Isn't That His Job?
Celeste

An Habakkuk Presentation

That day the stock market plunged 1000 points in an hour, only to regain all but 300 at day's end, you could make mention of it in your ministry. But you could only do it for a short time. People's memories are short. After a few days, most crises are swept off center stage by a new crisis. But then you can simply substitute the new calamity in your remarks.

You don't harp on these things, of course, as if the purpose of your visit is to rub people's noses in disaster. After introducing myself and anyone I might be with, it usually went well to mention a "backdrop of anxiety" that most are aware of.  Even if our own immediate home and family circumstances are just fine (an important possibility to acknowledge when working among the la-de-da homes) there's always an oil spill somewhere, or an economy collapsing, or population rioting - all of which make people uneasy about the future. "You like to think, if only for the sake of the children and grandchildren, that you'll pass the world on to them in better shape than you found it - are they really asking too much to expect that of us? But these days people aren't too sure that's going to happen. Any thoughts on that yourself?"

I worked with this presentation for awhile. Not word for word, of course, but as if speaking from an outline, playing with the general themes. Tweaking it to fit the individual. If speaking to someone young, for instance, you might set them up as the recipient of the passed on world, rather than the one who passes it. It's a bit of a challenge, the door-to-door ministry. You strive to register signs, words, or impressions of the householder so as to mold a sensible response. You never know who you'll be speaking with or what their demeanor may be. Calling without appointment adds another degree of challenge; if your householder is any sort of productive person, invariably you'll be interrupting something. Not to mention that the last thing your person expected was to be confronted with a door-to-door minister. So your best chance is to be relaxed, friendly, non-threatening, and coherent.

It's usually good to weave a scripture into whatever presentation you're giving. Lately, I've been using Hab 3:17-18:

Although [the] fig tree itself may not blossom, and there may be no yield on the vines; the work of [the] olive tree may actually turn out a failure, and the terraces themselves may actually produce no food; [the] flock may actually be severed from [the] pen, and there may be no herd in the enclosures;

Yet, as for me, I will exult in Jehovah himself; I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.

pointing out that Habakkuk's response (vs 18) isn't really what one would expect from the conditions he describes...you'd expect him to complain and whine. It's the more human response; most people would do that. We're told that Diagoras, the world's first atheist, went that course after "an [unspecified] incident that happened against him went unpunished by the gods." So did Habakkuk know something that Diagoras didn't? It's a good lead-in for a subject like "Why Has God Permit Suffering," chapter 11 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach.

Transitioning into your scripture isn't so hard as you might think, but you don't want to be clumsy about it. You don't ask, for example, "is it okay if I read a scripture?" Of course it isn't; the very question indicates you think it is a big deal...a major escalation. Who's not going to balk at that?  Instead, ask yourself why should it surprise anyone if a minister of the Bible wants to read a scripture? Would you be shocked if a mechanic pulled out a wrench? You'd be disappointed if he didn't.

And you might think that when inviting your householder to comment on world conditions, he has to give the "right" answer, such as "everything's going to hell in a handbasket," and if he doesn't, you're stymied. Instead, your person may say something like "the world is what we make it," or "I guess we just have to be optimistic," or even "seems to me that things are getting better." It doesn't matter. Acknowledge whatever comment he makes, and then say "the reason I bring it up is because...." and go into Habukkuk. Plenty of people give the "wrong" answer, yet become real attentive when you reach the scripture. You can't expect people to pour out their hearts speaking to a complete stranger. Even when people think the world is going to hell in a handbasket, they're not likely to say it to you...for fear you'll perceive them a crybaby. No, "we have to just carry on best we can regardless of what comes down the pipe," they may reason. In fact, they're only listening to you with half an ear, anyway. They're also thinking "who is this guy? What does he want? Religion? Right here at my door? Isn't that a little strange?" So just go to your verse with a "the reason I bring it up is because...." You can use it regardless of what the householder says, unless he hurls epithets at you.

And somewhere along the line, it's good to add a "let me get your thoughts on this, and then I'll be on my way.....you probably have things to do." Your householder's likely worried that you mean to stay all day...you have to defuse that concern (and then stick to your promise). I've had people raise questions or bring in other matters, and I'll remind them how I said I was going to just be a few minutes, but now they've brought up this or that concern.....if we go that way, I'll say, it's on their dime, not mine.

Now, if you're transitioning into an offer of the Bible Teach book, why not describe how we use it as an outline for a Bible study program? An hour a week, a week or two per chapter, at a time and place of the householder's choosing, and in six months they'll have a working knowledge of the entire Bible. Hand the book to them with table of contents opened...."do any of these chapters strike you as interesting?" Frequently they'll latch onto an entirely different subject, one more attuned to their needs. I had one college kid recently who chose to confide, at this point, that his sister had died as an infant...and why would God do that? It had always bothered him.

That happens a lot. While you're rattling on, people 'take your measure' and may conclude you're someone with whom they can discuss spiritual concerns, same way businesspeople used to conclude Mac was someone with whom they could speak; after all, there's not many people with whom you can do that. After that, they'll bring up all kinds of things, and that's what you respond to, setting aside your prepared remarks (which calls for a certain nimbleness). Starting at whatever point most suits the householder, I like to offer to show how we use the book as a study guide. And by the way, why offer to study the Bible with them then and there? Offer to show how we study the Bible; it's the same thing, and sounds a lot less time-consuming.

Most often, even when their interest is genuinely piqued, they'll pass. They'll want to look it over, think about it, make sure they're not being hoodwinked somehow. After all, they were doing other things before you ambled along out of nowhere to offer them a Bible study. All of that's okay. Frankly, if I see persons unknown walking up my driveway, my first instinct  - and often my 2nd, 3rd and 4th instinct - is to get rid of them! Offer to stop again when they've had some time to think it over. And then, at least monthly, you can drop by with the latest copy of the magazines. This way no one ever thinks that your purpose is to distribute magazines; rather the magazines are a means of keeping spiritual things on the radar until interest and circumstances lend themselves to a more substantial Bible study.

It works for me. In time, it will grow stale - funny how presentations do that - or I'll grow bored with it and devise something new, maybe to come back to it later. It won't work in every part of the world, probably; it's tailored to those in my neck of the woods. And it's tailored to my personality, which isn't (thank God, you may say) the same as yours.

Reflecting on whatever good experiences one might find in the ministry, a Witness of Jehovah might recall the verse immediately following Jesus' Sermon on the Mount:

Now when Jesus finished these sayings, the effect was that the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching; for he was teaching them as a person having authority, and not as their scribes.   (Matt 7:28-29)

The 'authority' (in your case) comes from putting the scriptures together, fitting the pieces so that anyone can see, not only do they make sense, but they address the deepest questions of life. The contrast could not be greater from instruction of "their scribes," who quoted each other, and who taught an elaborate structure of doctrine and tradition to the point where the original thoughts of God all but vanished.

***************************

Tom Irregardless and Me                   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Comments

ChrisL

Nice presentation, Tom. I'm always looking for a new approach and this is a good one.

For any who are unfamiliar with how JWs are trained to conduct the door-to-door ministry, this is an application of what we are taught every week.

You will notice that Tom's technique is not at all like the brow-beatings and brainwashings needed to generate Big Bucks for JW Big Wigs, as claimed by Soreheads and opposers. If that were the real goal, Tom would be a miserable failure! He'd be ousted ASAP for someone who could produce! :) But in truth, his considerate approach is what all JWs are (or should be) aiming for.

tom sheepandgoats

Thank you, Chris.

Oddly, a couple of times in my life I have tried sales as a living, and have concluded I AM a miserable failure in that area. I just can't "get that into" whatever I am selling. 'Why in the world would they want to blow their money on this?' is generally in the back of my head. You're quite right: the ministry and sales are two entirely different pursuits.

Screech

The key for me is to be genuinely interested in people. We really don't know what their life has been like. People respond logically based on their own perception of the world around them.

I enjoy gaining insights into people's viewpoint. "What do you think of BP's claims about the oil spill?" The person will usually give a glimpse of who they are. They might respond with, "those guys really don't care. They'll say $20 billion and take ten years to find it and then argue about how best to pay it for another ten."

The next response can easily be, "it's interesting that you say that, because here in the Bible...." Of course, here is where preparation comes into play.

When I was a kid (this was before the internet, email, CD-ROMS, and even Windows95), I remember the experienced members of the congregation telling me, "we are not here to place magazines. We are here to talk to people. If we speak to them from that point of view, return visits and studies will take care of themselves."

Often, I have been able to provide someone with sound Biblical advice for something that was a concern for them. I'm sure that just as often they forget it, or decide to use it and THEN forget it. However, if only for a little bit of their day, they met someone who cared about them and wanted to know what they thought about something. That's more than people often get in their normal lives. So I'm giving them a gift no matter what; its up to them to decide what to do with it.

tom sheepandgoats

Far as I'm concerned, Screech, your comments reflect the true spirit of the ministry. Plus some practical suggestions that ought to benefit anyone who comes across them.

Screech

Thank you. BTW..I am blogging again.

The comments to this entry are closed.