COLUMBIA – Members of Jehovah’s Witnesses will hold their annual district convention this weekend at Mizzou Arena. This is the third year the religious group will be speaking in Columbia. They chose three cities in Missouri, including Kansas City and St. Charles, to host one of 319 yearly conventions that span 81 cities across the U.S.
News service overseer Kevin Lancaster of Boonville expects about 4,500 people to attend this year’s convention, which he says comprises more than 50 Missouri congregations. The theme of the convention is “Keep on the Watch!” This concept takes root in the gospel of Matthew in the Bible, where a “great tribulation” is suggested in chapter 24.
Friday 9:20 a.m. to 4:55 p.m. @ Mizzou Arena
Saturday 9:20 a.m. to 5 p.m. @ Mizzou Arena
Sunday 9:20 a.m. to 4 p.m. @ Mizzou Arena
“One of the goals of this convention would be to highlight the importance of being able to keep on the watch, to keep alert and to know the fulfillment of the Bible prophecy,” Lancaster said. He said humankind is approaching the final days before this prophecy, the world’s end, is believed to take effect.
Lancaster was quick to say that as long as people acknowledge this impending end, it can be joyous and divorced from an apocalyptic connotation.
“It’s not like a gloom and doom type of deal,” Lancaster said. “It’s actually very good news because the wickedness and so many of the problems in the world today will be alleviated through God’s kingdom.”
Regardless of whether those in attendance believe in this prophecy, Lancaster hopes that anyone wishing to know more about how Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Bible will attend. He plans for the convention to approach biblical issues through a reasonable, rather than fantastical, lens. Members of the group spent three weeks going door-to-door to inform the Columbia community of the convention.
A particular Bible passage will frame each day’s events. Today's subject matter deals with a keynote address about family and stems from Ephesians 5:15.
“We consider families very important and try to provide them with the proper spiritual instruction of God’s word,” Lancaster said. “Many Jehovah’s are united in our witnessing work in this way. It’s a nice core to draw from.”
Spiritual apathy will be analyzed on Saturday, using 1 Peter 5:8, which concerns watchfulness. Baptisms of local residents are scheduled. In 2008 about 40 mid-Missouri residents were baptized at the Columbia convention, Lancaster said. He said the Jehovah’s Witnesses baptize more than 800 people worldwide on a daily basis.
Habakkuk 2:3 will frame Sunday’s events, which will assuage fears about the world’s end and suggest how people can be “survivors.”
Columbia has continued to host the district convention because of the positive rapport between Jehovah’s Witnesses and the staff at the arena.
Lancaster said it’s common for people to lose their spiritual focus in daily life, and he hopes the convention will direct energy into this area.
“Apathy can be an issue," he said. "However, we feel that daily Bible reading and Bible study could help us all stay focused.”
Admission is free and open to the public. No collections will be taken.