Preserve the Positive Spirit of the Congregation
“The undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ be with the spirit you show.”—PHILIPPIANS 4:23.
HOW CAN WE INFLUENCE OTHERS IN THE CONGREGATION TO HAVE A GOOD SPIRIT . . .
when associating with our brothers?
by our zeal in the field ministry?
by telling the elders about a serious sin that we may know of?
1. Why did Paul and Jesus Christ speak well of the congregations in Philippi and Thyatira?
THE Philippian Christians in the first century were poor. But they were generous and showed great love for their brothers and sisters. (Philippians 1:3-5, 9; 4:15, 16) That is why Paul wrote to them: “The undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ be with the spirit you show.” (Philippians 4:23) Because the Christians in Thyatira had a similar spirit, or attitude, Jesus Christ told them: “I know your deeds, and your love and faith and ministry and endurance, and that your deeds of late are more than those formerly.”—Revelation 2:19.
2. How does our attitude influence the spirit that our congregation shows?
2 Each congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses today shows a certain spirit, or general attitude. Some congregations are known for being kind and loving. Others show great zeal in supporting the preaching work and the full-time ministry. When all of us work hard to have a good attitude, we help the congregation to remain united and to keep its good spirit. (1 Corinthians 1:10) But when individuals have a bad attitude, this may influence those in the congregation to do less in God’s service, lose zeal for the ministry, and even tolerate serious sin. (1 Corinthians 5:1; Revelation 3:15, 16) What spirit does your congregation show? How can you help to encourage a good spirit in the congregation?
ENCOURAGE A GOOD SPIRIT IN THE CONGREGATION
3, 4. How can we praise Jehovah in the congregation?
3 David sang to Jehovah: “I will laud you in the big congregation; among a numerous people I shall praise you.” (Psalm 35:18) The psalmist praised Jehovah when he was with other servants of God. Our congregation meetings each week, such as the Watchtower Study, give us opportunities to show our zeal and faith by our comments. We should all ask ourselves: ‘Do I comment at the meetings as much as I can? Do I prepare well so that I can give good comments? As family head, do I help my children before the meeting to prepare comments and teach them to answer in their own words?’
4 We can show that we have a steadfast heart, that is, a heart determined to do what is right, by the way we sing at the meetings. David said: “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make melody.” (Psalm 57:7) The songs we use at our meetings give us a very good opportunity to “sing and make melody” to Jehovah with a steadfast heart. If we do not know some of the songs well, perhaps we could practice them during our family worship. We want to do the same as the psalmist, who said: “I will sing to Jehovah throughout my life; I will make melody to my God as long as I am.”—Psalm 104:33.
5, 6. How can we be hospitable and generous to others? What does this encourage in the congregation?
5 When we are hospitable to our brothers and sisters, we also encourage love in the congregation. In the final chapter of his letter to the Hebrews, Paul wrote: “Let your brotherly love continue. Do not forget hospitality.” (Hebrews 13:1, 2) An excellent way to show hospitality is to invite the traveling overseer and his wife, or the full-time servants in the congregation, for a meal. Sometimes we may want to invite widows, families with only one parent, or others to join us for a meal or for our family worship.
6 Paul told Timothy to encourage others “to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19) Paul was encouraging his brothers and sisters to learn to be generous. Even when the economy is not good, we can be generous. For example, if you have a car, perhaps you can drive others to the territory or to the meetings. And how can brothers who are helped this way show their gratitude and encourage a good spirit in the congregation? They may give what they can to help pay for the increasing cost of fuel. Another way to make our brothers and sisters feel needed and loved is to spend more time with them. When we do good things “toward those related to us in the faith” and are ready to use our time and the things we have to help them, our love for them grows, and we influence others in the congregation to have a good spirit.—Galatians 6:10.
7. How does keeping the personal matters of others confidential help the congregation to have a good spirit?
7 Friendship and confidentiality also strengthen the love among our brothers and sisters. (Read Proverbs 18:24.) If a friend tells us about his personal matters, we show that we are a true friend if we do not tell others. We keep personal matters confidential. When our brother talks to us about his personal thoughts and feelings and he can trust that we will not tell others, the love that we already have between us grows stronger. Let us be a friend who can keep things confidential and help the congregation to be like a loving family.—Proverbs 20:19.
BE ENTHUSIASTIC IN THE MINISTRY
8. What did Jesus tell the Laodiceans? Why?
8 Jesus said to the congregation in Laodicea: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or else hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15, 16) The Laodiceans did not have zeal for the Christian ministry. This attitude probably influenced how they felt about one another in the congregation. So Jesus lovingly told them: “All those for whom I have affection I reprove and discipline. Therefore be zealous and repent.”—Revelation 3:19.
9. How does our enthusiasm for the field ministry influence the congregation?
9 If we want the congregation to have a good spirit, we should have zeal, or enthusiasm, for the field service. One purpose of the congregation is to find sincere people in the territory and teach them the truth. So we need to imitate Jesus and have zeal for the work of making disciples. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Luke 4:43) The greater our enthusiasm is for the ministry, the more united we will be as “God’s fellow workers.” (1 Corinthians 3:9) When we work with others in the ministry and see them defend their faith and show their love for Jehovah and the truth, we feel more love and respect for them. Also, serving “shoulder to shoulder” in the ministry results in a united spirit in the congregation.—Read Zephaniah 3:9.
10. What effect do our efforts to become better at our ministry have on others in the congregation?
10 Our efforts to become better at our ministry also have a good effect on others. If we show more interest in the people we meet in field service and work hard to reach their hearts, our enthusiasm for the ministry will grow. (Matthew 9:36, 37) If we are enthusiastic, those who are with us will become enthusiastic. Jesus sent his disciples out to preach, not by themselves, but in twos. (Luke 10:1) This not only encouraged them and trained them but also made them more enthusiastic for the ministry. We certainly enjoy working with enthusiastic publishers! Their enthusiasm encourages us and helps us to continue in the preaching work.—Romans 1:12.
DO NOT COMPLAIN OR HIDE SERIOUS SIN
11. What kind of attitude did some Israelites have in Moses’ time? What did this cause them to do?
11 A few weeks after Jehovah made the Israelites a nation, they started to murmur, or complain. This caused them to rebel against Jehovah and his representatives, Moses and Aaron. (Exodus 16:1, 2) Only a small number of the Israelites who left Egypt were allowed to enter the Promised Land. Not even Moses was allowed to enter that land because of the way he reacted to the bad attitude of the Israelites. (Deuteronomy 32:48-52) What can we do today to avoid having a bad attitude?
12. What can help us not to have a complaining attitude?
12 We must be careful not to have a complaining attitude. Humility and respect for authority will help us avoid this attitude. Something else that can help us is carefully choosing whom we associate with. There will be sad results if we choose bad entertainment or spend too much time at work or at school with people who do not obey Jehovah. It is wise to limit our association with those who have a complaining attitude or who try to be independent.—Proverbs 13:20.
13. What scriptures show that murmuring can also happen within the congregation?
13 When people in the congregation keep on complaining, this can slowly lead to conduct that will damage their relationship with Jehovah. A bad attitude can influence others. For example, Christ spoke of the bad influence of “that woman Jezebel” on the congregation at Thyatira. (Read Revelation 2:20-23.) The apostle Paul warned of the influences that come from within the congregation and can corrupt it. He compared these influences to leaven. He told the Corinthians: “Do you not know that a little leaven ferments the whole lump?” He continued: “Clear away the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, according as you are free from ferment.”—1 Corinthians 5:1, 2, 6, 7.
14, 15. (a) What can happen to the congregation if serious sin is allowed to continue? (b) What should we do if we know that someone is involved in a serious sin?
14 What if you find out that someone is hiding a serious sin, such as drinking too much alcohol, viewing pornography, or living an immoral life? What will you do? (Ephesians 5:11, 12) If we ignore serious sin, Jehovah can remove his holy spirit from the congregation. This could ruin the peace of the whole congregation. (Galatians 5:19-23) Paul told the Christians in Corinth that they had to “clear away the old leaven.” In the same way today, we must keep badness out of the congregation so that we can protect its good spirit. What can you do to help keep the peace of the congregation?
15 As mentioned earlier, it is important to keep certain matters confidential, especially when others trust us with their feelings and thoughts. It is wrong and unkind to tell others confidential things about someone else! Even so, if someone has committed a serious sin, the elders in the congregation need to know about it. They are the ones who have the Scriptural responsibility to take care of the matter. (Read Leviticus 5:1.) So if we know that a brother or a sister has committed a serious sin, we should tell that person to talk to the elders and ask for their help. (James 5:13-15) But if he or she does not talk to the elders within a reasonable amount of time, we should do it.
16. How do we protect the congregation by telling the elders if we know of serious sin?
16 People should feel safe in the Christian congregation, and we must help to protect it by telling the elders when someone has committed a serious sin. If the elders help the person who sinned to understand how serious his sin is, to repent, and to accept correction, the spirit of the congregation is no longer in danger. But what if the one who sinned does not repent and does not accept the loving help of the elders? Then he is disfellowshipped. In this way, the bad influence is removed, and the elders protect the spirit of the congregation. (Read 1 Corinthians 5:5.) So all of us have the responsibility to tell the elders if we know of serious sin and to follow their direction. Let us do what is best for our brothers and sisters and protect the congregation.
ENCOURAGE “THE ONENESS OF THE SPIRIT”
17, 18. What will help us to keep the unity of the congregation?
17 By “devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles,” Jesus’ early followers helped the congregation to become united. (Acts 2:42) They valued the direction that the older men gave them based on the Scriptures. In the same way today, the congregation has the help and encouragement it needs to stay united because the elders follow the direction of the faithful and discreet slave class. (1 Corinthians 1:10) When we obey the instruction that Jehovah’s organization gives us from the Bible and follow the direction of the elders, we show that we are “earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.”—Ephesians 4:3.
18 Let us do everything we can to help the congregation to have a good spirit and to keep that spirit. If we do this, we can be sure that “the undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ” will be with the spirit we show.—Philippians 4:23.
SOME EXPRESSIONS EXPLAINED
Spirit of the congregation: attitude of the congregation
Oneness of the spirit: unity
Zeal for the ministry: enthusiasm for field service
Murmuring: to make a habit of complaining
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Each person has a part in keeping a good spirit in the congregation
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Humility and respect for authority help us to avoid a complaining attitude
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Do you encourage a good spirit in the congregation by preparing good comments?
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Encourage a good spirit by knowing our songs well