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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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Preparing Jehovah’s Witnesses to Listen – A New Strategy

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Image from jw.org

I have often seen the “cart witnesses” at Oakland Airport (OAK), and so I hoped that they would be present when I disembarked from my recent flight. And yes, there they were, one man and two ladies. We pleasantly chit-chatted about the joys and trials of flying, then I prepared them to go deeper.

I say that I “prepared them,” because I was intentional about this. You should be too, if you don’t want them to shut down on you in less than a minute.

Lately it seems that unless their “householder” or prospect exhibits “worthiness,” (that is, a willingness to blindly drink the Watchtower koolade), they will instinctively cease listening to ANYTHING you are trying to say to them. Their escape from engaging with you is to refer you to their website, JW.org. In the past (even as recently as a year ago) there was more of a willingness on their part to dialogue, discuss, and even debate. These days, their quick dismissal reminds me of “disaster triage.”

“What’s disaster triage?” Thanks for asking.

My wife and I have attended the disaster preparedness training known as CERT, or Community Emergency Response Training, a program developed soon after 911 to prepare citizens for self-sufficiency in the event of a major disaster. One of the sections of that CERT training was how to search damaged buildings for survivors. Because of the limited time and resources involved during an intense disaster, we were trained to employ a quick method of triage. Upon encountering an unresponsive victim, you check for vital signs (pulse and breathing), and if you find none, you move on. You do not attempt CPR or any other first aid.

That seems harsh. And admittedly it is. But in disaster mode, it’s the only reasonable, effective, and efficient way to help those you truly can help. In a disaster, you don’t have hours to attempt CPR on all the unresponsive victims. You keep moving, helping those you can, and (harshly) leaving the rest for dead.

All of that to say that it seems that the JW’s are in “disaster triage” mode. Their practice seems to be: If the prospect doesn’t seem receptive to the message, give up on them. Don’t engage them in discussions. Refer them to the website and move on.

It’s harsh. And in their case, they don’t have a legitimate disaster with which to justify their harsh practice. I might understand if they were under the gun of a new prediction of the end of the world as we know it (#TEOTWAWKI). But it looks like they have (wisely) given up on the predicting game, at least for now. I think their motivation is now avoidance of conflict, and just plain laziness. It seems to me that the rank-and-file are thinking, “Oh good, there’s a website now, where the organization has done all the work for us. When we’re stumped, we can just refer the prospect (or opposer) to that site, and be done with it. I don’t have to actually research or know anything for myself anymore.” And the governing bully has given them tacit permission to do this, with their repeated warnings to avoid conversations of any kind with “opposers.”

How convenient.

On the one hand, it sucks. I am personally experiencing less willingness on the part of my JW acquaintances to engage in dialogue. They are recently more quick to ask, “Why are you asking that question?” or “What’s your motivation in asking that?”, turning the table from a defensive position to an offensive one, questioning the inquirer’s motives. Or they say “I’m not going to argue with you,” essentially saying “I’m done talking with you.” It’s even more frustrating to talk with them than ever before. “You can find all the answers you need at JW.org” is now their conversation ender (perhaps their mantra).

But on the other hand, it can be a good thing. Let’s take it as an opportunity; an opportunity to be more genuine with them. Here’s what I mean: Until recently, I could get more conversational mileage using my “undercover” tactics, posing as an interested Bible student to get them to begin to question the Watchtower teachings. But now they’re quicker to identify those tactics. (They’re on to us.) So now, I’m finding it more effective to be more transparent with them from the beginning. We can still engage in long and deep conversations, but we have to prepare them first. As an example, here’s what I did with my JW friends I met at the airport:

After our chitchat, I told them that I have been meeting with two JW friends off-and-on for Bible study, and that I have been attending mid-week meetings at my local Kingdom Hall about once a month. Then I relayed to them my excitement about the verses in scripture about Jesus being our mediator, and quoted First Timothy 2:5, where Jesus is described as the mediator between God and mankind (be sure to use that precise term).

Smiles and nods from my 3 new JW friends.

Then I asked what they thought the mediator thing was all about. One sister (Sister #1) essentially described Jesus as our ransom, but not very well, so I helped to clarify.

Smiles and nods still.

I mentioned the aspect of prayer as part of Jesus’ mediatorial role. Sister #1 disagreed, saying that we pray directly to Jehovah, and that “the mediator does not include that.” I told her that all my other JW friends had shown me in the publications and at jw.org that praying “in Jesus’ name” meant that we are to pray to Jehovah, through Jesus. “Do you have a different opinion from the Watchtower?” I asked.

Sister #2 and Brother nearly sprained their necks to look to her for her response.

“Oh, no!” she said. So I established with them that Jesus’ mediatorial role included his being our ransom, as well as his role in our prayer life.

Smiles and nods again.

Then I said something like, “So, I have a problem that’s really bothering me. I’m hoping to get your opinion, to help clarify the issue.”

Notice that I admitted that I had a problem with the JW doctrine. Not that they have a problem. And I called upon them for their help. They looked genuinely concerned and eager to listen. So I went on.

“Imagine my shock and surprise when I found out that the Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed 144,000, and not for the rest of the “great crowd” believers. I find that very disturbing.”

Sister #1: “What’s that now?”

I literally had to say it three more times before they could even begin to dialogue about it. “Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the 144,000 anointed believers, and not for the great crowd believers.”

The brother said “Oh, no, that can’t be true.”

Sister #2 (finally chiming in): “You got some wrong information from somewhere.”

That’s when I explained that when I have asked all my JW friends and acquaintances about it, they ALL referred me to JW.org, where I found the Insight article on the subject of “Mediator,” which I then printed to take on the plane with me for reading material. Then I showed them the printout.

Sister #1 read the paragraph that I had highlighted, then tried to say the article was saying something other than what it was obviously saying. So I said to her, “Well, I hope you’re right. I hope that I’m misunderstanding something, because if it’s true that they teach that, then I’m heartbroken and burdened for you. Please look at the paragraph again for me, would you? I hope that you’re right, that I’m missing something.” She looked at the article again, and then said, “Well, I don’t know, I’ll have to research it more when I look it up, over there,” pointing to where (I think) they take their breaks. “Would you please?” I replied, “Because if it’s true, then I’m really concerned about this, and it would break my heart to think that you don’t have Jesus as your mediator. I want that for everybody, don’t you?”

Nods and smiles again. I ended by thanking them for listening, and for their time, and for their smiles here where people get off a long plane ride.

So my new strategy of preparing JW’s to listen to me, rather than dismissing me, includes the following:

  1. Admitting up front that I’m not about to become a baptized JW, and that I have some disturbing questions that need an adequate answer.
  2. Beating them to the punch of referring me to the website, jw.org, quoting from it myself.
  3. Asking them to clarify their understanding of Watchtower doctrine.
  4. Showing them my broken heart for them, rather than gloating about my ability to stump them.

By using this approach (I’m no longer referring to my methods as tactics), the result of my conversation was keeping them as friends, rather than seeing them shut down. And hopefully, Sister #1 and the others will research the issue more.

Lord Jesus, please make the seeds that were sown sprout and grow in their hearts and minds.

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