3

I have been in quite a few Jehovah's Witnesses meetings at their Kingdom Hall and am a bit intrigued about the meeting format.

All the Sunday meetings consist of a 30-minute talk (I take this would be referred to as a "sermon" in other denominations), given by an elder. This is followed by the Watchtower study which is like a question and answer session for the congregation on an article from the magazine.

Each magazine has about 4 study articles and so is used for during 4 weekend meetings. After that they go to the next magazine. The study articles in each magazine are on different biblical subjects, like faith/salvation/endurance, and so on.

For example last Sunday's Watchtower study was on the subject "Parents—Help Your Children Become “Wise for Salvation”", from this Watchtower magazine.

Below is an example of the questions that were discussed (from this page in the magazine). The easiest way to explain this format is by a video posted from another congregations meeting; this video of that meeting starts at the point where below paragraphs are discussed.

7, 8. (a) How does one Christian father show patience in teaching his daughter? (b) How have you found the need for similar patience?

7 Thomas, the father of an 11-year-old girl, relates: “My daughter might ask, ‛Could Jehovah have used evolution to develop life on earth?’ or, ‛Why don’t we get involved in the community​—with elections, for example—​to try to improve things?’ Sometimes I have to bite my tongue so as not to give a dogmatic answer. After all, conviction isn’t the result of one large chunk of truth. It comes from many small pieces of evidence.”

8 As Thomas knows, teaching takes patience. Actually, patience is important for all Christians. (Col. 3:12) Thomas realizes that there may be a need for many discussions over a period of time. He needs to reason on the Scriptures so that his daughter develops conviction about what she learns. “Especially on important points,” says Thomas, “my wife and I want to know if our daughter really believes what she is learning and if it makes sense to her. If she has questions, that’s good. Frankly, I would worry if she accepted something without asking questions.”

Question:

Are there other denominations that have this kind of a question/answer study format as standard part of their Sunday meeting, or is this more like typical to Jehovah's Witnesses?

  • 1
    I don't know of other denominations that do this on Sunday morning, but similarly structured studies with small groups outside of the main meeting are common in many denominations. – James Feb 21 '18 at 7:07
5

The English Puritans of the 16th Century held "prophesyings":

To improve the faith and training of parish clergy, Puritan ministers in the 1570s began holding a series of public conferences at which several sermons would be preached on the same Biblical text, the text would be discussed by the ministers present, and the proceedings would be summarized for the attending public by a moderator. Thus, though ostensibly for the education of clergy, the prophesyings also exposed the laity to Puritan teachings and to criticisms of the bishops and the Anglican Church.... Prophesyings were the first step in the formation of an informal and illegal system of presbyterian church government, which aimed to replace bishops with a hierarchy of assemblies comprising ministers and church elders. Because laypeople attended and observed prophesyings, the gathers were important not only for improving preaching among ministers but for spreading Puritan ideas among the people and thereby creating new adherents to the Puritan movement.

Source: John Wagner (2000). Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World: Britain, Ireland, Europe and America. p. 248.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • thank you for the answer, Betterthan Kwora. I was wondering whether JWs had come up with the meeting format themselves or if something like that was being done somewhere in earlier times. I did not know that Puritans had something similar going on. – coderworks Feb 21 '18 at 3:23
3

I am unaware of any Christian denomination that follows exactly the same structure of meetings as Jehovah's Witnesses. They are unique inasmuch as every single congregation throughout the world will study exactly the same Watchtower article. The study takes the form of questions and answers - each paragraph in the article has pre-set questions and the answer is to be found in the paragraph concerned. Members of the congregation raise their hand to answer the question (based on the material in the paragraph) and the person conducting the study will select two or perhaps three persons to respond.

The public talk will also be the same throughout the world. An outline of the talk is given to each congregation and the person selected to give the talk will follow the outline. The result is that the same subject and the same material will form the public talk in every Kingdom Hall.

It is important to understand that ONLY the material provided by the Society can be discussed. Nobody can deviate from the script or the published articles. The only acceptable answers to question are the answers that are already contained in the published articles.

In Protestant churches I have attended, the minister is in charge of setting the topics to be covered over a six month period. There is usually a series of sermons based on a particular Old or New Testament book of the Bible. Members of the church also study these topics at home Bible study groups. The difference is that Protestant churches encourage input and questions from individual members and do not restrict the material they can study or quote from.

  • 1
    thank you for your answer. As to that thing that "the only acceptable answers to question are the answers that are already contained in the published articles.", the questions are actually often such that they do not have an explicit printed answer in the published articles. Like one of the example questions in the OP is "How have you found the need for similar patience?" The answers given by the congregation on the video also seem to be in rather free format as I rarely remember hearing anyone paraphrase the article text. – coderworks Feb 21 '18 at 11:22
  • 1
    About deviating from the script or the published articles, yes I would think that if someone starts talking about something unrelated, (say, astronomy when the discussion is on parenting), the conductor will probably thank for the comment and ask someone else in order to stay on the subject. – coderworks Feb 21 '18 at 11:23
  • Wrong on public talk being the same in each congregation each week. – Kris Feb 21 '18 at 12:39
  • Also not true that answers can’t deviate from some “script” – Kris Feb 21 '18 at 12:54
  • 1
    Forgive me if I have misunderstood the nature of this web site. I thought Coderworks was asking if other denominations have the same style/format of meetings as Jehovah's Witnesses. Based on the meetings I have attended, my studies with the Witnesses, input from relatives who are Witnesses and personal research I have done, I am merely saying how I have found those meetings to be. – Lesley Feb 21 '18 at 17:11
2

This question is about non-Jehovah's Witness meetings that regularly consist of congregation-wide study sessions.

The answer to the question is simply, "Yes, there are very many non-JW denominations that hold regular congregation-wide study sessions."

To try to list ALL the denominations that do this would take many pages. It would be less time-consuming to list the few that do not have Bible study sessions for all in their congregations, but I am not going to do that because the simplest thing for anyone wishing to know is to go to the church's own web-site and look for their weekly Bible study time, also the conferences they participate in where Bible study is the main focus (which conferences are open to all, not just members of any particular group). Some denominations also have part-time courses of study for those wishing to delve deeply into biblical and Christian topics. Again, they welcome people from different denominations or no denomination. These courses are usually led by qualified lecturers in biblical topics, reading lists of various books and essays from students are optional extras, and encouraged. I have gone through such study courses over many years and I also attend weekly local church Bible study meetings.

The format of all of these is different to the detailed description of the JW study meetings provided in the question, nor are such study sessions restricted to a Sunday. Many Sunday services of worship provide at least half an hour (or an hour's) sermon of Bible teaching (usually recorded and distributed to those requesting CDs). Anyone can ask the preacher for clarification, or can even disagree with some point or other, and debate it with him. There are also age-appropriate groups given specific Bible teaching that day as well (e.g. Sunday School classes for children, and discussion groups for teenagers). In addition to that, many churches have a mid-week Bible study and prayer meeting, Friday night lectures, Saturday study courses, annual conferences, and so on.

One local Bible study group I attend is going through a booklet called "Gospel Centered Church - becoming the community God wants you to be" by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, published by 'the good book company'. The material first appeared as a series of articles in the UK edition of 'The Briefing' magazine. The format is: a scenario, a relevant Bible passage with questions for the group to openly discuss, the principles and practical out-workings made clear, more questions for people to go away and think about along with ideas and exercises to try out before the next meeting. The biblical principles established are not confined to those involved in 'professional' ministry. They create outlines of a gospel culture for the whole church. The goal of the booklet is to encourage practical obedience to the word of God, which leaves behind the traditions of men, to build spiritually healthy churches - irrespective of any denomination. Therefore, the answer to the question is, "Yes, there are very many non-JW denominations that hold regular congregation-wide study sessions."

  • 1
    JWs don't restrict these studies to Sunday either. There is also a 30-minute congregation Bible study at the end of every mid-week meeting. JWs also organize smaller study groups, but this question was only about the congregation-wide study groups at Sunday services. – 4castle Feb 27 '18 at 16:45
  • Answer would be improved if you included the name of a denomination – Kris Feb 28 '18 at 13:12
  • Yes, I could name several: the local Baptist churches in town (about 4 of them and many more nationally), the Free Church of Scotland (almost all of them in the country), a few of the Church of Scotland nationally, almost all of the Brethren and the Pentecostals too, the Apostolic Church, Gospel Hall groups, Dawson Mission, Miller Hall and many other little Protestant church groups the media never mentions. – Anne Mar 2 '18 at 19:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.