Tag Archives: Undercover JW

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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A Christian in a Jehovah’s Witness Bible Study: Part 9

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“Draw Close to God Through Prayer,” that is the title of Lesson 9 in the Jehovah’s Witness study, Enjoy Life Forever! My JW friend “Craig” and I have been meeting (online) weekly, working our way through the publication.

This week we were joined by yet another of his elders, this one being “Kirk,” a man that I already know. He and I have chatted together several times, both at the kingdom hall, and in his van when he gave my other JW friend “Mark” and I a ride to one of the assemblies. Kirk is a very friendly guy, so I was hoping that the friendliness would continue.

One of the men began by asking me whether I ever pray, and if so when? I told them that I often pray while walking or driving. Kirk quipped that I shouldn’t close my eyes while driving, and we all had a good laugh.

When we got to point #3, “How does God answer our prayers?” I noticed that the article mentioned the Bible as God’s primary means of answering prayer. I asked the men whether they thought that Jehovah ever speaks to us directly in prayer to provide an answer. They looked puzzled, so I gave an example, telling them that there was a time when I was providing advice to a friend. I told them about how I distinctly got the direct impression from God that I needed to stop talking (“shut up” was the exact wording), and just listen and be a friend instead of making my next (very profound) point. Kirk asked whether it was a voice I had heard, and I assured him that no, it was just an inner impression in my own thoughts, but that I was distinctly aware that the message was coming from God. They seemed okay with that. I suspect that they haven’t really thought whether this would be a valid experience; it’s just foreign to them, because they are indoctrinated to think that Jehovah only speaks through the Bible and the Watchtower literature and leaders. Being the control freaks that they are, the governing bully would never encourage any kind of hearing directly from God. They’re basically cessationists, teaching that the spiritual gifts are no longer valid for these days.

I mostly agreed with sections 4-6, but added my own insights that would I thought would be outside of the JW box. Regarding their illustration of members of two competing armies praying for the Lord’s favor, I agreed with the absurdity of that situation, but added that I believed that members of both sides could pray for God’s justice to be done, and for love, healing, and restoration to win. When Philippians 4 was quoted, I expounded on the “peace that surpasses understanding.” I talked about some things that seem irrational to us are actually “trans-rational,” that is, they are beyond our understanding, and that God can give us peace that seems to make no sense. My JW friends are not likely to have experienced an encounter with a Christian who already has what they’re selling.

Craig, Kirk, and I had a really good meeting. As far as I can tell, Kirk still considers me a possible recruit (which they call “rightly disposed” or “right-hearted” or “worthy” one). I just noticed that there are 60 lessons in this series. Yikes! Who will tire of it first, them or me? Seriously though, I’m just wondering how long they’re willing to work with me before giving up. I already feel like it’s been longer than normal, based on stories I read online. Craig started with the 4-lesson brochure of the same title–that’s probably the standard for how long they use to determine whether the candidate is “rightly disposed.” I may have already set a record! Nine lessons going on ten! We will see how the tenth goes. Pray for God to keep the relationship alive so I can continue to influence them with the real truth as found in the Bible.

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A Christian in a Jehovah’s Witness Bible Study: Part 7

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Lesson 7 in the Jehovah’s Witness study book Enjoy Life Forever! is titled “What is Jehovah Like?” I approached my meeting with “Craig,” my JW friend, with some nervousness. I knew we would run into some disagreements with this topic. If found myself trying to straddle a great gulf between speaking my views and risking Craig breaking things off, or compromising and having no influence on him. The governing bully (oops, I mean governing body) of Jehovah’s Witnesses leave little room (or none) for any sailing in between those two docks. The rhetoric is strong for JW’s to have no dealings, and thus no conversations, with those who disagree with their views. Unless a candidate shows signs of teachability (that is, complete acceptance of everything they teach), they are admonished to cut off the relationship. My nervousness was compounded when I saw that again Craig had invited another of his elders to join us.

So how would I walk the tightrope? (And can I mix in any more metaphors?) Well, I decided to express my views in the form of questions. It’s a good practice with JW’s. Rather than coming across as “No, you’re wrong,” it says, “Can you help me understand your view?”

The first section asks “Why are we unable to see God?” They are right to teach that God is a spirit, without a physical body. I used that as an opportunity to ask a question, saying, “I was talking with an old-school JW, and he still believes that God has a body, but he called it a ‘spirit-body.’ Has the view on that changed? Does God have a spirit-body, and how is that different from a physical body?” That question stumped both of my JW friends. They hemmed and hawed, sometimes sounding like their answer was yes, and sometimes no. There was no consistency. They both said that more research would be needed to adequately answer that question. “Yeah, get back to me on that,” I responded, giving them an out for now.

Sections 2 and 3 had no content that I strongly disagreed with, so we just went through it without any drama.

Section 4 was “Holy spirit–God’s active force.” Oh my Lord, help! How do I express my STRONG disagreement with this, without alienating them? Craig read to me the question, “So do you think holy spirit is a person, or is it God’s active force? Why do you say that?” and he waited for my response. I paused, thinking and praying, trying not to panic. I began with “Well, I don’t think you’ll agree with my response.” In the silence that followed, the tension was real. “Because,” I added, “As I read Paul’s letters, the Holy Spirit can be grieved, and as I read the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit speaks to the believers, guiding and directing them. I believe the Holy Spirit is the presence of God himself.”

“Interesting,” said the elder. I give him credit for not undergoing the expected Jekyll and Hyde transformation. I think what saved the conversation was that I did not claim that the Holy Spirit is the third member of the triune God (aka trinity), which is what I do believe, but did not want to go there, at least not yet. I merely described the Holy Spirit as the presence of God. I’m thankful that they didn’t press me to see if my inner trinitarian would come out. Thankfully, Craig went on to the next paragraph, which talked about how Jehovah used the Holy Spirit to accomplish two amazing things: Creation and inspiration of scripture. I picked up inspiration and ran with it, mentioning that it wasn’t talking about biblical interpretation (which some groups claim), but that the Holy Spirit inspired the original writing of scripture. Scripture didn’t come about from the writers’ own understanding or ideas, but were directed to write what Jehovah wanted them to, even though their own style and personality comes through. Craig and Elder seemed content with my understanding and enthusiasm about the material.

We went through the rest of the study in a friendly and pleasant manner. When we got to the end and Craig again asked me the question “What is the Holy Spirit,” I simply reiterated what I had said before, but with understated simplicity: “The presence of God.” Period. Nothing more. Sometimes short answers are best–it can avoid confrontation, while giving the JW’s something to remember and think about.

Next week will be about becoming Jehovah’s friend. Just wait until you hear what I did with that. (Unashamed teaser!)

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A Christian in a Jehovah’s Witness Bible Study: Part 5

Image from Pixabay

As my Jehovah’s Witness friend “Craig” and I went through lesson #5 in the JW Bible study Enjoy Life Forever, there was nothing really that I could disagree with. This gave me an opportunity to have nothing but pleasant conversation with him. My advice to you, dear reader, is: If you’re presented with an opportunity to have a pleasant conversation with a JW, take advantage of that opportunity! Don’t feel that you have to bring up something controversial. It’s okay to be their friend in the moment–you don’t always have to be making a point of contention with them.

Having said that, there were a couple of places in the study that I found convenient to drop some truth seeds upon him. Section 1 quotes 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.” I read that verse out loud, then commented about how self-contained scripture is, that it can accomplish so much in our lives, without the need for any other materials. He seemed to agree with me, but I think he didn’t make the connection I was making about not needing an organization to interpret the Bible for us. I let that go, allowing this to be a seed for a future conversation; something I can refer back to.

Section 3 of the “study” is “How has Jehovah preserved the Bible?” And section 5 is “The Bible survived attacks.” The two sections are essentially saying the same thing. I used this as an opportunity to mention that some people think the Bible has been corrupted. I described what I know about the meticulousness of the copyists as they preserved the Bible. I also mentioned that I read somewhere that “some people” even think that the word Jehovah was removed from the Greek New Testament, but that this is not possible since none of the manuscripts (that the meticulous copyists so meticulously preserved) have that word, but they all have the Greek word kurios. Craig responded with something like “Hmm, that’s interesting.” I only gave that a “yes indeed” before bringing us back to the next part of the study material.

So those were two seeds of truth I quickly planted, in the midst of our whole time together. It was a good, positive meeting, and made us both eager for our next time together.

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A Christian in a Jehovah’s Witness Bible Study: Part 4

Image from Pixabay

The fourth lesson in my “Bible study” with my Jehovah’s Witness friend “Craig,” from their primer Enjoy Life Forever! is called “Who Is God?” Oh, this should be good, right? Let’s get right to it!

Point #1 was “What is God’s name, and how can we be sure that he wants us to know it?” That’s a leading question, isn’t it? They’re telling the student right up front what they expect him/her to conclude. The blatant manipulation is comical. I used this paragraph as an opportunity to talk about my preference for using the name Yahweh rather than Jehovah, because Yahweh is more accurate, which even Watchtower admits. Somewhere in my ramblings I included that God’s name means “I am that I am,” or the one who is, the source of all existence. This is contrary to the JW belief mentioned in the paragraph that God’s name means “He causes to become,” but I didn’t present the facts as a contradiction; I just laid it out there as assumed truth on my part. Craig affirmed everything I said, so I asked whether, if I became a JW, I would be allowed to use the name Yahweh instead of Jehovah. Craig said that it would be allowed, and I responded with exaggerated surprise. “Oh really? I wouldn’t get in trouble?” Craig hemmed and hawed about that, and I let him off the hook and we continued on.

Point #2 asks “What does the Bible reveal about Jehovah?” Most of this paragraph is true, so I agreed with it. I did bring up the point about creation, that Isaiah says that he alone created everything. “Who was with me?” asks God, implying that no one else was involved. I just let that float in the air for future reference, if and when we get to Jesus’ involvement in creation. Oh, and I continued to use Yahweh rather then Jehovah.

I also agreed with point #3, “God has many titles, but one name.” But I kept using Yahweh rather than Jehovah. I think that Craig was surprised that I so readily agreed with this paragraph. I honestly did agree, that God has a name, Yahweh. The next section though . . .

Section #4 was “Jehovah wants you to know and use his name.” Oh boy, here we go. When Craig asked me the question from the study “How important is it to use God’s name, Jehovah?” I paused and said, “Well, honestly, I don’t think it’s vital.” I explained how a child can love his dad and have a deep relationship with him without knowing his personal name. In fact, if I were to call my dad by his first name, that would be disrespectful, wouldn’t it? Craig got noticeably uncomfortable, so after a short while I gave him an out. Looking ahead to the next section, I commented that I liked what it said there, and considered it more important.

Section #5 was “Jehovah wants you to get closer to him.” We talked about that concept, without referring much to the printed material. We watched the video, and I expressed my empathy for the woman who had the harrowing experience of being a refugee, and acknowledged that churches failed to meet her need for a personal relationship with God. We talked about the importance of knowing God personally, “apart from any organization” I added, explaining that we as individuals can know him personally and don’t need any dependence on any priesthood, elders, or other humans to get to know him. I mentioned how wonderful it was to me to have God as my “Abba, Father.” We left on a good note, and looked forward to the next study next week.

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A Christian in a Jehovah’s Witness Bible Study: Part 2

Image from Pixabay

Lesson two of Enjoy Life Forever is “The Bible Gives Hope.” This is the second study “Craig” and I did together, now several weeks ago. (I’m trying to catch up on these reports, really I am!)

I’ll skip paragraphs that had content that we mainly agreed on, and get right to the more interesting (juicy) bits. (Paragraph 2 mentioned “paradise on earth,” which can be a whole long conversation in itself, but I let it go, saving it for a later discussion. If he sticks with me that long.)

Paragraph 3 mentioned Acts 17:11 about the Bereans, so I jumped all over that, talking about how the Bereans questioned everything that the leaders of the organization presented to them. I acted unaware of the JWs’ unquestioning allegiance to their governing body, rattling on about how we only need the Bible, and no other materials, organizations, or human guidance to be able to interpret it for ourselves. It’s fun to “play dumb” and bulldoze right over the self-proclaimed authority of the governing bully! Craig was squirming a bit as he avoided commenting on what I was saying.

Paragraph 5, with the heading “The Bible’s Hope Can Make a Difference,” was a not-so-subtle diatribe against political involvement. Man, they begin early with the indoctrination! The video was blatantly dripping with sentiments of non-involvement. Rather than commenting on that, though, I picked up on what the character in the video said about the Bible. She grew up not understanding the King James Bible, and shared her excitement about finding a more understandable version, the New World Translation (the official version of the Watchtower org and all Jehovah’s Witnesses). The NWT was touted as The version that was clear, understandable, and using plain English. I asked why then did the translators of the NWT use some archaic expressions, such as “fruitage” instead of “fruit.” Craig vainly tried to come up with a reason for using fruitage, and then said he would research that and get back to me the next time we met. Fair enough, I said.

We continued talking about non-controversial stuff, and ended on a good, friendly note.

Next post will be about lesson three!

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An Evangelical Christian Writes a Letter to Jehovah’s Witness Elders

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From Pixabay

Since my previous post, where I was threatened by some elders with banishment from their kingdom hall (oh, horror!), I have been working on the letter they requested. See my previous post here where I recount their challenge to me to write a letter stating my motives for attending.

So I have attached the letter that I’m about to send to them. I predict that I will be banished regardless of my defense, but I also believe that God still performs miracles (contrary to Watchtower beliefs). By faith I’m hoping that I will be allowed to continue to attend! But even if I am banished, I hope and pray that my letter will accomplish several things:

  1. First, I want the elders to actually read it. All of them. My fear is that one of them will start reading, concluding after a few sentences that I am an “opposer,” and stop reading. (I can hear him saying, “There’s no need for us to read any more. We know where he stands, and he’s an opposer.” Mr. Elder files my letter under W for “wicked opposer from the whore of Babylon sent by Satan to persecute us.”) I pray that God will cause ALL of the elders to read the WHOLE letter.
  2. Even if the elders do their assumed duty and banish me, I pray that the letter touches their hearts and minds, and gets them thinking. One of more of them may already be questioning, and this can further the process. Or it may be the beginning of questioning for one or more of them. May it be so!
  3. I pray that my letter will be the means of God convicting the elders of their harshness in doling out the policies of the watchtower and the governing bully. I hope that my words will allow them to step back and see themselves through another’s eyes, showing them their resemblance to the Pharisees rather than to Jesus. Holy Spirit, convict them of their collaboration with the modern-day spiritual bullies!
  4. Finally, I pray that they see my heart of love and concern for the members of their congregation. That an Evangelical Christian would have a God-given heart of love for others is a foreign concept to them. (I guess I’m wanting my letter to blow their minds! Not because of any cleverness on my part, but because they meet the true God and his character in the experience.)

My fellow Christ-followers, I covet your prayers for this. Let’s gang up on these elders in prayer.

Also, I’m considering what my response will be if they do banish me from their property. I’m considering standing on the sidewalk when they arrive for meetings with signs that say things like “I love you,” and “I miss you.” Maybe a Bible verse or two. But nothing harsh, only loving and kind. What are your thoughts about that? Let me know.

SPOILER ALERT: Opening my letter will reveal my true identity! My actual name is at the bottom of the letter. That’s right! No more “undercover” anonymity. I figure since my cover is now fully blown, I might as well not hide who I am any more. Some of you know of me already anyway. But your discovery of my real name is your invitation to look me up on Facebook and friend me. I hope to have a Youtube channel developed sometime soon also. More on that in coming posts!

So here’s the attached letter. Please give me your comments and reactions, and please join me in prayer for the elders and members of the congregation.

EldersLetter

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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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Preparing Jehovah’s Witnesses to Listen: A New Strategy, Part 2

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In a previous post, I lamented about the recent phenomenon I have noticed with Jehovah’s Witnesses: their reluctance to engage in dialogue with anyone who doesn’t seem like a “humble, teachable one,” (easy mark), and their eagerness to refer people to their website (ostrich-like avoidance). See that previous post here.

While driving home the other day, I thought of another (related) strategy that I’m eager to try. Rather than using clever baiting tactics, or posing as a humble, curious Bible student (not that there’s anything wrong with those strategies), my new approach will be more up-front, genuine, honest, and transparent.

Side note: I have been wrestling lately, at least on the back burner of my mind, about the ethics of my “undercover” strategies, where I pose as a naive Bible student to keep them interested. But I have resolved the issue, at least in my own mind. If Jehovah’s Witnesses can justify their use of “theocratic warfare,” that is, the use of deception with outsiders, then so can I. And actually, I liken my strategy less to deception, and more with that of Nathan the prophet, who told a story to king David, lowering the boom at the end with the revelation: “You are the man.” (See Second Samuel 12:7.)

Back on topic: Here’s my new strategy, represented by the following imaginary dialogue:

Me (approaching JW’s doing cart ministry): Hello! Are you the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

JW: Yes we are!

Me: Oh, I love you guys!

JW: Oh, good. Have you been studying the Bible with someone?

Me: Yes, I have several JW friends, and I love y’all so much. I just want all of you to experience what I have experienced, being adopted by Jehovah as his son, and having Jesus as our mediator, and being in the New Covenant.

JW: Oh yes, of course Jesus is our mediator.

Me: Oh, you don’t know, do you?

JW: Know what?

Me: You don’t know that Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the 144,000.

JW: No, that’s not right.

Me: Oh, yes, I have checked this out with my JW friends, and we have verified it at the JW.org website. In fact, here’s my printout of the article on “Mediator” in the “Insight” book. You know of that book, yes?

JW: Well, yes. (Pauses to look at the article). Well, I don’t know about this. I think I need to do some more research on this.

Me: Oh, yes, please do, and let me know what you find out. Here’s my phone number and email address. You see, this breaks my heart, because I love you all so much, and I want you to experience the joy and excitement that I have been experiencing lately, and the Watchtower is withholding these and many other kingdom privileges from you. There’s the mediator issue, and being adopted as sons, and the new covenant, and being born again, and . . .

JW: Well, we know that being born again is only for a special set of people.

Me: Oh, I know you believe that. In fact, I have a favorite scripture about that. Can I share it with you?

JW: Okay.

Me: Can you look it up in your New World Translation? I want to see if it says the same thing as mine. I usually read from the New American Standard. It’s First John 5:1.

JW: Here it is.

Me: Can you read that for me? Especially the first half.

JW: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God.”

Me: Yes, that’s what my version says too. So, do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah?

JW: Yes.

Me: So therefore, you have been born again.

JW: No, it says “has been born from God,” not “born again.”

Me: But the cross-reference in the online version of the New World Translation at jw.org connects this verse with John 3:3, where Jesus says that you must be born again.

JW: Um, I’m going to need to research that some more.

Me: Please do, because it grieves me that the ones I love so much are being denied these kingdom privileges that the Bible says are available to all believers.

And we hopefully go on from there, if Mr. JW doesn’t shut down the conversation. But I do think this will make the dialogue last at least a few minutes more than if they sense I’m trying to be clever with them. This way, they know up front that I have no intention of becoming a JW, and that I’m sharing with them my genuine concerns about the organization. Hopefully they will sense that I’m not an evil, Satanic, deceptive opposer, but rather a concerned, yea even burdened genuine believer in Jehovah. That’s my hope, and I’m ready to give it a try, and will report hopefully in an upcoming blog post. I would love it if others try this, and let us know (in the comments below) how it went.

 

 

 

 

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Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Own Bible Study

In sharing with Jehovah’s Witnesses, your most valuable asset is your own personal Bible study.

Okay, maybe your most valuable asset is the power of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, yours and others’ prayers, and scripture itself. But as far as printed materials, what you personally prepare is the most valuable, far above any books, tracts, articles, websites, videos, podcasts, etc. Here’s why: Jehovah’s Witnesses are classically conditioned to NOT look at or listen to any materials published by any organization other than the Watchtower. Most of them will actually be afraid of it, and the rest will disregard it with a scoff. It’s satanic material in their mind, to be dismissed without a glance.

You need to prepare your own handwritten document to share with them. Here’s an example of what I have developed over time. In reading the Watchtower materials, I noticed so many blessings, or “kingdom privileges,” that Watchtower says are for only the 144,000, all of which we claim as promises from God, available to all who believe. So I began recording them, noting any scriptures that classified each specific blessing as being available to “you who believe,” or to “all who believe,” or similar language. And I ended up with a messy web of scripture that looked like this:

ScriptureWeb

Oh, the tangled webs we weave.

See how so many of the arrows point back to “believing in Christ”? That should tell you something. But it’s too messy and confusing to show to anyone, JW or not. So I tried to neaten things up a bit. Here’s the result:

ScriptureWheel

Wheel of Blessing (rather than Wheel of Fortune)

That’s a bit neater, and it indicates the centrality of our adoption by Jehovah, and its relation to (again) believing. Good stuff, right? This Bible study thing is work, but oh how blessed I feel! There’s a side benefit in this for you. You get encouraged by God as you study his word! Score!

But I was still not satisfied with my result. I wanted something that would make an impressive statement, something that looks professional to show to my JW friends. So I made a chart in Word, which ended up looking like this:

OurStanding

I know, the pic is fuzzy. It’s my old iPad.

Impressive, yes, but it can be overwhelming. I showed it to my friend Nate (who died not long after, but not from looking at my chart). Nate was pretty smart, so I knew he could handle it. He took it home and studied it, and returned it to me dappled with red ink, most of which said either “for the anointed only,” or “only for that time period.” Right, Nate, that’s my point exactly! Did you notice that the verses all say something about the blessing being for everyone who believes? Smh. At least he studied it, right? Since sharing it with Nate I have learned that most JW’s would have immediately dismissed it without a glance in its direction.

Anyway, it’s much too complex. I needed something that made a statement at a glance, but that would also draw the reader in to deeper exploration. So I simplified my chart to this:

Believing in Christ JPEG

Much better, yes?

You can also view it in PDF format here: Believing in Christ 2

The first row marked “redemption” is the only one that Watchtower considers available to all believers (that is, the “great crowd”). The entire remainder of the chart lists benefits that they consider only available to the 144,000 anointed believers. The verses listed in column 2 all indicate that the promises in column 1 are available to all who believe.

You are free to print out copies of the chart for your own use–consider it public domain. But I don’t recommend using the printed chart with your JW friends. They will likely not look at it. I have had it happen several times since showing it to Nate. What works better is to choose 2 or 3 of the examples and write them down by hand on a sheet of note paper. That will look more like something you personally discovered in your own reading of scripture. Which should be true anyway, as you study these verses in their contexts. Here’s an example:

Sharenote

Pretty simple, huh?

Say something like, “I noticed on JW.org that watchtower teaches that only the 144,000 are born again. But could you take a look at this verse? To me it seems to be saying something different. What’s your take on that?” Then have them read 1 John 5:1 and John 3:3. You can choose any of the blessings I have listed, or any more that you may find in your own study of scripture. Read, study, and be blessed! Then, use what you learn to share with your JW friends.

[BTW, I need to make mention here of my new friend Wordgirl, who is masterful at this handwritten format of materials for use with JW’s. See her examples at her blog, A Twist in Translation, here.]

 

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