Tag Archives: Jehovah’s Witnesses

Encouragement From an Old Friend

alcohol, beer, beer bottle

Actual Photo of Me and Jess Meeting

Jess and I were roommates in college. Bible college, that is. Realm of mandatory chapel services, curfews, and dress codes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Bible college, for both the new-start-after-high-school experience, and the Bible savvy I gained. But back then “witnessing” meant winning arguments and showing off our Bible prowess.

Oh my, I just did the math, and it was 30+ years ago! We have both mellowed since then. But he has retained his zealousness, in a good way. (Oops, should I have used the word zeal there? Zealousness sounds more impressive, doesn’t it?) I’m trying to do the same.

Jess came for a visit, and he and I were talking about this crazy ministry of reaching out to Jehovah’s Witnesses that God has placed in my path. He’s very supportive of the whole thing, and wants to see it reach its full potential. So we began brainstorming (okay, mostly he did the brainstorming) about what some next steps ought to be.

For one thing, he has invited me to speak to a church group he’s involved with. Cool! I plan on taking him up on that.

Secondly, he thought I should develop a curriculum to be used by others. I’m working on that.

Third, he thought it would be good if I involved others in the ministry. I’d like to, and have been thinking the same, but have been rather stymied as to how to make that happen. His (good) suggestion was to develop mentoring with individuals, whether in person or online. Hmm. Boy, that would be great! Jess has a lot of experience with online video conferencing stuff through his work, so he may be my go-to guy for ongoing advice in developing that. I would need to get some equipment for that, including a descent video cam. (Tell me in the comments whether you would want to learn from me either in person or online. We could get started by phone if we can’t meet in person.)

Finally, he came up with the idea of me preparing some training role-play videos, where I and others act out how to talk with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sound familiar? Yes, it would be similar to the role-playing that the JW’s do in their “theocratic ministry school.” Sounds fun, yes? I’ll be looking for fellow actors for that, and former JW’s would be ideal, since they would have the best insight into the mindset of an active JW, and would be the best candidates to play that role.

Let me know what you think about all this. Brainstorm with us! Meanwhile, I will be seeking guidance from Jehovah’s Holy Spirit. May the Lord speak to you as well, no matter what the issue is you’re facing.

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What Am I Doing Here?

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Photo Credit: Wonderopolis.org

“What am I doing here?”

That’s the question I asked myself and the Lord a few day ago as I sat in the meeting at the kingdom hall. I was more than a little bit discouraged. If you have been following my post, you know about the chastisement I have received for “sharing my personal opinions” at the kingdom hall. For a long time I enjoyed asking thought-provoking and challenging questions among the congregants after the meetings. Then the elders (and one elder in particular) confronted me and forbade me from doing so. Now, I know that Mr. elder has no authority over me. I could go right on with my agenda of challenging my JW friends. What are they going to do, disfellowship me? The worst case is that they would attempt to physically throw me out of the kingdom hall, or would call the police on me (as I have seen done in a number of videos). Well, those dramatic scenes are exactly what I’m trying to avoid. I don’t want my witness to come to an end with my JW friends! So in the interest of keeping the relationships alive, I agreed to refrain from sharing “my personal opinions” (aka what the Bible says).

So here I am, listening to the lectures and making small-talk with my JW friends, and nothing more. “What am I doing here, Lord?” How can I witness, when I’m not allowed to share the truth of the Bible, and how it contrasts with the Watchtower teachings? I feel like I’m under a gag order. Should I give up going to the kingdom hall, and just limit my ministry to talking with the cart ministry JW’s? I do enjoy my dialogues with them.

But I know that the Lord wants me to continue with the kingdom hall ministry. It’s a burden deep within me. I go about once a month, usually the last week of every month, and I can’t imagine quitting. So I will continue, even though I’m “walking on eggshells” and “biting my tongue” trying not to say anything controversial.

I am hopeful though. Here are some things that I think may be happening, or that I hope will happen.

  1. We never know just how (or how much) we influence others, even when words are not said. The mere fact that someone from that evil system they call “Christiandom” is friendly and caring, and has not given up on them, and keeps showing up at their meetings, may speak to their hearts. That’s my hope, and what keeps me going. Just like you can’t see what’s going on with seeds as they’re sprouting underground, we never know what seeds we’re planting in people’s hearts, just by being kind, listening to them, and caring about their personal lives.
  2. God may spark someone’s curiosity about me, prompting one (or more) of them to arrange a meeting with me to satisfy that curiosity. (Make it so, Lord.)
  3. One or more of the elders may corner me and call for a commitment. Something like, “When are you going to get baptized and become one of Jehovah’s witnesses?” That would be a fun encounter. Lord, give me the right words if it comes to that.
  4. This may be a time of trust-building with one or more of my JW friends. Someone may be on the verge of coming out of the org, and is working up the courage to reach out to me or someone else. I’m there to be ready to help them when the time is right. (Yes, Lord, set someone free, I ask in Jesus’ name!)
  5. The Lord may use me at a meeting or convention in some way that I haven’t even thought of. Isn’t that how the Lord usually works anyway? Yup, too true. As they say, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

So meanwhile I’m sticking it out. I choose to sit through the most boring meetings anyone could possibly experience (I’m not exaggerating), and chit-chat about nothing afterwords with my JW friends, all in the hope of seeing one (or more) set free. As Paul would say, “to the JW’s I become a JW.” Now that gives a whole new meaning to being an #UndercoverJW.

 

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Keeping Friendships with Jehovah’s Witness Alive

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This is the challenge: Keeping friendships with Jehovah’s Witnesses alive. It should be your number one goal.

Yes, above winning an argument, or insisting on your “rights,” or getting your brilliant point expressed, or pointing out the logical absurdity of a JW teaching or practice, or even sharing the gospel.

What? More important than sharing the gospel? Well, I didn’t say that we shouldn’t share the gospel. In fact, sharing the good news of Jesus should be a priority. But keeping the friendship alive needs to be THE priority. Why? Because:

  1. Our friendship with them is tenuous, and likely limited in terms of length. At some point they may begin to avoid us, either because of their discomfort with the truth, their fear of “apostates” and “opposers”, or because of a directive by their elders. I had this happen with my friend Aaron, who used a number of excuses to explain his not returning my calls and texts. When I called one of his bluffs and asked “Is that the real reason you can’t meet?” he changed the subject. I replied with “Okay, I love you.” Once we hung up, I haven’t heard from him since. It goes to show that we have a limited time window to influence our JW friends and relatives.
  2. They are not likely to hear or receive the truth of the gospel until they trust you as a friend, and that takes time. It took years for my old friend Mark to realize that I valued my friendship with him unconditionally, whether he left the Watchtower or not, and so he could also value our friendship, even though he knows I’m an active challenger to his faith system.
  3. Being their friend will blow their minds. Yes it will! Why? Two reasons: (a) They don’t experience real friendships within their congregation. (Okay, there will be exceptions to this, but it is difficult to be real with someone who is obligated to turn you in when you have doubts or question the governing bully.) And (b) they don’t think it’s possible for someone within “Christendom” to care about them and be a real friend to them. As I recently learned from a missionary reaching out to Europeans who are jaded against Christians, we need to provide to lost people “good experiences with Christians.” It’s their first step toward being open to the truth of the gospel.

So do all you can to keep the friendship alive, no matter how tenuous it is. Go out of your way to help Jehovah’s Witnesses, or to do little acts of kindness that say “I was thinking of you.” Help unclog a drain. Give a plate of cookies (try to pick the ones that don’t look too Christmas-y). Provide a ride to the airport. Love-bomb them, but in a way that is far more genuine than their phony conditional expressions of love. In short, care. Show them the fruit of the Spirit, so they will want to become grafted into Jesus the vine.

Pray for me as I seek to develop additional friendships with JW’s. My last two visits to the local kingdom hall had me talking with “Jim” and his son “Alton.” I think we’re hitting it off pretty well. I’m hoping we can meet off-campus sometime. May Jehovah provide to you the spirit of Jesus as you share with your JW friends, relatives, and acquaintances.

 

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Hooray for Cart Ministry

Cart ministry is fun!

CartBeach

Isn’t Cart Ministry Fun!

No, I don’t mean it’s fun for the Jehovah’s Witnesses doing it. I mean it’s fun for me, an Evangelical Christian who wants to see JW’s set free from their bondage to the Watchtower organization.

This last week I went into the city on a business trip, and as I expected, there were several literature carts staffed by JW’s in and around the train station. I was able to interact with three groups of JW’s. I decided to use my new full-disclosure strategy (rather than pretending to be a naive, curious Bible student). (See my previous posts about my new approach.) In each case I began with telling them I loved them, am praying for them, and am grieving for them, because there are a number of kingdom privileges being withheld from and/or denied to them. They don’t know what to make of that, so I go on, listing whichever ones I can think of in the moment: Being adopted as Jehovah’s sons and daughters, being in the New Covenant, having Jesus as our mediator, and being born again, for examples.

The first group I shared this with (a man and 3 women) did not respond to my message at all, attempting to change the subject to generalities about God (he wants the best for us, he cares about us, etc.) I pressed in with my subject though, explaining the Watchtower’s teaching that these blessings are only for the anointed class of 144,000 members, and returning again and again to my feelings about what they’re doing. I found my words and my tone fluctuating between sadness and anger as I spoke; I think they got a vivid impression of my burden for them. Seeing that they were not going to respond in any meaningful way, I left them on good terms.

The second opportunity was with a couple, possibly married to each other, but I’m not sure. When I mentioned the mediator issue, they were adamant that Jesus was the mediator for all believers. I happened to have in my backpack a copy of Worldwide Security Under the Prince of Peace, which I had recently obtained from a brother at the recent Witnesses Now for Jesus conference. God helped me lay hands on the book quickly, and open to where I had a bookmark showing where Watchtower clearly teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the 144,000. They were amazed. I mentioned that current info at the JW website, in the Insight book, under M for mediator, confirms this teaching. About that time, the man from the first group came over to take away the lady, explaining that it was time for her to take someone’s place who was going on break. (Or was he shielding her from me? I don’t know. Is that a thing they do?) So that left the man, “Nathan,” probably in his 30’s. He and I had a long talk together. He was amazingly willing to discuss and debate with me (although I tried to keep it from being a debate), and he never played the “I’m not going to argue with you” card, and never shut down on me. I did not expect to encounter anyone like that any more. Recently they have been so strongly warned to not engage with “apostates” or “opposers” that it’s difficult to have any kind of meaningful conversation with the average JW. (See my previous posts about that.) Nathan and I discussed the two-class system, heaven and earth, assurance of salvation (or lack thereof), being born again, and other topics. I asked him what he does when he encounters a contradiction between the Bible and the watchtower, to which he replied that he waits for clarification from the “new light.” I challenged him with the thought that wouldn’t we want to report it so that it can be corrected as soon as possible? When he asked if I were considering becoming a JW, I left him with the thought (expressed several times and ways) that I could never pledge my allegiance to an earthly, human organization, but could only do so to Jesus. (This is a new tactic of mine, attempting to use their anti-flag-pledge language to apply to their dedication at baptism to the organization.)

The third set of JW’s I talked with was a group of four, outside the train station. They were packing up, getting ready to leave, so I gave them a quick form of my presentation, telling them I loved them, and was concerned and praying about the blessings they were missing. As I listed some of them, one of the ladies dismissed me with “Okay, goodbye,” as she began to walk away. The other three were more willing to listen as I finished up with my short (probably less than 1 minute) talk. I gave them a seed bomb to finish their day of “preaching” work. (Or should we call it “not-preaching work”?) I probably did more preaching that day than all 9 JW’s I encountered combined. And in contrast to their experience, I had more fun. I’m thankful for the opportunities that cart ministry provides. Hooray for cart ministry!

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Jesus and Michael in Daniel 10

I’m going to attempt to do something similar to what my friend Sara Parrott does in her blog, A Twist in Translation. (Check out her blog by clicking here.) My attempt at using her format is nowhere near her masterful presentations, but here goes anyway.

Take a look at the text of Daniel 10 from the New World Translation that I have reproduced here (printed directly from jw.org):

Daniel10A

Daniel10B

And here’s a version that might be easier to read:

Dan10NWT

See the description of the “man clothed in linen” in verses 5-6? Does it sound familiar? It should; see Revelation 1:13-16. The Revelation passage is clearly describing Jesus, and given the similarity between the two passages, I think that any casual reader would conclude that the one being described in Daniel 10 is an Old Testament appearance of Jesus. The Watchtower, however, identifies the Daniel 10 being as an angel and not Jesus (see Watchtower, September 1, 2011, p. 8). I also note that the descriptions of the reactions by both Daniel (verses 8-9) and John (Revelation 1:17-18) are very similar.

And there’s more. There are a number of princes mentioned in Daniel 10. It seems that regions or nations can have an angelic being, or “prince” assigned to them, whether that being is fallen and demonic (in the case of Persia and Greece) or godly and angelic (as in the case of Israel). And Michael seems to be the angel in charge of Israel. Michael is described as “one of the foremost princes,” implying that there are multiple “foremost princes.” Could it be that the term “foremost prince” is a synonym for “archangel”? I believe that it is. Just because Michael is elsewhere described as “the archangel” doesn’t mean that he is the only archangel, any more than saying “David the king” would mean that David is the only king. So it looks like an archangel is an angel assigned to oversee a nation or people group.

Notice also that the New World Translation has a footnote to verse 13 for the phrase “one of the foremost princes,” where the alternate translation is given as “a prince of the first rank.” Could it be that Michael is one of a number of princes of first rank, just like a modern army can have a number of generals? I think it could, and is.

So here in Daniel 10 we have two separate beings, one of which matches the description of Jesus in Revelation 1, and the other of which is one among a number of high-ranking princes, and whose name is Michael. If you were reading Daniel 10 and Revelation 1 without your Watchtower goggles on, what would be your conclusion?

 

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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

BlackShirt

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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