WITNESSING TO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES AT THE DISTRICT CONVENTION – “God’s Word is Truth!”
Summer time for Jehovah’s Witnesses is District Convention time: Three days of talks and demonstrations designed to strengthen their resolve to remain in “Jehovah’s organization.”
I attended one Saturday of the District Convention in July. The theme of this years convention is “God’s Word is Truth!” and since I am in agreement with that, I made every effort to be as truthful as possible and yet still leave an opening for myself to be able to talk with the attenders. I began by putting my real name on the badge card and introducing myself from my actual town of residence. Let whatever happens, happen. I also chose not to bring a New World Translation (NWT), but an American Standard Version (ASV). Fortunately for me, I have one published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc. copyright 1929 which I found in a thrift store a few years ago. I dressed up like a JW and thought about covering up the bumper sticker on my truck with the “www.4witness.org” address, but then I remembered, I’m going IN TRUTH! Let whoever reads it deal with it.
The first stop was my old Kingdom Hall. No one was there, but I slipped in my question on paper in the crack of their front door which read:
How Do Watchtower Leaders Feel About Ex-members Who Expose The Society?
“We are not living today among theocratic nations where such members of our fleshly family relationship could be exterminated for apostasy from God and his theocratic organization . . . “Being limited by the laws of the worldly nation in which we live and also by the laws of God through Jesus Christ, we can take action against apostates only to a certain extent, that is, consistent with both sets of laws. The law of the land and God’s law through Christ forbid us to kill apostates . . .” The Watchtower 11/15/1952 page 703
If these laws were not in place, would the Society tell its members to kill ex-members?
As I drove toward the convention center, I stopped at another Kingdom Hall along the way and was surprised to see a full parking lot. I don’t know if they have that many out in service on a Saturday morning or if there was a special meeting? Maybe a wedding or a funeral? I don’t know, but I got out and started putting my slips of paper under their windshield wipers. Some of the previously mentioned Watchtower quote and these also:
Therefore many of the Jews that had come to Mary and that beheld what he did put faith in him; but some of them went off to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. Consequently the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Sanhedrin together and began to say: “What are we to do, because this man performs many signs? If we let him alone this way, they will all put faith in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation (John 11:45-48 NWT)
What happens to powerful, controlling religious organizations when their members begin to follow Jesus instead of them? What are they afraid of losing? Do you belong to a religious organization or do you belong to Christ?
However, YOU are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in YOU. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9 NWT) and this one: Beloved ones, do not be puzzled at the burning among YOU, which is happening to YOU for a trial, as though a strange thing were befalling YOU. On the contrary, go on rejoicing forasmuch as YOU are sharers in the sufferings of the Christ, that YOU may rejoice and be overjoyed also during the revelation of his glory. If YOU are being reproached for the name of Christ, YOU are happy, because the [spirit] of glory, even the spirit of God, is resting upon YOU. However, let none of YOU suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a busybody in other people’s matters. But if [he suffers] as a Christian, let him not feel shame, but let him keep on glorifying God in this name. (1 Peter 4:12-16 NWT)
I chose those verses based on a prayer to touch the hearts of those already confused about their involvement with the Watchtower. Those who are truly committed to The Truth of Jesus Christ would hopefully pay closer attention to those verses. I decided not to include any website information because of the warnings about apostates on Saturday’s talk.
While I was distributing these, a van pulled up with a family of 5. The woman watched me as I, looking like a JW myself, was placing these slips of papers on cars. I smiled and said, “nice day isn’t it?” She was silent. “Going out in service today are you?” I told her John 12:32 might be a good verse to share since it says if we just lift up Jesus he’ll do the drawing of people to himself. She turned her back and took her 3 children into the Kingdom Hall and left her husband in the parking lot. I extended my hand and he shook it as I explained who I was and my concern for the upcoming convention. I told him about the “Beware of Apostates” talk and how that could drive a further wedge into families and asked if he was concerned. He smiled and walked away holding on to the piece of paper with the Watchtower quote on it. I thought at that point some brothers might come outside to escort me off their property but no one did so I just finished my work alone then drove off peacefully.
I arrived about 45 minutes before the above mentioned talk began so I had time to put slips of paper on more cars parked at the convention center. I also left some CDs on the picnic tables and in the port-a-potty outside. I entered the building as the convention was in progress and listened to the latter part of the symposium “Cling to what is true!” As a Christian, I had much to agree with in their encouragement to be a true friend and forgiving person. As a disfellowshiped JW though, I basically laughed under my breath “yah right.” The words were good, but I know the truth about Jehovah’s Witnesses and how they really treat people. At one point they had a personal experience with a brother who had gone through some hard times. He related how the “friends” were there for him. Then we, the audience (assuming we were all JWs) were commended for sticking with family through good and bad times. Yah right.
I enjoyed the talk in which Jesus’ forgiveness toward Peter was highlighted. Peter had denied Christ and was grieved when he saw the Lord looking at him because he desired His forgiveness. Was it granted? The elder noted that in 1 Corinthians 15:5 it was Peter to whom the Lord appeared first, then to the rest. He also gave Peter the commission to “feed my lambs” in John 21:15-17. I thought he did a great job presenting these TRUE words from the Bible, but I wondered how it is that the Watchtower Society could agree with it since they do not even forgive a person for having dinner with a disfellowshiped family member. You could get your preaching privileges suspended for that one! So much for feeding Jesus’ little sheep! Peter denied Christ and was forgiven and commissioned. If Peter had denied “Jehovah’s organization,” he’d be considered an apostate with such privileges revoked. Which brings me to the talk I came to hear.
I had already listened to the “Beware of Apostates” symposium via an Internet link, but I also recorded this one for review. It was the exact same talk. Basically, the speaker brings out how Satan was in the truth but didn’t stand fast in it. We were then taught about the devils tactics and how he gets faithful JWs to question. Those who listen to him are called “mentally diseased” according to the New World Translations rendering of 1 Timothy 6:3-5 along with the July 15, 2011 Watchtower. He introduced how Satan and his apostates work implying that they tell loyal JWs that Jehovah doesn’t love them, they’re being deprived, and they’re better off on their own. Then he spent some time downgrading “independent thinking.” He said the hallmark of an apostate is they “misrepresent the truth to cause confusion and doubt.” I was nodding my head in agreement on that one!
The Watchtower’s inculcation of not being able to question their authority continued as the speaker drove home the point that rejecting counsel from the elders is the same as rejecting Jehovah God Himself. Then he said Satan has co-rulers and we should not eat any of their contaminated food and only eat at the table of Jehovah. And thus the stage was set for the second part of the symposium titled “Human Apostates.”
An immediate connection was made when the speaker compared Satan to the chef in a kitchen of poisoned food and human apostates as his helpers. We are depicted as the unruly ones who once fed at the table of Jehovah and are now seasoning everything with lies because we “prefer the table of demons.” The speaker actually said those who left “the truth” are really part of the seed of the serpent and it begins with…. you guessed it, the rejection of counsel from the elders. What a convenient set up!
Three characteristics were given to us “human apostates.”
1. We reject God’s service to make disciples. The proof is that we don’t participate in the door-to-door campaign to promote the Watchtower.
2. We seek to draw away Christ’s disciples to ourselves. Here he highlighted Internet sites like this one and former Watchtower members who send out letters still trying to connect with family and friends who remain loyal to the organization.
3. We claim to serve God but like Diotrephes of 3 John 9, we like to have the first place and work against the anointed of God’s organization. He sited Romans 16:17 as reason to stay away from apostates who claim to be Christian.
I gotta hand it to them, they covered all the bases in keeping their flock in fear of anyone outside the organization. In fact the kicker was when he brought up the conversation stoppers for those who think their faith in Jehovah’s organization may be strong enough to engage in conversation with such opposers. He compared conversations with apostates to avoiding pornography and used the story of Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife. Faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses should flee from any literature, video or contact with a “human apostate.” That of course, includes those of us who desire to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. The remedy offered for avoiding apostates was to continue preaching the good news as active publishers in the door-to-door ministry and be thankful for such timely warnings from Jehovah through His organization.
The baptismal talk was still in progress when I walked outside to the picnic area that would soon be full of convention participants for the lunch break. I spotted a well-dressed woman in her fifties crying and thought to myself that she must be a disfellowshiped Witness. As I approached I mentioned how hot it was outside and asked her if she was upset over something said in the arena. She told me she was having a panic attack but invited me to sit with her. As we exchanged small talk about the weather she calmed down a bit and I was able to ask what brought on the attack. She mentioned the rush of packing for the weekend and the crowds, not any particular talk. In fact she said she was in the bathroom and then outside during most of the “apostate” talk. When I asked her when those panic attacks began, she said it was at age 26– her first Memorial. She was raised Lutheran but studied with the Witnesses in her twenties. I found this pretty significant but chose not to address it. Then her husband came to sit with us and said she suffers with these quite a bit. He was friendly and we all shared how we began our study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I told them the truth about my own introduction and they said neither one of them even heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses growing up. They became JWs in adult life as I did. I really wanted to encourage and comfort this woman so I asked her if reading about Paul’s own struggles in Romans 7 in which the things ‘he didn’t want to do he did’ ever comforted her. She nodded yes. We talked about how even the most spiritual people can still struggle with imperfections in the flesh. I then brought out my ASV Bible and as I was opening it told her that I enjoyed how Paul related to us his own struggles in Romans 7 and then offered the remedy in the next chapter. “Have you ever noticed that before?” I asked. Then I read Romans 8:1 explaining that for those in Christ there is now no condemnation. She and her husband immediately defended that we’re not above reproach. Isn’t that interesting? It was like they had a guard up against receiving any comfort, encouragement or grace from what I just read. I agreed that we all need correction and it is good when the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance, but the condemnation being spoken of is for those of us who feel we can never measure up to Jehovah’s holy standards and yet it’s telling us we are forgiven in Christ. They were a little uncomfortable with that but smiled. She looked over my Bible and we talked about how the JWs had used that translation before the NWT. She said I’d found a treasure. Then some of their friends sat down and I sensed it was time to go. The gentleman kindly offered me part of his sandwich but I told him I had lunch waiting for me in my truck. I don’t know if I missed an opportunity to stay, but I felt led to leave it at that. The woman sincerely thanked me for taking the time to talk with her when she was crying. I may not have dropped any significant seeds at their table but I knew I left a good impression if anyone ratted me out as an evil, mentally diseased apostate later that afternoon. So I walked on looking for another solo sister to talk to.
I grabbed my lunch out of the truck and found another woman sitting alone. I asked if she minded if I sat with her because I needed someone to talk to after something that disturbed me during the convention. She welcomed me so I let out a heavy sigh and told her how upset I was by the Beware of Apostates symposium mentioning how most of us have disfellowshiped family or friends. Immediately she offered that her sister is disfellowshiped. I asked if she sneaks in moments to see her and she told me they actually work together and so she has to. I asked how she felt about this total avoidance promoted in the talk and she replied by saying that when their encounters at work go beyond the task at hand and into casual conversation then her sister is less likely to show up for meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Apparently she’s trying to get re-instated. The woman told me that disfellowshiping was meant to isolate the person so that they come back to the meetings and therefore she agreed with the symposium not to have any more casual conversations with her sister while at work. I asked her if when a disfellowshiped person was coming to the Kingdom Hall was it just to see other people or were they sincerely seeking Jehovah God. And she agreed it was due to loneliness but “that’s what it takes to get someone to come back to the truth.” She then asked about my disfellowshiped relative and I took the bait implying that I had one. I must confess here that I slipped from truth, I don’t actually have any disfellowshiped relatives.
I queried if there were one verse she could share with her sister to draw her to Jehovah, what would it be? She went on about some discourses at the Hall she wish her sister had heard and I corrected her and asked “one verse?” She couldn’t think of any. I offered John 12:32 and she read it from my ASV Bible. I explained how Jesus makes it easy for us. We just carry the message of him impaled, but he draws men to himself and said that is the one verse I’d show my relative and she threw me for a loop and said, “well Julie, if your disfellowshiped relative has a Bible, don’t you think they already read it?” And then she asked, “Are they going to meetings?” I know in her mind, to be drawn by Jesus is to go back to the meetings. If they’re not at the meetings, then they aren’t being drawn. So I told her this relative no longer goes to the Kingdom Hall but loves Jehovah and reads his Bible and attends church. You can imagine where that went. It was good though as a lot came out on the differences between what a Christian believes and what a JW does. I began to give a Christian witness even though she continued to think I was an active JW. She, like all JWs, emphasized the organization so we briefly discussed Acts 8 and 15 as I endeavored to prove there was no governing body in the first century. It didn’t impress her much and finally I point blank said, “then you believe we are saved by an organization rather than Jesus Christ huh?” and she started hemming and hawing around it. I wish I’d brought my Prince of Peace book along because when I used 1 Timothy 2:5 with her and told her I believed Jesus to be my mediator alone and not the organization, she agreed. I told her that the Watchtower religion teaches that Jesus only mediates the new covenant for the 144,000 and she refused to believe it but I didn’t bring any documentation to validate that claim. I did encourage her to research it for herself though.
During our lunch conversation, this same woman confided that it took a long time for her to get approved for baptism due to a drinking and smoking habit. She had to clean herself up first. She credited Jehovah for helping her though. I asked, “then if your prayers to Jehovah were answered and He was helping you overcome those habits BEFORE you became a Jehovah’s Witness don’t you think He can be involved in people’s lives outside the organization?” And again, she reverted to the organization by noting that she was reading their literature and attending their meetings while working toward this goal. I asked what part the indwelling spirit of God could have in such a case and of course she said only the 144,000 could be born of spirit. I told her I was born of God’s Spirit but she said a person would have to die for that to happen. Interesting. I didn’t even think that as a Witness. I explained that Paul proclaimed that he died with Christ and yet was still on earth when he wrote that in the book of Galatians. I reasoned that the indwelling Spirit of God can help us die to a lot of bad habits. She asked, “so you think you’re going to heaven?” and I said yes! She didn’t get real nervous, I thought she might, but I think she just thought I was mixed up from not avoiding my disfellowshiped relative enough. So I’m not sure I left the best impression there. Then we politely parted ways as the rest of the convention was about to begin.
My impression was that both those women were pretty satisfied with their lives as Jehovah’s Witnesses and it wasn’t my place to take ’em out. I do pray the things we discussed count as seeds for someone else to water.
When I re-entered the building, I canvassed the bathrooms and contribution boxes with my slips of paper. I decided not to conceal what was in my hand and walked toward an elderly brother sitting by his contribution box. Holding up my yellow slip of paper I said, “Jesus is Lord. God bless you” and dropped it in the box. I figured he knew I had to be an apostate at that point and kept walking toward a young woman by her contribution box. I told her I had no money but wanted to share a verse to drop in and she smiled and said it was a great idea. So then I thought “why didn’t I actually READ the verse to that man?” So I walked back to him and told him what was on the yellow slip of paper and said, “ya know, if you ever get tired of serving an organization, Christ will take you in. That’s why I left this slip of paper with 1 Peter 4:12-16 in your box.” And he smiled at me and kinda laughed and added, “my grandfather had a sense of humor too.” What was that supposed to mean??? I kept it light and repeated “God bless you. Christ is Lord.” and walked away. Someone later told me that the people sitting at the contribution boxes are required to stay there and therefore would be great ones to strike up conversations with. Good idea. Live and learn.
I was there only half a day but prayed for each one I encountered and of course prayed for the crowd in general. I left with the sense that the people I spoke with weren’t the ones being called at this time. Perhaps someone who found a slip of paper or a CD in the bathroom will respond? The Lord knows.
Keep yourself in God’s love,