That changed back in 1976 when the Our Kingdom Ministry became Our Kingdom Service and then after a few years switched back in 1982.
*** km 1/76 pp. 3-6 Speaking with the “Same Line of Thought” About Our Service to God ***
NO DOUBT you have had the opportunity to read the December 1, 1975, Watchtower and the information it gives about the terms “minister” and “ministry.” What effect will this Scriptural presentation have on our service to God?
In reality, our service to God continues to be what it always has been. The information in the Watchtower articles simply helps us to view that service in a somewhat clearer light, enriching our appreciation for it. It also helps us to understand more accurately the meaning of certain Bible terms and to use them in a way that will bring out more fully their original sense and “flavor.” It aids us to avoid causing misunderstanding on the part of persons in the world through our speech, not using English terms in a way that is contrary to their generally accepted sense in modern-day language. And, finally, it helps us to bring the thinking and speaking of all of us, on a global scale, no matter what our language may be, into greater harmony through our having the “same line of thought,” solidly based on the Scriptures.—1 Cor. 1:10.
As you will notice, the monthly publication that has for many years been called “Kingdom Ministry” has had its name changed to “Our Kingdom Service,” beginning with this January 1976 issue. In this way the thought of service expressed by the Greek Scripture term di·a·ko·nia is more fully conveyed. This change primarily affects just a few languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. Why these? Because in the other languages in which this monthly publication is printed, the title already contains the corresponding word for “service,” the reason being that there had been a problem in translating “ministry” accurately into those languages. So this new title in our language will bring the name of this publication into closer harmony with that used elsewhere around the world.
Along with the October 1975 Kingdom Ministry you received your “Theocratic School Schedule for 1976.” Perhaps you noticed that the School is there called simply “Theocratic School” rather than “Theocratic Ministry School” as in the past. From now on we will use that name, “Theocratic School.” This will simplify the name of the School even in some languages other than the five mentioned earlier. In German, for example, because of not having a corresponding term for “ministry” in a religious sense our brothers have had to develop a substitute term and thus have called it the “Theocratic Preaching Service School” (Theokratische Predigtdienstschule).
The “Kingdom Ministry School” will continue to be known by that name in English. Those now being invited there are elders and are therefore persons who have, in effect, had ‘hands laid upon them,’ assigning them to carry out a congregational service or “ministry.” (Acts 13:2, 3; 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22) So the name of the School remains appropriate in English.
Use of the Term “Minister” in the Field Service
What about our use of the term “minister” in the preaching activity we carry on in the field? Since the original meaning of the word “minister” is that of a “servant,” a Kingdom proclaimer is not wrong in referring to himself or herself as a “minister” in the sense of being a “servant” of God. But will our use of the term be properly understood by the persons to whom we carry the Kingdom message? Or will it raise questions in their minds that might not otherwise be raised, particularly if women or perhaps young persons introduce themselves as “ministers”? Will it really aid in opening up the minds and hearts of people to the message we bring? These are questions we should consider in deciding what will be advisable.
For example, in the land of Greece, where some of the Christian Greek Scriptures were written, a Witness would not go to the doors of the people and refer to himself as a di·a·ko·nos. Why not? Because the people would think he meant he was a “deacon” of the church, since that is the way the word is now used in modern Greece.
Even where their language contains a word for “minister,” brothers in certain countries have found it inadvisable to use it. For example, in most Latin-American countries the majority of the people are of the Catholic religion. Since the Spanish and Portuguese word ministro is usually understood to refer to a Protestant or Evangelical preacher, its use may prejudice Catholic persons against the Kingdom proclaimer who uses it.
Then, too, we may keep in mind the apostle Paul’s statement as to his manner of endeavoring to reach people with the truth. He says at 1 Corinthians 9:20-23: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, that I might gain those under law. To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, that I might gain those without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to people of all sorts, that I might by all means save some. But I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.”
When we talk to people in their homes, do we not want primarily to present ourselves as being fellow humans, neighbors who are interested in them and their welfare? Thereby they will feel, as it were, “on a level” with us and, we hope, express themselves freely to us. If we introduce ourselves by the term “minister,” may this not instead convey to their minds a sense of superiority, as though we were on a higher level than they? We know that in the world the clergymen who are called “ministers” have that designation as a title of considerable prestige, one that gives them a feeling of superior distinction, setting them apart from the rest of the flock in their church. So we will want to consider this factor, too, in deciding whether the use of the term “minister” will actually be beneficial in the witnessing we do among the people in our territory or whether some other form of introduction is to be preferred. Having these points in mind, you may realize, as you think back, that for quite a few months the Society’s publications have not used the expression “field ministry” in connection with our field service.
Its Use in Dealing with Officials
At times we may be required to answer official inquiries as to our position in relation to the Christian congregation. It may be asked whether one is a “minister” and, if so, whether one is “ordained.” As the December 1 Watchtower pointed out, on page 733, paragraph 23: “By the term ‘minister’ such governmental agencies do not describe or mean the service that every individual Christian may perform in his or her personal efforts to share the good news with others. In answering the inquiries, then, one would reasonably reply in harmony with what the official inquirers are seeking to know, rather than imposing one’s own definition on such terms.”
To be “ordained,” according to the accepted meaning of the term, does not refer to one’s becoming a Christian disciple at baptism. Ordination refers to a person’s appointment to congregational responsibility, to serve on behalf of the other Christian disciples in the congregation. It applies especially to those doing shepherding or pastoral work within the congregation, although we note that the Greek word di·a·ko·nos, often rendered “minister,” applies as well to those who are “ministerial servants.”
As stated earlier, those serving as elders and ministerial servants do have ‘hands laid upon them’ in the sense of their being appointed to serve the congregation in positions of responsibility. (1 Tim. 3:1-10, 12, 13; 5:22) In this regard they may be said to be “ordained,” in the sense that ordination is generally understood today. We do not view them as a “clergy” class or superior to the rest of the congregation as though these latter ones formed a “laity” class. Rather, they are assigned servants of the congregation, being put into such assignments to work on behalf of the congregation and serve the interests of its members. So, while all baptized Christians are servants of God, not all are put into such congregational work assignments or positions of service.
To illustrate the principle here involved, just consider the activity of teaching as done by members of the congregation. God’s Word instructs all Christian parents to be teachers of their children. (Eph. 6:4) Older women are to be “teachers of what is good” in recalling the “young women to their senses.” (Titus 2:3, 4) And Christians in general serve as “illuminators in the world,” which service calls on them to teach inquiring ones of the world about God’s purposes, as we do in our Bible study activity. (Phil. 2:15) So all God’s servants are invited to do teaching. But does that mean that they are all to receive the designation of “teachers” in the congregation, or that they should be viewed as “ordained” teachers?
We know that is not the case, do we not? For the disciple James says at James 3:1: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment.” He was referring to those who are congregational teachers, assigned to do such teaching work. (See Ephesians 4:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 12:28, 29.) It was in that regard that the apostle Paul wrote: “I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man.” (1 Tim. 2:11, 12) So, while the activity of teaching was something in which all Christians could participate, in one way or another, not all were designated to serve as “teachers” in a congregational sense, having an assignment to serve as such.
This helps us to understand why the apostle Paul could refer to Phoebe as a di·a′·ko·nos of the congregation in Cenchreae. (Rom. 16:1, 2) As The Kingdom Interlinear Translation shows, he was thereby stating that she was a “servant” of the congregation. This evidently does not mean that she was an appointed congregational servant, such as an elder or ministerial servant, but simply that she rendered voluntary service to the congregation in a commendable and notable way. Her serving was doubtless of a kind like that of the women who earlier ‘ministered [di·a·ko·ne′o] to Jesus and his apostles from their belongings.’ (Luke 8:1-3) Along similar lines, we may note that Philip the evangelist had four daughters that “prophesied.” (Acts 21:8, 9; compare 1 Corinthians 11:5; 13:8.) That does not mean, however, that they were designated as “prophets” and hence next to the “apostles” in terms of vital service rendered within the congregational framework. (1 Cor. 12:28, 29) Only men are referred to as such Christian “prophets,” as can be seen by such texts as Acts 11:27, 28; 13:1; 15:32.
*** km 1/82 p. 1 Branch Letter ***
How we rejoiced over the article on ‘God’s Ministers’ in the March 15, 1981, issue of The Watchtower! As stated on page 18: “All dedicated and baptized Christians, regardless of sex or age, can be proclaimers, preachers, ministers, . . . provided they give proof thereof by their conduct and their witnessing.” As the apostle Paul did, we, too, desire to ‘glorify our ministry.’ Is that not the way you feel about it? In harmony with the information recently published on this subject, it is most appropriate that the title of this publication now appears as Our Kingdom Ministry.