Tag Archives: governing body

Attending a Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall Meeting

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All seats filled? Never seen that.

Recently there have been a number of signs indicating to me that I have been “blacklisted” by the local Jehovah’s Witnesses. It began with one of the local elders questioning my motivations for engaging the JW’s in conversations. (See my accounts of encounters with him here and here and here.) Next, when I attempted numerous times to schedule Bible studies with my friend Aaron, he continually offered lame excuses as to why he couldn’t meet with me. When I asked him in a phone conversation what the real reason was, he avoided the question and said he had to go. Finally, I had a good visit at my front door with two new JW’s, who promised to return the next week, but they haven’t shown up since. I think someone got to them.

So I approached the kingdom hall last night with concern that I would be shunned, ignored, avoided, and otherwise given the cold shoulder. But far from it! Everyone was very friendly and willing to talk. I discussed nothing doctrinal, limiting my conversations to friendly talk about work, remembering peoples’ names, health, weather; essentially anything except what really matters. That was difficult. I was itching to share with my JW friends what they have been missing out on–scads of kingdom privileges and benefits that they’re being denied by the governing bully. (For a partial list of some of those benefits, see just about any of my previous posts.) But I held my tongue, knowing that keeping the relationships alive is, at this point, vital. If I’m labeled as an “opposer” or antagonistic, every one of them will avoid any kind of conversation with me. Any kind. At all. Today I’m rejoicing that the “cutting off” hasn’t happened.

The one elder, whom I will call “Carl,” (even though I’m tempted to label him “my nemesis”), did not interact with me. Neither did I pursue any conversation with him. We greeted each other with smiles and “hello,” but that’s all. I know that he was eavesdropping on a couple of my conversations with others, but otherwise he just left me alone. Having confidence in the Lord that I was His ambassador, I felt no fear of the man Carl, or anybody else. I knew that I was representing Jesus, even though I was only engaged in small talk. Relationships were being nurtured, and at least for now, I’m still seen as an interested Bible student.

Some observations about the meeting itself, which I believe indicate some recent trends:

(1) There were a number of slanderous statements aimed at “Christiandom,” that they provide no training to their people, that they don’t know anything about the Bible, that they have nothing to offer, that they blame Jehovah for disasters, etc. Broad, sweeping generalizations.

(2) I noticed several references to “upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty” or its opposite, “profaning God’s name.” Obedience to the org is equated with upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty, bringing the humble individual into a drama of cosmic proportions. The members of Christiandom are depicted as only capable of profaning Jehovah’s name, disobeying his laws and sullying his reputation. In a previous post I mentioned the revival of an old doctrine known as “The vindication of God’s sovereignty,” and I predicted increasing references to it. (See that post here.) And thus it has begun, becoming part of the “theocratic language” (JW-speak) of the rank-and-file members. Get ready to hear more and more references to it, both in the JW publications and videos, and by individual members.

 

(3) One of the Bible studies this time around was about Ezekiel’s temple, found in the Bible beginning at Ezekiel 40. Now, I must confess that this is one of the most perplexing passages of scripture for me, and, I believe, for all Christians. If you take the description of Zeke’s temple literally, then where and when does this temple exist? And why? If it’s in the future, what would be the necessity of animal sacrifices again? If you tend to spiritualize or take the passage symbolically, what is it symbolic of? And what do you do with all the details? In the past the problem tended to be “solved” using elaborate typology, which is a can of very subjective worms, easily corrupted by personal theological or prophetic preferences. Anyway, it seems that Watchtower is interpreting the vision as symbolic of present kingdom realities, which puts them dangerously close to the fanciful interpretations they recently warned about in their literature (see Watchtower, study edition, March 2015, “This Is the Way You Approved”).

Oh, my, this post is a rambling one. Well, it just shows how my mind was working during the meeting. If you’re a Christian attempting to reach JW’s, God bless you. And of you’re a JW researching the real Truth, God bless you, from your friend #undercoverjw.

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Preparing Jehovah’s Witnesses to Listen, a New Strategy, Tested in Real Life

Anyone attempting to reach Jehovah’s Witnesses lately have likely noticed their recent attitude change, where they have moved away from a willingness to talk, discuss, and debate, to where they quickly employ discussion-enders, either referring you to their website, or saying something like, “I’m not going to argue with you.” As I have discussed in two previous posts, their new practice is due to (1) their recent training, where they are strictly warned to not to engage in any form of dialogue with apostates or opposers, and (2) the convenience of the jw.org website, where JW’s glibly refer people they would rather not interact with. Their thoughts (I imagine) as they talk with you are as follows:

Oh-oh, He asked me about something I can’t explain. This must be one of those evil, deceptive, satanic opposers we have been warned about. I must not talk with them. Good thing we have the website to refer them to, so I can save face and dismiss him in a polite fashion.

One of the challenges I have faced is that they are partly right that I have been a bit deceptive. Not in an evil, satanic way; just in clever ways. (I fancy myself to be like Nathan the prophet, telling King David a story, then lowering the boom with “You are the man.”) But in their mind, their thinking is “Why should I trust anything this guys says to me, if he’s using trickery to get me to think about something?” Hmm. Good point. Of course we could turn that argument around, talking about the multiple instances of deception on the part of the Watchtower and its governing bully. But that would hardly be productive, would it?

Instead, I have sought new, more up-front and honest ways to discuss things with my JW friends and acquaintances. Take a look at my descriptions of my new strategy in my two previous posts here and here.

So this past Saturday I got an opportunity to go live with my new strategy. Two JW’s came to my door, and we introduced ourselves to each other. I’ll call them Ken and Allen. I asked, “Are you the Jehovah’s Witnesses?” Of course they answered that yes, they were. “Oh good, I love you guys,” I replied. As they awkwardly acknowledged my gushing about them, I added, “Yes I love you guys, and I’m so deeply concerned about you. I’ve been in some deep prayer for my JW friends and acquaintances. I’m just so heavily burdened for you, because I love you so much.”

They politely skirted around that issue by showing me the brochure “Good News From God.” I discussed it a little with them for a few minutes, but then I went back to my agenda. “My big concern for you and my other JW friends is that you’re being denied a number of kingdom privileges, including being adopted as Jehovah’s sons, and having Jesus as your mediator, and being in the new covenant, and quite a few others also.”

Allen responded that I may have misunderstood about the mediator, which allowed me to explain that my JW friends and I had looked up the topic of “mediator” in the Insight book, where it states clearly the Watchtower teaching that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed 144,000 believers. From there we talked about several topics, including adoption as sons, the JW gospel versus Paul’s gospel, and others. At no time did either Ken or Allen “shut down” or accuse me of being argumentative. We remained friendly and interactive throughout. I described my experiences with other JWs’ reactions to learning that Jesus was not their mediator, and returned again to sharing my burden and concern for them, expressing my desire that my JW friends would be able to experience these privileges as I have. We ended on their offering to return and discuss things more with me, which I encouraged.

My hope and prayer is that God, by his Holy Spirit, will protect us; that Ken and Allen won’t be stopped by others who know about me, and that they will return next week or sometime soon. Ken and Allen are from a different congregation than the one I occasionally attend, but it’s here in the same town. Hopefully one congregation won’t rat me out to the other. If you’re reading this soon after it was written, I desire your prayer. Thank you!

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Is Attendance Down at the Jehovah’s Witnesses Conventions?

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JW Convention, Cow Palace, 2017

Is Convention Attendance Down?

On a recent Saturday I attended part of the 2017 convention entitled “Don’t Give Up!” My intention was to attend the full day, like I usually do, but circumstances made me arrive at lunchtime and leave before the sessions of the day were over. Here are some of my experiences and thoughts from the day.

I wondered whether attendance would be down as others have been reporting. I believe it was down a little, but not greatly. It seemed there were more gaps between people than there had been in my past experiences. Take a look at the pic above and compare it with my pic from last year, below. It’s difficult to discern any difference from my blurry pics, but my experience was that there were slightly fewer people this year.

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JW Convention, Cow Palace, 2016

 

A Conversation

Upon arriving at lunchtime, I met my friend Mark, and we and walked out to Marla’s car (the sister he had ridden with), where we all ate together, enjoying the cool, sunny day outside of the Cow Palace (San Francisco). Because I have been recently experiencing less willingness on the part of JW’s to interact in any meaningful way (see my previous post, Preparing Jehovah’s Witnesses to Listen – A New Strategy), I used my new approach with Marla. She began asking me about whether I liked reading the Bible, and what translation I used. I could tell where she was going, but I didn’t let on. I told her I liked New American Standard and New International Version, and that I have them side-by-side in columns in my Bible app. To my surprise, she said she liked the NIV too. But then, sure enough, she began claiming the superiority of the New World Translation, because of its inclusion of “Jehovah” for God’s name, where others have substituted in the title “LORD.” I told her that I also liked a version that used the name “Yahweh” in the Old Testament, and explained that it was more accurate to the original language than the name “Jehovah” which was not invented until the 14th century.

Before that point could loom and spoil our relationship, I expressed my joy at being able to join with Jesus in calling God “Father,” and even something like “Dad” according to Romans 8. I was going to be kind and not drop the bomb that Watchtower teaches that adoption as sons (according to Romans 8) is only for the anointed 144,000, but then Marla did it herself. (She knows her doctrine better than most JW’s.) My cheerful response was: “Oh, I believe I have been adopted as Jehovah’s son, and when that happens, we’re free to address him as Jehovah, Yahweh, Father, Dad, or any of his other names. It’s fantastic!”

Then I changed the subject, mentioning the great weather Jehovah had provided for us that day. And we remained friends, chatting all the way back into the arena! (Actually, Marla did most of the chatting, which was essentially “humble-bragging” about the Jehovah’s Witness organization.)

Comments on One of the Talks

One of the most bizarre talks, in my opinion, was one among the four in the symposium “Imitate Those Who Have Endured,” specifically the talk on Jephthah’s Daughter (Judges 11:36-40). If you read Judges 11, it says that Jephthah (foolishly) vowed to offer as a burnt offering “whoever comes out of the door of my house.” The speaker then went on to assume that Jephthah’s daughter was not killed by her father, but lived the rest of her days a virgin in the temple, perhaps playing a part in raising Samuel. He (and I assume the Watchtower leaders) completely overlook that the Bible says that Jephthah “carried out the vow he had made regarding her.” The NWT even gives a biased translation of verse 40, saying that “from year to year, the young women of Israel would go to give commendation to the daughter of Jephʹthah,” in contrast to all other translations which say something like “each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate (or lament) the daughter of Jephthah.” I was amazed at the Watchtower’s sanitizating of the biblical story, and wondered what was their motive for doing so. I would appreciate your thoughts and insights about this in the comment section below. Yes, you, whether you’re a Jehovah’s Witness in good standing, faded, disfellowshipped, or a non-JW (or some other category I haven’t thought of). Remain anonymous if you need to. Jehovah loves you, and wants to adopt you as his son or daughter! (Read Romans 8.)

 

 

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Opportunity Knocks, Then Runs Away

Have you noticed that one of my blog posts has a very long string of comments attached? See My JW Friend and I Share a Laugh to see what I’m talking about. The comment string represents an ongoing conversation between myself and a reader that went on for three months, almost to the date (12/15/16 through 3/15/17). Any reader patient enough to read through it (if you do, you’re a Bible nerd like me), would likely only see a debate between two disagreeing Bible students. And that’s certainly true. But for me the comment string represents more than just a conversation or debate. It represents a relationship; at least, that’s how I feel about it. I don’t know how my reader/comment-er thinks, but that’s my perspective. For three short months, the reader and I interacted, respectfully disagreed, debated, and discussed a number of topics. We debated about whether God’s name should be specified as Jehovah, Yahweh, or something else. We discussed the issue of Calvinism, predestination, and free will. We discussed the nature of God as ontologically stable or changeable, including whether the divine name is more properly translated “I am” or “I will be what I will be.” All those potentially volatile subjects were discussed with respect and even friendliness. At one point my reader said:

BTW, a sincere ‘thank you’ for the open discussion and allowing me to express my view on your blog. It’s refreshing!

Every day I looked forward to finding out what my reader would say in response to what I had written. I was challenged and stretched by the interaction. I was hoping that our friendship would become one lasting years.

Then suddenly, nothing. No response to my post on 3/15. Cue the sound of crickets.

I’m not angry with my reader. I’m not offended. I’m just concerned. In my mind I have considered all the possibilities I can imagine. They include:

  1. He became sick or otherwise incapacitated, or died, and so can no longer interact.
  2. His computer or internet connection gave out, and he has no access to another one any time soon.
  3. His elders found out that he was interacting with “opposers” online, and forbade him from doing so any more (assuming that he is, in fact, a Jehovah’s Witness).
  4. He himself decided to not interact with “opposers” any longer, feeling convicted by the convention talks, the literature, or some other propaganda from the Governing Bully.
  5. He became frustrated with the fact that it was looking like he wasn’t going to change my views any, and moved on to interact with others that might be more pliable. (Aka he felt he was wasting his time and effort on me. The “pearls before swine” principle.)

I sure wish I knew what really happened. For the record, I have no sense of “having won” the argument. That’s not the point, and not why I was interacting with him. I was hoping a good friend was on his way to being set free from the organization, into new life in Jesus Christ. The silence breaks my heart.

But, at the same time, I know that God was at work, and still is. The fact that he would interact with an “opposer” for three months is miraculous, and indicates that God is at work on his heart. Jesus said that “No one comes to me unless the Father draws him.” I was privileged to have a 3-month window of opportunity with him. That window of time opened suddenly, and closed even more abruptly.

I’d like to ask all my readers: Whom are you trying to reach with the good news (gospel) of the free, unearned, undeserved gift of new life with Jehovah in Christ? Your window of opportunity could vanish in a blink, at any time. Make the most of the opportunity you have. Love and pray for that dear one(s).

And, dear 3-month friend, if you read this, please contact me again. I want to know how you’re doing, hoping that you have new life and freedom, and a relationship with Jehovah apart from the organization, but if not, I’m also willing (no, eager) to engage in further dialogue with you. Jesus loves you, and so do I.

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Debate or Discuss, That Is the Question

Mark and I finally met again after too long a time. As we approached one of our favorite meeting places, a local restaurant, he expressed his concern that we not get into a big debate, since the waitstaff know him by name. I told him that I agreed, and understood his concern about not offending those around us who might be listening. While I fully agreed with this new policy of ours, I wondered how we would be able to have any kind of meaningful conversation. “Lord, what am I supposed to do now?” I prayed.

We began talking about our lives, including his work and mine, his home projects and mine, and finally our spiritual lives. He mentioned to me (as he has before) that one of his favorite verses is Matthew 24:45, the one about the faithful and wise servant, or as the New World Translation says it, “the faithful and discreet slave,” whom the Watchtower claims is a prophecy fulfilled by the Governing Body in the last days. Struck with an idea, I asked him about his door-to-door ministry involvement. “Are you doing much of that?” I asked. He confessed that he hadn’t been active in the formal ministry effort, saying that he didn’t feel prepared to do an adequate job of it, but that he was doing some “informal” ministry, meaning that he made efforts to talk to people at the grocery store, or wherever else he encountered others.

“So you’re making efforts to bring spiritual food to people?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“You’re endeavoring to bring spiritual food to people at the proper time.”

“Yes, I am,” he said.

“I believe that you’re honestly trying to be a good servant, and not like the wicked servant in the parable. You’re not trying to coerce people into living by your rules, like the Pharisees. You’re trying to be more like the faithful and discreet slave, bringing spiritual food to people at the proper time, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “I think your motives are good, like the faithful and discreet slave. The more we share with people directly from scripture, the more we’re being the faithful slave, and not the wicked slave.”

It took a while, but by now he was beginning to see my point. So now that he was making the logical connections, I began to explain my view in more detail.

“This parable is found among other parables. They’re all about being ready, being prepared, and being faithful. The prophecy that Jesus gave was that he would return. But the parables are what Jesus used to challenge us all, about what we would do about the prophecy. We need to be faithful, like the faithful and discreet slave, and not be wicked, like the wicked slave.” I spent some time explaining my view with more depth, all the while calmly discussing with him our spiritual lives and experiences. While I was challenging the Watchtower interpretation of the parable in Matthew, we did not get into a heavy debate about it. I laid out my view, but never attacked the Watchtower interpretation directly.

Here’s the great part: The whole time we were discussing the parable and our lives, we both had smiles on our faces. We truly enjoyed our conversation together. And the people around us (both fellow diners and waitstaff) thought nothing of our meeting, other than we were two friends enjoying each other’s company. When we left, we agreed to not wait so long to meet again.

Please continue to pray for me and Mark, and our ongoing relationship.

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The Local Jehovah’s Witnesses Still Like Me

Just the other day I attended a weeknight meeting at the local kingdom hall, something that I try to do about once a month. Other than attending my friend Aaron’s wedding, this was my second meeting I have attended since one that didn’t go so well (see my past post about the donkey). It has been my relief that the members and elders still seem to like me! I feared that they would shut things down, refusing to speak with me, since they figured I was intending to stir up trouble, raising doubts in the minds of the congregation members. (My real purpose is always to share the good news of Jehovah’s many blessings and privileges available to all who believe, as found in scripture. If doing that causes doubts about the human Watchtower organization and its Governing Bully, then so be it.) Apparently my good behavior (only talking with people about surface subjects or vague generalities) has gained their approval, or at least, tolerance of me for now.

While I was there, I reconnected with Aaron, expressing my desire to begin a Bible study with him again. I even suggested we use one of the Watchtower publications. I also mentioned that it would be okay with me whether it was with just him alone, or with one of the elders. (Actually, one of the other elders, since Aaron is an elder now.) Here’s the good part: Aaron told me that his best evenings to meet are Thursday or Friday. It’s very encouraging to me that he said that. If he were reluctant to meet, or had been instructed to not meet with me, he would have given polite lip-service to the idea of meeting, but with no intention of following through with the plans. His suggestion of possible times tells me that our meeting together is a distinct possibility; even a likelihood. It means his mind was thinking ahead to the planning stages. I can’t wait to  meet and talk with him, and possibly with another of the elders!

I’m also eager to meet with my friend Mark again, hopefully sometime soon. Please pray for my friends Mark and Aaron, and for others that may join in with us.

 

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Random Observations From My Most Recent JW Convention Experience

The month of July saw a number of weekends at the Cow Palace (San Francisco) dedicated to the annual Jehovah’s Witness convention. These are 3-day conferences repeated identically, so as to accommodate a number of “circuits” or regions of JW congregations. My friend Mark and I attended this last Saturday only (not all three days). Here are some of my experiences and observations.IMG_1388

  1. The Watchtower Society is investing in some high-tech tools. There are now 2 large screens flanking the stage, rather than one as in the past. Several professionally produced videos were used to illustrate practical applications of the teachings, in contrast to the live dramas of the past. And one longer, rather well-produced video depicted a modern version of Job’s trials. (I was actually impressed with it–there was really not much to criticize.) The video was the newest “release” announced at the end of the day, another high-tech deviation from the usual book format.
  2. Despite these efforts to bring the presentations more in line with the current culture, the convention is still boring at best and annoying at worst. Simplistic and obvious lessons are presented in monotone by talking heads, and the only thing keeping me from nodding off were the occasional eye roll-prompting diatribes against apostates, “opposers,” and “christiandom.” Also, warnings against specific sins that stretch the limits of one’s suspension of disbelief. (e.g. gambling leads to greed, which was Judas’ downfall. You don’t want to become like Judas, do you? Yikes.)
  3. The music used for “worship” is exceedingly bad; dirge-like and with arrangements that just don’t work. Even I, a musical neanderthal, can recognize the awkwardness of the amateurish and clunky progressions of notes. I always think of the scene in Amadeus where Mozart improves on Salieri’s composition, saying “That doesn’t really work, does it? How about this?” (Salieri scowls like a governing body member would.)
  4. The last session was presented by (Surprise!) one of the members of the governing body, David Splane. I must acknowledge that his speaking style was good. Boring, but good. I should call it professional. Very good diction and control of his voice. I think he has had public speaking training that sets him apart from the other, more local speakers. The surprised audience gave him their undivided attention. To them I’m sure he had the very voice of Jehovah. To me, he was just a boring, out of touch guy who has the marketable still of giving a good, but less-than-dynamic presentation. Of course he announced the latest “release,” which was the video mentioned above. My friend Mark seemed disappointed that it wasn’t a book. I imagine other JW’s being relieved that it wasn’t another book that they were expected to add to their already full study schedule.
  5. Despite the numbingly boring content and presentation, I had a very enjoyable day. Not only did I have conversations with several individuals and/or couples, but I spent hours talking with my friend Mark, both in the car and at the restaurant where we stopped to eat on our way home. I must say that if I had attended a JW convention ten years ago, I would have just dismissed it as a colossal waste of time, vowing to never return. What has me so eager to return to the conventions and kingdom hall meetings are several things. First, the Holy Spirit at work in me. I have come to cherish my conversations with JW’s, whether strangers, acquaintances, or friends like Mark. I love those dear JW’s, even the grumpy ones. They’re like sheep without a loving shepherd, but with a bully pushing them around instead. Second, I love seeing God at work around me, making divine appointments happen, directing conversations, giving me words to say (or telling me when to shut up), and protecting our conversations from the bullies. And third, gaining an appreciation for the things we have in Christ that the JW’s are missing out on. A real relationship with God and Jesus. Freedom from fear, guilt, and shame. Holy Spirit guidance and power. And the realization that as flawed as your church’s services may be, they have to be light-years better than any JW meeting. Perhaps attendance at a JW meeting should be mandatory for every Christian believer, just to give them a new appreciation for their own church experiences. I highly encourage it. It’s for your own good.

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