I’m not looking for the usual answer that they will probably repeat to you verbatim. “Because Jesus did”, or “we are only following Jesus’s example”.
Let me tell you a little memory of mine about a Jehovah’s Witness regular pioneer. I will call her R in my story, she was a friend of mine, in fact she was one of the first friends I made in the congregation when I was still ‘in’. She regular pioneered for years straight out of high school, she worked part time in order to make sure she could still be in full-time service. Her one ambition (if I may say so) is that she wanted to go to Bethel. At that time the South African Bethel hardly ever took in single sisters, so she did finally get in by marrying a bethelite. Roughly seven years later she left bethel with her husband and is now still pioneering, well last I heard anyway.
That is some background for you, as a person she is the sweetest loveliest person I knew. She was always looking out for every one else. She often had ‘gatherings’ at her house for the youngsters so we could have some fun, supervised of course.
One night on our way to the meeting, I was sitting with her in the back of the car and I could see she was exhausted, completely shattered. She told me how she had been up since early that morning trying to get her hours in as it was the end of service year. For those who are a little lost here – the JW’s have a ‘service year’ just like a ‘financial year’ of a company. In that year a regular pioneer would need to put in a total of 840 hours. It works out to 70 hours a month. Since she only had like a day left in order to make up her hours she had been doing ‘crazy’ amounts of time to reach her goal.
As usual I deprecated my own service saying that I only did like two hours all month (I had heavy responsibilities taking care of my chronically ill mother – I wasn’t just slacking off) and that doing all her hours must feel amazing. Instead of agreeing with me she said very honestly that she thought my two hours given to Jehovah in joy and love were worth more than her ‘forced’ hours of seventy. Pretty much a quality over quantity thing. I was quite surprised by that because QUANTITY is all about being a good JW. That is why they have these hour requirements, that is why there is a congregation average of about ten hours a month, that all publishers should at least try to achieve.
Now that I am out and able to think clearer her comment strikes me even more. Here was a regular pioneer, doing everything that should make her ecstatic with happiness according to the JW checklist, and instead she was half envying my happily given preaching hours.
So, why do they preach? Because THEY HAVE TO. You cannot be a Witness and not preach pretty much, if you don’t preach for three months consecutively you are then labelled as ‘inactive’. You need to hand in a ‘field service report’ every month to declare how much you have done and this is how the elders monitor your ‘spiritual health’ because if you are doing too little that means they need to follow up with you.
In fact I have heard so many stories of how JW’s at the time would falsify their hours just too keep the elders off their backs. Just imagine if a quarter of a congregation of say a hundred members are giving in fake hours, how much of that yearly report is pure fiction? Are they faking their hours out of malice? No, its out of fear because they don’t want the elders to start boring their eyes into them wondering what is wrong.
The next time a Witness knocks on your door, they may be just like my friend R. When you feel that usual understandable annoyance, just think that they are forced to be there in order to maintain their image of being in ‘good standing’ or completing their service hours. Oh they also need to recruit for the Organization, but honestly the overwhelming reason is to get those hours in. The new ‘cart witnessing’ is a real demonstration of that, are they talking to anyone? Most of the time they appear to just stand some distance away and watch or sit in their folding chairs keeping an eye on the cart. Hardly the way Jesus preached, but then that really wasn’t the issue was it?