What should be our attitude towards Jehovah’s Witnesses?
In urban sprawl, leafy suburb or rural outback the devotees of the Watchtower organisation will be present – and active. Climate variations, language differences and cultural diversity are no barriers to these zealous propagators of ‘another gospel’. Never less than two, but usually several more, they systematically move from house to house until an entire locality has been covered. Months later they will return and repeat the process.
As we observe these people moving around our neighbourhood what is our response and, more importantly, how do we react when they come to our door? Perhaps we deliberately avoid them or, failing that, we attempt to get rid of them as soon as possible. The Jehovah’s Witnesses appear to have a profound grasp of the Bible and can quote scriptures from the Psalms to the Epistles and from other sections of the Old Testament with considerable ease. They seem to have a plausible counter-argument to whatever we say and this makes us feel apprehensive. Consequently, the less we have to do with them the better – so we steer clear of them.
However, there are many Christians who relish engaging with the Witnesses. They see it as a golden opportunity to tell them that they are members of a cult purveying the doctrines of hell. With considerable zeal, but with limited grace, they launch into these ‘deceivers’ and don’t let up until the Witnesses retreat from the door. Whilst such Christians may be motivated by a desire to see these folk converted from the grip of the Watchtower teachings, they go about it the wrong way. The regrettable outcome is that an argument might be won, but an opportunity is lost.
It is disappointing to hear brethren boasting that the Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t come to their door in future. They draw pleasure from knowing that as a result of previous encounters with them, the Witnesses bypass their home and go to their neighbour’s house. What is more grieving is to observe believers displaying a smug self-satisfaction derived from having put these heretics ‘in their place’. Certainly, we don’t want to be taken in by the false teachings of the Watchtower organisation, nor do we want to bid these door to door workers ‘God speed’. However, there’s another way we can respond to these people that’s not stimulated by apprehension, neither is it confrontational.
Although we may view the Jehovah’s Witnesses as cultist, pedalling damnable heresies and deceiving our neighbours, let’s also see them from another perspective. As far as their souls are concerned these people are no different to what we were before God saved us – lost and needing to hear the gospel. This glorious, life-giving, emancipating message declares that ‘God so loved the world’ – a world that incorporates the several million Jehovah’s Witnesses. So, when they arrive at our home let’s accept it as a mission field that has volunteered to come to our doorstep.
We need to realize that the Witnesses who come to our houses are not so much the deceivers as the deceived. Through a systematic process of indoctrination they have been duped into believing that everything the Watchtower organisation tells them is not only right but is the only truth. If we attack and vilify them we play right into their hands because they have been taught that the godly will suffer persecution. As they walk away from our doors having been verbally assaulted, they genuinely believe that this is evidence that they are serving Jehovah. They are serving Him and being persecuted for it – just as the Bible says they would.
We hear much about gospel activity amongst alcoholics, the homeless, drug addicts and asylum seekers. Many churches devote considerable time and effort working with the youth or with the senior citizens in their area. Others focus on outreach to schools or utilize opportunities via Postal Bible Schools. Great compassion is shown trying to win these various souls for Christ, and rightly so. Therefore, why shouldn’t we show the same zeal and compassion to another group that need God’s salvation just as much – the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Many of us don’t really know what the Watchtower organisation believes, what information we have might be anecdotal, assumed or outdated. Christians who have a burden to reach out to these people would do well to familiarize themselves with the basic tenets of their beliefs. To assist in this there are many helpful resources available in book form, and on the internet, that will provide information regarding the doctrines and practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Rather than berating them let’s be courteous and graciously present to them what God has done for us. They don’t have a personal, vital, living relationship with God and have no experience of an indwelling Holy Spirit – we do, so let’s tell them about it. After they leave, let’s earnestly pray that the Spirit of God will take merciful dealings with them and bring them to repentance and faith.
In most facets of evangelism we have to get out to where the people are and seek to reach them. Evangelizing to Jehovah’s Witnesses is so different – they come to us and stand at our doorstep! May we, being moved with a love for their souls and a longing for their eternal salvation, be witnesses to them!