Tag Archives: Jehovah’s Witnesses

I’m Blessed at the Witnesses Now For Jesus (WNFJ) Conference

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“You’re going to have a heart-pumping, goose-bumping, slack-jawed, bug-eyed, mind-boggling day!”

That’s an ooooold commercial I remember from when I was a kid. (In the 1970’s. Shhhh.) I can still sing the tune. They were advertising the Marine World / Africa USA theme park, which was at the time located in Redwood City, CA; later moved to Vallejo and became what is now Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

Funny are the things we remember from childhood, right? But that advert captures how I feel about my experience at the recent WNFJ Conference at the Blue Mountain Christian Retreat Center in Pennsylvania. (Here’s the link to the Witnesses Now For Jesus website: Click Me! Click Me! And here’s the link to their Facebook page: Click Me Now!) I expected good teaching, helpful information, and friendly interaction; and those things were definitely there, in spades. But here’s what I did not expect, causing my heart-pumping, goose-bumping, slack-jawed, bug-eyed, mind-boggling (HPGBSJBEMB) weekend.

  1. I realized that I had never before met a former Jehovah’s Witness live and in person. Sounds trivial, but it was hugely encouraging to me. Here I was surrounded by ex-JW’s, now set free and gratefully singing praises to Jesus. It gave me assurance that it really, really can happen to those with whom I’m sharing. Yes, JW’s are so entrenched in their delusion that it takes a literal miracle for them to be set free, but we serve the God of miracles, right? Duh. But without the real, live human evidence in front of me, I had become discouraged. Now I know that it can, and will, happen to those that God draws to himself (John 6:44). I got choked up about it more than a few times over the weekend.
  2. I was able to network with others in ministry to Jehovah’s Witnesses, including a couple from California, the Kelleys, who are working on putting together a west coast conference in the spring. A conference closer to my home would be an answer to prayer, since it was a stretch to get to PA. (And I don’t want this conference to be my last!)
  3. I received confirmation that I’m on the right track with my most recent approach to ministry with JW’s. It began on the first day with Ed Havaich’s presentation, and was confirmed in conversations with many others. Because of the recent unwillingness on the part of most JW’s to engage and interact with anyone who does not show an immediate willingness to drink their koolade, I and my newly-met colleagues in ministry are using a new, more up-front, honest, and passionate approach, taking time to develop relationships with them and appealing to their hearts more than to their minds. (See my previous posts about this new approach herehere, and here.)

On a side note, it took me a while to post this, because I came home to fires in my area (Northern CA). We hosted some family members who had been evacuated, but all are safe and well now, and everybody is back to their homes. Many thanks to those who know who I am, and who prayed for our situation.

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Wearing Black to the Kingdom Hall

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Here comes the man in black.

This week I wore black to the kingdom hall. I was attempting to make a statement, using a new strategy. Here’s what I shared with three men; I combined the three conversations into a composite one:

JW: Hi, how are you?

Me: I’m somewhat moody today. In fact, I’m grieving. That’s why I’m wearing black.

JW: Grieving about what?

Me: I’m grieving for my JW friends.

JW: Oh, you mean, about all that’s going on, like in Russia and other places?

Me: No, not about that. I’m grieving about other issues, but I’m not allowed to talk about them here. I’ve been in some deep prayer for you. I love you guys! And I’m grieving for you.

JW: Oh, okay. (Avoids eye contact and changes subject.)

Prior to this visit, I have never dressed up for the meetings. I have deliberately dressed casually to communicate (1) that I’m not trying to hide the fact that I’m not a baptized member, and (2) that I am free in Christ to wear what I want to the meetings. I think that most of my JW friends were probably only thinking “It’s about time he dressed up for the meetings.” But they had to notice that I was wearing all black. It stood out in a very monochromatic way.

The first man I shared my spiel with may have been an elder, but I’m not sure. He is at least a respected member in very good standing. When I revealed that I was not allowed to talk about what grieved me, he was visibly uncomfortable as he avoided eye contact and said, “Oh, okay.” Amazingly, though, he saved the conversation with a sudden change of subject, asking me what I did for a living. I went with it, joining him in small talk, keeping the friendship alive.

The other two men seemed less uncomfortable, but still unwilling to pursue the subject any further. I could sense understanding in their eyes, rather than avoidance. Perhaps they genuinely wanted to talk more, but naturally knew that they couldn’t at that time and in that place. One of them even said, “Thank you for honestly telling me how you’re feeling.” I helped both of those men by changing the subject myself. One of them was a dear, sweet older man who chatted with me for a long time about our workplaces and the times we’re living in. We shared quite a few common opinions, but avoided talking about anything very deeply.

I feel like I have gained some insight concerning my current status with the elders. From their body language, expressions, and actions around me during this visit, I’m thinking they consider me as not quite a threat (because I’m behaving well), but rather as a “loose cannon.” I’m not a threat, but I could be a potential threat, and they’re watching to see how it will go with me. Will I eventually conform (hey, he dressed nicely today), or will I give them a reason to escort me into the dreaded back room, or out of the building? I make them nervous, like they’re fearful that I may fire without warning at any moment. Or erupt like a previously dormant, but suddenly active volcano. Or like a bomb they’re trying to disarm.

I have to confess that I find it exciting to be considered a loose cannon. I’ve never been a loose cannon before. I feel powerful and dangerous.

Okay, I need to get off that arrogant horse. I’m not the black knight. I’m just a peasant, among other peasants, trying to show them the well of life that I have found, but they cannot see. I go back to what I said to each of the three men. “I love you guys.” And I mean it. I am grieving for them–it’s not an act. It’s for real.

During the boring talks and the dirge-like singing, I kept catching myself daydreaming. At one point I realized that I needed to do more than that. I began to attempt to pray earnestly for them, that they would be set free from their bondage. My stumbling attempts at prayer were, I know, part of a spiritual battle more vicious than I could sense. But I am sensing it, more and more. I’m grieving and angry and sad for my JW friends. I hope that they can sense that. And more importantly, I hope that they can sense the absence of the Lord’s presence in their meetings, and His presence breaking in, reaching out to them. Here’s one time when I think foul language will be appropriate:

God damn the Watchtower bondage!

Speaking of bondage and freedom, there was one funny side conversation this time with one of the “sisters,” and with an elder listening in. I have been trying to be good, not taking any digs at the Watchtower, but I couldn’t resist one. The sister was holding her nephew, a toddler wearing a shirt with a picture of a bowtie printed on the front (faux formal wear). The sister jokingly asked her nephew, while several of us (including the elder) were listening, “Can we wear a shirt like yours to the kingdom hall?” I replied for the little boy: “Sure, we’re free in Christ to do so.” Awkward silence, until someone abruptly changed the subject. I dared not look in the direction of the elder, but instead played innocent, joining in with the ongoing conversation. I even held the little boy and bounced him for a while! Sometimes I really, really enjoy what I do, even while I’m grieving.

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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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Door-to-Door Preaching, or Cart Preaching?

Take a look at http://www.jw.org. Right on the opening home page, there are full page-width photos you can scroll through, each depicting Jehovah’s Witnesses sharing their literature with others.

Now, click on “publications,” choose “magazines,” and scroll down to the Watchtowers. Look at the cover pictures. What do you see? More JW’s witnessing to the public, in public, using their literature. About half of the pics show the literature carts that they are now using.

Notice what’s missing in these pics? Other than the Bible, of course. (Okay, I see one pic where the JW is holding the New World Translation. But as tempted as I am to follow that rabbit trail, it’s a topic for another time.) What I’m wanting you to notice is the lack of pictures of JW’s at the front door of the “householder.” Yes, if you peruse the website, you will find some pics of JW’s talking with a householder at their front door, but those pics are far outnumbered by these new depictions of ministry in public areas, with and without the literature carts. Hmmm. What do we make of this?

Although I have not seen it in print, two reasons for the new ministry method that I have heard from rank-and-file JW’s are: (1) The Watchtower’s recognition that door-to-door ministry has limited effectiveness due to more active lifestyles of “householders” (they’re not home as much as in the past), and (2) the modern phenomenon of gated communities and secure residential buildings that prohibit access by solicitors. So that makes sense, and indicates a wise recognition for the need to adapt ministry to changing cultural conditions. (If you have seen these or other reasons given in the literature, please share with us in the comments below.)

But what about the Watchtower’s history of doctrinal dogmatism regarding the door-to-door ministry practice? The Watchtower has a long history of justifying their “house to house” ministry method scripturally, (mis)using such verses as Acts 5:42 and 20:20. The practice has been used as a “holiness criteria” for members, and as an indicator of who is in the true church, and who is part of the false church (aka the whore of Babylon). What do you think? Will we see a doctrinal change? Will there be “new light” on the subject?

My prediction is that there will be no “new light” or new teaching, but rather a gradual and casual abandonment of the “old light.” It has already begun with these pictures on the website and the magazines. There will be fewer and fewer mentions in the literature of the “house to house” ministry, and more and more mentions of “various methods for reaching people with the good news of the kingdom.” The God’s Kingdom Rules book already teaches about methods used in the past: megaphones on cars, use of radio broadcasts and phonograph players, print ads, and multimedia presentations, to name a few. While house-to-house preaching will continue, it won’t be given the exclusive honor that it has enjoyed in the past. It will be interesting to see whether JW members will be able to choose their preferred form of ministry on any given Saturday, or if they will be assigned to carts or doors by the will (or at the whim) of the elders. Does anybody know how it’s decided who gets to use the carts, and who doesn’t, at any given kingdom hall?

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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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Preparing Jehovah’s Witnesses to Listen: A New Strategy, Part 2

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In a previous post, I lamented about the recent phenomenon I have noticed with Jehovah’s Witnesses: their reluctance to engage in dialogue with anyone who doesn’t seem like a “humble, teachable one,” (easy mark), and their eagerness to refer people to their website (ostrich-like avoidance). See that previous post here.

While driving home the other day, I thought of another (related) strategy that I’m eager to try. Rather than using clever baiting tactics, or posing as a humble, curious Bible student (not that there’s anything wrong with those strategies), my new approach will be more up-front, genuine, honest, and transparent.

Side note: I have been wrestling lately, at least on the back burner of my mind, about the ethics of my “undercover” strategies, where I pose as a naive Bible student to keep them interested. But I have resolved the issue, at least in my own mind. If Jehovah’s Witnesses can justify their use of “theocratic warfare,” that is, the use of deception with outsiders, then so can I. And actually, I liken my strategy less to deception, and more with that of Nathan the prophet, who told a story to king David, lowering the boom at the end with the revelation: “You are the man.” (See Second Samuel 12:7.)

Back on topic: Here’s my new strategy, represented by the following imaginary dialogue:

Me (approaching JW’s doing cart ministry): Hello! Are you the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

JW: Yes we are!

Me: Oh, I love you guys!

JW: Oh, good. Have you been studying the Bible with someone?

Me: Yes, I have several JW friends, and I love y’all so much. I just want all of you to experience what I have experienced, being adopted by Jehovah as his son, and having Jesus as our mediator, and being in the New Covenant.

JW: Oh yes, of course Jesus is our mediator.

Me: Oh, you don’t know, do you?

JW: Know what?

Me: You don’t know that Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the 144,000.

JW: No, that’s not right.

Me: Oh, yes, I have checked this out with my JW friends, and we have verified it at the JW.org website. In fact, here’s my printout of the article on “Mediator” in the “Insight” book. You know of that book, yes?

JW: Well, yes. (Pauses to look at the article). Well, I don’t know about this. I think I need to do some more research on this.

Me: Oh, yes, please do, and let me know what you find out. Here’s my phone number and email address. You see, this breaks my heart, because I love you all so much, and I want you to experience the joy and excitement that I have been experiencing lately, and the Watchtower is withholding these and many other kingdom privileges from you. There’s the mediator issue, and being adopted as sons, and the new covenant, and being born again, and . . .

JW: Well, we know that being born again is only for a special set of people.

Me: Oh, I know you believe that. In fact, I have a favorite scripture about that. Can I share it with you?

JW: Okay.

Me: Can you look it up in your New World Translation? I want to see if it says the same thing as mine. I usually read from the New American Standard. It’s First John 5:1.

JW: Here it is.

Me: Can you read that for me? Especially the first half.

JW: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God.”

Me: Yes, that’s what my version says too. So, do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah?

JW: Yes.

Me: So therefore, you have been born again.

JW: No, it says “has been born from God,” not “born again.”

Me: But the cross-reference in the online version of the New World Translation at jw.org connects this verse with John 3:3, where Jesus says that you must be born again.

JW: Um, I’m going to need to research that some more.

Me: Please do, because it grieves me that the ones I love so much are being denied these kingdom privileges that the Bible says are available to all believers.

And we hopefully go on from there, if Mr. JW doesn’t shut down the conversation. But I do think this will make the dialogue last at least a few minutes more than if they sense I’m trying to be clever with them. This way, they know up front that I have no intention of becoming a JW, and that I’m sharing with them my genuine concerns about the organization. Hopefully they will sense that I’m not an evil, Satanic, deceptive opposer, but rather a concerned, yea even burdened genuine believer in Jehovah. That’s my hope, and I’m ready to give it a try, and will report hopefully in an upcoming blog post. I would love it if others try this, and let us know (in the comments below) how it went.

 

 

 

 

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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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