Last night I attended the regular midweek meeting at the local kingdom hall, and was given this invitation to the upcoming Memorial (sometimes called the Lord’s Evening Meal); that is, the annual JW communion service. Jehovah’s Witnesses observe what we call communion only once per year, because they believe that it’s proper practice to observe the event on the day of year upon which Passover would be celebrated. This is a BIG DEAL to JW’s, and is the closest thing they have to celebrating a holiday.
Notice their quotation of Luke 22:19, “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” I have a question I want to ask my JW friends. (And I likely will be asking them at the upcoming Memorial.) My question is, keep doing what? What is the this that we are to keep doing? Likely my JW friends will answer that we are to keep observing the memorial every year. But is that what Jesus had in mind when he said those words? Looking at the gospel narratives, it’s pretty obvious that Jesus was saying keep eating and drinking the bread and wine in remembrance of him. The strange thing is, the vast majority of JW’s don’t eat or drink the communion bread and wine. They just pass it without eating and drinking. Why? Because they believe that participating in the memorial is only for the 144,000 anointed class of believers. The rest, who are members of the “great crowd” class of believers, are only there to observe.
Sounds crazy to outsiders. Because it is crazy. But my JW friends and acquaintances don’t see it that way. It’s normal belief and practice to them. It’s likely that they have never even given it much thought; it’s just what they’ve always done. Our job, then, is to get them to think about it. But that’s not easy. While we’re uncomfortable just passing the bread and wine (last time I couldn’t do it; I had to get up and stand against the side wall), they would be uncomfortable with the thought of eating and drinking the symbols of a covenant belonging to someone else. So how do we talk with them about it? How do we get them to see how it looks to an outsider?
I have found the best approach is to express your puzzlement, which is not hard to do. Here’s what I asked a JW friend last year, and what I’ll likely ask again, and what you too can ask your JW friend, acquaintance, or relative:
“This is so strange to me. Can you tell me again why no-one here seemed to eat or drink the bread and wine? I’m puzzled.”
Then just let them try to explain. Some will be good at explaining it, while others will have a hard time explaining. But let them verbalize it and own it. Then repeat what they say, adding what you have learned about the practice. Something like, “So, if I understand correctly, Watchtower teaches that only the 144,000 anointed believers are in the New Covenant, and so only they can eat and drink. Can you tell me where in the Bible they are getting that from?” Show them the invitation, and ask, “I thought Jesus said ‘Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’ Wasn’t he saying that to all believers?” Then let them respond however they will. They might try to explain it away. Or they might change the subject. Their response is less important than their interacting with the truth as you have quoted in scripture and have explained to them. You have planted seeds that may need to germinate invisibly in the soil of their heart and mind for a while. Keep praying for them. They can be set free. I know it’s true, because I have met former JW’s! (If you need that encouragement, see my previous post here.)
God bless your ministry to those in bondage!