“Go, . . . and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . , teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—MATT. 28:19, 20.
1, 2. What questions arise because of Jesus’ words found at Matthew 24:14?
WHETHER people agree with us or bitterly oppose us, few would deny that as a group Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known for their preaching activities. It may even be that you have met people in your ministry who have stated that while they disagree with our beliefs, they respect us for the work we do. As we know, Jesus foretold that the good news of the Kingdom would be preached in all the inhabited earth. (Matt. 24:14) But how do we know that the work we do is in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy? Is it presumptuous on our part to think that we are the ones who are doing this work?
2 Many religious groups feel that they are preaching the Gospel, or good news. However, their efforts are often limited to personal testimonies, church services, or programs broadcast through the media—whether by means of television or on the Internet. Others point to their charitable activities or their endeavors in the fields of medicine and education. How do these claims measure up when compared with what Jesus commanded his disciples to do?
3. According to Matthew 28:19, 20, what four things must Jesus’ followers do?
3 Were Jesus’ disciples to be passive, waiting for people to come to them? Definitely not! After his resurrection, Jesus addressed hundreds of his disciples and told them: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . , teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) Four actions are therefore required. We must make disciples, baptize them, and teach them, but what is the first thing we need to do? Jesus said: “Go”! With regard to this command, one Bible scholar commented: “To ‘go’ is the task of each believer, whether across the street or across the ocean.”—Matt. 10:7; Luke 10:3.
4. What is involved in becoming “fishers of men”?
4 Was Jesus referring only to the individual efforts of his followers, or was he alluding to an organized campaign to preach the good news? Since one individual would not be able to go to “all the nations,” this work would require the organized efforts of many. Jesus indicated as much when he invited his disciples to become “fishers of men.” (Read Matthew 4:18-22.) The type of fishing he referred to here was not that of a lone fisherman using a line and a lure, sitting idly while waiting for the fish to bite. Rather, it involved the use of fishing nets—a labor-intensive activity that at times required the coordinated efforts of many.—Luke 5:1-11.
5. What four questions need to be answered, and why?
5 To know who are preaching the good news today in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy, we need to answer these four questions:
What should be the message of the preaching work?
What should be our motive for doing this work?
What methods should be used?
What should be the scope and duration of this preaching work?
The answers to these questions will help us not only to identify who are doing this lifesaving work but also to strengthen our resolve to persevere faithfully in it.—1 Tim. 4:16.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE MESSAGE?
6. Why can you be confident that Jehovah’s Witnesses are preaching the right message?
6 Read Luke 4:43. Jesus preached “the good news of the Kingdom,” and he expects his disciples to do the same. What group of people are preaching that message in “all the nations”? The answer is obvious—only Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even some opposers acknowledge this fact. For example, a missionary priest once told a Witness that he had lived in many different countries and that he had asked the Witnesses in each country what message they were preaching. What answer was he given? The priest said: “They were all so stupid that they gave the same answer: ‘The good news of the Kingdom.’” Far from being “stupid,” however, those Witnesses were speaking in unity, as true Christians should. (1 Cor. 1:10) And they were echoing the message contained in The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom. This magazine is available in 254 languages, and an average of nearly 59 million copies of each issue are produced, making it the most widely circulated magazine in the world.
7. How do we know that the clergy of Christendom are not preaching the right message?
7 The clergy of Christendom are not preaching God’s Kingdom. If they do speak about the Kingdom, many refer to it as a feeling or a condition in the heart of a Christian. (Luke 17:21) They do not help people to understand that God’s Kingdom is a heavenly government with Jesus Christ as Ruler, that it is the solution to all mankind’s problems, and that it will soon remove all wickedness from this earth. (Rev. 19:11-21) Rather, they prefer to remember Jesus at Christmas and Easter. They seem to have no idea of what Jesus will accomplish as earth’s new Ruler. Since they have lost sight of the message they are supposed to preach, is it any wonder that they have also lost sight of what should be the motive for doing this work?
WHAT SHOULD BE OUR MOTIVE FOR DOING THE WORK?
8. What is the wrong motive for doing the preaching work?
8 What should be the motive for doing the preaching work? It should not be to collect money and construct elaborate buildings. Jesus told his disciples: “You received free, give free.” (Matt. 10:8) The Word of God should not be commercialized. (2 Cor. 2:17, ftn.) Those preaching the message should not seek personal gain for the work that they do. (Read Acts 20:33-35.) Despite this clear direction, most churches are sidetracked by collecting money or by making efforts to survive financially. They have to support a paid clergy, as well as a multitude of other employees. In many cases, the leaders of Christendom have amassed great wealth.—Rev. 17:4, 5.
9. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses shown that they engage in the preaching work with the right motive?
9 What is the record of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding collections? Their work is supported by voluntary donations. (2 Cor. 9:7) No collections are taken at their Kingdom Halls or conventions. Yet, last year alone, Jehovah’s Witnesses spent 1.93 billion hours in preaching the good news and conducting free of charge over nine million Bible studies each month. Amazingly, not only do they go unpaid for their work but they also gladly cover their own expenses. When speaking of the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses, one researcher stated: “The main goal is preaching and teaching. . . . There is no clergy, which cuts costs considerably.” What, then, is our motive for doing this work? Put simply, we do this work of our own volition because we love Jehovah and we love our neighbor. This willing spirit is in fulfillment of the prophecy found at Psalm 110:3. (Read.)
WHAT METHODS SHOULD BE USED?
10. What methods did Jesus and his disciples use to preach?
10 What methods did Jesus and his disciples use to preach the good news? They went to the people wherever they could be found—in public areas and in private homes. The preaching work included searching for deserving ones from house to house. (Matt. 10:11; Luke 8:1; Acts 5:42; 20:20) This systematic method showed impartiality.
11, 12. When it comes to preaching the good news, how do the efforts of Christendom compare with those of Jehovah’s people?
11 How have the churches of Christendom measured up in this regard? For the most part, church members have been happy to leave any preaching to the paid clergy. But rather than being “fishers of men,” Christendom’s clergy seem more concerned with merely keeping the “fish” they already have. True, at times certain clergymen may endeavor to stir up some form of evangelism. For example, early in the year 2001, Pope John Paul II stated in a letter: “Over the years, I have often repeated the summons to the new evangelization. I do so again now . . . We must revive in ourselves the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out: ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.’” The pope then went on to say that this mission “cannot be left to a group of ‘specialists’ but must involve the responsibility of all the members of the People of God.” But how many have responded to this appeal?
12 What has been the record of Jehovah’s Witnesses? They are the only ones who preach that Jesus has been ruling as King since 1914. As Jesus instructed, they place a high priority on the preaching work. (Mark 13:10) The book Pillars of Faith—American Congregations and Their Partners states: “For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the missionary focus overwhelms all other concerns.” Referring to statements made by a Witness, the author continues: “When they encounter hunger, loneliness, and ill health, they try to help, . . . but they never forget that their primary task is delivering a spiritual message about the coming end of the world and the necessity for salvation.” Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to deliver that message, using methods that Jesus and his disciples used.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE SCOPE AND DURATION OF THE WORK?
13. What should be the scope of the preaching work?
13 Jesus described the scope of the preaching work by saying that the good news would be preached “in all the inhabited earth.” (Matt. 24:14) Disciples are to be made “of people of all the nations.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) That entails a global work.
14, 15. What proves that Jehovah’s Witnesses have fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy with regard to the scope of the work? (See opening pictures.)
14 To understand how Jehovah’s Witnesses have fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy with regard to the scope of the preaching work, let us consider some facts. There are approximately 600,000 members of the clergy in the various denominations in the United States, where there are some 1,200,000 Witnesses of Jehovah. Worldwide, the Roman Catholic Church has a little over 400,000 priests. Now consider the number of Witnesses involved in the Bible-based Kingdom-preaching work. Worldwide, some eight million volunteer ministers preach to people in 240 lands. What an amazing work is being accomplished, all to Jehovah’s praise and glory!—Ps. 34:1; 51:15.
15 As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we desire to reach as many people as possible with the good news before the end comes. For this reason, we stand out as unique with regard to the work we do in translating and publishing Bible literature. Millions of books, magazines, tracts, and convention and Memorial invitations have been distributed free of charge. We have produced various publications in more than 700 languages. Over 200 million copies of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures have been published in over 130 languages. Last year alone, we produced approximately 4.5 billion pieces of Bible literature. On our official website, information is available in more than 750 languages. What other group of ministers is doing a similar work?
16. How do we know that Jehovah’s Witnesses have God’s spirit?
16 How long would the foretold preaching work continue? Jesus said that this global work would continue right on through the last days, “and then the end [would] come.” What other religious group has continued to preach the good news during these momentous last days? Some of those whom we meet in the ministry may say: “We have the holy spirit, but you people are doing the work.” But is not the fact that we can endure in the work evidence that we have God’s spirit? (Acts 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:14) From time to time, certain religious groups have tried to do what Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly accomplish, but those efforts usually result in failure. Others engage in so-called missionary activities for a limited time and then go back to their normal routine. Still others may even try to go from door to door, but what are they preaching? The answer to that question makes it clear that they are not carrying out the work that Christ began.
WHO REALLY ARE PREACHING THE GOOD NEWS TODAY?
17, 18. (a) Why can we be certain that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the ones who are preaching the good news of the Kingdom today? (b) How is it possible for us to continue in this work?
17 So who really are preaching the good news of the Kingdom today? With full confidence, we can say: “Jehovah’s Witnesses!” Why can we be so confident? Because we are preaching the right message, the good news of the Kingdom. By going to the people, we are also using the correct methods. Our preaching work is being done with the right motive—love, not financial gain. Our work has the greatest scope, reaching out to people of all nations and languages. And we will continue to do this work without letup, year in and year out, until the end comes.
18 We truly marvel at what is being accomplished by God’s people in these exciting times in which we live. But how is it possible for all of this to happen? The apostle Paul answers in his letter to the Philippians: “God is the one who for the sake of his good pleasure energizes you, giving you both the desire and the power to act.” (Phil. 2:13) May all of us continue to be energized by our loving Father as we do our very best and fully accomplish our ministry.—2 Tim. 4:5.
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION