I haven’t been to a midweek meeting since the new arrangement went into effect on January 1, 2016. Last night I attended my first CLAM (Christian Life And Ministry) meeting just to see what it was like. I began by dutifully downloading the new Meeting Workbook which makes meeting preparation very convenient if one is using an electronic device like an iPad. Gone are the days when I used to go to the meeting with a brief case full of books. Now I just drop my tablet in my coat pocket and I’m off. Truly, we have such powerful research tools at our disposal. What a shame that we use them for hauling milk.
Before we begin, a word about the new name. Our Christian Life and Ministry promises a meeting for and about Christians, does it not? That would be the “Christian” part. Well, a good friend told me that he was listening in by phone to his meeting last week. He made it a point to count the number of times Jesus was mentioned excluding what he refers to as the “postage stamp” mentions which occur at the end of prayers.[i] He got, in his words, “a big, fat bagel”. Yes, zero mentions of our Lord by name or title in a meeting about our Christian life.
My friend is not only in a different country than I, but on a different continent. Would my meeting, one week later, produce a different result? Perhaps a different culture and language would show that what he experienced was a local aberration. Alas, no. I too came up with a big, fat bagel. How is it possible to have meetings about Christianity which do not even mention the Christ? I find even when he is mentioned, it is usually in the role of teacher and exemplar, never in his full role.
Now I have no problem with using God’s name, though I tend to call him Father most of the time. The fact is, he wants us to come to know him. That’s why he sent us his only-begotten Son. That was his arrangement, not ours. He has shown us the way that leads to Him and it goes straight through Jesus.
“Jesus said to him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If YOU men had known me, YOU would have known my Father also; from this moment on YOU know him and have seen him.”” (John 14:6-7)
So shouldn’t Our Christian Life and Ministry meetings be…you know…about the Christ?
It is most distressing that they are not!
I believe the name for this meeting is a bait and switch. It should really be called Our Organizational Life and Ministry.
For exhibit A, I present the first part titled “Faithful Worshippers Support Theocratic Arrangements.” We all know that “theocratic arrangements” is another term for “direction from the Governing Body.”
Just consider what this part teaches.
- Ne 10:28-30—They agreed not to enter into marriage alliances with “the peoples of the land” (w98 10/15 21 ¶11)
Translation: Jehovah’s Witnesses should only marry other Jehovah’s Witnesses. The irony here is that the Scripture on which this is based (1Co 7:39) tells us to marry “only in the Lord”. Yet most other Christian denominations pay far more homage to the Lord Jesus than we do. So who really is marrying only in the Lord? What we really mean is marry only in the Organization.
- Ne 10:32-39—They resolved to support true worship in various ways (w98 10/15 21 ¶11-12)
From the WT reference, we get this: “Living in harmony with such prayers requires preparation for Christian meetings and participation in them, sharing in arrangements to preach the good news, and helping interested ones by returning and, if possible, conducting Bible studies with them.”
So again, it’s all about the Organization.
- Ne 11:1-2—They willingly supported a special theocratic arrangement (w06 2/1 11 ¶6; w98 10/15 22 ¶13)
The application we can extract from paragraph 13 is to serve where there is a greater need, which ties in with the video. Apparently, the evangelizing spirit—something God approves of and supports—is reduced to organizational compliance as we are “supporting a special theocratic arrangement.” (Read “direction from the Governing Body.”)
The next part is Digging for Spiritual Gems. This makes us believe we are going to have to work a little to unearth gem-like truths from God’s word. A worthy endeavor to be sure. What “hidden gems” do we unearth?
- Ne 9:19-21—How has Jehovah proved that he provides well for his people?
The hidden gem? “True, Jehovah has not supplied a pillar of cloud nor one of fire to guide us into the new world. But he is using his organization to help us remain vigilant.” (w13 9/15 9 ¶9-10)
Again, it’s all about the Organization.
- Ne 9:6-38—What good example did the Levites set for us regarding prayer?
“Thus, the Levites set a good example for us to praise and thank Jehovah first before making personal requests in our prayers. “ (w13 10/15 22-23 ¶6-7)
A brief departure from the Organization drum-beating to impart, not exactly a hidden gem, but good advice nonetheless.
It appears that the “Digging for Spiritual Gems” part is what used to be the 10-minute Bible Highlights. There used to be a 2-minute talk after which we could express ourselves for 8 minutes (granted, only in 30-second sound bites) on any insight whatsoever we had gleaned from our weekly Bible reading. Apparently, that level of freedom was less than desirable, and we have once again been reduced to a prescribed and controlled Question-and-Answer format.
Apply Yourself to the Field Ministry
It appears to me that the Governing Body has seen fit to combine the former “Theocratic Ministry School” with the “Service Meeting” to come up with this hybrid. The School offered us a variety of topics and was more interesting than the repetitive content of the old Service Meeting. Still, from time to time even the Service Meeting had some interesting parts. So there was some variety. Not anymore. Now we get, week after week, the same three parts: An Initial Call demo, a Return Visit demo, and a Bible Study demo. Wait! It seems that the first meeting of each month features these three demos as video presentations from the Mother ship. Yea!
Living as Christians
We were next invited to watch a video that promotes our preaching work as “The Best Life Ever”. It was very professionally done, even including camera angles from a helicopter or drone as well as a musical soundtrack timed to carry the message—well designed to appeal to the emotions. It was hard to watch it without feeling motivated to get out there and preach. No mystery there. We are, after all, supposed to be Christian evangelizers. It is our passion to proclaim the Good News. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as we don’t poison the message.
To illustrate, I ran a google search for similar videos from other denominations and came up with this 5-minute presentation on the very first results page. (I can only imagine that there are thousands more like it.) It also is evocative and moving and has a lovely soundtrack. It too made we want to get out and preach. Now a Witness watching this video would dismiss it out-of-hand because it comes from the Seventh-Day Adventists. Why? Because, he would reason, they teach false doctrines.
I’m sure that Cameron, the star of the JW.org video, would reason that way. It is highly likely that she has no doubt about the Scriptural purity of message she is taking to the people of Malawi—the unadulterated Good News of the Kingdom. She is dutifully and sincerely teaching people that they should not partake of the emblems that represent the saving power of Christ’s blood and flesh. That their hope is as non-spirit-anointed other sheep with an earthly hope equal to that of the unrighteous who will be resurrected. They are not to be God’s adopted sons; just good friends. Christ is not their mediator. However, this is not the Good News Jesus preached. (Ga 1:8)
If you offer a thirsty man a glass of water unaware there is a tiny drop of poison in it, are you doing a good deed?
What the Organization is skillfully promoting as “The Best Life Ever” isn’t the life of a Christian, but the life of a member of the Organization.
Congregation Bible Study
The meeting concludes with the 30-minute Congregation Bible Study which currently reviews paragraphs from the book Imitate Their Faith.
This is the most interesting part of the CLAM. This book is full of speculative reasoning. It’s often more like reading a novel, then a Bible study aid. For example, paragraph 6 speculates on why the beautiful and intelligent Abigail would marry a good-for-nothing man. Not that there is anything wrong with a little speculation, but all too often the comments by the brothers and sisters reveal that they are treating what is written in the book as Bible fact.
That should come as no surprise since we are told that the Governing Body is the channel Jehovah God is using to communicate with all humans on earth.
The former midweek meeting was repetitive and boring save for the Bible Highlights and the occasional School talk or special needs part on the Service Meeting. It was milk, but by comparison with the current meeting, whole milk.
There is no depth to the CLAM, no true hidden gems of knowledge and wisdom. What we get is the same old, same old, with all the focus going on the Organization and none on our true Lord and Master. It is the spiritual equivalent of skim milk.
What a waste! What a colossally missed opportunity to teach eight million individuals how to “thoroughly…grasp mentally with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge, that [they] may be filled with all the fullness that God gives.” (Eph 3:18-19)
[i] He is not being pejorative toward the idea that we must petition our Father in the name of our Lord Jesus. Rather, he uses the term to highlight that the use of Christ’s name to terminate a prayer has become a mere formalism; a stamp on an envelope to send it on its way.
I happened to attend this meeting and tried to have a positive viewpoint of the points discussed. I suppose I could have found a lot of little things to criticize, but it would be missing the main failure to address our worship and obedience. I was so very disappointed with the part of “supporting theocratic arrangements.” The five points were briefly: 1) marrying in the Lord, 2) making contributions, 3) observing the Sabbath, 4) supplying wood for the altar and 5) giving Jehovah the best. As I sat there and meditated on those points, my mind opened to the thought… Read more »
I was amazed to see how little Jesus features in the memorial invitation for this year. Instead of focusing on his sacrifice, it is all about what we can get. As if people don’t love Jehovah and our Lord Jesus Christ for any reason other than what they can get out of it.
Dan 12:7 – “Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.” Except for the GB, all those in Christ – “anointed” (holy ones) – are admonished to keep their identity quiet. When I read this scripture, I believe their own spiritual “power”… Read more »
The Meeting workbook is basically just a script with little scope for freedom of expression – it’s more indoctrination, indoctrination, indoctrination – designed to keep the R&F in a holding pattern. I also heard a rumour that the name change from “school” to CLAM was a calculated one as more and more “schools” – particularly religious schools – are coming under the microscope for closer regulation with regards to sexual abuse and tax matters. Of course that’s an unsubstantiated rumour, but we know in the past the real reasons the org has made changes (like moving to donations instead of… Read more »
The more emphasis on the Org and GB the less on Christ and the more the r/f look to the GB its control. If one thinks to much on Christ and reads the gospels without the input of the GB they will soon come awaken and the GB doesn’t want that, they need to keep the flock focused on the org and them, blocking out holy spirit. This is not a Christian arrangement and makes no room for spiritual maturity, being spoon fed like babies by a group of men that have usurped Christ position. I can’t stomach the CLAM,… Read more »
It was a very Clammy meeting. lol lol No real substance. Like you said, same old, same old. They made a really big deal out of the 2nd last part ” The Best life ever” with the high quality video and all. Its very interesting why they chose a female as opposed to a male? Like you said, the part was well designed to appeal to the emotions, it targets females because if you consider the cong stats, 75% of Pioneers & Bethel Day workers are females. Its funny they only mentioned the Rosy picture of the matter like Cameron… Read more »
Between my wife and I, we have served where the need was greater in three different countries and I can attest to the fact that it often ends in disaster. This also is the case with Missionary homes. In fact going back to one of the original classes that was sent to Bogota Colombia, they all went off the rails, caused such an uproar that the home was closed and move to the coast with Br. Knorr stating that it would take a generation before they could bring the work back to the capital. And it did. The best life… Read more »
How long did it take them to figure out that missionary homes and same-sex pioneer partners for life were terrible ideas? Blind guides indeed.
“What a colossally missed opportunity to teach eight million individuals how to “thoroughly…grasp mentally with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge, that [they] may be filled with all the fullness that God gives.” (Eph 3:18, 19)” So very true. the reason is that the level of spiritual perception is veiled. 2 Cor 4 is very fitting to meditate on. Verse 4 onward describes that “the good news we declare is veiled”. What is the REAL good news, the ORIGINAL gospel? The… Read more »
The Highlights was the last unscripted part in all the myriad meetings of the org. Having gone from 6 mins to 5 to 4 to 2, it has been in the process of being phased out for years. Its demise was inevitable. Those of us who liked to make thought-provoking comments are more or less shut out, which was probably the whole point. The only positive point about the CLAM is that it goes by faster.
Thanks for the nice article. To me it reminds methods of the fascist party in Germany prior to WWII, or methods used in the Greek school at 70’s about the orthodox religion when I was a little boy. The field ministry part is like a bad seminar for sales people. Bible study (only in the name). The speculation and discussion are almost absurd now. David offered a sacred service and when he did not have what requested, he was going to kill all males, because he was performing a sacred service. Even my young lad was laughing with the comments.… Read more »
Hi Socretes1, “The field ministry part is like a bad seminar for sales people.” This reminds me of something. Last night I was looking at the territory of the congregation. They have only 50 territories and they are small. Some were of only one or two blocks. I asked my friend how often they worked it and he said they worked some of them twice a week. TWICE A WEEK! At the meeting they announced 5 new auxiliary pioneers for the coming month for the Memorial invitation campaign. This is the inevitable result of putting time in the field ministry… Read more »
“Skim Milk” is a fitting illustration. Also the, “in Jesus name” ‘postage stamp’. Very valid points made, here is my take on the first point in Part 1 not specific to the CLAM. 1 Cor 7:39 “Marry only in the Lord” – ‘in the Lord”, what did Paul mean by this? Context shown by vs 17-24 regarding the change of status communicated to the first century congregation. Was it a command or suggestion, or a strong suggestion, one that if not heeded by the brother, would not be an example to the congregation… as prescribed to many ‘principles’ of the… Read more »