I have been on a quest recently. For the last ten weeks I have been trying to witness to two people who have been simultaneously attempting to convert me to their religion: Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s been a rather challenging experience.
Decades ago I was a volunteer in an apologetics ministry and in one sense was much better prepared for this. We studied different religions, compared and contrasted them to biblical Christianity, in order to better witness to members of those religions and to be a conduit to inform the Church about their teachings to hopefully prevent my fellow Christians from being deceived. I used to be very familiar with the teachings of the Watchtower Society. I admit to now being very rusty about them all, but I have recently been reeducating myself about the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It’s funny, no not funny but tragic actually, but I have been a Christian for over thirty years and I have rarely spoken to someone who is a non-believer about God except for people like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons (i.e. others who have initiated the conversation). Yet when it comes to speaking about Jesus in a church-setting or amongst a group of believers, I am very comfortable about it no matter the size of the group. I have not had an opportunity to talk with Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons for several years; because it seems like they always come around my home when I am at work or elsewhere.
For most of my Christian life, I have experienced tremendous guilt over my hesitancy to share the truth of the gospel with others outside of a church. It’s not like I am in any way ashamed of Jesus and all that He’s done (and is doing for me currently, which is incredibly meaningful and important to me); I guess that I have just been afraid mainly of rejection or that I would mess it up and somehow dishonor Him. I now believe that the greater disservice to all involved is to have been too cowardly to speak up in the first place. I really envy those people who are able to be more out-going about their faith and weave it into their regular conversations as if it’s the most natural thing.
Part of the challenge of trying to witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they have a different god but use the same terminology that regular Christians do; so I have to educate them and redefine who God is before I can tell them about Him. This is far easier said than done. An additional element of this challenge for me is that the particular individuals that I am speaking with have been members of that religion for years; one of them for decades. Their beliefs are deeply entrenched within their minds.
By this time I have had an opportunity to give them my testimony, telling them how I became a Christian and sharing what God has done in my life since conversion. I have spoken with them about many topics related to the validity of their religion and whether it is worth believing in or not. I have told them how my studies have shown that their founder was uneducated about the Bible and that he was considered a heretic and a con man by the people of his day. I have shown how the people who translated their Bible had no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew and that they have changed the translation to fit their particular beliefs, even going so far as to insert words that aren’t there in the original language (to change the meaning of passages). I discovered that their leaders made several false prophecies and that many members of their religion even left when those particular prophecies didn’t come to pass. I have shown how some of their beliefs are self-contradictory and don’t even make any sense from a logical viewpoint. None of these discussions seem to have affected them outwardly about their religion or the organization that runs it.
I came to the conclusion that there must be some other reasons stronger than truth or logic that are keeping them loyal to their religion. Interestingly enough, some of what I think is keeping them there actually parallels what are the healthy elements of a good church.
They have positive relationships with people who are their friends and comrades in their organization, like a healthy church has opportunity for its members to build fellowship with one and other. They also have the strong factor of many family members being a part of the organization. So if they left their religion they would have to pay a terrible price family-wise. Another factor that is important is that this religion has a lot of ready-made answers (even if they’re very wrong) to the most important questions about God, life and the Bible. As far as that goes, I think that the saying is unfortunately true that if you say something often enough and with enough confidence (as if you are some kind of authority), you can eventually get people to believe almost anything.
Admittedly in this area, anyone who is interested in more in-depth answers involving the original languages of the Bible would quickly discover the lies and false teachings that they are propagating. However, the average American Christian is not necessarily biblically literate these days; and especially within a denomination like the Catholic church (both of these people are ex-Catholics) where Bible study is not an emphasis, this has created a group of people who are especially vulnerable to being deceived into joining a group like the Jehovah’s witnesses.
So, why do this? Why argue (politely but basically still argue) with people who are deeply entrenched in their false beliefs about God, life and the Bible? I have to admit that part of my passion about it has to do with the fact that I myself had some pretty outlandish beliefs about God before I became a Christian. In a real sense, I was where they are now. It breaks my heart to see people who are obviously deceived when they are honestly seeking to know the real God.
The other big reason is that God has enlarged my heart in the past few years to have a greater love for all people, particularly for the ones that most of us overlook. Actually I’ve always felt that way my whole life; I’ve just finally reached a place where I care enough to do something about it. I think that I’ve reached a place in my life where I fear man less because I know God more and His great love for me better and I am more secure in my relationship with Him through Christ than ever before.
I’ve also discovered the wonderful little blessing that just as God doesn’t look at the outside but on the heart, we too can love any people no matter what they look like on the outside and (here’s the beautiful part) whenever we experience any kindness expressed through them towards us, that is actually another way that God is showing His love to us.
If I don’t value those people enough to invest some of my free time to try to share the real gospel with them, then who will? To be bluntly honest, there may be some guilt from having not been a better witness in the past also. Another reason that I am seeking to witness to them is that I am seeking to be more obedient in my life as to how God wants me to live and I know that involves obeying the Great Commission. I have to admit that I don’t know many Christians who are consciously trying to be a witness for Christ in their day-to-day lives. Sure, I know many that try to live a moral life and be a witness indirectly by their good actions (which I myself do also), but how many of us have the courage to actually open our mouths and really share the good news about Jesus to people directly? So, when God brings people to my door who want to talk about Him and the Bible (my two favorite topics even though they are talking about a false version of both), I can’t miss the opportunity.
So, since I have not had success (from my limited perspective) in my pursuit of showing them the real God, have I had any good results from all of the time and effort that I’ve spent with this effort? Yes! First of all, since I have been trying to show them the truth about what I believe about God and the Bible, it has forced me to study in-depth and really search the scriptures (including the original languages); so that has served to strengthen and encourage me in my faith as I have seen firsthand the Bible verses and passages that inform and reinforce what I believe.
Secondly, it has given me greater courage to be more open about my faith with others (when the opportunity arises). I have started to have a more intentional mindset about sharing the gospel with people in general; and that is definitely a good thing. I think that it has encouraged my Christian friends to be more evangelistic also as I have shared my efforts at “dipping my foot in the pool” of being intentionally evangelistic.
Third, it helps me with feeling like my life is making a difference for the kingdom of God. As I’ve just turned fifty-one, I am becoming more concerned with making the best use of the time that I have left in this life. As I experience more challenges with my physical health and mental sharpness, it makes me treasure the opportunities that I do currently have.
Fourth, I have been reminded that this is not about the winning of an argument; it is about the saving of people’s souls. I must love these people with my words and actions right alongside with loving them enough to have a dialog about the truth concerning God, the Bible and salvation. There’s a saying that I believe in: they won’t care about what you know until they know that you care.
Fifth, it has been the working out of my faith in having to trust in the Holy Spirit to guide and empower me to be a better witness. On the days in which I have prayed more and asked for the prayers of others to support me, I have seen a noticeable difference in my interactions with the Jehovah’s witnesses.
Sixth, I have seen the reality of spiritual warfare as all kinds of things have happened to disrupt and interrupt our conversations about God. I know that God is infinitely powerful and totally sovereign compared to His enemy so I am still trying to learn the balance in this area of my life.
Seventh, I was blessed to see literally every member of my family (my current at-home family…wife, daughter, and son) speak up for their faith, each in their own unique way and that was a beautiful thing.
Finally, this experience has been the literal fulfillment of the six words that I live by: Love God; love people; and do good.
I hope that in some small way that by sharing a little bit about this experience with you, it will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, take a little risk, and be open to having a spiritual adventure in your life by trying to share the gospel directly with people, especially those you really care about.
1 Peter 3:15 says:
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you
to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect,