Take a look at http://www.jw.org. Right on the opening home page, there are full page-width photos you can scroll through, each depicting Jehovah’s Witnesses sharing their literature with others.
Now, click on “publications,” choose “magazines,” and scroll down to the Watchtowers. Look at the cover pictures. What do you see? More JW’s witnessing to the public, in public, using their literature. About half of the pics show the literature carts that they are now using.
Notice what’s missing in these pics? Other than the Bible, of course. (Okay, I see one pic where the JW is holding the New World Translation. But as tempted as I am to follow that rabbit trail, it’s a topic for another time.) What I’m wanting you to notice is the lack of pictures of JW’s at the front door of the “householder.” Yes, if you peruse the website, you will find some pics of JW’s talking with a householder at their front door, but those pics are far outnumbered by these new depictions of ministry in public areas, with and without the literature carts. Hmmm. What do we make of this?
Although I have not seen it in print, two reasons for the new ministry method that I have heard from rank-and-file JW’s are: (1) The Watchtower’s recognition that door-to-door ministry has limited effectiveness due to more active lifestyles of “householders” (they’re not home as much as in the past), and (2) the modern phenomenon of gated communities and secure residential buildings that prohibit access by solicitors. So that makes sense, and indicates a wise recognition for the need to adapt ministry to changing cultural conditions. (If you have seen these or other reasons given in the literature, please share with us in the comments below.)
But what about the Watchtower’s history of doctrinal dogmatism regarding the door-to-door ministry practice? The Watchtower has a long history of justifying their “house to house” ministry method scripturally, (mis)using such verses as Acts 5:42 and 20:20. The practice has been used as a “holiness criteria” for members, and as an indicator of who is in the true church, and who is part of the false church (aka the whore of Babylon). What do you think? Will we see a doctrinal change? Will there be “new light” on the subject?
My prediction is that there will be no “new light” or new teaching, but rather a gradual and casual abandonment of the “old light.” It has already begun with these pictures on the website and the magazines. There will be fewer and fewer mentions in the literature of the “house to house” ministry, and more and more mentions of “various methods for reaching people with the good news of the kingdom.” The God’s Kingdom Rules book already teaches about methods used in the past: megaphones on cars, use of radio broadcasts and phonograph players, print ads, and multimedia presentations, to name a few. While house-to-house preaching will continue, it won’t be given the exclusive honor that it has enjoyed in the past. It will be interesting to see whether JW members will be able to choose their preferred form of ministry on any given Saturday, or if they will be assigned to carts or doors by the will (or at the whim) of the elders. Does anybody know how it’s decided who gets to use the carts, and who doesn’t, at any given kingdom hall?