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!

Skim Milk

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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?

  1. 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.
  1. 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!

‘Nuf said.

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.

In Summary

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.

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.
    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x