The King of Pop & the Presbyters
Did he jostle with Jehovah's Witnesses?
Day 308, Week 44, Article 43
At Acts 11:30 we find the ancient Greek word presbyterous (from which we get "Presbyterian"). It means "older men" or "elders." Among first-century Christians, these elders or "overseers" (Greek, episkopous, from which we get "Episcopalian") were to shepherd the flock of God. (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Tim. 3:1, 2; Titus 1:5, 7) A number of elders among Jehovah's Witnesses, the religion Michael Jackson claimed till his dying day, felt the need to protect the faithful from the King of Pop; for, enigmatically, they saw him as a spiritual threat. However, a few overseers regarded the Moonwalker as a shy, quiet, harmless genius who danced to the beat of a different drummer. In the end, for the sake of spiritual solidarity, the elder minority capitulated and gave in to the majority. This distressed the Gloved One, who often waxed philosophic about such matters.
He pondered: After elders deliberate on congregation matters, should the few give in to the many purely for the sake of solidarity? Is it proper for the few to break ranks for the sake of righteousness? Should this be done publicly before the congregation if called for? Has there been occasion in Scripture when counsel from spiritually appointed, responsible men was rightfully disregarded? Smarter persons than me are in a better position to answer such questions. The following, however, may be food for thought:
Unanimous Accord: Witness elders are rightfully admonished to "speak in agreement," and imitate "the apostles and older men" at Jerusalem who, when deciding on an urgent organizational matter, were in "unanimous accord." (1 Cor. 1:10; Acts 15:6, 22, 23, 25) A worthy goal indeed. But are there examples where "unanimous accord" is a bad thing?
The June 15, 2010, Watchtower encourages readers to "reflect on the example of Joshua and Caleb" in the article, "Coping With a Spouse's Betrayal." This duo may be of special interest regarding the discussion of elders and unanimity. Here's why:
Moses was instructed to appoint a 12-member body of elders-all "capable men" (compare Ex. 18:25)-to attend to a serious organizational matter. Joshua and Caleb were among these. (Num. 13:1-16) But the vast majority of these elders-10 of them to be exact-arrived at a disturbing conclusion. (Num. 13:25-29) Caleb, however, dissented; valuing Jehovah's truth over being in unanimous accord with the other elders just for the sake of unanimity. (Num. 13:30-33; Joshua 14:7, 8)
Subscribing to the democratic process in favor of the theocratic one, the congregation sides with the 10 elders against Caleb and Joshua; and eventually against Moses and Aaron. (Num. 14:1-10) God was not pleased. (Num. 14:11, 12) Although the Lord forgave that generation of Israelites at Moses' behest, He vowed that it would not enter the Promised Land. (Num. 14:19-23) Joshua and Caleb, the two dissenting elders, were rewarded for "following wholly after" Jehovah, while the Lord held the other 10 elders accountable for their actions. (Num. 14:24, 35-37; 26:65; 32:12)
Ultimately, those 10 elders were replaced by another 10 elders who joined Joshua and Caleb in standing for truth. (Num. 34:16-29) Indeed, seeking Jehovah's truth first is of utmost importance.
Â Elders Breaking Ranks?: Joshua and Caleb were not the only elders to esteem righteousness and truth over elder unanimity. The prophet Micaiah also chose Jehovah's word over solidarity. Though he was told that "The words of the prophets are unanimously good to the king," and was subsequently encouraged to let his word "become like the word of one of them," Micaiah insisted: "As Jehovah is living, what Jehovah will say to me, that is what I shall speak." (1 Ki. 22:13, 14) And speak he did, not being discouraged by the temporary price he had to pay. (1 Ki. 22:26-28) Jehovah's word unfailingly prevailed. (1 Ki. 22:37, 38)
Shunning Shepherds?: What about congregants disregarding the counsel of shepherds? Is this ever acceptable?
When Moses was "taking a long time" atop Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, the Children of Israel persuaded Aaron to "make for us a god." (Ex. 32:1) Aaron collected gold from Israelite families and made "it into a molten statue of a calf" and built "an altar before it" after declaring: "This is your God, O Israel, who led you up out of the land of Egypt." (Ex. 34:2-6) Now, Aaron was appointed a prophet-priest, having been personally handpicked by Almighty Gold Jehovah himself. (Ex. 4:14-16; 7:1) Yet, he misrepresented God, and was solely responsible for letting the Israelites "go unrestrained for a disgrace among their opposers." (Ex. 32:25)
Ultimately, spiritually-minded Israel-ites like "all the sons of Levi" rejected Aaron's unconscionable course of action. (Ex. 32:26) They recognized that counsel from men in responsible positions should be heeded, only when such is based on Jehovah's laws. (Heb. 13:7; compare Gal. 1:8)
When this doesn't happen, the results can be deadly. For example, a young faithful prophet of God carried out divine instructions, but, regrettably, only to a point. When another older spirit-appointed prophet-with years of faithful kingdom service-misrepresented Jehovah, the young prophet listened to him instead of listening to God. It cost him his life. (1 Ki. 13:1-32) But there's good news on the horizon.
Elder Training Today: Encourag-ingly, Witness elders are receiving additional training today that was not available when Michael was officially associated with the Witnesses.
According to the June 15, 2010, Watchtower, 2008 kicked off an "ongoing training for congregation elders." Why? Well, "the purpose is to increase the spirituality of elders." This arrangement is in addition to the present Kingdom Ministry School sponsored by the Governing Body, also uniquely designed for the elders. The King of Pop would be pleased. Amen.