Tag Archives: Opposer

How To Interact With Jehovah’s Witnesses During the Covid Pandemic

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Boy, I sure miss the days of interacting with Jehovah’s Witnesses in person, face-to-face. (Yes, I like talking with them. Yes, I’m weird. My regular readers know this about me.) I keep hoping I’ll turn the corner and see them at their carts, but so far they’re not meeting in kingdom halls or doing the live preaching work, even though all the other churches in “Christiandom” are meeting. I find their seemingly paranoid response to Covid strange, and it makes me wonder whether (1) they’re waiting for Covid to fully blow over, rather than risking an on-again, off-again meeting policy, or (2) they’re taking advantage of this crisis to convert their religion to an online-only religion and plan on selling off all their “brick and mortar” facilities, or (3) they believe that this crisis is leading up to the final days of the last of the last days before Armageddon hits, and they’re hunkering down in preparation for persecution. Their members don’t seem to be aware of the real motivation of the governing body either. Because the governing bully is not saying anything, the members are not willing to speculate about it–that would be “voicing their personal opinion,” which they’re not allowed to do.

Anyway, how are we to have an influence on Jehovah’s Witnesses, if they’re not at our door or on the street? Here’s what I have been doing for ministry to JW’s during Covid.

First, there’s Facebook, and possibly other social media platforms. I have joined a number of Facebook groups, including those by JW’s, and those of non-JW’s. In the JW-run groups, I have respectfully and politely submitted questions to get the JW friends to think. I do the same in the non-JW run groups, because there are curious JW’s that cruise those groups, and will sometimes interact. (They’re forbidden to do so by their leaders, but some are doing it on the down-low.) FYI, if you interact with any JW’s in these groups, know that God is at work in them, because it takes a certain amount of courage on their part to interact with opposers at all. They are conditioned to fear demonic influences by interacting with me and you. For them to talk with you at all, they must be having serious doubts and conflicts going on in their minds and hearts to motivate them to investigate any sources outside of their own literature.

Secondly, I have written letters and emails. Because JW’s are not doing public ministry, they’re engaged in a letter-writing campaign, writing letters to random addresses that they obtain from (I assume) phonebooks or other public-access sources. If you haven’t received a letter from a JW, you may get one sometime soon. I received such a letter at my home, and have been a pen-pal with a JW for two rounds of writing to each other now. In addition, one of my fellow Facebook group members had permission from a JW to give out their name and address for interaction with interested parties, so have written to that JW as well.

Thirdly, I have done some emailing. A Facebook group member provided the email address for a Kingdom hall, so I wrote an email to that address with a question. I have been able to interact by email with an elder from that congregation for several rounds of question-and-answer.

Phoning and texting have been another means of communication with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have phoned my long-time JW friend Mark, asking if I could stop by his house and drop off a book. (He is much more open than your typical JW to outside sources of information.) I ended up having a nice visit with him, live and in person! I have also been texting another JW friend, Craig, who had been doing a “Bible study” with me by Zoom, but has remained open to texting with me after cutting off our study. (See my previous posts about my experience with him.)

Speaking of Zoom, I was given the access code by a JW for attending the annual memorial (JW communion) by Zoom, where Craig recognized me and invited me to join him for the “Bible study”.

So there you have several ways to interact with JW’s. Facebook is probably the easiest–you can begin that right away. Start joining groups and leaving your comments and questions. I actually think it’s fun! Keep an eye out for leads within those groups for more ministry opportunities; you may be provided with phone numbers, email addresses, or snail mail addresses for interacting with JW’s.

If you have found other ways to interact with JW’s during the Covid chaos, please share them in the comments below. Thank you!

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A Christian in a Jehovah’s Witness Bible Study: Part 6

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Lesson 6 in my study with my Jehovah’s Witness friend “Craig,” using the book Enjoy Life Forever! was “How Did Life Begin?” This was a lesson that I mostly agreed with, so again I had an opportunity for a friendly visit.

But wait a minute, there was another man there! Craig had invited another JW to meet with us, which was a surprise to me. Actually, it was no surprise. I suspected he would eventually bring in one or more of his elders to check me out. They do that. They want to see if the recruit is “rightly disposed” to learning truth from them (aka “honest-hearted” or “worthy.”) That phrase “rightly disposed” comes from their translation of Acts 13:48, where other translations say something like “those who were appointed” to eternal life. It goes with their recent heightened rhetoric to not have any conversations with “opposers” or “apostates,” but only talk with those who are open to their message.

So I figured the visiting elder would be judging me to determine whether or not I was worth Craig’s time, or if I had another agenda. (The fact is, I do have another agenda, but I do also want to be ongoing friends with JW’s, and I am always open to learning from them, at least learning about what they believe and teach, even if I don’t plan on converting. I wouldn’t cut off an atheist, or give up on a pagan, or even abandon a fake “Christian.” Would they give up on Saul, before he became Paul?) Of course I was nervous. After we were introduced, I asked the brother if he was an elder. He admitted he was. Oh boy, here we go. Lord, help me speak the truth but remain in good standing.

It turns out, our conversation went very well. We went through the lesson, and I made comments that only commended what the lesson was teaching. I talked about intelligent design, and creation ex nihilo, and missing links. We went through the lesson in a friendly way, and were all smiling at the end.

Things got a little more controversial in the next lesson, the following week. Stay tuned!

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Types of Questions to Ask Jehovah’s Witnesses: Factual Questions

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In this series of blog posts, I’m sharing some special categories of questions that can enable us to have longer conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses. These days their heightened rhetoric about avoiding all conversations with “apostates” and “opposers” causes them to shut down quickly. My goal is to prolong the conversation, and ideally even leave on a friendly note, without them shutting down at all. I have found that certain types of questions help to keep them engaged.

You’ve probably heard of “open” questions requiring more interactive answers, versus “closed” questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” This practice is similar, where we’re trying to use types of questions that avoid triggering the JW to react instinctively (even subconsciously), and pique their interest and encourage them to keep engaged.

My first category of questions for Jehovah’s Witnesses is what I call Factual Questions. These are questions that essentially ask for verification of Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. This appeals to their desire to share their beliefs, to speak with authority, and to be the teacher. The simplest form of this question would be “Do JW’s believe x?” Some examples of these questions are:

“I have heard that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe x. Is that true?”

“I read on the internet that Watchtower teaches that something significant happened in 1914. Is that true?”

“I think I saw a video where JWs are now saying that one generation is actually two overlapping generations. Am I right? How does that work?”

“Someone told me that you have a two-class system of believers. That can’t be right, can it?”

“Is it true that Watchtower teaches that they are the only ones in the whole world who speak for God today?”

When we ask this type of question, we need to be prepared to listen. And we need to be prepared to refrain from interrupting with our witty attacks on their doctrine. We think their beliefs are ridiculous, but we can’t say that outright–they wouldn’t receive it. What we’re trying to do is get them to explain their doctrine, so they hear themselves saying it, and so they begin to hear how ridiculous it sounds to an outsider. Do not interrupt, except to ask for further clarification. Like this:

“So what you’re saying is, the two generations make up one generation? That sounds strange to me, like one plus one equals one. Am I missing something? Help me to understand.”

Then, let them talk again, uninterrupted. Once they finish, then you can offer to show them, not that they’re wrong (even though that’s true), but show them something in the Bible that conflicts with what they shared. Like this:

“Have you seen in the Bible where it says what a generation really is?” (See Job 42:16 for the answer; do the math to get approximately 35 years.)

Once you have shared what the Bible says to be true, you can ask what they think about it; but if they’re at that awkward place where they’re giving non-answers, or repeating themselves, or changing the subject, let it go. Leave it there. You have shared God’s Word, and it will accomplish what God sends it to do (Isaiah 55:11). Allow them to change the subject. Give them an out. Go back to friendly-talk. Once you share God’s word, your mindset should be, “I’m just going to leave that right there.” If you want to say something about it, the best thing to say is, “It’s worth thinking about, isn’t it?” Then move on. Let them think about it on their own. Pray that God would bring the scripture back to their mind later that day (and believe that He will). Let them be uncomfortable with it. A far stronger seed has been planted than any logical argument, no matter how clever and brilliant.

I’m so excited to share three more upcoming blog posts about types of questions to ask JW’s. The next one has to do with the very foundation of their whole world. Yes, it’s that big. And no, it’s not Jehovah.

 

 

 

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

 

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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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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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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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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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