In June I visited a church in my area and shared the story of how I joined and left the Watchtower Society. Not everyone there knew my background, so I began by telling them about my excitement in learning the Bible for the first time without mentioning it was through a study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. My goal was to take them along on my journey of subtle deception. As a Bible student, I learned some valid truths but along the way I was also fed lies. After telling the audience about the happiness I experienced in the first few years of finding “the truth,” I let them into some of my personal thoughts as the weight of the Watchtower pressed down on me….
“Week after week, month after month, I kept reading the Bible, attending services, evangelizing… but I just wasn’t feeling God’s love……I’d ask…. why do I feel like I’m going backwards in my faith instead of forward??? I mean, I had accepted the truth… so why was this darkness always hovering over me? Why do I have this hatred building in me? I’m so angry… I’m so judgmental… I’m so sad…. I am in the truth, for I believe and stand on all the things they taught me about Jesus and the good news we’re called to share. James says faith without works is dead and I work! God knows I work! I’m busy in kingdom works! I must have faith then…. I should be happy… they said I’d be happy…. I know who the angel of light and his ministers are now…. it’s Satan and all the churches under his care…the Catholics, the Baptists, the Lutherans, the Evangelicals, those nuts at River’s Harvest… I’m in the truth, those people are being lied to… ha, they think Jesus is God… what a lie!!! I have the truth!!! I need to offer them a free home Bible study and teach them the truth…. I have the truth! Those people in their stupid demon-filled churches are being lied to… if only they would attend meetings with me where we are all taught the truth. We don’t get involved in politics, or celebrate all those pagan holidays, we remain pure…. when we gather for communion only we do it right because we have the truth!!! Those silly people at River’s Harvest will actually eat the bread and drink the wine today to affirm they are the body of Christ! LIE! LIE! LIE! They think they’re all going to heaven… ha! Only those in the new covenant go to heaven and most of us are not invited to that… I know I’m not … when I gather for communion with my congregation we pass the emblems and none of us partake. No one, not a one!! And we do this to the glory of God…. Because we know the truth!!! ….”
Then I invited the audience at that point to open their Bibles to 2 Corinthians 11:3-4
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.”
I continued by telling them that if they had asked me during those years if I believed in Jesus, I would have said yes.
If they were to ask me if I believed in the gospel, I would have said yes and gladly proclaimed it to them.
But I had accepted a DIFFERENT Jesus and a DIFFERENT gospel. As a result, I had received a DIFFERENT spirit and explained that many in our community are also under this spirit — they’re our neighbors, workmates, family members, or attend school with our children. And then I put on a long coat and strapped a book bag over my shoulder and added, “but most of you know them by an inconvenient knock on your door on a Saturday morning.” By that point everyone had figured out that I had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and so I began the second part of my talk detailing the emotional turmoil living the day-to-day life as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I kept the coat and book bag on until I came to the point in my story where God led me to repent. I told them how all my works were filthy rags in comparison to His grace and I shed the coat and book bag leaving them with a visual reminder of my life before, during, and after the Watchtower.
Afterward we had a brief question and answer session and I invited interested persons to meet me in the lobby where they could take home some materials and sign up for a class forming this fall.
One comment I really appreciated came from a gentleman who said he was already familiar with the doctrinal differences of Jehovah’s Witnesses but my story helped him understand the pressure the Witnesses are under. I get excited about comments like that because it tells me the JW at his door is going to be a little more “real” to him now. These are PEOPLE, not targets for our Scriptural arguments. Unless one is motivated to reach out in love to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there’s no point in having a head full of doctrinal debates ready to aim at them. My friend Melissa who recently taught a class in her church said she hoped the people who attended it would remember her pain in growing up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and see “her” at their doors next time Jehovah’s Witnesses come to call. By sharing my experience as an adult convert fully convinced and happy to have found “the truth” and then taking them along with me on my journey of fear, guilt, anger and depression in the Watchtower, my aim also was to leave a lasting impression so that they will see “me” at their doors the next time Jehovah’s Witnesses knock. The Internet is now FULL of information and resources any Christian can access to help develop their approach to the Witness at their door, but by sharing our personal testimonies in churches, I believe we can touch hearts on a more intimate level so that reaching out to Jehovah’s Witnesses is not just a “ministry” for the Church, but a passion fueled by love and empathy for an oppressed people.
Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie