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A Christian in a Jehovah’s Witness Bible Study: Part 10

Image from Pixabay; Not a kingdom hall, bit it looks like one.

Lesson 10 in the Jehovah’s Witness “Bible study” Enjoy Life Forever is “How Can the Meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses Benefit You?” As “Craig” and I began our weekly meeting together, I noticed that it was just the two of us; none of his elders had joined us this time. I very much expected to see an elder’s face, calling my bluff and telling me that I need to start coming to their meetings.

How about that lesson title, though? Can you see where they’re heading with it? Ugh, the wording is so manipulative, so passive-aggressive, it’s annoying. You can tell that after this many lessons with the new recruit, the JW’s expect commitment from them. They may as well just come out and say, “You better get your @$$ to the meetings, now!”

So, I wondered whether Craig would put the pressure on.

We started going through the material in a friendly-enough way. Under point 2, “What will you learn in our meetings?” Nehemiah 8:8 is quoted. I expressed my surprise to Craig at the way the Watchtower translated the verse. While all other translations infer that the Levites explained the meaning of scripture to the people, the New World Translation renders the Hebrew text as “putting meaning into it.” I explained to Craig the difference between exegesis and eisegesis, and told him that this translation sounded like the latter rather than the former. All other translations give the sense of drawing meaning out of the text, not imposing one’s preconceived ideas into it. Craig answered by talking about his visit to the JW headquarters (“Bethel”), and the writing department. He talked about the vast effort required to produce a Bible translation. He didn’t really address the issue I had brought up, so I asked, “Were there any Hebrew scholars there? Did you meet any?” He avoided that question as well, suggesting that he thought the phrase meant that the Levites gave the text meaning by reading it in a dynamic way, putting feeling into it.

In Craig’s defense, he doesn’t deliberately lie; I get the impression he just tries to provide the best answer he can, no matter how remotely it does or doesn’t relate to the question. I think he makes up stuff to avoid sounding ignorant, and to defend the organization as well as he can. It’s very much like when you hear politicians try to answer a question they don’t have a real answer for. The motto for both could be “If you don’t know the answer, make something up.” I’ve seen salespeople do it, too. (I’m in sales myself, so I can recognize when they’re “blowing smoke” in an instant.)

When we got to the cute diagram of the kingdom hall, I asked about point C, which says, “During some parts of the program, the audience is invited to comment.” I told Craig that I have raised my hand in meetings several times, and have never been called on. “Do they only call upon baptized members?” I asked. He insisted that visitors would be called on as a normal practice. I insisted that it had not been my experience. I even told him the story (related here) of the trouble I got into when I questioned whether there was a donkey in the accounts of Joseph and Mary’s journeys. Craig winced when I told him that the elders took me into the back room. He offered a sort of apology, saying something like, “I don’t know what those guys’ issue was.” He assured me that if I visited his kingdom hall, I would be called on. Yeah, right. Whatever.

We went through the rest of the study, and I agreed with just about everything that was said. The thing is, though, I kept applying the principles of scripture about “meeting together” to the congregation I’m now attending, which is NOT a kingdom hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Craig asked me several questions about our practices, so he knew I was talking about my “christiandom” church.

Finally, at the very end of our time together, Craig asked me what I expected to gain from doing this Bible study with him. Uh oh, there it is. He’s fishing for whether I am “rightly disposed.” How should I answer? I couldn’t help feeling trapped. I can’t tell him I’m all-in, ready to begin faithfully attending their meetings. But if I admit that I’m not interested in becoming a JW, will he shut down our study and ghost me?

I thank God for the deus ex machina experiences I have had in life. [That fancy phrase means “an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel.” (From Oxford Languages.)] Once again the Lord gave me words to say. (Sometimes He shuts me up, too.) What I said was something like this: “I’m hoping to learn more about what my Jehovah’s Witness friends believe, so I can better understand where they’re coming from. I have mentioned to you that I have a number of questions that I haven’t found answers to yet, including questions about the New Covenant, the Two-class system of believers, Jesus as Mediator, and lots of questions about the 1914 thing.” Craig assured me that the answers to my questions would be provided in upcoming lessons of the “Bible study.”

When Craig said that, I thought “Oh, good.” It implies that he expects to continue the study with me. He’s not cutting me off, and apparently not expecting me to be “all in” yet. What a relief.

At this point, some readers might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? So what if he ends the study? Why do you care?” And to an extent, that’s right. I’m not invested in the JW system. There’s no fear or anxiety about my being rejected by them. But the fact is, I care about these JW friends of mine. They have become dear to me. I grieved when I was forbidden to attend the kingdom hall closest to my home. (Read about that experience here.) My goal is to keep my friendship with my JW friends alive for as long as I can. My window of influence with them is limited, and I want to extend that window of opportunity, making it last longer, to the extent that I am able. I plan on meeting with Craig for as long as he is willing, and as long as God protects our relationship. Please join me in prayer that Craig will wake up before he decides to cut me off.

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Using Repetition to Reach Jehovah’s Witnesses

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Jehovah’s Witnesses use it, so why shouldn’t we?

Repetition, I mean.

Watchtower articles, Watchtower studies at meetings, public talks, conventions, assemblies, videos, website, and more are all repetitive ad nauseam, going over the same 5 or 6 themes again and again. It doesn’t take a fierce opposer with an agenda to recognize the mind-control technique.

I propose we use the same strategy. Well, the same, but different. I’m not proposing that we drive by JW’s at their carts, blasting the same message at them daily from a megaphone. (Oh, wait, I hadn’t thought of that until now. Maybe . . . no, never mind.)

What I propose is: Don’t be hesitant to go over the same points with them again and again. I found myself doing just that with my friend Mark. At first it felt awkward. The conversation would naturally bring itself around to the same subject we had covered the last time we met, or something from last year. I would think, “Should we talk about this again? Should I change the subject to something else?” But then I would proceed with the repetitious topic. And I’ve figured out that it’s okay to repeat. In fact, it’s good. Here’s why.

First, Jehovah’s Witnesses are used to repetition. It’s the way they’re conditioned to learn. So while we may feel awkward, to them it’s normal. They almost need something repeated a number of times before they accept it. With Mark, there are several topics we have gone over repeatedly, but I think the most common one for us is the mediator topic. (See my other posts on that subject.) Sometimes it comes up naturally in the conversation. Sometimes he will bring it up out of the blue. Sometimes he brings it up, and sometimes I bring it up again. “Hey Mark, I found another publication that talks about the mediator; have you seen this one?” Whatever the situation, he never flinches. It’s normal for him to talk about something again, and again, and again.

As we have discussed the mediator over and over, I have seen him become more and more firm in his disagreement with the Watchtower view of this subject. He actually says that they’re wrong to say that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed class of 144,000. This last time I said to him, “You could get into trouble for saying that.” And he agreed. “Yes, I could get in trouble.” I assured him that his secret was safe with me. (I would never rat him out to his elders. His coming out needs to be his decision, not theirs. I want to empower him, not defeat him.)

The mediator issue is not the only topic we have repeatedly discussed. The deity of Jesus is another, and salvation by faith, apart from works, and also the 2-class system of believers. We have been over these topics many times each, and I must be willing to go over them with Mark again. And again.

“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12) That’s a verse out of context for us. But I’m claiming it anyway. Lord, give me patience as I talk with Mark and other Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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

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From Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

JW: I think so. What do you mean?

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

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

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

JW: Like what? We enjoy many benefits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Top Ten Topics to Discuss With Jehovah’s Witnesses #7: The Two-Class System

 

MindTheGap

Here is yet another good talking point that I use with Jehovah’s Witnesses, either at their carts, or wherever I may meet them: their infamous, notorious, and scandalous two-class system of believers. This is a helpful topic, especially when I don’t want to use the strategy of pretending that I’m a potential candidate with innocent Bible questions. Lately they’re seeing through that strategy anyway, and they end up questioning my motives for asking questions. They’re being trained to spot “opposers” and their strategies, and to cut off dialogue with them immediately. For a more direct approach, then, I give no indication that I’m interested in learning from them, instead expressing how shocked I am about their two-class system. It’s a completely honest and transparent approach, and I’m getting some good traction with it, depending on how comfortable they are with the subject.

Many JW’s at first don’t know to what I’m referring. But it takes only a few sentences for them to get it. Here’s how the conversation typically goes:

Me: Hello, good to meet you.

JW: Hello, you are welcome to take any of our literature.

Me: Thank you, but I’ve studied with a JW friend, and I read a lot at JW.org, and quite honestly I have a problem with your two-class system.

JW: Our what?

Me: You know, how the Watchtower teaches about two classes of believers, the anointed 144,000 and the great crowd. Like there’s a first class, and a second class.

JW: No, you don’t understand. There’s no second class. I’m looking forward to living forever in paradise on earth. I don’t have a problem with it.

Me: That part is not my biggest concern. Regardless of where we end up in the future, I’m thinking about right now. There are a bunch of kingdom privileges, or blessings, that are enjoyed by the anointed class, that are being denied to the other class.

JW: Well, we experience many blessings indirectly.

Me: Do you? I know that you can have Jesus as your ransom, but that’s about it. According to Watchtower, you don’t get to be adopted by Jehovah as his son, or be in the New Covenant, or be part of Abraham’s seed, or citizens of the Kingdom, or anointed with Holy Spirit, or being born again, or having Jesus as your mediator, or . . .

JW: Wait! You mentioned Jesus as our mediator. Of course he’s our mediator.

Me: Yes, I find that many JW’s don’t realize that Watchtower teaches that Jesus is NOT your mediator, but that he’s the mediator for ONLY the 144,000.

JW: No, you have wrong information. Maybe you saw that on an apostate website.

Me: I got it right from the Insight book, on jw.org. You know about the Insight book, right?

JW: Yes, but that can’t be right. Maybe you read it wrong.

Me: No, they very clearly teach that Jesus is the mediator for only the 144,000. You should research that. Look in the Insight book, under “M” for mediator. Anyway, I find it shocking that you and my JW friends are being denied all these blessings. You’re all being forbidden to enjoy any of these kingdom privileges, while you’re expected to take on all the responsibilities. Don’t you want to be in the New Covenant, and have Jesus as your mediator?

JW: I need to research that some more.

Me: Yes, please do. I should go, but thanks for talking with me today!

JW: Okay, goodbye.

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Top Ten Topics to Discuss With Jehovah’s Witnesses: #1

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Whether you’re at their cart, in their kingdom hall, or at your door, what are your top subjects to discuss with Jehovah’s Witnesses, hoping to help them “wake up”?  Please submit your favorite(s) in the comments, and yours might appear in an upcoming blog post!

Please nothing caustic, abrasive, insulting, belittling, etc., you get the idea. We’re looking for topics that will actually be helpful in getting them to think. Oh, and if you’re able, please include a scripture (or two) to go along with your topic.

Let’s try to bump their carts out of their Watchtower ruts!

So here’s my first: Jesus as our Mediator. Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for ONLY the 144,000 anointed believers, and not for the rest of the “great crowd” believers. (For proof of this, because many JW’s don’t know, and will question you about it, use the entry under “mediator” in the Insight On the Scriptures publication, available in the “online library” section of their official website.) The Bible teaches that Jesus is the mediator for all believers, as seen in First Timothy 2:5. I love talking about this with Jehovah’s Witnesses! It’s my favorite topic, so it has earned the #1 spot on my list. They long to have Jesus as their mediator–you can see it in their eyes.

 

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Keeping Jehovah’s Witnesses Engaged in Conversation Without Shutting Down

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Perhaps you have experienced this: You’re talking with a Jehovah’s Witness, and it’s going great; the two of you are all smiles, sunshine, and rainbows as you talk about the Bible together. Then, you bring up a scripture verse, or pose a thought-provoking question, and suddenly your JW friend transforms like Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. They might say something like “This conversation is over,” or “I don’t think you’re being sincere;” or they might just shut down and clam up, avoiding eye contact, hoping you will leave or melt into the sidewalk.

“What happened?” you wonder. “I just wanted to get him to think.”

Well, therein lies the problem. Now more than ever, JW’s are being taught not to think. The heightened rhetoric these days warn them against “independent thinking” and any (really, literally any) discussion with “apostates” or “opposers.”

It’s not your JW friend’s fault. I blame the governing body [governing bully; snicker]. Your friend is acting out of fear. They’re afraid of being led astray from “the truth,” afraid of displeasing Jehovah, afraid of getting in trouble with their elders, afraid that you might be right and their whole reality might come crashing down and there’s no truth out there at all and then how could they live with that? Can you imagine your fear if you found out that your whole context of existence is just a matrix-like illusion? You can’t blame them for resisting any threat to their virtual reality, and consequently treating you like a leprous killer bent on attacking them.

So how can you avoid that turning point, where they turn into either a hissing, arch-backed wildcat, or a glassy-eyed zombie?

I’m learning how to keep them alive and engaged with me. It’s been a long, slow learning curve. I’m hoping I can speed up your learning process with the following tips. I’ll use examples from my recent visit to the city (San Francisco), where I talked with four sets of JW’s standing beside their propaganda–oops, I mean literature carts.

First, endear them. Don’t approach them with guns blazing. I guarantee that opening with “Hey! Your organization is protecting pedophiles!” will result in immediate shutdown. Yes, there’s a time and place to talk with them about their child abuse problem. But not yet. For now, engage them in small-talk. Laugh with them. Enjoy being with them. They are nice people. Deluded, but nice. During my recent visit to the city, I chatted with the cart JW’s about our home towns, their commute into the city, their congregations, the weirdness of San Fran, and various other neutral topics.

Second, inoculate them against their allergic reaction to your message. Or put another way, set them up for receptivity to the real truth (as opposed to their artificial “truth”). I did that several ways with my JW acquaintances:

  1. Be a Berean. Give the example of the Bereans (from Acts 17), who questioned what the apostles (the “governing body” of that time) presented to them, checking it themselves against scripture. Say, “I want to be like the Bereans, so I ask a lot of questions.”
  2. Be childlike. “Your book, What the Bible Really Teaches, has a picture of a child, and describes how a child will ask a question again and again, annoying the grown-ups, until they get a reasonable answer. I’m like that child, so I might annoy you with my questions.”
  3. Be a tattle-tale. “I asked an elder about this, and he got mad at me, like I shouldn’t be asking questions, or he thought I was trying to rock the boat or something, but really I just wanted to know the answer to this. What do you think of this verse [or question, or concern, or practice, or doctrine]?”
  4. Share your genuine concern. If they see your shocked reaction to a JW doctrine, or your grief, or burden, or genuine concern, they are more likely to listen and respond, rather than shutting down. “I love my JW friends, and it grieves me that they’re being denied so many kingdom benefits [aka promises], that Watchtower teaches are only for the anointed 144,000. I’m in deep prayer for you guys. It grieves my heart.”
  5. Play them against each other. I talked with two women, one a senior adult, the other a young adult. The older lady mentioned “good news,” so I used that springboard to talk about the biblical “good news,” or gospel, as preached by Jesus and Paul. She was patronizing with me, wanting me to only listen and learn from her. When I tried to bring up scriptures that disagreed with what she was saying, she would object that I was “getting ahead of the truth” (that is, the canned lesson she was presenting). She literally WOULD NOT LOOK at First Corinthians 15:1-11 or Mark 1:14-15, which spell out the good news of the Bible (rather than the “good news” of the Watchtower). Suppressing my frustration, I turned to the younger woman and said, “You can understand what I’m trying to say, right?” She smiled and replied, “Yes, I see what you’re saying.” I hope my message was getting through to her, but I’m not sure. But regardless, it lightened the mood and enabled us all to get along better. And I think that younger lady saw how pushy and manipulative older lady was being.
  6. Appeal to their spiritual longings. Jehovah has “put eternity in their hearts,” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Somewhere in their deepest, primal part of their being, they long to have Jesus as their mediator, and be in the New Covenant, and have the heavenly hope, and live in the freedom that salvation by grace (not works) provides, and have the assurance of eternal life, and be adopted as sons and daughters of Jehovah. I see it in their eyes–they desperately want these things! And yet the governing bully withholds these blessings from them. It’s frustrating and maddening to me, but we can use that to appeal to their hearts. “Have you read about the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31? [I read it aloud to them.] Don’t you want to be in on that? It’s fantastic!” I also love talking about having Jesus as our mediator. (See my previous post about the Mediator here.)
  7. Appeal to their own literature. “I’ve been reading at jw.org, and found something that I find very disturbing. Did you know that Watchtower teaches that Jesus is mediator for only the anointed 144,000, and not for the rest of the believers? I read it in the Insight book, under M for mediator. Can you bring that up on your tablet?” They can’t argue with their own literature, but they sure do some mental gymnastics trying to explain it away. I like to say very little, and just let them wrestle with it, and try to talk their way through it. I had two JW’s commit to researching it on their own, and I believe they will. They seemed sincere, rather than making empty promises. And I prayed that they will not be able to forget. Which brings me to:

Third, pray for them. Pray before approaching them, during your conversation with them, and after leaving them. This actually does as much or more for my attitude and demeanor than theirs. I’ve mentioned before that sometimes God’s Holy Spirit prompts me to shut up, rather than adding that one last dig that I think will be so great. Ask God to continue working on their hearts and set them free. That’s what it’s all about after all; not my winning of an argument.

Prior to using these strategies, I would usually have only about a minute to talk with a JW before they shut down. Now, during this last visit to the city, I carried on conversations lasting from 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes. That’s more time for God to work on their hearts by his Holy Spirit. My new goal is to engage with JW’s for as long as I can, and depart on good terms. I left each of my four couples without them being antagonistic or emotionally absent. That’s a win!

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Public Prayer Strategy at Jehovah’s Witnesses Carts

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From Pixabay.com

I have a new strategy I’m wanting to try when interacting with the Jehovah’s Witnesses at their literature carts. I’ve been thinking and praying about this because of my recent frustration with trying to hold a conversation of any length before they shut down on me. If you’ve tried to talk with JW’s recently, you’ve likely noticed that they shut down on you faster than ever before. In the past, they used to be willing to interact, dialogue, debate, and discuss. No longer. They have been receiving an increased amount of rhetoric in their kingdom hall talks and convention talks about not engaging in ANY discussions with apostates and opposers. They are being instructed to NOT talk with you. At all. None. Zero. Zip. Once they label you as an opposer, they clam up and avoid eye contact. You’ve seen it. You know what I mean. They suddenly say, “I’m not going to argue with you.” Then you get the silent treatment. Frustrating.

There are usually symptoms leading up to the shutdown. If they say one or more of the following, you know it’s coming:

“You can find all the answers you need at our website, jw dot borg.”

“Why are you asking that question?”

“Are you honestly seeking answers, or are you just wanting to start an argument?”

“I’m not sure you’re being sincere in your questioning.”

“Where is this question coming from?”

“Have you been reading apostate books/websites/sources?”

“Would you like to have someone pay you a personal visit to answer your questions?”

There may be a few more telling statements or questions that I’m not thinking of right now. And there are more variations of these. At their heart is a questioning of your motives, and a judging of your heart attitudes. Yes, it’s wrong, but it’s what they’re being trained to do. We can’t get around that. So what can we do? How can we keep the dialogue alive, without them shutting down?

My hope is that the other posts on this blog will provide you with some good tools to do just that. But I have a new idea. Tell me what you think of this.

What if I were to talk with the cart people just long enough to learn their names and begin to share truth with them; then when I sense they’re about to shut down, I could go to my knees and begin to pray out loud to Jehovah. I would tell Jehovah about my burden for my new friends, and how my heart is grieved for them. I would talk with God about all the blessings and kingdom privileges that are being denied the JW’s, as they teach that they are only for the anointed class (the 144,000). I would mention many of the promises in prayer, including being anointed by the holy spirit, being adopted as sons of Jehovah, being kings and priests, being in the new covenant, being citizens of the kingdom, and having Jesus as their mediator.

I would pray about their lack of assurance of eternal life, and Jehovah’s promise of assurance at First John 5:1.

Essentially I would be talking with Jehovah about all the things I want to say to my JW friends. What could they do? How could they object? I would be exercising my right to my religious practice of prayer in a public place, just like they are exercising their right to publicly stand beside their literature cart. I think the worst case would be that they would pack up and leave, but I could follow them, still praying out loud. I would be persistent, without crossing over into harassment.

What do you think of this possible approach? I’m thinking of trying this out soon. I’m wondering if it would be an effective way to plant seeds. It would also give them an “out,” since they would be listening to my words, while being obedient to the governing bully by not engaging me in conversation.

Give me your opinions, please, and if anyone has done this or something similar, please let us know in the comments. Thank you!

UPDATE: I visited the city (San Francisco) since writing the above, and talked with four JW parties at their literature carts, but did not get the opportunity to try the pbulic prayer strategy. The good news is, the opportunity did not present itself, because none of them shut down on me! See my more recent post for an account of my experience.

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Random Thoughts About the 2018 Jehovah’s Witness Convention, Part 2

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More thoughts about my experience attending the 2018 Jehovah’s Witnesses convention:

(This is part 2; see part 1 here.)

I was able to have a good conversation with one of the attendants (ushers). He showed me (on his phone) the trailer for the Jonah film that would be shown in full the next day (Sunday). I brought up my concern about the “great crowd” believers being denied so many kingdom privileges, including having Jesus as one’s mediator. He (predictably) thought I was wrong. I told him that it’s spelled out very clearly in the Insight on the Scriptures book, which is accessible at the JW website, and also in several Watchtower articles. He still insisted that I must have misunderstood the information I had read. I encouraged him to research the subject, and we went on with just friendly talk. I hope he has or will research on the subject of mediator. I prayed that he would not forget, and would not be able to shake the subject from his mind and heart.

During the lunch break, I had a couple of good, friendly conversations with other attendees. I also asked several security team members whether there had been any protesters that day or the day before, but they said there had been nothing.

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Groom’s Procession (not the one I saw), from sareez.com

Later in the afternoon, when I left one of the “talking head” sessions to get a break from the tedium, I saw a procession coming down the street, with people banging on drums and playing loud music. I thought it was going to be a protest group, but it was an Indian wedding procession, joyfully celebrating the groom traveling on horseback to the wedding site. How fun! I joined in the song and dance for a few minutes, something that I’m sure none of the JW’s would be caught doing. Actually, I don’t know. Can anyone provide insight as to whether JW’s in India participate in their traditional wedding revelry? There didn’t seem to be anything pagan about it, but well, you know how the Watchtower is. Please comment below if you know anything about it.

At the end of the day, we finally encountered “protesters”. At least, that is how the attendees saw them. Just outside the main doors of the convention hall, on the public sidewalk, there was a man and (I assume) his wife and daughter. They all held signs, saying things like “Jesus is Lord.” He was preaching with a bullhorn. I snapped a picture of them, which you can see above. He’s in the white shirt, his daughter is to the right in a blue shirt, and you can see part of his wife at the far left. The great thing was that he was not obnoxious. The bullhorn was not too loud. He was not shouting. He was using scripture, and all the right verses that make JW’s think, verses that I use with my JW friends. I chatted briefly with the wife, letting her know that I was praying. I was so encouraged that this family had a burden to preach the gospel to Jehovah’s Witnesses. More power to them (aka God bless them).

Almost every JW I talked with asked me, “Are you enjoying the convention?” or “Are you enjoying the talks?” Without exception I gave them my standard answer: “I’m really glad I came.” I highly recommend this response. Using it will enable you to give an honest answer that will always satisfy your JW friends. It’s good for kingdom hall use as well. If you go to a convention, be sure to take a lunch and plenty of snacks to keep you awake. Coffee was essential for me. Hard candies to suck on work well too. Do your best to endure the talks, because the opportunities for conversation before, in between, and after are priceless!

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It’s Official. I’m an Opposer.

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From Pixabay

It’s official. I have been labeled, categorized, and marked as an “opposer.” I might as well have it printed on a t-shirt.

My first clue was when the elders at the local congregation in my town confronted me as I was about to enter the kingdom hall last time I visited. (See my account of that experience here.) But it was all confirmed as I prepared to attend the most recent convention with my friend Mark. I called and asked Mark whether we should go together. He was enthusiastic about the idea, but hesitant to have me join him in the carpool in which he would be riding. When I pressed him about it, he admitted that he was afraid that I would “say things that would weaken the faith of some of the weaker brothers and sisters.” This statement was out of character for Mark, and I could tell he was not comfortable saying those words to me. It was as if he were saying to me words that were not his own. I asked Mark where this was coming from. He admitted that the warning had come from his elders.

Naturally, we talked about how I’m not about weakening anybody’s faith, and quite the contrary, I’m about strengthening their faith in Jehovah, Jesus, and the Bible. He understood and admitted that he knew I wasn’t in the business of weakening others’ faith. Then, as we talked some more, things that he shared with me got really interesting.

Mark said that things that I had discussed with JW’s at their carts got back to the elders in Mark’s congregation.

What? Come again? Conversations I had with JW’s at the carts in the city (San Francisco), got back to the elders of the congregation in a small town in the Napa Valley, about 70 miles away? Can someone please say “Big Brother is watching you”? Oh, and there’s more. Word is, I was attempting to give the cart people my own literature. Oh, horror! Apostate literature! (Their paranoia rears its mole-like head.) The truth is, what I was trying to show them was their own literature, specifically my printout of the article on the subject of “Mediator” in their Insight book, which I downloaded from their own website, jw.org. Apostate literature? Shaking my evangelical head.

Let me just pause and say that I love my JW friend Mark. He knows that their accusations are outrageous, and he wants to continue to meet with me. We talked about how I like talking with atheists and others who challenge my faith, causing me to research and become stronger in what I believe. He likewise appreciates my questions and challenges to him. He’s “old school” JW, from back when they relished discussing, debating, and dialoguing with evangelical Christians. That’s no longer the case for most almost all current JW’s. Recent rhetoric is warning them not to talk at all with apostates and opposers. No dialogue. None. At. All. We have a gag order out on us.

So where does that leave me and Mark? Is my time of opportunity over? Far from it. I drove myself to the convention, intending to find Mark there and sit with him. We did not find each other, but we were able to talk quite a lot on the phone the next day.  And we’re planning on getting together soon. Take that, Pharisees.

I plan on continuing my visits to the local kingdom halls, until they threaten to call the police on me (which is funny, since they’re so anti-military and anti-police). If and when that happens, maybe I’ll stand on the sidewalk holding signs with scripture verses on them. Maybe. I don’t know.

Additionally, I’ll always take advantage of opportunities where JW’s don’t know of my “opposer” status. Jehovah will provide opportunities for ministry, regardless of any human labeling, judgment, and other efforts. The one thing they can’t control is the sovereign work of God!

Your and my identity are wrapped up in our status as children adopted by Jehovah, not by how anyone might attempt to categorize us. Keep doing the ministry God has called you to do!

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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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