to do with scripting or something.
I had made a post on this site in response to this subject why was it not posted?
Was it not acceptable?
Actually there is more evidence in the Greek scriptures (New Testament) for Christians to be witnesses of him than being witnesses for Jehovah. Apart from the scripture in Acts that you have quoted, there is three more that I know of in the book of Revelation and I will quote them here. (1) Revelation 1 1 ¶ A Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him to show to His slaves things which must occur quickly. And He signified by sending through His angel to His slave, John, 2 who testified of the Word of God and the witness… Read more »
The last scripture that I quoted from Revelation was taken from chapter 19.
I forgot to quote the chapter, sorry about that.
Thanks for adding in that line of reasoning. It seals the case for me that we are witnesses of Jesus which means that through him we bear witness to the Father. This is what Christians are supposed to do. As for a name, Christian will do nicely as it encompasses all we do and all we are.
Yes without a doubt we are witnesses of jesus in my final talk at the hall i gave it the brothers straight from the platform when was the last time we even mentioned jesus while on the minstry ? The trouble is that the service meeting parts and thier suggestions for the minstry dont seem to include jesus nearly enough. Hes all me and my son would preach about in the end. And i remember he got counselled by one brother for not following the societies suggestions. What can you do. They seem to have veered of big time. Ive… Read more »
Well, I’ve had some inspired moments of midnight creativity over the years, and I’m pretty sure the supernatural had nothing to do with it. Seems to me that Rutherford was quirky enough that the demons were probably better off leaving him alone.
Probably true of Joseph Smith also.
In fact, humans in general can be pretty quirky. There will always be one to screw things up at the right moment in history. The demons have probably just been supping martinis on a beach in Hades for the last few millenniums, occasionally receiving humorous reports about those quirky humans. 🙂
I know you can take me pulling your leg a little bit anderestimme … I hope …
Ok, you got me with Joseph Smith. Salamanders, Moronis, golden disks, Egyptian texts – if he came up with all that with no outside help, he makes Rutherford look like a patsy.
Wasn’t ‘Sipping Martinis on a Beach in Hades’ the title of Rutherford’s unpublished posthumous autobiography? Or was it Warren Zevon’s….
Ain’t that the truth.
I doubt very much that Rutherford woke up under inspiration.
He was probably still awake sipping bourbons, or he woke up with the dry horrors and sat down at his desk to quench his thirst and write a few words of his wisdom.
I can just picture him going “einie menie minie mo” and opening his Bible at Isaiah.
Its a shame he didn’t land his finger on Isa. 5:11 😉
Oh dont get me started on reports meleti. Never have seen why a christian should divulge what he has given always have felt its beetween the individual and god. Matthew 6. V 1 to 4. That principle may just apply. As for the report itself your right it has no scriptural backing. Ive seen a few attempts to connect scripture with it. Acts 2 v41 being one. The same day there were added about three thousand souls. And our brother then said doesnt that show the importance of accurate reporting. Gideon and his 300 men was another one. The other… Read more »
Thanks Meleti, great article. I know Kev C, this particular point drives me crazy. The secretary in my congregation is like the report Nazi. He even has competitions to see which group overseer gets his reports done first. Does any of this bring glory to Jehovah? I have seriously considered continuing to go in service, yet not hand in a report. You can see that I am in service, but you wont know exactly how many hours I go. I know that if I were to do this, it would cause a great deal of difficulty for me. How sad… Read more »
I wonder if you respectfully declined to turn in a Field Service Report citing perhaps personal beliefs that Jehovah not measuring our service by this report . What if you stated that you want the hours that you contribute in the ministry to the have the same anonymity as the money you contribute to the worldwide work. I am curious …. Would you be counseled ?
I’m sure you would, but it sounds like a good tactic.
Rutherford’s inspired dreams were visions he no doubt had that were not unlike that of Constantine who in 312 C.E. saw a cross superimposed on the sun along with the motto in Latin “in hoc vince” (by this conquer).
Whatever happened to he great truisms: “Religion Is a Snare and a Racket!” and “Serve God and Christ the King!”
Hi Meleti another great article. Thank you for your insights. I would like to point out the use of Isaiah 43:10 as a basis for our name has no grounds. If you read the context of that scripture (the entire chapter) you will see that Jehovah was chastising the nation, not giving them a name. They should have been His ‘witnesses’ to demonstrate to other the other nations the grandeur of his Name and purpose. Instead they failed miserably. They were useless witnesses. Isa 43:22 “But you have not called even me, O Jacob, because you have grown weary of… Read more »