Why Can’t I Reach a Jehovah’s Witness?
[ Author: Sally Peterson ]
Context is the Key
Ever try to present a Bible verse that doesn’t agree with what the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, only to have them deny what the Bible clearly says? Often, Christians who have either never spoken to Jehovah’s Witnesses or are not familiar with them are totally stymied by their response. Often, they wonder, “Don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible?”
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim. 3:14, 15
A Jehovah’s Witness is taught to trust the Watchtower Organization and their interpretation of the Bible. Therein lies the problem. Often, the interpretation is actually the opposite of what the text actually says. A Jehovah’s Witness actually believes whatever the Watchtower Organization says the Bible teaches. They will often deny what is clearly stated in black and white. Their answer? “That’s what the Bible says, but that’s not what it means.”
Don’t believe this? Try showing your Jehovah’s Witness friend Revelation 19:1. Ask him why the Bible says the great crowd is in heaven, and listen to his explanation of how this really means on earth.
After these things, I heard what sounded like the loud voice of a large crowd in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God. Rev. 19:1 ISV
Get to the Root of the Problem
I read a brilliant article online by David A. Reed, taken from his book Answering a Jehovah’s Witness Verse by Verse. “Knocking down a Jehovah’s Witness’s belief system is similar to chopping down a tree. The woodsman who takes aim at the biggest and brightest leaves can swing his ax all day without results. So it is with the Christian who takes aim at prominent JW doctrines and starts swinging. The erroneous beliefs are upheld by the Watchtower Society, just as the leaves and branches are held aloft by the tree trunk. Until the woodsman takes aim at the trunk, he swings his ax in vain. Likewise with the Christian who gets into debates with JW’s over doctrine.”
The article can be read in full here: http://www.answerjw.com/jwslisten/pingpong.htm
Striking at the trunk of the tree is comparable to the Christian taking aim at the Watchtower Organization, or more accurately, the blind faith of the Jehovah’s Witness in it. Until the Jehovah’s Witness is willing to examine what he believes and compares it to God’s word, he is not ready. He is blind, indoctrinated, and will not listen to anything that is not from the Watchtower. All is not lost, however; many have reported that sharing their testimony has had an effect upon Witnesses.
The person you are speaking with is reciting what he or she has heard thousands, if not millions of times at the weekly meetings they attend, much like a telemarketer reciting a memorized script. It is said without thinking. How then do we reach them? Sharing your testimony is one way. Who can argue against a personal experience? You may think the JW will brush it aside, but the Witnesses speak to each other about you and what you’ve said once they leave your door, and it continues to gnaw at the back of their minds. It’s an excellent way to plant a seed. Often, when the time is right and the Lord is leading them out of the Watchtower, all these experiences come flooding back to their minds.
Yes, God Answers Prayer!
Sharing how God answers our prayers can also be very profound. Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that God only hears the prayers of those who use the name “Jehovah”. Often, the Organization makes it sound as if God only hears and answers Jehovah’s Witnesses. For them to find out Christians actually get answers to prayer may be the first pebble in their shoe, as they slowly realize the Organization was being less than truthful.
Another key is asking questions, particularly questions that are off script. Asking a question the Jehovah’s Witness is not prepared for, one that the Watchtower has not addressed on their website, or one that actually gets the Jehovah’s Witness to think. In most cases, the simpler the question the better.
The reason for this is two-fold. One, the Watchtower no longer trains Jehovah’s Witnesses to defend their faith. These days when they speak with people it’s in order to place magazines and point to their website. Ask a question and you will often be met with “we’re not here to argue.” They are no longer able to think for themselves, or defend what they believe.
The second reason is that they are indoctrinated, no longer able to reason from the Scriptures. It’s much like speaking with a child. Of course, there are exceptions to every case. You might come across someone who has some arguments in defense of the Watchtower that might leave you both surprised and confused. There are some elders, ministerial servants, and pioneers out there who have studied and know the Watchtower arguments very well. This is the exception rather than the rule.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have always been taught that they are teachers and ministers. You are much more apt to be successful if you present yourself as confused, or having a simple question that you hope they can help you with. Their ears perk up the moment you present yourself as a poor, confused student of God’s word. They are trained to only preach to “sheep-like ones”, meaning someone who will accept whatever they say without question.
Since the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not agree with the Bible, the minute they realize you are actually familiar with the Bible, they are apt to pack up their things and leave. Making friends with them, showing kindness, inviting them in, or offering them something to eat or drink is something they are not accustomed to, and which they deeply appreciate and respond to. Who wouldn’t? The longer you can keep them around, the more likelihood there is for some seeds of truth to be planted. Never stop praying for them!
The Power of Kindness
It’s especially important not to be combative – not to throw stones, so to speak, at the Organization, which will only cause them to become angry, defensive and then leave. More often than not, the Jehovah’s Witness will refuse to listen, view you as hateful, and you will never have them call at your home again. If that is your goal, mentioning the Royal Australia Commission and the 1006 pedophiles in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses will accomplish this. Or asking them why the Watchtower Organization joined the United Nations as an NGO charter, while claiming to be neutral, and keeping this secret from their members.
At times, this has caused some Jehovah’s Witnesses to actually investigate and discover the truth about the Watchtower Organization. I would only try this if this is a one-time visit or if you are visiting one of their literature carts or tables. If you’d like them to return and wish to speak with them again, I would recommend helping them to see that you are not their enemy, and that you genuinely care about them. Many Christians have had weekly Bible studies with them, hoping to reach them.
If you’re not familiar with what they believe, there are some simple questions you can ask for which they have precious little to defend themselves. Some topics wind up in a hopeless case of Bible ping-pong, with the Jehovah’s Witness using their out of context verses, and the Christian trying to show them what the Bible really says. Understand this: until the Jehovah’s Witness stops putting blind faith in the Watchtower interpretation of what the text says, it is hopeless – unless it is clear, obvious and not in agreement with what they believe. Even then, many topics are simply too much for the mind of a Jehovah’s Witness to accept. There are some topics that simply do not work, as far as I have seen.
Dealing with Cognitive Dissonance
The root of the problem is that they suffer from cognitive dissonance, which is the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feelings of discomfort that result from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is an inconsistency between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.
The same mental mechanism kicks in whether the topic is the nature of God, the condition of the dead, the future hope of Christians, or any other subject the Witness has been drilled repetitively at Kingdom Hall meetings and in the pages of Watchtower publications.
The minute you bring up biblical proof that the teachings of the Bible do not agree with the Watchtower, the cognitive dissonance kicks in. To lessen their discomfort, the Jehovah’s Witness will often dismiss what you say. One way to combat this is by asking the question, “What would you do, if you found out the Watchtower does not agree with the Bible? Who would you believe: God or the Organization? Do you stay loyal to Jehovah, or do you continue to trust the Watchtower magazine?”
A major problem with all Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they believe their Organization has been chosen by God. It is God’s channel, God’s spokesman, and to disagree with the Organization is to disagree with God. Showing them the February 2017 Watchtower quote (below), where the Organization admits to being neither inspired nor infallible can be helpful in combating this.
If the Jehovah’s Witness states that he or she would believe God, then he or she is ready to listen to whatever you have to present. Sadly, many continue to insist that the Organization simply cannot disagree with the Bible as it is Bible based. I then tell them it’s a rhetorical question: What if it did? Then what? This has proven successful on many occasions. If they refuse to consider the question, they are simply not ready to consider it. Sadly, many Jehovah’s Witnesses today are simply Watchtower worshipers. I’ve heard many say they don’t care if the Watchtower is wrong, and that they will stay with it until they die.
Avoid Taboo Topics
The Jehovah’s Witness is biased against both the Trinity and Hell. Trying to discuss these topics with the Jehovah’s Witness usually ends up in a heated debate which goes nowhere. Understand, the Jehovah’s Witness has been taught that Christians believe in a three headed God, who speaks to Himself, answers Himself, and sits at His own right hand. One person taking turns at being God. Obviously not the Trinity. The Watchtower sets up the straw man fallacy, pokes fun, and presents itself victorious in the argument, but they have misrepresented the Trinity. Of course, they would first have to understand what the Trinity is. I’ve yet to see a Jehovah’s Witness understand it while entrenched in the Watchtower.
Again, if you wish to reach the Jehovah’s Witness, it is best not to argue or debate doctrines but instead help him to see that questioning our beliefs and comparing them to the Bible is actually a good thing and recommended in the scriptures.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1
Each Jehovah’s Witness is different, of course. And different subjects can work depending on the background and experiences of the Jehovah’s Witness you are speaking with. If it is a young mother protective of her child, she may be alarmed enough to investigate the court cases against the Organization. See Royal Australia Commission.
If the Jehovah’s Witness you are speaking with is proudly boasting how no Jehovah’s Witness goes to war or gets involved in politics, it may be the perfect opportunity to bring up the fact that the Watchtower joined the United Nations. I would recommend setting it up with a question first. Is there any excuse for any religion to join the United Nations? Would that make them part of Babylon the great? See Watchtower and the United Nations.
“Success is possible if you treat the disease rather than the symptoms – if you swing the ax at the trunk of the tree rather than at the leaves. Chop through the trunk, and the whole tree will come down — including all the brightly colored leaves that first caught your attention.”
The single most successful argument I’ve personally used has been the mediator issue, which can be found here: A question that works with Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are more points that can work, which I will cover in upcoming articles.
May the Lord bless your efforts to reach the hearts of our Jehovah’s Witness friends!
*Quotes from David A. Reed’s book and article are included with permission from the author.