YouTube: A New Mission Field?
Apostasy: that was the crime that officially separated me from all the friends I’d made in my 8 year commitment to the Watchtower. The month of December marks the 8th year since I was disfellowshipped. Eight years of my life were spent officially in and now eight years have been spent officially out. What a time for reflection.I’ve been associated with Witnesses for Jesus, Inc. since 2008 when I joined the Meetup for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses and quickly fell into a role of encouraging others who, like me, were passing through the stages of recovery. As the years go by, my fear is that I’ll forget just how bad off I was under the influence of the Watchtower. Did I really think God hated me for missing meetings at the Kingdom Hall? Did I really think every person who left the Watchtower was a secret agent of Satan? Was I really afraid of holidays, prayer, church, and looking up evidence that exposed the Watchtower as something other than “the truth?” I’m thankful when reminders of my captivity come along as they did this month.
For the most part, people who participate in discussions our Meetups or contact me through the ministry team have already stopped protecting the Watchtower and are either looking for friendship with others who’ve left or need non-judgmental, biblical discussions to help untwist the lies they swallowed. Our discussion forum for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular is very open and those of us who are Christians enjoy the freedom of expressing our faith without angry replies insisting we stop talking about Jesus. It’s allowed me to grow personally in faith, but perhaps has distanced me from remembering the earliest stages of breaking loyalty with the Watchtower.
How did I discover this difference? A ministry has been out there for some time that I declined to tap into and yet this past month I’ve fallen in. I had posted the video “Why Reach Out to Jehovah’s Witnesses” on YouTube. I made that short video this summer as a means to advertise a 5 week class me and another ex-JW friend were teaching at our local church. You can read about our experiences and see that video here in my blog on “Stirring up the heart of the church”. To date, I’ve gotten over 5,200 hits and nearly 120 comments publically and several more messages in the private inbox. What I find fascinating is how many ACTIVE Jehovah’s Witnesses visit the clip to defend the Watchtower. This differs from the general attitude of those on Meetup discussions. The anger in these comments and emails is shocking. It reminded me of a journal entry I wrote while still an active JW in which I penned “hate is crippling, I hate so much, where does it come from?” The people posting their comments under the video and exchanging emails with me through the YouTube inbox are not supposed to be visiting such sites at all let alone engaging an ‘apostate’ in discussion, but here they are. Obviously all is not well with their souls, so they venture out to watch YouTube videos about their religion, feel guilty for questioning it, and hate protects their vulnerabilities for the time being. It’s fear, and my heart breaks for them. I remember, thank God, I remember.
At the 2010 convention for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses in Pennsylvania, I was there when Brian Garcia shared his testimony of how he, as an active Jehovah’s Witness, began to post his own videos on YouTube to defend his Watchtower beliefs. He said Christians took notice and discussions ensued through the YouTube inbox. As a result, Brian came to Christ and went on to create videos to proclaim his faith in Jesus instead of the Watchtower. Praise God! A ministry was born for the culture and time in which we live. It wasn’t until I made my own little video and received so many comments that I realized the potential of this avenue of ministry. There are THOUSANDS of YouTube videos out there dealing with topics about Jehovah’s Witnesses and the comments flourish. It’s a ministry field in itself (hint, hint).
I’ve been attending a class on evangelism and the pastor who leads it gave us each a brochure highlighting different ways to consider reaching people. One man in the class is very active handing out tracts and starting discussions at the local Mall. My past and reputation of handing out Watchtower tracts really makes that type of evangelism unappealing to me, but when I noticed the suggestion of using the Internet mentioned in the handout, I began to share what we do here at Witnesses for Jesus, Inc. with our email ministry teams and Meetups, and also what has been happening in my YouTube account. There seemed to be a genuine interest in the pastor who, though he had suggested the Internet as a ministry field, hadn’t really had any firsthand experience with it. In fact, I hadn’t even really considered suggesting YouTube as a singular field until I shared my recent experiences with the class.
Not everyone can make their own video, but my suggestion to readers who would like to try a YouTube ministry is to start viewing the ones already out there and pray for and reply to the comments of persons you sense are hurting and perhaps ready to receive a seed or some water in their journey out of darkness. You are welcome to start with this one: Why Reach Out to Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie