1. The Need of the Group - We often see Jehovah’s Witnesses (J/W’s) as a threat or unwelcome door to door salespeople - to be avoided at all costs. But have we ever stopped to think what it must be like for them? Most people treat them with a little disdain at best - utter contempt at worst. When a J/W knocks on your door they are encountering an ambassador of Jesus Christ Himself. What impression will you give them next time?
By treating J/W’s as mere inconveniences, we portray to them that Christians are the same as unbelievers, worldly. Christians rationalize. “Well they don’t know I’m a believer so it doesn’t matter”. But what if they find out? Anyway, if I’m glad they don’t know I’m a believer, isn’t that telling of the way I am acting and treating them? That cannot be right.
As a rule, first generation J/W’s are converted because another J/W called on them just as they were questioning about life. The simple fact is that J/W’s were there for them. The church was not. Hence, they really are like sheep without a shepherd, and caught up in a thicket.
The good news is we get a second chance. Though we were not there for them when they were first questioning, they come back to us, knocking on our doors with their Bible in their hands, hoping you and I will speak to them! A better way to view them is as people whom God brings to us to witness to. Dare we let the opportunity pass us by?
They are Jehovah’s Witnesses (Isaiah 43:10), we are Jesus' witnesses (Acts 1:8). They know what they believe, they know their Bible and they can and will show you from your Bible why you are in error and they will be more than happy to help you “be in the Truth” as they say. Can and will you do the same for them?
2. Understanding the Group – Explaining key social, cultural and religious characteristics of the group: i.e. what they believe and how they live.
The Controlling Factor: The Watchtower, Bible and Tract Society, aka WBTS, is the official J/W organisation. It claims, and its members believe, that the WBTS is ‘the faithful and wise servant whom the master has put in charge of the servants in His household to give them their food at the proper time’ of Matthew 24:45. Therefore because the ‘Organisation’ has been “put in charge” by God Himself, J/W’s believe that to question, doubt or disagree with the organisation is to do so against God. They refer to the organisation blasphemously as ‘The Truth’. To be in the organisation is to “be in the truth”. They believe they cannot understand the Bible correctly without God’s faithful servant, the WBTS interpreting scripture for them. Since all other Christian denominations have rejected God’s Faithful servant, they are all in spiritual darkness.
This means, (although they'd never admit it) J/W’s have come to trust in the WBTS over God. The implication being, even if you show them from the scriptures that what they believe is wrong - they will humbly continue to trust God’s “faithful and wise servant” rather than the harlot of Babylon which, in their mind is false religion and especially the church.
J/W’s, on the whole come from more working class backgrounds when compared with the church. The majority will not have experienced a university education and will be in blue collar and middle management jobs. They are a very close-knit community - many of whom depend on one another for their livelihood. Being a J/W is everything to them. They have no real friends or life outside of the organisation. When J/W’s knock on your door they will be from one of Four important categories found in every Kingdom Hall.
1. Happy Generational J/W’s. These are J/W’s whose parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins are J/W’s. They are happily deceived and very difficult to reach.
2. Unhappy generational J/W’s. Same as above - but for various reasons are not happy. Often they suspect it is not true and / or feel trapped. This is a group that can be reached - though not easily. But there are plenty of them.
3. Veteran first generation J/W’s. These are people who were searching when a J/W called on them. They became J/W’s often on the back of a personal life crisis such as a divorce, loss of job etc. They have lost most contact with their non-J/W family and friends. All their valuable relationships are in J/W’s. This group is relatively difficult to reach.
4. Newly converted J/W’s. These people were converted within the last few years. They still have connections and relationships outside of J/W’s. This category is relatively easy to reach. The longer a person has been a J/W, the harder it is to reach them with the gospel.
3. Challenges of the Group – Identifying any key difficulties or obstacles in reaching the group with the good news of Jesus.
It is difficult to communicate with a person who speaks a different language. However, at least you know what the problem is. J/W’s use the same terms - but nuanced with very different meanings. This makes communication because we use the same words - but attach very different meanings.
Brainwashed against the Church
Unlike most people, much of a J/W’s attention is focussed on the worst aspects and scandals of the Church. Sadly, Media and the Church combine to provide plenty of ammunition for J/W’s to fire. Division over gay marriage, women leaders, all the various denominations which they see as divisions etc, etc.
The relentless propaganda produced by the WBTS has brainwashed them against the church so that they see the church as the Harlot of Babylon and you are her representative. They think of ‘Born Again’ Christians as goats. As one J/W elder once said, “You can’t saw the horns off a goat and turn it into a sheep”. As soon as they find out you are ‘born again’ they will pigeon-hole you and the barriers go up. Getting past their defences is perhaps the greatest challenge - hence, be careful not to cause them to feel under attack.
However, the greatest challenge in reaching this group is the cost to them and to you if you are going to help them.
Coming out of J/W’s can cost them all their precious relationships. They will be ex-communicated from the organisation. From that moment on, their closest friends will never speak with them again - ever. They will simply blank them. Their spouse will refuse to ever speak to them about spiritual things at all (making it almost impossible to win their spouse), and the marriage will often become loveless and unbearable. Children will feel deeply ashamed of an ‘apostate’ parent, as soon as they are of age they will disown them. However, that is not to say they don’t love one another - they do, but loyalty to Jehovah and the WBTS trumps family ties - in their thinking, the apostate parent has joined the devil. It is deeply wounding and heart-breaking for all involved. This state of affairs calls for compassion on our part and not judgement.
4. Engaging with the Group
Initial engagement with J/W’s is not difficult. Below are three very simple approaches:
a) They come to you (as they surely will). When they call on you, avoid getting into discussion on the door but rather, make it clear you want to speak more and diarise an appointment for them to call back at a time convenient to you and them. Tell them a friend may be with you.
b) You stop them in the street and tell them you’d like to learn about what they believe, ask them to call at your home and again, make an appointment.
c) You request a Bible study: https://www.jw.org/en/free-bible-study/ (The easiest). Just click the link, complete the form and a couple of J/W’s will appear at your door a couple of weeks later.
5. Sharing Christ with the Group
So you have an appointment set up to meet with J/W’s. Three things to remember:
1) Relationship is essential. They need to get to know and trust you. They also need to know that you will be there for them if they come out. This kind of trust comes with time. You and the Church will really become their replacement family. So don’t be in a hurry to get down to exposing their error - take time to get to know them as people. Take a genuine interest in them and see them as Jesus does, ‘Lost and trapped’ - love them!
2) Do not be confrontational or argumentative. They are looking for ‘sheep’. In early stages, avoid discussing points of contention. Remember you are not trying to win an argument but win a soul. Addressing their error will come later.
3) Don’t be defensive. Remember, they likely think you are a goat - but they are giving you a chance. When they appear to be correct about something, just admit and accept it. Then, go and do some homework and find the answers. When they take you through their bible study series, don’t feel you have to correct them as you go through their study. Take notes. Remember, at this stage you are learning what they believe - later you will begin the questioning.
Since reaching J/W’s is a longer term mission I suggest the following approach as a rule.
• Prepare Spiritually
You know when they are coming because you have made an appointment. Encourage another brother or sister to join you. Pray together and get the church praying for you. Also, tell your Pastor what you are doing - you may need some help.
Ask them to take you through their Bible study course. They will be keen to do so.
Be humble. Take the opportunity to invest in learning about them so that you can properly engage them later. This is easy to do, just let them take you through one of their publications, probably, 'What Does the Bible Really Teach? At this stage you are not equipped to correct them - but that will come. This stage of the evangelism does six things.
• Gives you direct insight into what J/W’s believe and how they think and work. It is much better for you to learn from them directly.
• Builds a bridge. A relationship of genuine trust is a bridge over which Jesus can walk into their lives.
• Equips you to understand their terminology and bring challenges later.
• It equips you for the task of discipling them when they come out as you will much better understand them and where they are coming from.
• Equips you for future ministry with J/W’s.
• Gives you a greater understanding of what the scriptures actually teach.
This next bit of information is very important: One of the two J/W’s will be very experienced, the other will likely be a fairly new and inexperienced J/W. You will quickly discern which is which. Remember, the less experienced J/W is far more likely to become a convert. During the early stages, it is very important that you ensure both J/W’s have your mobile - and you have both of theirs. This is because, before you start sowing doubt in their minds, they need to be able to speak with you one to one. It is almost impossible for a J/W to tell you she is having doubts and wants help while her J/W friend is present. It is much easier for them to text or call you privately.
Build and Broaden
As you feel the relationship strengthen, try to get to know them socially. The aim is to deepen and broaden the relationship. Invite them for a meal now and them. Let them get to know your family and church family. Don’t bother inviting them to church and don’t try to convert them at these times. They will feel threatened. Rather, use this as opportunity to demonstrate Christian fellowship and love.
It is important to understand that J/W’s avoid building friendship with unbelievers, especially Christians thinking that Christians are worldly and that friendship with the world is hatred toward God. So getting to become genuine friends will not be easy. Introduce social elements into your meeting with them. Offer them snacks and make a point of chatting. Take an interest in them, try to remember details so that you can pray for them and follow up on things when you see them next. Basically, be friendly, kind, generous, hospitable and concerned for them, be a really good friend. If they are going to come out, they will need a real friend - you need to be that friend. Find out if they eat Chinese, Indian etc and when you know them well enough, get their favourite takeaway in as a ‘thank you’ for their spending time with you. Use your imagination.
You can invite them for a meal now and then, though they are not likely to accept the offer - don’t take it personally. Perhaps ask them at some point why they never take you up on your offers.
As you feel genuine friendship and trust being established, begin to ask questions. e.g., "so you say Jesus isn’t God, so why does Thomas in John 20:28 seem to say He is? When they answer, don’t argue, but gently probe deeper with more questions. Keep questioning their answers. At some point they will find there is no answer and will just spout the best answer they have got. Leave it there. Don’t expect them to suddenly admit they are wrong. - You have shown them a gap in their foundations. Continue to do the same with other key subjects.
This process helps them to see there are many faults in their foundations. Your aim is not to win an argument or make them admit theological faults to you, but just to show them, one fault after another after another and so on and doing so all the time as you build on your friendship with them.
At some point, share your testimony and if possible ground it in scripture. Ask them what they think happened to you? Tell them about other people’s stories. They have no testimony and especially no experience of the Spirit at all.
Give them a solid Foundation
Gradually share with them what you believe and why, ask them what is wrong with it. At this point you are taking them to our foundations which they will hopefully see are solid.
6. Ideas for Mission to the Group
Hold a training day on a Saturday or a couple of evenings. This will provide basic theological arguments and provide resources.
7. Helpful Resources about the Group
Reachout Trust. An excellent organisation dedicated to reaching people trapped in cults. You will find all the resources needed in terms of books and study guides here. They also hold conferences on reaching cults.
To hold a training session at your church, contact Julian Rebera at email@example.com.