The Stakes Are So High With Jehovah’s Witnesses

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Like the suspense in the best thriller movie you’ve seen.

Like the unresolved tension that keeps you turning pages in your favorite book.

Like betting your last dollar on the “longshot” horse.

Only the stakes are higher.

I’m talking about ministry to Jehovah’s Witnesses. As I talked with my friend “Mark” the other day on the phone, I was vividly reminded of this. Reminded like a backhand slap to my face.

I enjoy talking with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I enjoy getting them to think about things in a way they never have before. I enjoy seeing the light bulb in their minds come on. Okay, to be completely honest, I enjoy stumping them. Yay me.

But, this is not a game we’re playing.

At stake are a number of things: Their eternal souls (which they don’t believe in, by the way). Their spiritual, mental, emotional, and social well-being. Their enjoyment of life. Their freedom from bondage. Their participation in the blessings of the New Covenant. Their relationship with God.

The stakes are high. It’s excruciating to me at times. Why doesn’t Mark get set free, like right now? Right now! This waiting, the baby steps. The steps back before forward progress. Ugh! I can hardly stand it.

Maybe that’s how God wants me to be. Could that be part of the burden for the salvation of lost souls? Am I experiencing for the first time the heaviness of that burden that’s probably an everyday thing for genuine evangelists? Something must drive those dedicated missionaries, and those passionate street-corner preachers, and those ministers to the homeless and addicts and others that I think of as “difficult to work with.”

The problem with this gospel-sharing stuff is that I get attached to those with whom I’m sharing. Like stray kittens and puppies, only more intense. My friend Mark. My relatives. Their friends. My neighbors. Grocery store workers. I’m tearing up even now writing about them.

This is not a game, folks.

Lord, please draw these people to yourself. Because the stakes are so high. You know, because it cost you the life of your only Son.

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Keeping Jehovah’s Witnesses Engaged in Conversation Without Shutting Down

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Perhaps you have experienced this: You’re talking with a Jehovah’s Witness, and it’s going great; the two of you are all smiles, sunshine, and rainbows as you talk about the Bible together. Then, you bring up a scripture verse, or pose a thought-provoking question, and suddenly your JW friend transforms like Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. They might say something like “This conversation is over,” or “I don’t think you’re being sincere;” or they might just shut down and clam up, avoiding eye contact, hoping you will leave or melt into the sidewalk.

“What happened?” you wonder. “I just wanted to get him to think.”

Well, therein lies the problem. Now more than ever, JW’s are being taught not to think. The heightened rhetoric these days warn them against “independent thinking” and any (really, literally any) discussion with “apostates” or “opposers.”

It’s not your JW friend’s fault. I blame the governing body [governing bully; snicker]. Your friend is acting out of fear. They’re afraid of being led astray from “the truth,” afraid of displeasing Jehovah, afraid of getting in trouble with their elders, afraid that you might be right and their whole reality might come crashing down and there’s no truth out there at all and then how could they live with that? Can you imagine your fear if you found out that your whole context of existence is just a matrix-like illusion? You can’t blame them for resisting any threat to their virtual reality, and consequently treating you like a leprous killer bent on attacking them.

So how can you avoid that turning point, where they turn into either a hissing, arch-backed wildcat, or a glassy-eyed zombie?

I’m learning how to keep them alive and engaged with me. It’s been a long, slow learning curve. I’m hoping I can speed up your learning process with the following tips. I’ll use examples from my recent visit to the city (San Francisco), where I talked with four sets of JW’s standing beside their propaganda–oops, I mean literature carts.

First, endear them. Don’t approach them with guns blazing. I guarantee that opening with “Hey! Your organization is protecting pedophiles!” will result in immediate shutdown. Yes, there’s a time and place to talk with them about their child abuse problem. But not yet. For now, engage them in small-talk. Laugh with them. Enjoy being with them. They are nice people. Deluded, but nice. During my recent visit to the city, I chatted with the cart JW’s about our home towns, their commute into the city, their congregations, the weirdness of San Fran, and various other neutral topics.

Second, inoculate them against their allergic reaction to your message. Or put another way, set them up for receptivity to the real truth (as opposed to their artificial “truth”). I did that several ways with my JW acquaintances:

  1. Be a Berean. Give the example of the Bereans (from Acts 17), who questioned what the apostles (the “governing body” of that time) presented to them, checking it themselves against scripture. Say, “I want to be like the Bereans, so I ask a lot of questions.”
  2. Be childlike. “Your book, What the Bible Really Teaches, has a picture of a child, and describes how a child will ask a question again and again, annoying the grown-ups, until they get a reasonable answer. I’m like that child, so I might annoy you with my questions.”
  3. Be a tattle-tale. “I asked an elder about this, and he got mad at me, like I shouldn’t be asking questions, or he thought I was trying to rock the boat or something, but really I just wanted to know the answer to this. What do you think of this verse [or question, or concern, or practice, or doctrine]?”
  4. Share your genuine concern. If they see your shocked reaction to a JW doctrine, or your grief, or burden, or genuine concern, they are more likely to listen and respond, rather than shutting down. “I love my JW friends, and it grieves me that they’re being denied so many kingdom benefits [aka promises], that Watchtower teaches are only for the anointed 144,000. I’m in deep prayer for you guys. It grieves my heart.”
  5. Play them against each other. I talked with two women, one a senior adult, the other a young adult. The older lady mentioned “good news,” so I used that springboard to talk about the biblical “good news,” or gospel, as preached by Jesus and Paul. She was patronizing with me, wanting me to only listen and learn from her. When I tried to bring up scriptures that disagreed with what she was saying, she would object that I was “getting ahead of the truth” (that is, the canned lesson she was presenting). She literally WOULD NOT LOOK at First Corinthians 15:1-11 or Mark 1:14-15, which spell out the good news of the Bible (rather than the “good news” of the Watchtower). Suppressing my frustration, I turned to the younger woman and said, “You can understand what I’m trying to say, right?” She smiled and replied, “Yes, I see what you’re saying.” I hope my message was getting through to her, but I’m not sure. But regardless, it lightened the mood and enabled us all to get along better. And I think that younger lady saw how pushy and manipulative older lady was being.
  6. Appeal to their spiritual longings. Jehovah has “put eternity in their hearts,” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Somewhere in their deepest, primal part of their being, they long to have Jesus as their mediator, and be in the New Covenant, and have the heavenly hope, and live in the freedom that salvation by grace (not works) provides, and have the assurance of eternal life, and be adopted as sons and daughters of Jehovah. I see it in their eyes–they desperately want these things! And yet the governing bully withholds these blessings from them. It’s frustrating and maddening to me, but we can use that to appeal to their hearts. “Have you read about the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31? [I read it aloud to them.] Don’t you want to be in on that? It’s fantastic!” I also love talking about having Jesus as our mediator. (See my previous post about the Mediator here.)
  7. Appeal to their own literature. “I’ve been reading at jw.org, and found something that I find very disturbing. Did you know that Watchtower teaches that Jesus is mediator for only the anointed 144,000, and not for the rest of the believers? I read it in the Insight book, under M for mediator. Can you bring that up on your tablet?” They can’t argue with their own literature, but they sure do some mental gymnastics trying to explain it away. I like to say very little, and just let them wrestle with it, and try to talk their way through it. I had two JW’s commit to researching it on their own, and I believe they will. They seemed sincere, rather than making empty promises. And I prayed that they will not be able to forget. Which brings me to:

Third, pray for them. Pray before approaching them, during your conversation with them, and after leaving them. This actually does as much or more for my attitude and demeanor than theirs. I’ve mentioned before that sometimes God’s Holy Spirit prompts me to shut up, rather than adding that one last dig that I think will be so great. Ask God to continue working on their hearts and set them free. That’s what it’s all about after all; not my winning of an argument.

Prior to using these strategies, I would usually have only about a minute to talk with a JW before they shut down. Now, during this last visit to the city, I carried on conversations lasting from 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes. That’s more time for God to work on their hearts by his Holy Spirit. My new goal is to engage with JW’s for as long as I can, and depart on good terms. I left each of my four couples without them being antagonistic or emotionally absent. That’s a win!

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Walking on Eggshells in the Kingdom Hall

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This week I visited the Kingdom Hall for their regular weeknight meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses, something I try to do about once a month. If you’ve been following my posts, you will know that my cover has been blown; that is, they realize that I have an agenda, which is to share my “strong opinions” with their members. Actually, what I share are not my opinions, but rather what the Bible actually teaches, in contrast with what the Watchtower teaches.

Anyway, at one point they gave me an ultimatum, which resulted in a commitment from me to not share “my opinions” with members of the congregation. I agreed to do so. Since then, I have been visiting and engaging in only smalltalk with my JW friends.

That’s frustrating, as you can imagine. I have to bite my lip a lot. It’s a struggle to keep the Truth inside. And talking with my JW friends has become like the proverbial “walking on eggshells.” One false step, and they might “revoke their invitation,” forbidding me from entering the kingdom hall.

So what do I do?

This week’s visit provides a good example of exactly what I do.

First, I pray. Throughout the meeting, I talk with Jehovah and Jesus, mentioning the members that I see up front and in the seats, and for those with whom I talk before and after the talks.

Secondly, nothing has stopped my body language. I’m sure they see when I roll my eyes, cringe, bristle, or express exasperation or disbelief in what is being taught. Sometimes I even scoff audibly. I can’t help myself. So far no one has commented or asked me about it, but they must notice. The elders must see when I’m making a disgusted or incredulous face about what they’re saying from the lectern.

Thirdly, there are opportunities even within smalltalk to plant seeds. Our everyday conversation can reveal what we believe about God, Jesus, the Bible, the church, and other topics. This week I was commending “Verne,” one of the young men, a high-school student, for his astute comment during the meeting. He pointed out that when Jesus was killed, the spear the Romans used on him caused “blood and water” to flow out of him, conclusive evidence of certain death. After the meeting, I expressed my agreement with him about how important that was, that Jesus’ death and resurrection was a real, historical event that took place in space and time; that it was not fake news; that the “swoon theory” and other spurious explanations are bunk.

Do you see what I did there? It’s subtle, but I did at least two things. First, I included Jesus’ resurrection, something that JW’s believe in, but not in the same way that we do. They believe his resurrection was spiritual, not physical, and by lumping them together in history, space, and time, I planted a seed of truth about Jesus’ resurrection. Secondly, I as a member of “Christiandom,” what they call all other Christian organizations, expressed understanding and enthusiasm, even excitement, about biblical truth. JW’s are trained to believe that members of Christiandom have no understanding or enthusiasm for biblical truths. That might have been the biggest, most gnarly seed of all, something that could keep a JW from sleeping at night.

After talking with Verne, I talked with others, and shared with several members what I had shared with Verne. I multiplied the conversation, and hence the seed-planting! “Didn’t you love what Verne shared? I sure did! It places Jesus’ death and resurrection as a real event in history!” I must have had the same conversation four more times that evening.

So while my seed planting has to be stealthy, it can still be fun, and far from frustrating.

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Public Prayer Strategy at Jehovah’s Witnesses Carts

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From Pixabay.com

I have a new strategy I’m wanting to try when interacting with the Jehovah’s Witnesses at their literature carts. I’ve been thinking and praying about this because of my recent frustration with trying to hold a conversation of any length before they shut down on me. If you’ve tried to talk with JW’s recently, you’ve likely noticed that they shut down on you faster than ever before. In the past, they used to be willing to interact, dialogue, debate, and discuss. No longer. They have been receiving an increased amount of rhetoric in their kingdom hall talks and convention talks about not engaging in ANY discussions with apostates and opposers. They are being instructed to NOT talk with you. At all. None. Zero. Zip. Once they label you as an opposer, they clam up and avoid eye contact. You’ve seen it. You know what I mean. They suddenly say, “I’m not going to argue with you.” Then you get the silent treatment. Frustrating.

There are usually symptoms leading up to the shutdown. If they say one or more of the following, you know it’s coming:

“You can find all the answers you need at our website, jw dot borg.”

“Why are you asking that question?”

“Are you honestly seeking answers, or are you just wanting to start an argument?”

“I’m not sure you’re being sincere in your questioning.”

“Where is this question coming from?”

“Have you been reading apostate books/websites/sources?”

“Would you like to have someone pay you a personal visit to answer your questions?”

There may be a few more telling statements or questions that I’m not thinking of right now. And there are more variations of these. At their heart is a questioning of your motives, and a judging of your heart attitudes. Yes, it’s wrong, but it’s what they’re being trained to do. We can’t get around that. So what can we do? How can we keep the dialogue alive, without them shutting down?

My hope is that the other posts on this blog will provide you with some good tools to do just that. But I have a new idea. Tell me what you think of this.

What if I were to talk with the cart people just long enough to learn their names and begin to share truth with them; then when I sense they’re about to shut down, I could go to my knees and begin to pray out loud to Jehovah. I would tell Jehovah about my burden for my new friends, and how my heart is grieved for them. I would talk with God about all the blessings and kingdom privileges that are being denied the JW’s, as they teach that they are only for the anointed class (the 144,000). I would mention many of the promises in prayer, including being anointed by the holy spirit, being adopted as sons of Jehovah, being kings and priests, being in the new covenant, being citizens of the kingdom, and having Jesus as their mediator.

I would pray about their lack of assurance of eternal life, and Jehovah’s promise of assurance at First John 5:1.

Essentially I would be talking with Jehovah about all the things I want to say to my JW friends. What could they do? How could they object? I would be exercising my right to my religious practice of prayer in a public place, just like they are exercising their right to publicly stand beside their literature cart. I think the worst case would be that they would pack up and leave, but I could follow them, still praying out loud. I would be persistent, without crossing over into harassment.

What do you think of this possible approach? I’m thinking of trying this out soon. I’m wondering if it would be an effective way to plant seeds. It would also give them an “out,” since they would be listening to my words, while being obedient to the governing bully by not engaging me in conversation.

Give me your opinions, please, and if anyone has done this or something similar, please let us know in the comments. Thank you!

UPDATE: I visited the city (San Francisco) since writing the above, and talked with four JW parties at their literature carts, but did not get the opportunity to try the pbulic prayer strategy. The good news is, the opportunity did not present itself, because none of them shut down on me! See my more recent post for an account of my experience.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Promises Remind Me of Politicians

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From Pixabay

When any given politician is making their campaign promises, or reporting on how they performed over the last year, how much of what they’re saying do you believe? How much eye-rolling do you do? Or would you rather watch To Tell the Truth, because that show contains less lying?

You know the saying: How do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: His lips are moving.

As I attend Jehovah’s Witnesses meetings, assemblies, and conventions; and as I read Watchtower literature; I try to give the speakers and writers the benefit of the doubt. I try to assume that they’re being honest and up front with their hearers/readers, especially with outsiders, aka potential converts.

I’m having an increasingly hard time doing so.

I’m beginning to liken the JW speakers and writers to politicians.

What styles of discourse do politicians and JW’s have in common? Let me list a few.

Doublespeak: Affirming two contradictory statements without acknowledging the contradiction. Example: “Isn’t it wonderful about how blessed the anointed 144,000 are, with their heavenly hope? How great it will be for them to rule with Christ for all eternity!” Contrast that statement with things like, “Humans are designed for an earthly existence, not a heavenly one.” When talking about the anointed, heaven is sold as the best thing ever. But when talking about the “great crowd” believers, earth is where it’s at. “Heaven? Yuck! Who would want that?”

Omissions: At the recent convention I attended (July 2018), one of the speakers quoted John 6:44 like this: “No man can come unless the Father who sent me draws him.” This is one of my favorite verses of scripture, so I noticed immediately that the speaker omitted the phrase “to me.” The verse should read: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” I wondered whether the omission was intentional, purposefully downplaying our need to come to Jesus. Perhaps it was subconscious on the part of the speaker, due to the relentless indoctrination he has been through over the years. There I go again, giving them the benefit of the doubt.

I find myself even giving the governing bully the benefit of the doubt. Some describe them as wolves. I wonder whether they are just as deceived as the common members. Honestly I don’t know. I can just as easily imagine them as oblivious puppets, or as deliberately manipulative shysters. The more I learn, though, the more difficult it is to give them the benefit of the doubt. And I don’t mean that I’m learning about them from inflammatory websites published by disgruntled apostates with an ax to grind. (There are plenty of those.) I’m talking about what I learn from what I hear and read directly from the JW “horse’s mouth.”

Outright Lies: Here’s where it’s really becoming difficult to cut the governing bully and its minions any slack. One recent example I experienced was during the midweek ministry training at the local kingdom hall. The nice ladies acted out a JW inviting a “householder” to attend a kingdom hall meeting. The JW, in pitching her invitation, said that there would be audience participation, and that children are not separated from the meeting, but that they too could participate in the interaction.

That is a flat-out lie.

Yes, children can participate in the question-and-answer ritual, but that would only be children of families in good standing, and who have been prepared for such participation. No visitor, adult or child, is allowed to ask or answer a question. As a visitor, I have tried. I held my hand up for about 10 minutes one evening. If the fictional skit was representing what JW’s actually promise householders, they are being misleading at best, or insidiously deceptive at worst. They’re putting a positive spin on children attending meetings where they’re bored out of their gourds, instead of being offered educational programs tailored to their developmental level.

All of this is very vexing to me, especially when these flat-out lies are being presented by such nice ladies, whom I have actually been befriending at the kingdom hall. I don’t know whether to be angry or heartbroken for these people. I guess I will continue to feel both.

 

 

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Stay Awake With Jehovah’s Witness Convention Bingo!

While attending the recent Jehovah’s Witness convention, I was inspired with an idea that would help JW’s and non-JW’s alike to stay awake during the unrelenting onslaught of talks throughout the day. Actually, thinking about this idea and noting down some things I heard helped to keep me awake.

Let’s make a Bingo game out of the convention talks! Here are the step-by-step instructions.

Make a number of cards with 5×5 grids on them. Fill the squares randomly with the following phrases, making each card unique:

This system of things

Publisher

Worthy Ones / Ones Disposed to Receive

Coming Kingdom / Paradise

Higher Education

Jehovah God (in the center space)

In the Truth

Apostate

“We Commend You”

Honor or Uphold Jehovah’s Name

Maintain Your Spirituality

Theocratic

Jehovah’s Organization

Jehovah’s Arrangement

“Serve Where the Need is Greater”

Attend Meetings

Do the Preaching Ministry

Trust the Faithful Slave

“Where Else Would We Go?”

The Channel Jehovah is Using

Those Taking the Lead

Symposium

Patronizing Announcement

Announcement of Obvious

Vocal Crescendo at the End of a Talk

Euphemism for “Sit Down and Shut Up”

Thrilling / Exciting

Make up your own phrases to add to the list. You can share them in the comments below.

While listening to the convention talks, mark off each time your hear one of the phrases. Don’t use an “X;” that might look too much like a cross. You better use big black dots instead.

I just realized that we will have to change the name to JAH-Go, because “Bingo” might have pagan origins. Or it might come from the gambling world. Either. Or both.

Anyway, see my sample below, and Have Fun!

JWBingo

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Random Thoughts About the 2018 Jehovah’s Witness Convention, Part 2

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More thoughts about my experience attending the 2018 Jehovah’s Witnesses convention:

(This is part 2; see part 1 here.)

I was able to have a good conversation with one of the attendants (ushers). He showed me (on his phone) the trailer for the Jonah film that would be shown in full the next day (Sunday). I brought up my concern about the “great crowd” believers being denied so many kingdom privileges, including having Jesus as one’s mediator. He (predictably) thought I was wrong. I told him that it’s spelled out very clearly in the Insight on the Scriptures book, which is accessible at the JW website, and also in several Watchtower articles. He still insisted that I must have misunderstood the information I had read. I encouraged him to research the subject, and we went on with just friendly talk. I hope he has or will research on the subject of mediator. I prayed that he would not forget, and would not be able to shake the subject from his mind and heart.

During the lunch break, I had a couple of good, friendly conversations with other attendees. I also asked several security team members whether there had been any protesters that day or the day before, but they said there had been nothing.

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Groom’s Procession (not the one I saw), from sareez.com

Later in the afternoon, when I left one of the “talking head” sessions to get a break from the tedium, I saw a procession coming down the street, with people banging on drums and playing loud music. I thought it was going to be a protest group, but it was an Indian wedding procession, joyfully celebrating the groom traveling on horseback to the wedding site. How fun! I joined in the song and dance for a few minutes, something that I’m sure none of the JW’s would be caught doing. Actually, I don’t know. Can anyone provide insight as to whether JW’s in India participate in their traditional wedding revelry? There didn’t seem to be anything pagan about it, but well, you know how the Watchtower is. Please comment below if you know anything about it.

At the end of the day, we finally encountered “protesters”. At least, that is how the attendees saw them. Just outside the main doors of the convention hall, on the public sidewalk, there was a man and (I assume) his wife and daughter. They all held signs, saying things like “Jesus is Lord.” He was preaching with a bullhorn. I snapped a picture of them, which you can see above. He’s in the white shirt, his daughter is to the right in a blue shirt, and you can see part of his wife at the far left. The great thing was that he was not obnoxious. The bullhorn was not too loud. He was not shouting. He was using scripture, and all the right verses that make JW’s think, verses that I use with my JW friends. I chatted briefly with the wife, letting her know that I was praying. I was so encouraged that this family had a burden to preach the gospel to Jehovah’s Witnesses. More power to them (aka God bless them).

Almost every JW I talked with asked me, “Are you enjoying the convention?” or “Are you enjoying the talks?” Without exception I gave them my standard answer: “I’m really glad I came.” I highly recommend this response. Using it will enable you to give an honest answer that will always satisfy your JW friends. It’s good for kingdom hall use as well. If you go to a convention, be sure to take a lunch and plenty of snacks to keep you awake. Coffee was essential for me. Hard candies to suck on work well too. Do your best to endure the talks, because the opportunities for conversation before, in between, and after are priceless!

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