By Jack Ryan
Recently some secret “elders’ training videos” that are going to be used for the 2018 Kingdom Ministry School of Jehovah’s Witnesses were leaked online. One particular video was very disturbing; it showed a skit of three elders discussing what the religion calls “regular pioneers.” These are persons who spend a high amount of time in the preaching and proselytizing work of Jehovah’s Witnesses; in 2018, these pioneers were required to report a total of 840 hours for the year, equaling 70 hours per month.
The elders, in this demonstration, are discerning if three such pioneers in their congregation should be allowed to remain as pioneers, as each one has failed to meet that hourly requirement for the past year.
Despite this outright instruction to think of themselves as equals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and their elders dole out this position of pioneer, blatantly elevating it above other “publishers,” or congregation members. This is demonstrated when the men in the skit read a letter sent to all elders, dated May 1, 2017, which discusses how to handle various scenarios of pioneers who cannot meet their hours. The letter notes that a person could be considered an “infirm pioneer,” if they felt that removing the person from the pioneer ranks would be a “backward step” for them:
This point, that being a pioneer elevates you above the rest of the congregation, is emphasized again in that same letter, when it separates and divides the everyday congregants or publishers from these pioneers:
Obviously, to this woman and those whom she represents in this skit, the preaching work itself is not of importance; it’s having a special title that says you’re doing more than the next person that’s the real priority.
The elders sitting in a room, judging and critiquing pioneers or any congregation member without them present, about any subject, is disturbing enough. However, this video also demonstrates that pioneering is not about how effective you are in preaching and teaching, and it’s not about fulfilling any command given by Jesus, or about the people you might be helping. This title of pioneer is about just that; the title. It’s given to those who toe the company line and is taken away from those who are struggling, in order to elevate some above the congregation and then put others in their place. This harsh judging and critiquing of such ones shows that the preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses shouldn’t be called “field service,” but should just be called what it is; self-service.
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