Tag Archives: Opposer

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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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

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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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I Think My Cover is Blown

 

Coverblown

I think my cover is blown.

As you may know, I have been trying to act as an interested Bible student, that is, a possible convert, for as long as I can, so that I can ask my JW friends very pointed questions, without them thinking that I am an “opposer” trying to convert them to my beliefs.

Several recent events are telling me that my cover is blown.

It all started with a donkey. As you may know, I attend the mid-week meeting at my local Kingdom Hall about once a month. Some months ago, the lesson was about Mary and Joseph, and later the baby Jesus, traveling here and there due to political situations and persecution. The Watchtower study made a point of the difficulty of the journey as Mary rode on the donkey, and how great was their faithfulness to Jehovah, blah, blah. After the lesson I was talking with a man and mentioned that their difficulties may have actually been greater than we imagine, because they many not have had the luxury of a donkey to ride, since there’s no mention of a donkey in the scriptural accounts of Mary and Joseph’s travels. Well, an elder overheard me, and you can read about how the donkey dung hit the fan in my previous post, here.

So the donkey incident is Exhibit 1.

Exhibit 2: There has been another more minor incident, where a local elder asked about my motives in attending the Kingdom Hall. I don’t even remember the biblical passage I was asking the speaker about, but the elder moved me away from him and began cross-examining me.

Exhibit 3: My friend Aaron has not returned any of my calls or text messages in months, in spite of numerous attempts on my part to re-connect with him.

Exhibit 4: My friend Mark (my oldest JW friend), who lives in a neighboring town, has mentioned that his elders don’t want me trying to convert people. How do the elders from another town know what’s going on in my town? I suspect the elders from the two towns have conversed together about me.

Just the other day, Mark stopped by my workplace. He still considers me a friend. A little while back I stopped by his house (his invitation) to take a picture of his couch, so that he can try to sell it. So he stopped by my workplace to get the pic from me. I asked him if he knew the dates for the upcoming convention, and he expressed interest in going together, as we have in the past. But he also warned me that his elders do not want me trying to convert anyone. I responded that I was not trying to convert anyone, In fact, I said, I can’t convert anyone. That is up to God and the person, I explained.

“If what you have is the truth, you should not be afraid of challenging questions. I like to talk with atheists and agnostics, because they challenge my faith, and I dig for the answers, and it makes my faith stronger. If what you have is the truth, shouldn’t you and other JW’s welcome challenging questions?”

He agreed. But he often agrees with me, while simultaneously agreeing with contradictory statements from the watchtower. I’m hoping to attend the convention with Mark, or meet with him in some other context soon. How will all this play out? I don’t know.  I’m thinking and praying about my approach with all my JW friends moving forward.

One encouraging note: I stopped by the Kingdom Hall today, July 4, to attend their midweek meeting. I was thinking that they would not be attending any Independence Day activities, so they would be having a meeting, right? Good opportunity for me to visit, right? But I pulled up, and there was no meeting. Only two cars in the parking lot. The door to the hall was open, so I stood outside it for a few minutes, waiting for someone to come out. Out came one of the elders! And dressed very casually–shorts and a t-shirt. What, no suit? I almost didn’t recognize him. He must have been stopping by to take care of some business that did not require the usual formal attire. He was cheerful to me as he explained that there was no meeting due to the congregation attending the convention this week. So that explained why the ghost town. And his friendliness was encouraging! He at least is still welcoming.

This week I will call Mark to find out when his congregation will be attending convention, or whether he would rather meet over dinner or some other time. I’m looking forward to seeing how God works! Pray for all my JW friends (even the grumpy elders) in both towns. Thank you!

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When They Ask You . . .

There are a number of questions that JW’s have asked me when I visit their kingdom halls, assemblies, and conventions. At first I thought the questions were innocent enough, but after being asked the same questions numerous times, I figured out that they were actually probing for specific information. I’m not saying the motivations are sinister, but I am saying it’s a little bit sneaky. So here are their questions, along with their actual meaning, and my “safe” answers, designed to satisfy the ask-er without giving any real substantial information to them.

“Did you enjoy the talk/meeting/assembly/convention?” Translation: “Are you a sincerely interested potential convert, or a skeptical potential opposer?” My answer: “I’m glad I came!” Which is true, but not for the reasons that they think. What I’m really thinking is that the talk was either excruciatingly boring, or annoying, or both. But I’m glad, even excited, to be there because of the opportunities for conversations with JW’s before and after the talk.

“How long have you been studying the Bible?” Translation: “HOW are you studying the Bible? On your own, or reading websites, or studying with a Jehovah’s Witness, or in one of the churches in the evil religious system, or not at all?” My answer: “I have been a student of the Bible for years. I love studying scripture. Can I share one of my favorite Bible verses with you?” Hopefully this will distract them from their probing, and gives an opportunity to share about how God has changed your life with his word. I like to go to First John 5:13 and talk about the assurance of salvation, something they don’t have.

“Who are you studying with?” Translation: “Are you studying JW materials with a JW?” My answer: “I have been studying on and off with my friend, Mark, who I have known since I was in high school. I have also been keeping up on all the magazines on jw.org. One recent article I read there sparked a question in my mind. Can I share my question with you?”

“Are you attending a Kingdom hall?” Translation: “Are you on your way to becoming hooked, or do you have other motives for being here? If the former, all I have to do is encourage you to keep attending. If the latter, I’m going to try to walk you over to one of the elders right now so they can probe you further.” My answer: “I have been attending pretty inconsistently, when I can. I have also attended 3 conventions and about as many assemblies. Recently I heard a talk on topic x, and it sparked a question in my mind. Maybe you can help with it. Can I share my question with you?”

And finally, concerning any topic at hand, “The truth is x, don’t you agree?” My answer when I don’t agree: “I understand that’s what Watchtower teaches. But here’s my concern. What do you do with this passage of scripture that would seem to indicate something different? Am I missing something here? Help me to understand.”

Concerning all my answers, I’m trying to be truthful. But in all honesty, I am withholding information as well. Am I being deceptive? I prefer to think of it as evasive. When I use any of these answers, I also pray that Jehovah will protect my relationship with them, so they don’t write me off as an opposer. My aim is always to keep their willingness to dialog with me open as long as possible.

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