Tag Archives: Jehovah’s Witnesses

My Appearance at Witnesses Now For Jesus West Coast

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Several weekends ago I attended and spoke at the West Coast version of the Witnesses Now for Jesus Conference. The experience (both as a speaker and as one in attendance) was A . . . MAZ . . . ING.

Here’s a link to my speaking session: Click Here! (Watching myself makes me cringe. Is that true of you, too?)

Note: Clicking the link above will reveal my true identity! Oops! Oh well, my cover is blown anyway. My local JW friends pretty much know what I’m up to; they just can’t do much about it because they still think I’m a nice guy. I think I am too, btw. Perhaps I should call myself “The blogger formerly known as UndercoverJW.”

Anyway, the conference was superb. Some of the speakers were formerly programmed by the “mental regulating” of the Watchtower, and have since had their minds rebooted by Jesus. (I’m sure that’s in the Bible somewhere. Oh, yeah, Romans 12:2! Ha! You didn’t think I could support that scripturally, did you?) Others (including myself) have never been Watchtower-programmed, but love JW’s and want to see them set free. Before, after, and in between sessions, fellowship and interaction was lively. We witnessed as one man who had left the Watchtower a mere two weeks prior was baptized in the hotel pool, formerly a “brother” in name only, now adopted as a real son of Jehovah! Some of us had opportunities to talk with current JW’s who attended tentatively, questioning and curious. I believe they experienced the real love of Jesus through us.

Whether you’re a current JW, former JW, or never-been, I highly recommend attending the upcoming conferences in Missouri (July 27 – 28, 2018) and Pennsylvania (Oct 5 – 7, 2018), or next year’s conference in Cali. Here’s their Facebook page: WNFJ

Start asking God now to provide for your participation. He did it for me!

 

 

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Using “Theocratic Language” with Jehovah’s Witnesses

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From Flickr Creative Commons

Do you know what “theocratic language” is? You won’t find much about it in the Watchtower publications, but if you spend any time in kingdom halls, you will hear the term (or variations such as “pure language”) from the platform. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a unique jargon, which some call “JW-ese.” The truth is, any social group, whether it be a culture, tribe, family, club, company, or others, ends up developing, either deliberately or unintentionally, its own unique jargon. Jehovah’s Witnesses are no exception. To outsiders the JW’s jargon is strange, quirky, and sometimes even funny. For example, what good reason is there to use the word “fruitage” instead of “fruit”? No one would say “Let’s go to the produce stand; we need to buy some fruitage.” But fruitage it is, both in their New World Translation of the Bible, and in their teaching talks. It’s all I can do to keep from snickering whenever I hear it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, rather than being embarrassed about their quirky jargon, are proud of it. Labeling it “theocratic language” gives it special status. And that’s one of the purposes of specialized jargon–identifying your group as distinct from, and by implication, superior to others. Some of the terms come from their quirky Bible translation (such as “fruitage”). Other terms come from their historic ministry practice (“circuit overseer” and “publishers”). Then there are terms that are used as indoctrinating (and I would argue mind-controlling) tools, such as the use of “the Truth” for everything Watchtower-related and “christiandom” for all other Christian churches, organizations, groups, and individuals.

Some of the specialized terms that JW’s use include:

theocratic, including theocratic language and theocratic ministry school

faithful and discreet slave

going where the need is greater

anointed class

great crowd or other sheep

christiandom

circuit overseer

disfellowship

governing body

torture stake

kingdom privileges

publishers

the Truth

There are many more, as you likely know. I’m tempted to make Bingo cards of them for use during the boring assemblies and conventions.

But there’s a better use for these quirky terms; we can use their language against them. Oh, no, I didn’t just say that! That was antagonistic. Make that: We can use their language to help reach them. Using their terminology is like using their heart language. Ministry to young adults, teens, gypsies, tribal people, businessmen, or any group, would require that we learn about what’s popular with them, including words they use. When they hear something in their language, it gets through to them more quickly and easily.

Here’s an example. Earlier this week I had an opportunity to meet with a new JW acquaintance. While we were getting acquainted, I mentioned that I grew up in Christiandom. As we talked further, I told him about my concern that there are a number of kingdom privileges, or kingdom benefits, that Watchtower teaches are available for only the 144,000 anointed believers, and not for the great crowd believers. When my new friend tried to change the subject to whether Jesus was crucified on a cross or a torture stake, I said that neither one bothered me, and that I didn’t have a problem with either.

See all the words and phrases in italics in the previous paragraph? Those are part of the JW jargon, their theocratic language. And notice that even the phrases “doesn’t bother me” and “I don’t have a problem with” are included. Lately JW’s are using those phrases A LOT. When you bring up an issue that they can’t explain, they dismiss it with that phrase. For example: “I don’t have a problem with the promise of living forever on earth. It sounds like you have a problem with it, but I don’t.” In other words, “What you’re showing me appears to indicate that what the Watchtower teaches contradicts what the Bible says, but Watchtower teaches it, and everything they teach is truth from the Bible, so I believe it no matter what you say, end of conversation.” But now, if I use the “doesn’t bother me” language, the tables are turned. I have shown them that others can use the same argument as they. I have shown my new JW friend what it is like to have a valid point dismissed so flippantly. Perhaps he will think twice about using that phrasing on me or others in the future. Not that I wanted to scold him or “put him in his place” with theocratic language. In fact, using the phrase “kingdom privileges and benefits” perked up his interest immediately for what I had to share with him, and we had a great conversation as a result. We even have plans to meet again! Use of my new friend’s heart language connected with him personally, and allowed the conversation, and our relationship, to continue.

Do you want your conversations with JW’s to last more than 5 minutes? First, love them and care about them. Second, treat them with respect. And then, use their heart language to reach them with the real truth.

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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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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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Invitation to Jehovah’s Witness Memorial

 

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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!

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Orphan Train: A Short Allegorical Story, Part 3

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As we journeyed, we met many of the other orphans, and discovered that they were divided sharply into two groups. One smaller set of orphans was fiercely loyal to The Small Group who ran The Master’s Proclaimers. The other set of orphans did not respect the Small Group or the Proclaimers at all.This larger set of orphans engaged in varying activities running the whole range of good and bad behavior, from fighting to getting along splendidly. Mostly they passed the time with card games, songs, stunts, and conversations. The Proclaimers, meanwhile, divided their time between reading the Small Group’s documents together and trying to convince others to join them. Occasionally a non-proclaimer became a Proclaimer, and just as occasionally a Proclaimer gave up being one. But for the most part, the two groups kept separate from each other, the Proclaimers occupying a smaller corner of the train car. Their attempts at conversations with the others were often met with such responses as “Go away,” and “Don’t bother me with your propaganda.”

My friend and I became increasingly frustrated with both groups. The fault of the Proclaimers was that their friendliness lasted only as long as a prospect showed interest in their message. As soon as a prospect began challenging any of the Small Group’s truth claims or authority, the prospect was then actively avoided by the Proclaimers. The fault of the non-Proclaimers was their complacency, showing no interest in reading the Master’s Contract at all. Neither group gave priority to the most important document available to them. My friend and I discovered much value in the document, gaining encouragement, even excitement, from its words. We wanted to share what we were learning with both groups, so we tried several methods. Public speaking with a loud voice from the front of the car was met with cowering and ear-plugging from the Proclaimers, and with either ignoring or hostile boo-ing from the non-Proclaimers. (Each of the two groups thought we represented the other.) We offered classes, lectures, and studies that no one attended. We wrote extensive notes that nobody read.

What finally proved effective was simply our friendship, and the Master’s Contract itself. We sought to make friends (and keep them) from both groups, and when the opportunities arose, shared with them briefly something from the contract, telling them how it had benefitted our lives. We also asked them questions about their experiences, and how The Contract could impact their lives. We showed them, for example, the “adoption” section of The Contract, asking whether they had experienced that reality in their lives, and whether they would like to.

The results varied, from awkward (but usually polite) rejection, to a desire to hear more. But we always got at least a little further than the immediate hostility experienced before.

No matter the response, we found that our friends were responding, not to us, but to The Contract itself. And in most cases, we were able to keep them as friends. We played games with the Non-Proclaimers. We attended some of the studies led by the Proclaimers. And we had friendly conversations with both.

So that’s my story. I’ve been riding this train ever since, delighted to be no longer an orphan, but a son of the Master, always eagerly looking forward to experiencing the glory of the Master’s estate and the beauty of the surrounding countryside. I can hardly wait to get there. But in the meantime, without a doubt, my friend and I (and the other orphans who eventually joined us) are experiencing the most and the deepest pleasure from our journey aboard the orphan train. We love sharing with others the Great Stuff we find in The Contract.

And now I want to ask you, wouldn’t you like to be adopted by The Master too?

[End]

Link to location on Amazon to download the whole story: Here.

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Orphan Train: A Short Allegorical Story, Part 2

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I pulled out the contract and the other publications from the seat-back pocket. The contract was embossed with “The Master’s Railroad Company,” but the other documents were not embossed, instead displaying a masthead that read “The Master’s Proclaimers.” I said to the conductor, “There seem to be a lot of publications here. Who writes all this stuff? Can’t we just read the contract and see what it says for ourselves?”

“My boy,” said the conductor, “The contract is complex, and you will need help to understand it. A small group of Chosen Ones in the forward car has humbly taken on the task of helping all of us orphans understand its true meaning.”

My friend looked puzzled. “I thought no one could tell who were the Chosen Ones. So how do we know that the ones in the small group are chosen?”

The conductor, looking slightly annoyed by the question, said, “The answers to all your questions are found in the publications. I suggest you read and study them diligently.”

“Don’t you mean the answers are in the contract?” I asked.

“Yes, of course, the contract is absolute. But you will need help to understand it. This train’s journey is nearing its end, so it would be best for you to be busily engaged in study.”

And with that he left us.

Being an avid reader, I began reading the contract and some of the Proclaimers’ documents. As I read, my puzzlement became greater and greater. Perhaps the conductor was right. Perhaps I did need help to understand the contract. But the problem was not that the contract was confusing; in fact it was quite clear and readily understood. My puzzlement came from the fact that the contract seemed to contradict the claims of the small group of chosen orphans. Or was it that the claims contradicted what the contract so clearly stated?

For example, the contract said that anyone trusting themselves to the master’s care (by boarding the train) would be adopted. It didn’t seem to limit the privilege to a chosen few. The contract also stated that all the orphans on the train would be heirs and citizens, and would also govern the province. The contract even said that all the train orphans would have the Son as their mediator.

My friend was eager to ask the conductor about these apparent discrepancies, so when the conductor finished answering another orphan’s questions, my friend called him over.

“What can I help you to understand?” He asked.

My friend inquired, “Can you show us where in the contract it says that the Master’s benefits are only for the chosen few? We’re not finding that.”

“Take a look close to the end of the document, where it talks about the Chosen Ones.”

I found the section fairly quickly. And it did indeed mention that a small group of orphans would be chosen just before the train arrived at its final destination.

“But,” said my friend, “The contract specifies that the ones chosen would be descendants from the original railroad workers. It even lists their family names.” (Those were the workers who built the railroad system in the old days.)

“My friends,” replied the conductor, “Have you never before seen figurative, symbolic language? The mention of those families is merely symbolic of the chosen ones now in modern times. That makes sense, doesn’t it?”

I didn’t want to say “yes,” because honestly it didn’t make sense to me. But I also didn’t want to disappoint the conductor, so I didn’t know how to respond and stared, grinning at him. My friend, however, responded brilliantly for both of us.

“I think I understand what you’re saying,” he said. And the conductor, apparently satisfied with that answer, walked away.

[Tune in next time for part 3.]

Link to location on Amazon to download the whole story: Here.

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