Tag Archives: Anointed

Attending the Annual Jehovah’s Witness Memorial

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None of this was eaten or drank. Really, none. Crazy, right?

I’m trying to remember how many Jehovah’s Witnesses annual Memorials* I have attended.

*The Memorial, in JW-speak, aka “Lord’s Evening Meal,” is their annual communion service, celebrated only once per year. In the JW system, the ceremony carries the distinction of ritually passing the bread and wine without partaking, unless you can confidently claim to be one of the 144,000 anointed believers. Non JW’s find it bizarre to see a room full of people passing the plates and cups around without eating or drinking.

I have definite memories of having attended four times now, but there may have been more. The first time that I remember, I passed the dishes along with everybody else, watching the empty ritual in awe. I didn’t think anything of participating along with my JW friends, other than feeling silly not eating and drinking. But the second through fourth times, things were different. During my second experience, I felt like I couldn’t bring myself to touch the dishes. My thinking was that I’m either going to fully participate, including eating and drinking, or else what business do we have even touching the elements? If the “great crowd” believers (those who are not of the 144,000 anointed class) are there only to observe, then why don’t they really observe, as in watching a small group of anointed believers around a small table up front? That would make more sense. So that year I sat on my hands and shook my head when the ushers and those next to me tried to hand me the dishes. They had to reach past me to give them to the next person. I even whispered to the usher, an elder, “Are we allowed to smell them?” (What a smart-aleck I can be. It just slipped out. Oh, did I say that out loud?)

Okay, so the last two times I attended, which was experience numbers 3 and 4 for me (or 4 and 5 if there was another), my thinking changed again. I found that I couldn’t even sit with the JW’s while the symbols were being passed. When the ushers began to pass them, I had to get up and stand along the side wall of the room. I felt like I couldn’t be any part of the ritual. I was truly “observing” and not participating in any way, as they describe the roll of the great crowd class. And it was not me trying to “make a statement” or protest–I was compelled to get up and get away from the passing activity. If any of the JW’s noticed or took what I did as a statement, then so be it; but I just could not stay in my seat.

I had a similar experience a number of years ago at a Catholic mass. I just could not take the elements at that time and place either, because what the priest had said about what the ritual represented for them, did not align with what I believe about the practice.

I realize that some non-JW’s and former JW’s are led by God’s Spirit to attend the memorial and eat and drink, either as a statement of protest to the JW’s, or as an expression of their freedom in Christ. I applaud them. But so far the Lord has not led me to do that. Nor do I think it wrong to touch the dishes and pass them along, if that’s what the Lord would have you do. We are free in Christ to do any of those choices, and perhaps others. And who knows; maybe the Lord will have me do something different next year. Meanwhile, here are some choices for you for the next Memorial:

  1. Pass the plate and cup along with your JW friends. Advantage: They aren’t scandalized and will still talk with you after the meeting. You are keeping your relationship with them, and thus your witness to them, alive and thriving.
  2. Stay seated, but don’t pass the dishes. Advantage: They likely still won’t be scandalized, and might ask you why you did what you did. Witnessing opportunity!
  3. Get up and stand to the side or the back of the room. Advantage: Again, they might ask you about what you did.
  4. Stay seated and eat some bread and take a sip of wine. Disadvantage: They will likely be scandalized, will probably label you as an apostate or opposer, and not talk to you ever again. Possible advantage: There’s a slim chance that an already-questioning JW might ask you more about what you did, on the sly.
  5. Eat some bread and drink some wine, stand up and make a disruptive statement aloud. If that’s what the Lord leads, then do so. Jesus disrupted the money-changers in the temple more violently than that. I won’t judge. Just be sure it’s the Lord’s leading, and not your own ego. In fact, seek the Lord’s leading in all the above options.

In all cases, the best reason to be there in the first place is to have conversations with JW’s both before and after the meeting. It is perhaps the best opportunity all year long. The JW’s attending are excited to be there. (Why are they so excited about such a dull, empty ritual? Two reasons: weeks and weeks of classical conditioning and hype.)  And they want to know what you thought about the experience. They all (as in all, as in every single one) ask me if I enjoyed the meeting. Take advantage of the opportunity that the Lord has provided, and engage with them! God will use it to plant seeds in their hearts and minds.

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Telephone Conversation About the Jehovah’s Witness Memorial.

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Most of the time I keep my cellphone’s ringtone on “vibrate” only. It’s our workplace rule, and I like it better than annoying ringtones anyway. But on Saturdays I often set my phone to actually ring, because it’s okay if an incoming call interrupts the yard work I’m doing. (“Oh, shucks. I have to stop weeding to take this call.”) So this last Saturday evening I heard an incoming call from my long-time Jehovah’s Witness friend Mark.

He called to invite me to the upcoming annual JW memorial (communion service). Not surprising, since he invites me every year. But then he asked me a question, which was very surprising. “Do you still believe that everyone should eat and drink the bread and wine?” he asked. (If you didn’t know, most JW’s pass the elements and do not eat and drink, unless they feel that they’re part of the 144,000 “anointed” believers.) Now, it sounds like a loaded question, and normally it would be, coming from any other JW. They tend to attack Christian beliefs with loaded questions such as, “Do you believe in hell?” and “Do you believe in the Trinity?” It’s their attempt to control the conversation. But I knew that in Mark’s case his question was not an attack. I know Mark, and I knew he was asking me for my honest opinion, not so he could pelt it with his memorized proof-texts, but because he wanted to know my biblical support for my belief.

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In other words, reading between the lines of Mark’s questioning, he’s questioning his own Watchtower-taught beliefs.

That’s huge. And that’s God at work.

We had a pretty long conversation. I brought up the verse quoted above in their own invitation, where Jesus commands us to “keep doing this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). What is the this Jesus is telling us to keep doing? Passing along the symbols without eating and drinking? No, in Matthew’s account (chapter 26), he tells them to “take and eat.” I also brought up that Watchtower likens the “great crowd” believers (those who aren’t part of the 144,000) to the “foreign residents” in the Old Testament. A simple study of the foreign residents reveals that they were allowed to fully participate in the Passover (along with all the other feasts), which is fulfilled in the last supper in the New Testament. If the foreign residents could eat and drink at the Passover, why can’t the great crowd believers eat and drink at the memorial? Finally, Mark brought up the copper serpent in the Old Testament (Numbers 21), of which Jesus claimed fulfillment at John 3:14. Those afflicted with sickness merely needed to look at the snake to be healed. Mark was implying that believers at the memorial would only need to look at the elements to benefit in some way from the experience. I pointed out two things: First, all the believers in the Old Testament story did the same action, that is, looking at the symbol. There weren’t two classes doing two different things. And secondly, if all we as believers need to do now is look at the symbols to benefit, why then do the anointed believes need to eat and drink?

Mark said that he would study about these things more. And unlike all other JW’s I have met, he will actually do so. (Respect to Mark for his rare integrity among JW’s.) Meanwhile, I’m thanking the Lord for a great conversation with a good friend, who happens to be a Jehovah’s Witness.

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Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Own Bible Study

In sharing with Jehovah’s Witnesses, your most valuable asset is your own personal Bible study.

Okay, maybe your most valuable asset is the power of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, yours and others’ prayers, and scripture itself. But as far as printed materials, what you personally prepare is the most valuable, far above any books, tracts, articles, websites, videos, podcasts, etc. Here’s why: Jehovah’s Witnesses are classically conditioned to NOT look at or listen to any materials published by any organization other than the Watchtower. Most of them will actually be afraid of it, and the rest will disregard it with a scoff. It’s satanic material in their mind, to be dismissed without a glance.

You need to prepare your own handwritten document to share with them. Here’s an example of what I have developed over time. In reading the Watchtower materials, I noticed so many blessings, or “kingdom privileges,” that Watchtower says are for only the 144,000, all of which we claim as promises from God, available to all who believe. So I began recording them, noting any scriptures that classified each specific blessing as being available to “you who believe,” or to “all who believe,” or similar language. And I ended up with a messy web of scripture that looked like this:

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Oh, the tangled webs we weave.

See how so many of the arrows point back to “believing in Christ”? That should tell you something. But it’s too messy and confusing to show to anyone, JW or not. So I tried to neaten things up a bit. Here’s the result:

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Wheel of Blessing (rather than Wheel of Fortune)

That’s a bit neater, and it indicates the centrality of our adoption by Jehovah, and its relation to (again) believing. Good stuff, right? This Bible study thing is work, but oh how blessed I feel! There’s a side benefit in this for you. You get encouraged by God as you study his word! Score!

But I was still not satisfied with my result. I wanted something that would make an impressive statement, something that looks professional to show to my JW friends. So I made a chart in Word, which ended up looking like this:

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I know, the pic is fuzzy. It’s my old iPad.

Impressive, yes, but it can be overwhelming. I showed it to my friend Nate (who died not long after, but not from looking at my chart). Nate was pretty smart, so I knew he could handle it. He took it home and studied it, and returned it to me dappled with red ink, most of which said either “for the anointed only,” or “only for that time period.” Right, Nate, that’s my point exactly! Did you notice that the verses all say something about the blessing being for everyone who believes? Smh. At least he studied it, right? Since sharing it with Nate I have learned that most JW’s would have immediately dismissed it without a glance in its direction.

Anyway, it’s much too complex. I needed something that made a statement at a glance, but that would also draw the reader in to deeper exploration. So I simplified my chart to this:

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Much better, yes?

You can also view it in PDF format here: Believing in Christ 2

The first row marked “redemption” is the only one that Watchtower considers available to all believers (that is, the “great crowd”). The entire remainder of the chart lists benefits that they consider only available to the 144,000 anointed believers. The verses listed in column 2 all indicate that the promises in column 1 are available to all who believe.

You are free to print out copies of the chart for your own use–consider it public domain. But I don’t recommend using the printed chart with your JW friends. They will likely not look at it. I have had it happen several times since showing it to Nate. What works better is to choose 2 or 3 of the examples and write them down by hand on a sheet of note paper. That will look more like something you personally discovered in your own reading of scripture. Which should be true anyway, as you study these verses in their contexts. Here’s an example:

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Pretty simple, huh?

Say something like, “I noticed on JW.org that watchtower teaches that only the 144,000 are born again. But could you take a look at this verse? To me it seems to be saying something different. What’s your take on that?” Then have them read 1 John 5:1 and John 3:3. You can choose any of the blessings I have listed, or any more that you may find in your own study of scripture. Read, study, and be blessed! Then, use what you learn to share with your JW friends.

[BTW, I need to make mention here of my new friend Wordgirl, who is masterful at this handwritten format of materials for use with JW’s. See her examples at her blog, A Twist in Translation, here.]

 

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How Many Sons of God?

Recently I got the bright idea to explore some of the cross-referencing in the New World Translation app among the verses having to do with being “born again” or “born of God” and “adoption.” I thought it might provide some useful talking points with my JW friends. In that process, I stumbled upon a possible Watchtower-shattering reference.  Take a look for yourself:

In the NWT app, bring up 2 Corinthians 6:18, which reads “And I will become a father to you, and you will become sons and daughters to me, says Jehovah, the Almighty.” Now click on the little plus sign (“+”) found after the word “me,” and look at the cross-reference verses that come up. One of them is Hosea 1:10, which reads:

“And the number of the people of Israel will be like the grains of sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it will be said to them, ‘The sons of the living God.'”

How many “Sons of God” does Watchtower teach there are? Only 144,000, right? But this verse, which WT shows in the cross-references in their translation is the fulfillment of Hosea 1:10, shows that the Sons of God are too many to be numbered.

And as a kicker, another of the cross-references is John 1:12, which says that anyone who believes has the authority, or legal right, to be called God’s child, or legally adopted heir. Not just the 144,000 anointed ones. Anyone.

I can’t wait to show my JW friends this cross-reference from their own translation app, and ask them to explain it to me.

Just. Can’t. Wait.

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