August was an amazing month. Nearly 30 new people sought out community among our 3 separate Meetup groups:
Colo Spgs and Worldwide Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Internet Meetup
The Colorado Springs and Worldwide Internet Ex-Mormon Meetup
Witnesses for Jesus Christian Prayer Support Meetup Group
We had a huge increase of new members on the Meetup for former JWs and a lot of spirited discussion. One member on that Meetup attends the same local church as me. We were both active as Jehovah’s Witnesses during the same years but in neighboring Kingdom Halls. Now we are both active in praying for those two Kingdom Halls.
We enjoy the encouragement and information exchanged among former JWs through Internet connections, but about a year ago, Becky proposed the idea of starting something locally to help Jehovah’s Witnesses. Her ideas centered on offering a local gathering place for recovering JWs, perhaps starting with a local Meetup group. I said I’d pray for and support her in whatever she got going. It was not my fire though. I was busy enough with Internet groups and although I have always been open about my JW past with friends at church, I didn’t really feel led to organize anything…. until February of this year.
I had been participating in the weekly Monday night prayer service at church and while praying through one of our core values, God lit me up.
Justice – We want to be a people who have Your heart for the poor, for the oppressed, for the lost, for the unwanted, for the marginalized, for the mistreated, for the rejected, for the abused, for the the abandoned, for the impoverished, and the outcast of the world. Release in us a ferocious desire to see them reached, loved, and cared for both in our own neighborhoods, cities, and nation and across the globe. When Your justice flows it is like a river that has the power to transform the landscape. The world is crying out for justice. Help us to be a people who seek to promote and offer true justice. (Praying through our core values)
The next morning I was praying at home and again it was undeniable. The Holy Spirit was calling me to action. I told Becky that I was now “in” and it was God’s timing. This struck some fear in her as she realized we had moved from the idea stage to a plan of action. My own fear was not the action required in organizing the class but seeking approval from the church leadership. My last encounter with a body of elders was one of condemnation and shame, so understandably I needed a new visual of men surrounding me with support and prayers. I knew I had to walk in alone to present our ideas for this class and create a new visual. Not only did the elders pray for me, I also had the entire Monday night prayer group show their support the week before the first class by laying hands on me to bless our new adventure, the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the attenders of our class who would be stirred to reach them. God has been faithfully and gently replacing our fears and prejudices of the church which were heavily instilled in us by the Watchtower. This was not just about a class, it has also helped Becky and I in our recovery as former Jehovah’s Witnesses.
When God invited me into her vision, my focus became to inform and equip the church which led me to produce a video to stir up interest in our class. I spent hundreds of hours viewing testimonies to isolate the most succinct quotes of former JWs that would stir the heart of the church to see the need to reach out. My goal was to edit it down to 5 minutes. That was painful. I also sought to highlight how a ministry to Jehovah’s Witnesses can increase their own Bible knowledge as they rely more on the word to refute the false teaching presented in the Watchtower Society. For this I called a friend and asked if she’d mind making a short video of her experience in witnessing to the JWs in her life and how that has affected her own relationship with God. I included her in that finished video.
Meanwhile, it was laid on Becky’s heart to produce a survey to determine what the church knew about Jehovah’s Witnesses. She and her kids placed the surveys on the seats at church and we got 60 responses back. Out of that number, we learned that 6 people have studied with JWs in the past and we even discovered another former JW who had been out for over 25 years but kept it to herself until she saw that survey and could barely get through the morning service excited to learn there were former JWs in her midst. We connected and she was thankful to get more information which she promptly mailed to her JW brother and his wife who were already questioning their involvement in the Watchtower. They have since confronted their active JW mother who has threatened to shun them. Needless to say this has been very hard on my new friend at church and she was not able to attend any of our classes but I informed our small group that we had a former JW in our midst whose family was in turmoil and to keep them in prayer. God’s timing amazes me.
We went forward as novices with our own insecurities and wounds, but God is faithful and has called us to this time, so we trusted Him and took our first steps. It is wonderful to be in need of Him. And thus we began our 5 week course on HOW TO REACH OUT TO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES. Since each class period would be an hour and a half long, we planned on using the DVD series of Christy Darlington’s already designed to fit into small group classes JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES QUESTIONS: Answering Questions Your Jehovah’s Witness Friends Ask.
As a form of advertisement, two weeks before the first class, Becky and I “interrupted” the pastor’s sermon with a knock on the door. We entered wearing skirts and carrying Watchtowers and said, “Hello, we’re from the local Kingdom Hall and would like to share an encouraging message with you and your neighbors today.” Then we rolled this video Why Reach Out to Jehovah’s Witnesses?
We were told we’d be lucky if 6 to 10 people attended since it was summer. When 26 people showed up, our group was assigned to a larger classroom the following week!
One couple had traveled 3 hours from another state to attend. The man was a former JW from our Meetup with whom I’ve shared some email correspondence. I hadn’t heard from him in a while, but he mentioned that he and his wife were going to be in the area to attend an event on Saturday and asked if we could meet in person. I agreed and mentioned that if he felt comfortable with it, they could stay and attend our first class on Sunday. So my husband and I had them over for dinner Saturday night and they stayed at an area hotel and attended the 8:30 a.m. service. The sermon on Romans 14 that morning could not have been more appropriate! He connected with my pastor and is now following his sermons on line. In fact, my friend became so immersed in conversation with the pastor after his sermon that he was almost late for our class. He identified himself as an XJW in the class and afterward a couple from church who are also XJWs spoke with him. On that first Sunday, we also heard from one woman who said her brother had married a disfellowshipped JW woman who was currently trying to get reinstated and asked for advice and prayer.
The second week an out-of-town visitor excitedly came to introduce herself even though she was not able to stay for the class. She said her husband invites JWs in and shares Christ with them. She wanted to stay connected with us even though she lives a 4 hour distance from the church. So I sent her information from www.4witness.org via email and have her on our class mailing list. The following week her husband made the long trip to attend our class! God had so far sent us an out-of-town visitor each week.
After the second week, we wondered if the class was a bit overwhelmed at all the information they had already swallowed, so Becky and I decided to take a break from the DVD series and just open up the class for some Q & A discussion. I’m glad we did.
First, we arranged the tables in a square so we were no longer at the front of the class as teachers, but were all sitting down face-to-face for more casual conversation. During that time, one woman asked, “if Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in Jesus, how do they read the New Testament?”
You see, that’s why this is so important. After the first two video classes, I would’ve assumed she caught that JWs DO believe in Jesus, but it’s what they believe ABOUT Jesus that is different. For starters, they do not accept that he is God. And what they really honor or appreciate about him is their belief that he is taking 144,000 into heaven with him to rule over the earth. A JW is looking to that arrangement as his hope which distracts him from the good news that his sins were already forgiven completely at the cross. This distraction withholds the love and worship due our Lord and Savior now.
We also did a little demonstration of an encounter at the door based on the outline LEADING JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES TO JESUS — EIGHT QUESTIONS ON HOW TO HAVE THE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
That helped to open up more questions.
One woman expressed how her heart was moved to tears by the video we used to advertise this class — especially the part where the former JW said nobody ever witnessed to her during all her years of knocking on doors. She was not the first member of our church to mention the power of that tearful testimony of captivity in the Watchtower. One of the best comments that came out of the class in my opinion was by a friend who said the past three weeks had made her realize how we all take our salvation for granted and she really wants to reach the Jehovah’s Witnesses now.
And that really is how the gospel is shared isn’t it? Of course we can learn strategies and anyone can be given a list of verses that teach salvation but as the apostle Paul noted at 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 “when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”
The demonstration of God’s power shines through the Spirit-filled testimony of a believer who appreciates their salvation so much they can’t help but share it.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You. (Ps 51:12-13)
How does one share their faith? By first embracing it joyfully to themselves!
We should never expect to memorize all the scripture ping pong that goes into a doctrinal discussion with a determined JW, but if anyone has a relationship with Jesus Christ, they have a TESTIMONY to share with the person at their door. JWs are trained to battle doctrines but who can argue with the testimony of the Holy Spirit?
Our discussions had helped the class discover what the JWs DID NOT HAVE. We’re so spoiled with Jesus aren’t we? What is that one saying? I complained about not having any shoes until I met a man with no legs? Maybe the way for any of us to appreciate our own salvation is to think about the deficit of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We continued with the open Q & A format for our fourth class. One of the attenders was excited to tell us about her experience with two JW ladies at her door that week. In the past, she usually just sent them away but now she was anxious to reach out to them. She said her head was reeling with what to share — a bit overwhelmed by the information she received in class. She thought she didn’t do a very good job but I think she did because the JWs are coming back and she can prepare and pray for the next visit now. So praise God that His compassion was stirred in her. Now we ask that the right words be given to open those hearts and listening ears that have been invited into her house rather than turned away at her door. It’s that simple.
Another woman shared that after the third week, she felt differently about a JW woman who had been calling on her this spring and wished she had not put a halt to the visits. So I suggested she pray about it. Lo and behold the next day she just happened to bump into her at a gas station and set up an appointment to get together again that week! Please pray that the Holy Spirit be present in their conversations and the word of God speak.
One woman noted that Becky, me and the other two former Witnesses in our class all were adult converts that questioned the organization within the first 5 years. She said she would be mindful of asking the JWs at her door how long they’ve been active because it occurred to her now that they may be doubting and questioning even as they promote their religion.
During that fourth week, I brought along a box full of books published by the Watchtower so everyone could see the amount of study JWs do preparing to come to their doors. The following week I brought another box full of books written by former JWs and counter cult authors. We wanted the class to know there is plenty of information out there for more research if so inclined.
This brings me to our final Sunday class. Before this all happened, a former JW had seen an article of mine on the Jehovah’s Witnesses 4 Jehovah facebook page and looked up my profile. When she learned that she and I were from the same state, she sent a friend request and shared her story with me. When she saw my advertisement video she expressed a desire to attend our class even though we are about a 4 hour drive apart. Not only did Melissa make that drive to attend the class, we gave her the whole hour and a half to share her story of what it was like being raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was a powerful testimony which led to many questions and comments from those who attended. Melissa is a gifted speaker and teacher and accustomed to leading women’s Bible studies, yet she had never even considered offering a class about Jehovah’s Witnesses at her own church until she found out what Becky and I were doing. When she passed out a brochure at the end of our class promoting her ministry to reach former Jehovah’s Witnesses for Christ, I asked when she printed that, “The week before I came here” she grinned. The fire is now spreading! Not only did she share with us on Sunday, but her visit prompted me to invite some former JWs from the area to my house for dinner that Saturday night. Four of us were able to gather for enchiladas, a bon fire, prayer, and A LOT of discussion at our “mini Midwest XJW gathering.” Four female XJWs, how could we not talk all night???
This all looked so HUGE when Becky first put this idea before me. I just said I’d pray for her, but then doggone it I got excited about it too and before ya know it we were doing it and have managed to inspire others along the way.
We all feel ill-equipped at times and think we must leave it to the “experts.” But I encourage you to pursue a ministry you feel led in and don’t let fear hold you back because ministry is not just about reaching the other person, it’s a way for you to grow in relationship with God by greater reliance on Him. Why did Jehovah call the Israelites “His Witnesses?” Was it for the nations around them? Or was it for them?
“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me. (Isaiah 43:10)
Please keep praying for us, the students who attended our class, and the local JWs they will encounter.
All glory, praise and honor to God Almighty. Thank you!
Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie