Ding dong. There was a knock at the door. I had been traveling for ministry, away from home for the last ten days straight, in and out for the last two months...
My wife looks through the window and yells at me to put on a shirt. No, I don’t normally walk around the house without a shirt on, I had just finished a workout. I still had bed head, was slightly sweaty (and probably stinky), and quite honestly, a little frazzled.
Who was it? Our friendly neighbourhood Jehovah’s Witnesses...
This is the part where most people run, turn the lights out, and hide in silence and fear.
Me on the other hand, I felt the excitement of Christmas morning. So we invited them in, sat down at the table and started discussing. I LOVE meeting and discussing with JWs. They are some of the most charitable, kind and dedicated people I’ve ever met. They had a sincerity and devotion to their faith that we can learn from. I often commend them on that. I also almost always learn something new in our discussions, even if I’m challenged to take something away and research it.
They pulled out a pamphlet and started asking me directed questions (which was an obvious script they had run numerous times before). I answered they’re questions with very simple answers, “yes” and “no”.
I was trying to be polite and let them run their course, but honestly the “conversation” (and by conversation I mean their “script”) was getting boring.
So I interjected.
Now if you ever find yourself in a conversation with JW’s where they’ve led you into a corner and you’re honestly not able to bring to mind a reasonable refutation to their claim, this is the first step: STOP THEIR SCRIPT.
As soon as you interrupt their rehearsed line of speaking, and pose a question even slightly off setting, you have gained your thought process back, and now you can lead them to a reasonable explanation or at least, point out a flaw in their theological exhortation.
I don’t say this to be malice whatsoever, but they have designed these scripts to outline evidence for only their theological position and pose directed questions to make Christians doubt their faith. What I like to do is mirror that back to them.
The difference is, of the dozens and dozens of interactions I’ve had with JW evangelists, I’ve only encountered one who could respond coherently when I’ve interrupted their script.
I paused their line of questioning, after they had shown me a passage of scripture to support their view of what the “Kingdom” looks like.
I simply said, “That’s an interesting interpretation, how do you know it’s right?”.
They said, “because it’s the Bible.”
I said, “we agree on what the words of scripture ‘say’, but how do you know you are interpreting what they ‘mean’ in the correct way?”
Without skipping a beat I continued, “Do you believe what the Watch Tower organization teaches is true?”
“Of course” they said.
“What if they are wrong?” I commented.
“They aren’t, because they follow the Bible” they replied.
This is where the conversation really started to get exciting. There were so many different directions I could take with them, but started with, “What if I were to show you some examples of times when the Watch Tower organization has been proven wrong, with your own print materials?”
They were taken back, and didn’t know how to respond. I could see their discomfort as their faces began to change.
I presented quotes from tracts their organization had produced over the years. They confirmed, “yes” this is their material. One of the evidences I showed them was their claim that Armageddon (the end of the world) was to take place in 1914. Well guess what? We’re still here, even after the Watch Tower changed the date several more times, all in vain and failure to produce their prophecy as true.
Then I showed them Deuteronomy 18:22 "when a prophet speaketh in the name of Jehovah, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which Jehovah hath not spoken”. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 also states that we shouldn’t listen to that false prophet.
So I gave them a break to process all this and asked, “Scripture says I should not listen to a false prophet, why should I believe you? Why would you believe the Watch Tower organization?”
They took a moment to collect their thoughts and replied, “because we follow the Bible”.
I said, “OK, let’s talk about that for a minute. How do you know it’s the Bible? I believe it is too, but I’m curious as to how you can know it is”.
They said simply, “because it’s God’s word”.
I said, “I agree, but God’s word doesn’t tell you which books make up the Bible. God’s word doesn’t tell us of the 300 early church manuscripts which ones were the inspired word of God, and which were not. So why do you believe it?”
The answer I was trying to get out of them, but they were either reluctant to admit or hadn’t ever considered was that they relied on history and tradition, not the bible alone, to tell them which books make up the Bible.
They said something even more interesting, “we believe it solely based on faith”.
I said, “that’s very interesting. I do believe the word of God in faith also, but not JUST faith”.
I continued, “by your logic, the Koran must also be Scripture and inspired too then, right?”
They said, “of course not!”.
“Well, why not?” I asked, “Muslims believe it’s a holy book, and inspired in ‘faith’. So if faith is your only criteria, then you must also include that as well”.
They didn’t like that. And moreover, they didn’t like that they had absolutely no reply whatsoever. I could see them actually start to get slightly angry and defensive...
So what did they do? They reached into their briefcase and pulled out a new tract, wanting to talk about Hell.
I said, “No, we can talk about that another time, but most importantly if you don’t know why you believe in the Bible, or how you can know the Bible is the word of God, then you’ve got bigger issues to address. You also need to confront the fact that you’re following a false prophet, against what Scripture commands. Why would you follow a prophet who has been proven false? Clearly the Watch Tower organization is not interpreting the Bible correctly.”
I could see them stirring so I wrapped up the conversation. I said, “listen, you have a lot to think about. I’d love to continue our discussion and maybe you can bring some answers back with you next time”.
Will I ever see them again? I don’t know, probably not. I figured by now my house had been black listed by the JW’s as a “do not approach” zone haha.
I pray for them, and hope that our interactions have planted sees of truth in their hearts. Their spirit seems sincere, and I applaud their willingness to share what they believe with others. We could really use more people like them in the Church. We can learn a lot from them in the way of dedication, sacrifice and devotion.
Say a prayer for those who are seeking truth, and those who are hardened to it, and don’t be afraid to talk about what you believe. God chooses to use everyday people like you and me as part of His plan.