Tag Archives: great crowd

I Attended the Jehovah’s Witness Virtual Memorial

CommunionPhoto

From David Weber on Unsplash

In my previous post, I lamented and gave a pep talk to myself (and you, I hope) about God being at work even when we’re being ghosted by Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the time, it seemed like I was waiting for something to happen.

Well, something happened.

The Covid virus happened.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ annual memorial this year was done on Zoom video chat. Out of the blue I received an invitation from a JW acquaintance who attends the kingdom hall that my long-time friend Mark attends. This acquaintance (whom I’ll call Gary) offered to help me download the Zoom app, and provided the meeting access code on the day of the event.

So here’s what happened.

I thought I would be able to observe people passing the elements, whether where the speaker was located (Florida), or with the people and families I saw on screen. But no. While I could see people on screen before and after the talk, they were all blanked out during the talk. All I could see was the talking head. And he gave people hardly any time to pass the elements among themselves. In fact, it was unclear when they were supposed to pass the bread. Passing the elements seemed like almost an afterthought.

The talk was the same that I have heard every dang time I have been to the memorial. Same four questions. If I remember them correctly: (1) How is the ransom provided, (2) Who benefits from the ransom, (3) Who should partake of the bread and wine, and (4) What more can we do to show our appreciation for the ransom. Point number 3 is always a thinly veiled warning against anybody but the anointed 144,000 taking the elements. Point 4 is an appeal to attend meetings, participate in ministry, and take in Bible knowledge.

After the meeting, attendees were allowed to greet each other, which was actually a really nice, casual affair, everyone saying hello to each other. They’re obviously lonely and bored, and this was a much-needed connection time for their members. At least the control-freaks allowed it. Thank God. I actually heard a couple of hellos directed toward me; I don’t know who it was, but several members of the congregation know me. I was pleasantly surprised.

I have yet to talk with Mark and Gary about the meeting. That will be the big payoff—the talking points that came from the experience. I’ve already asked Gary what they do with the bread and wine that serve as props for the meeting. He said they eat and drink it later. That’s so bizarre. But at least the bread and wine are not wasted. (I read somewhere that those who believe in transubstantiation, like the Roman Catholics, have to pour out unused wine onto the ground, because it has actually become the literal blood of Christ. That’s bizarre too.)

My planned talking points include: The opening song, “A Special Posession,” (song #25) which is the perfect example of so much that is wrong with the Watchtower doctrine. The whole song applies exclusively to the 144,000. That means that my friends are actually singing about a group they’re not a part of. The song goes on and on about the anointed being a new creation, spirit-anointed sons, a holy nation, God’s people, etc. The whole thing borders on idolatry, praising the anointed class of believers. Ugh, it’s so annoying. What’s also annoying is that visiting evangelical Christians would have no clue about the song’s true meaning, thinking it’s just a nice song about all believers. Again, Ugh. BTW, a fun thing to do if you’re at a meeting and they sing this song: Substitute in the word “we” for every place the song says “they.” Instant evangelical hymn! Watch for reactions of those around you.

Another talking point might be that the speaker specifically said that the Bible talks about “two hopes,” a heavenly hope and an earthly hope. Nowhere does the Bible say “two hopes.” In fact, it says that there’s “one hope” at Ephesians 4:4. Only. One. Hope.

The speaker also talked about the anointed being “in contract” with Jehovah, as Jesus expressed during the Lord’s supper, when he said “this cup is the New Covenant in my blood.” He did not say the rest of the sentence, where Jesus adds “for many for the remission of sins.” If the Great Crowd believers are not in the New Covenant, what covenant, if any, are they in? What is their “contract” with Jehovah?

Finally, the speaker mentioned Romans 8 to answer how the anointed know that they’re destined for heaven. Paul says that “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Verse 16) Watchtower applies this blessing exclusively to the 144,000. I hope to read all of Romans 8 with Mark and Gary and express to them my sadness, anger, and offense at how the governing bully denies all the blessings from virtually all their disciples. They are, however, expected to live up to all the exhortations in the Bible. Harumph.

I look forward to talking with Mark and Gary. Please pray that their hearts and minds will be open to the truth and the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.

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Types of Questions to Ask Jehovah’s Witnesses: Questions that Strengthen Their Commitment to Their Doctrine

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From Pixabay

I know, you’re re-reading that headline, trying to make sense of it. I know it’s counter-intuitive, maybe even crazy. Why would we want to strengthen a Jehovah’s Witness’s commitment to their own doctrine? Don’t we want them to be set free from their doctrines? Well, yes, of course we do. But I have a theory that sometimes we, as humans, have to become more strongly bonded to a delusion before we can be set free from it. This is probably not an original theory, and there’s probably a name for the process. If any of my tens of readers know of some psychological or sociological category that fits this concept, let us know.

To help understand what I’m talking about, think about a giant. You know what “they” say: “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” But maybe what we mean is: “The stronger they are, the harder they fall.”

Ooh! I just thought of the Death Star. Once the rebels were able to find a weak spot, it only took a small charge to destroy the whole thing. (I’m not as much a Star Wars geek as you think. Honest. I’m more of a Lord of the Rings guy. Maybe we need to find the one ring that binds them . . . oh, never mind.)

Back to the giant. If you can make him stiffen up, he’s easier to topple, right? That could be done physically (liquor him up), or even better, by talking him up. Tell the giant how impressive he is. He will straighten up with pride, then you can zing him between the eyes with a sling and a stone. (Yes, I went to David and Goliath. I have a soft spot for Bible stories. Deal with it.) Or you could trip the giant with a comparatively small rope.

So how do we do that with our JW friends? Here’s an example.

Me: Do you know about the Watchtower’s two-class system of believers?

JW: I think so. What do you mean?

Me: You know, that a small group of believers go to heaven, and the larger group goes to paradise on earth? They call them the “anointed class of 144,000” and the “great crowd.”

JW: Oh yes. I look forward to living forever on earth. We’re designed for an earthly existence, so it’s going to be great.

Me: Yeah, but do you know about all the rest of it? About how there are so many blessings, or benefits, that are available in this life now, that are not to be enjoyed by the great crowd?

JW: Like what? We enjoy many benefits.

Me: Yes, they do teach that you get the indirect benefit of having Jesus as your ransom, but that’s about all. There’s also being adopted as sons and daughters of Jehovah, being declared righteous, the assurance of eternal life, being Abraham’s seed, part of the body of Christ, being citizens of the Kingdom, having Jesus as your mediator, being sealed with the Holy Spirit, being in the New Covenant, . . .

JW: Wait, back up. We have Jesus as our mediator.

Me: No, Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed class. You can research that in their “online library,” in the Insight book, under M for Mediator. But right now, tell me, do you really believe that all those benefits are not available to you? You can’t be adopted as Jehovah’s son, and you’re not in the New Covenant? That the 144,000 get all those things, and you don’t? Do all Jehovah’s Witnesses really believe that? Do you believe that?

JW: Why, yes I do. I don’t have a problem with it. It sounds like you have a problem with it.

Me: Yes, I do! I have a big problem with it. Have you looked at the descriptions in the Bible of the New Covenant? Can we look at that together? Here in Jeremiah 31 . . .

You can go many directions from here, talking about your shock that the great crowd believers are being denied these benefits, being forbidden so many blessings. You can describe the two class system as having a first class and a second class group. Or you can focus on just one topic, whether it’s mediator or New Covenant or citizenship in the kingdom, or whatever. The important thing is to get them to commit to their own belief system. They may never have fully done so, specifically. Even if they have been baptized and are the most active of members, they may not be fully committed to the scandalous doctrines, keeping them on a back burner of the mind. By bringing them to a front burner, you’re helping them to recognize how absurd they are. Their response doesn’t matter. Notice in the dialogue above, it seems like the JW is unaffected. But they will be effected. On the outside, they’re putting on a confident show for you. But on the inside they’re asking themselves, “Do I really believe that?” You’re “stiffening the giant,” preparing it for a toppling fall. Their doctrinal giant might not even need a rock to the forehead or a tripwire to the foot–it might come crashing down under its own weight.

Ooh, I’m reminded (as I’m writing this) of the coast redwood trees where I attended college, how their far-reaching but shallow roots required only a small amount of under-erosion for the whole, massive tree to thunderously collapse without any warning. Just one more metaphor making my point. Get your JW friend to fully commit to their absurd doctrine, and it might just help them to see how crazy it really is.

 

 

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Top Ten Topics to Discuss With Jehovah’s Witnesses #9: The Memorial

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From Pixabay

Next in my list of the top ten topics to discuss with Jehovah’s Witnesses is “The Memorial,” their version of what most Christians call Communion, Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper. JW’s celebrate the event only once a year, an attempt to be biblically accurate, using what they consider the proper date. Anyone who has been to one of their memorials will tell you how bizarre it is. Their two-class system of believers necessitates that only the elite “anointed class,” made up of only 144,000, will eat the bread and drink the wine; so you might see only one, or more likely none of the believers present eating and drinking. Almost all of those present will only pass the plate and cup up and down the rows, since they are there to only “observe” the ritual. As weird and depressing as that is, it provides the visiting Christian (you and me) great opportunities for conversation with them after the meeting.

Here are some of the questions I like to ask them:

“Jesus said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ What did he mean? Do what? It seems like you’re not doing what Jesus said to do. I don’t understand. Can you explain that to me?”

“If we’re only supposed to observe, why do we even touch the dishes? Shouldn’t they have the actual participants up front at that little table, and the rest of us watch from back here? It seems like you’re half participating in the ritual. If you’re only supposed to observe, it should be all or nothing, don’t you think?”

“The speaker quoted Jesus, where he said ‘Drink out of it, all of you, for this means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.’ (Matthew 26:27-28) Does that mean you’re not in the New Covenant? Aren’t your sins forgiven? If you’re not in the New Covenant, what covenant are you in?”

And here’s a more advanced question: “Did you know that the Watchtower likens the Great Crowd believers to the ‘foreign residents’ in the Old Testament? Did you also know that the foreign residents, once they committed to Jehovah, could participate in all the festivals and feasts, including the Passover? I’m sure you know that the Lord’s evening meal is the fulfillment of the Passover. So here’s what’s puzzling to me. Since the foreign residents could eat and drink at the Passover, why can’t the great crowd believers eat and drink at the memorial?”

I hope this list of questions provides you with good ideas and inspiration, rather than being overwhelming. If for simplicity I were to lump all these questions together into one, it would be “What’s up with your Memorial? It’s so different from what we do at my church. Can you explain it to me please?”

With any of these questions, I’m not so much looking for reasonable answers (because there really are none), but rather I’m wanting my JW friends to attempt to explain the bizarre ritual. Sometimes the best thing for them is to hear themselves attempting to explain their strange doctrines, and for them to see them from the perspective of an outsider. Once they attempt to explain things to you, then you have the opportunity to share with them what Communion means to you. So when you receive an invitation to their Memorial (or even if you don’t), attend and take advantage of the opportunity.

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Top Ten Topics to Discuss With Jehovah’s Witnesses #5: Adoption

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From Pixabay

Here’s another of my favorite topics to discuss with Jehovah’s Witnesses: Adoption.

Specifically, I like to bring up the subject of adoption as sons (and daughters) of Jehovah, as the Bible teaches in Romans 8:14-16 and Galatians 4:1-6. Here’s how the conversation typically goes:

Me: I’m excited about what I’ve been learning from the Bible.

JW: That’s good!

Me: Yes, lately I’ve been learning about being adopted as sons and daughters of Jehovah. Do you know about that from Romans 8?

JW: [Thinking] Um, yes, I think so.

Me: Oh, it’s really great. Paul says that “you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Isn’t that great? It says that we can be adopted as Jehovah’s sons, and we can call him “Dad!” I have been adopted as Jehovah’s son! Have you?

JW: Yes, I think so.

Me: Well, here’s something that I find disturbing. My JW friend told me that this passage applies only to the anointed 144,000, and not to the rest of the believers. Is that true?

JW: Oh, actually, yes, that passage is about the anointed class of believers, but we can benefit indirectly from it.

Me: What do you mean, “benefit indirectly?” Do you mean you’re like a foster child, or a stepchild? Where does the Bible teach that?

JW: No, that’s not right.

Me: So are you adopted by Jehovah as his son? Because I believe I am, and it’s fantastic! It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me! And I can pray to him, and call him “Dad!” Have you been adopted by Jehovah?

JW: Well, all believers will eventually be adopted as sons, after the final testing.

Me: That can’t be right, can it? I mean, this passage talks about it like it has already happened, doesn’t it? You see, this is what I find to be very disturbing to me. I’m really concerned about my JW friends, that they’re being denied so many of the blessings that scripture says that all believers have. I really have a hard time with this two-class system, don’t you?

JW: I don’t have a problem with it.

Me: Well, I do. I have a big problem with it, because I think that system has been imposed on the Bible, and that the Bible doesn’t teach that. It’s very disturbing to me.

JW: I have to go now. I’m meeting someone.

Me: Okay, but it’s worth thinking about, and researching, right?

JW: Yeah, I’ll research it some more.

Me: I hope you’re not just saying that, and that you will look into it. Romans 8 is a great place to start. Just read it by itself, without any publications telling you what to think about it.

JW: Yeah, okay.

Me: Thanks for talking with me. Have a good week!

JW: You too.

That’s the end of our conversation, but it’s really just the beginning. I pray that they would not be able to forget the scripture that I shared, and that it would continue to bother them. It works! I have had JW friends tell me later that they could not get a verse that I shared out of their mind, weeks later! God says that his word does not return to him empty, but accomplishes what He sends it to do (Isaiah 55:11). I also pray that you, my reader, will come to realize the depth of God’s love for you, as you discover His adoption of YOU. Have you been adopted by Jehovah?

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Anointed Class Sighting at the Jehovah’s Witness Memorial!

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Pic Sourced From Someone’s Instagram

We interrupt my list of Top 10 Topics to Discuss With Jehovah’s Witnesses to bring you a special report from Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter (imagine his voice narrating): “We’ve got a rare one here! It’s the very rare member of the anointed class! As you know, there are only 144,000 of these beauties in existence, and most of them have already died! That makes them an endangered species, and here’s one right in front of us! Just look at that one eating the bread and drinking the wine! Crikey!”

That’s right, I attended the recent Memorial at a Jehovah’s Witnesses kingdom hall not far from me, and for the first time observed someone actually eating the bread and drinking the wine! For those who are unaware of what takes place at the JW memorial, read the next paragraph. If you already know, then skip ahead.

Jehovah’s Witness only observe what Christian churches call communion, eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper once a year, and they call it the Memorial or the Lord’s Evening Meal. They also believe and teach that only the 144,000 anointed believers are part of the New Covenant, and so they are the only ones expected to eat and drink. The rest of the “great crowd” believers are expected to respectfully observe the ceremony. Weird, right? It gets weirder. The practical result is a room full of people passing the plates and the cups up and down the rows, with almost no one eating or drinking! It is truly bizarre. Occasionally you hear about one, usually an elderly member, who believes they are of the anointed heaven-bound class, and they alone eat and drink.

So, I have attended perhaps 6 memorial services over the years that I have been interacting with JW’s, and I wondered if I would ever see one of the “anointed” eat and drink the elements. Well, this last Friday, I saw one! An older lady nibbled and sipped, just across the aisle and a couple seats over. After the service, I recognized her as one with whom I had talked with in the past; she seems (then and now) most interested in talking about her medical conditions.

What’s so sad is that one of my favorite passages of scripture, Romans 8:16, which says “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children,” was quoted by the speaker, who then explained how that verse applies ONLY to the anointed 144,000. It makes me seethe inside! The great majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses are being denied all the blessings of being in the New Covenant:  Being born again, being adopted as Jehovah’s sons and daughters, being kings and priests, having Jesus as their mediator, the heavenly hope, and more.

One of the songs sung at that night’s memorial was their song #25, A Special Possession:

  1. God has a new creation,

His spirit-anointed sons.

He has bought them from mankind;

His approval they’ve won.

(CHORUS)

A special possession,

They’re a people for your name.

They love you. They praise you.

As one they declare abroad your fame.

  1. They are a holy nation,

Who handle the truth aright.

God has called them from darkness

To his wonderful light.

  1. Faithful to their commission,

They gather the other sheep.

To the Lamb they are loyal.

His commandments they keep.

 

This is the only JW song that I sing with them. But I change one thing. Every place the song says “they,” I sing “we.” This changes the application of the song’s words from the anointed class only, to all believers. Those standing around me hear me do that. I hope they think about the significance of what I’m singing. I can’t bring myself to do anything disruptive in the service; that’s just not me. But I imagine my little word-changing to be my subtle protest. Ooh, I’m such a rebel. Watch out! But I have to be subtle. Making a scene would shut them down, and they wouldn’t hear anything I had to say. I’m trying to make an impact, softly. It’s like beating on a concrete dam with one of those inflatable squeaky hammers. God, put your miraculous power in my stupid little hammer.

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Top Ten Topics to Discuss With Jehovah’s Witnesses: #2

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My second top topic to discuss with Jehovah’s Witnesses is the New Covenant. The Watchtower teaches that only the anointed 144,000 are in the New Covenant. So here’s my approach, this time in dialogue form. This is typical of the conversations I have had regarding this topic:

Me: I have a question. If only the 144,000 are in the New Covenant, as Watchtower teaches, what covenant are the Great Crowd, that is, the rest of the believers in?

JW: Oh, they must be in a different covenant.

Me: What covenant is that?

JW: I don’t know; maybe the covenant with Noah, or one of the other covenants. But they benefit indirectly from the anointed being in the New Covenant.

Me: I read an article in the Watchtower, that listed all the covenants, including the Noahic covenant and the Abrahamic covenant, and all the rest, and it said that the great crowd believers are in none of those. It seems to me, in the Bible, that there are only three possibilities. Either they are (1) in the New Covenant, (2) still in the Old Covenant, or (3) they’re in no covenant at all. What do you think?

JW: Um, I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. They benefit from those being in the new covenant.

Me: That’s not how the Bible presents it. Do you know what a covenant is? It’s God’s arrangement with his people. What is Jehovah’s arrangement with you? Have you seen the description of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31?

JW: I think so.

Me: In Jeremiah 31, Jehovah says he would put his laws on our minds and hearts, and that he would be our God and we would be his people, and that they would all know him, from the least of them to the greatest, and that he would forgive our iniquities and remember our sins no more! Doesn’t that sound great? It’s fantastic! Don’t you want to be in on that? I have experienced this, have you?

JW: Um–

Me: Have you seen the alternative, if you’re not in the New Covenant, in Ephesians two?

JW: Um–

Me: It says that if you’re not in the New Covenant, you’re “without hope and without God in the world.” That sounds pretty serious, right?

JW: Um, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Okay, they don’t say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” But at that point they almost always use some kind of conversation stopper, whether it’s polite (“I just remembered somewhere I need to be”) or rude (“I think you’re an apostate”). In either case, I give them an “out,” to help them save face. Something like, “It’s worth thinking about,” or “Thanks for talking with me,” or “Look at the bluebird!” They’re usually relieved when I change the subject, and will chat with me a little longer.

Have you used the topic of the New Covenant in talking with Jehovah’s Witnesses? What was their response? Let us know in the comments.

Or, share with us one (or more) of your top ten topics!

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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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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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Having Fun at Jehovah’s Witness Convention

If you have been to a JW convention, you might think that the title of this post is a contradiction. How could anyone have fun at a JW convention? Well, aside from counting ill-fitting suits and misinterpreted scriptures, I have had many pleasurable experiences while at the conventions.

Should I feel guilty that I find pleasure in ministering to JW’s? After all, it is a serious calling, and it’s life or death to the ones I’m reaching out to. Their relationship with Jehovah (or lack thereof) is as serious as a heart attack, and not something to be toyed around with. I do not find pleasure or satisfaction, as some do, in winning arguments, making them feel inferior, “setting them straight,” or “putting them in their place.” (OK, yes, I am tempted to do these things, but I’m gaining the victory over those sins. That’s right, I said sins.) But I cannot help that I find pleasure in talking with these people.

At the latest convention, I talked with a brother and sister (literal siblings, that is, not just fellow witnesses). Katie was the more outspoken of the two, so I asked her about the JW practice of concluding prayers to Jehovah with “in the name of Jesus.” “What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus?” I asked, “assuming that it’s more than just a correct formula for the end of a prayer.” It was a pleasure to see her enthusiastically presenting my argument for me, as she explained the deep, profound meaning behind the phrase. Then, imagine my delight as she mentioned Jesus’ role as mediator in his role as the channel of our prayers to Jehovah. A more sinister mind would say she fell right into my trap. Instead I see it as God’s Spirit at work, bringing her to a crisis in her belief-system that could bring her one step closer to freedom. I affirmed her recognition of Jesus’ mediatorial role, and conveyed my excitement of having Jesus as my mediator. Then I dropped the bomb. “What concerns me,” I said, “is that Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the 144,000.”

Now the real fun began. Her intent gaze changed to searching-for-an-answer glances up and to one side–you know the look, like when you’re called upon in class and you’re trying to remember the answer from last night’s homework. That body language is what gives me the most pleasure, because it indicates that I’ve gotten them to “jump the tracks,” wrestling with concepts that they haven’t ever considered before. I love those moments.

Then, much more to my delight, Katie began to verbalize her internal conflict, in one sentence affirming that Jesus could be the mediator for the Great Crowd, and in another affirming that he could not be our mediator, all the while aware that she was contradicting herself, but powerless to fix the problem. (I must add that Katie is no dummy; she’s highly intelligent, and speaks more languages than I do.) All I had to do was repeat back to her what she was saying, and allow her to argue with herself.

Why do I find this so pleasurable? Do I have a sick mind? Well, maybe, but not in this case. My pleasure comes from seeing God at work. He caused me to have a divine appointment with Katie and her brother. He is drawing her (and possibly him) to himself. He directed her thinking and our conversation. She’s wrestling with God like Jacob, and probably doesn’t even realize it. And the longer I can keep her wrestling, the better chance she has of finding true freedom. I want to keep her (and others) in this searching-for-answers state for as long as possible. And I want to avoid pushing them further to the looking-around, change-the-subject, glazed-over, shutting down look. You know the one–the look that says “I’m done talking with you, at least about that subject.” If that happens, I try to give them an out, perhaps by saying, “Well, it’s something to think about, isn’t it? Anyway, . . .” (and change the subject). And wipe that smug look off my face (and my heart), because I want to remain friends with them. I want them to be willing to talk with me again sometime. Because talking with them is so much fun!

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My Frustrations and Hope

Daunting.

That’s the one-word description that I have for the feeling I get when faced with the challenge of influencing my JW friends.

I walked away from talking with my friend Mark last Friday, and felt very pleased with our discussion, but also very discouraged by the apparent vastness of the challenge. I used to picture the JW system as a wall that I was chipping away at, and that I was taking little chinks out of the wall, and I hoped that eventually there would be a large enough hole to cause part or all of the wall to collapse. Now I see the Watchtower structure as a massive, solid pyramid. A few little chinks might have an impact on a wall, but on a massive pyramid? Hardly.

I feel that some progress has been made with Mark. He now verbalizes that he feels that the Watchtower is wrong to say that Jesus is not the mediator for the “Great Crowd” believers, and that he is ready to voice that opinion to other JW’s. But that seems to be the only chink in his pyramid. He still strongly believes that he is destined for an earthly paradise rather than heaven, and that Jesus is not God, and that the Watchtower is the only organization approved by Jehovah to authoritatively interpret scripture. There’s only a pock-mark on the pyramid.

But –

There’s a verse often quoted by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their arguments against military involvement. It’s Second Corinthians 10:4: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” They have no idea about the power of which they speak. I feel like I’m chipping away at a pyramid with a spoon. But if I read and interpret this verse correctly (and I think I do), the reality is that God’s Spirit is firing on Mark’s pyramid with anti-tank artillery. And one day God may hit it with a nuclear warhead. My feeble attempts will never bring down the seemingly invincible pyramid, but God’s power can demolish that stronghold. I just hope I get to see that stronghold crumble one day, and that I’ll be there to help Mark build his faith on the true foundation of Christ.

Tink. Tink. Tink. Boom.

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