First and foremost Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) are a cult, but they are also human beings that deserve our compassion. Are they enemies of the Truth? Yes, but we need to separate the leaders from the followers. Just like Mormons, the rank and file are usually just gullible followers. They believe what they are taught and they don’t question authority. But, not unlike Mormons, some of their teachings are so erroneous and offensive, that we have no choice but to take a stand against their false doctrine.
So what is the best way to witness to a Jehovah’s Witness?
There are actually several approaches that might be effective, but every person is different and there are several possible environments that you may be in when you encounter them so we’ll start off by dividing the approaches into two main categories:
(1) Long Term Approach
(2) Short Term Approach
The Long Term Approach is where you learn their doctrine inside and out and learn how to overcome their erroneous conclusions. This method could take weeks, months, or years.
The Short Term Approach is more like guerilla warfare. In other words, if all you have is five minutes, then there is one gem of a way to witness to them. It stops them in their tracks and seriously gets them to doubt their own false teachings. This approach is probably the best way to witness to them unless you are really versed in the Scriptures and are really comfortable with long term, in-depth Bibles studies with very well trained Scripture twisters. You really don’t want to tangle with Mormons or JWs unless you know the Word thoroughly and have studied their tactics. In the process of reaching out to those in a cult, the last thing we want to see is you or someone you know get sucked into their organization by falling for their slick appearance or well-polished propaganda.
LONG TERM APPROACH
This study is not meant to go in depth on the topic but to just give you a starting point. There are many other issues that we could bring up, but in the interest of time, we are just going to stick with the basics. There are many good books available at your Christian bookstore or online that can give you a more comprehensive education on the topic, but this will give you plenty of info to bet the ball rolling. Don’t forget, the Short Term Approach can be used to launch your conversations with the JWs, too, and we’ll get to that at the end of our study.
A Brief History
The JWs were founded in 1879 by Charles Taze Russell. Russell was a very proud and arrogant man who claimed that the Church had disappeared from the planet in the fourth century under the leadership of Constantine, and that God (excuse me, “Jehovah”) had called him to restore the Church and call all men back to the foundations of Truth.
When Russell died in 1916, he was succeeded by another false prophet, Judge Joseph Rutherford, who not only continued their erroneous trajectory, but added some of his own unbiblical nonsense.
The JWs are best known for going door to door giving away copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. They usually travel in pairs, and unlike the Mormons (who dress in a white shirt with a black tie) the JWs are a little less conspicuous as they usually just wear normal, everyday street clothes.
But they are equally known for wrongly predicting the end of the world. Walter Martin sometimes referred to them as False Prophets, Incorporated. Russell boldly proclaimed that Christ would “invisibly” return in 1874, and culminate in a “visible” return in 1914 and begin His physical rule and reign of Paradise Earth. The problem with predicting the return of Christ is if you get the date wrong, you’re toast. You are washed up, it’s time to flush you and your doctrine down the commode. Unless…you have established a subculture of blind and fearful obedience, then your followers will just assume the best. Somehow your false prophesy was their fault. You are such a godly man and you have been under such a heavy workload that it’s understandable that maybe you just forgot to move that decimal point. Nobody’s perfect, right? But God has an issue with you playing fast and loose with the Truth. God said in Deuteronomy 18:20 and 13:1 that if a man gives forth a revelation or a prophecy and it doesn't come to pass, you are to consider him to be a false prophet, and you are not to listen to a word he has to say!
If you are going to claim that you are God’s Man of the Hour, “chosen to restore the Truth of the Gospel,” then you best get your facts straight. I think that’s why God allows these false teachers to be overcome by a reprobate mind. When they are teaching their false doctrine, usually they take Satan’s lead by just slightly twisting the truth. Satan always quotes Scripture, but it’s usually either out of context or just slightly off center. But that’s all he needs. If he can get you off your trajectory by just one degree today, in five years you are completely off the path, heading out into the stratosphere. So rather than letting folks being led astray by false teachers, God allows their power hungry arrogance to take over and they begin to see themselves as a Prophet. This inevitably leads to them to predict the Second Coming, which is fine if you get the date right. The problem is, you WON’T get the date right because Jesus, said that, “No man knows the day or hour” of his return.
You would think that someone who is bright enough and influential enough to start a new religion or a cult, would be smart enough to set the date far enough out that they would be dead and gone by then. But in order to get their followers stirred up (and get their hands in their follower’s pockets) they go down that perilous path and set the date in the near future. We saw this in 1988 with Edgar C. Whisenant’s “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988” and in 1994 and in 2011 with Harold Camping falsely predicting the end of the world.
So for the JWs and Russell, 1914 comes and goes with no visible return of Christ. What’s a false prophet to do? Revise the date of course! So Russell swallows his pride, claims a “senior moment” and recalculates the date to 1915. Rats! 1915 comes and goes, too. Still no visible return. Russell probably learns from his mistake a pops the date a bit further to 1918 and hits the jackpot. The false prophet jackpot, that is. Because he dies in 1916. His successor, Judge Rutherford is then left holding the bag of Russell’s dynasty and has to deal with the aftermath of the erroneous date once again. Rutherford though, was just as crafty as Russell and comes up with a conclusion that only the most gullible and blind followers would swallow, and that was that it DID actually happen, but for whatever reason, Jesus decided at the last moment to only allow the most faithful to witness His Return. “Yeah, Jesus showed up at the church headquarters the other day and said he decided to Rule and Reign from…uh… from… Brooklyn, yeah…that’s the ticket!” And the “faithful” bought the story, hook, line and sinker.
So what are some of the other areas of concern when it comes to the JWs?
Are they considered to be a cult just because of Russell’s false prophecies? I wished that it ended there, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The Name of Jehovah
The JWs have some sort of perverse fascination with the name of God. No one really knows His Name for sure because the ancient Jews were afraid to pronounce His Name or even write it down. Because the original Old Testament manuscripts were written in Hebrew (without vowels) all we have to go by is the tetragrammaton: “YHWH.” The problem is that we don’t even have a verbal or oral tradition to guide us because the Jews didn’t even use the name Jehovah as much as “Adonai” which simply means “Lord.”
When Jesus spoke about God, He always referred to Him as “Father.” When Jesus taught us to pray, He taught us to refer to God as “Our Father in Heaven.” So referring to our Father by His name, rather than His title was frowned upon by Jesus. Likewise, I never called my Father by his first name, I just called him “Dad.” Anything else would be impersonal. Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.’” “Abba” means “Daddy,” and God clearly prefers “Daddy” over a possible mispronunciation of YHWH.
The Trinity and the Deity of Christ
The JWs not only deny the Diety of Christ, they go so far as to say that Jesus is actually just Michael the Archangel. And since in their mind, Jesus is not God, then the Trinity (the Tri-Unity of God) must also be false. Their rejection of the Trinity is bolstered by the fact that the word “trinity” in never found in the Bible. The word “bible” is never found in the Bible either, but that does not negate its existence.
Historical, orthodox Christianity has always taught the doctrine of the Trinity. Not everyone agrees with the exact same definition, but most Believers embrace some form of this statement:
“There is only ONE God, Who has revealed Himself in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
The most common analogy is the egg (shell, white and yolk).
Or sometimes water is used as a comparison, in that it can be a liquid, vapor or ice.
Obviously all analogies are man-made and break down at some point and are only used to clarify what we read in Scripture. But it is Scripture that is God breathed and we really only need let God speak for Himself.
No one denies the Deity of God the Father, so the doctrine of the Trinity stands or falls on the Deity of Christ. This is exactly where the JWs go up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Russell falls down and breaks his crown and Rutherford comes tumbling after. They deny that Jesus is God. But what do the Scriptures teach?
The most well-known and clear and obvious verses are John 1:1, John 14:9 and Colossians 1:15-17.
John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
In John 14:9, Jesus, Himself, said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”
Colossians 1:15-17 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”
Personhood of the Holy Spirit
The JWs teach that the Holy Spirit is not the third person of the Trinity. In fact, they teach that the Holy Spirit is not personal at all, but that he (it?) is actually just “God’s Active Force.”
But can a “force” bear witness to our spirit? "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." (Romans 8:16)
Can a “force” intercede? Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26)
Can a “force” have a mind? "Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." (Romans 8:27)
Can a “force” have a will? "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." (I Corinthians 12:11)
Can a “force” be grieved? “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)
Just because the Bible talks about the “power of the Holy Spirit,” this does not negate His Personhood. And although the Holy Spirit is probably the most mysterious person of the Godhead, His personhood is never in question.
SHORT TERM APPROACH
The Short Term Approach is meant to drop a bomb on their undeserving devotion and blind trust in the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. A friend taught this to me years ago and I have found it to be the most effective tool in witnessing to a JWs, when your time to interact is limited.
It usually starts off with a knock on your door…
“Hi! My name is David and this is my friend Robert and we were just wondering if we could leave you some literature about solutions for day to day problems. They are free!”
“Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
“Er..well…yes, as a matter of fact we are. So you have heard of us?”
“Yes. Yes, I have.”
“All good I hope…so can we give you this FREE helpful literature?”
“Well, to be honest, I am really strapped for time right now and I don’t really have time to read literature that you yourself do not believe.”
“Whaaaat? What do you mean, “literature that we don’t believe?”
“Well, you are passing out literature…that you don’t actually believe.”
“I’m not tracking with you right now. Why in the world would we be passing out literature that we don’t believe?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know why you pass out literature that you don’t believe, therefore, I have a hard time talking the literature, since you don’t actually believe it yourself.”
“To be honest, I’m not really sure why you keep saying that we don’t believe our own literature.”
“Well like I said, I am really pressed for time, but if you have 60 seconds, I can prove to you that you don’t actually believe your own literature.”
“OK, so, you’re saying that in 60 seconds, you can prove that I don’t believe the literature that I am passing out. Correct?”
“Alright. This should be good. Go for it. I’ll give you 60 seconds to prove that I don’t believe my own literature.”
“OK. Great. Start the timer…Is it true that you deny the Deity of Jesus Christ?
“Yes, we do not believe that Jesus is God. We believe that he is the Archangel Michael.”
“So, you have your own translation of the Bible right?”
“Yes, it’s called the New World Translation.”
“And you believe it to be 100% correct, do you not?”
“Yes, the New World Translation is the only true translation of the Bible and it is 100% correct.”
“Can you read it for me?”
“Of course. I never leave home without it. What would you like me to read?”
“I would like for you to read John 1:1”
“Sure, let me look that up…John…one…one. OK, here it is,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”
“Now, you know that all other translations of the Bible say, “The Word was God” they don’t add the word “a” in there like you do.”
“Yes, I am aware of that. That’s why the New World Translation is more correct and more accurate.”
“Well since neither of us are scholars of the Greek language, we’ll go ahead and say that your translation is accurate. I don't personally believe that, but because we only have a few seconds left, let’s just go with your translation. But at least there is one thing we can agree on, we are both Monotheistic, right? We both believe that there is only One True God, right?”
“Correct, and his name is Jehovah.”
“OK, great. Now would you agree with me that there is only One True God, but there are many false gods, right?”
“That is correct. Satan is even called the “god” of this world.”
“You are right! So that means there are only two classifications of Gods, true or false. Satan is a false god, right?”
“That is correct.”
“Now, your translation of the Bible, the New World Translation, says that Jesus is “a” god, right?"
“So tell me, my friend, is Jesus a true God or a false god?”
“Hey, buddy, you’re starting to stutter a bit there, I’m not quite sure what you said. I asked you if Jesus is a True God or a false god. You said that Jesus is a god, and you said there are only two choice, so what is it? Is Jesus a true God or a false god?”
“I know what you are doing! You are trying to trick me into saying that Jesus is a true God!”
“No, friend, I’m not. I am just trying to show you that you don’t believe your own literature, because your 100% percent correct translation of the Bible says that Jesus is a god, and you teach that there is only One True God and that means that either Jesus is THE God or a false god. So which is it?”
“Uh, would you look at the time, I was supposed to meet someone right now so I better let you go…”
“No problem, friend. Come back sometime and we can chat again.”
So that’s the Short Term Approach. It’s short and sweet and goes for the jugular of their false doctrine. Virtually all cults deny or change the Deity of Christ or the nature of God in some way, and the JWs are no different. Since denying the deity of Christ is a foundational tenet of the JW theology, you just loosened the stranglehold that they have on that persons heart, soul and mind. Did you lead him to true freedom in Christ? Probably not, but you did plant a seed. A seed of doubt in his faith in the Watchtower, and a seed of faith in the Truth. Paul said I Corinthians 3:7, “” One man plants, another waters, but God gives the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but it is God who gives the increase.”
That is our job, to plant seeds. To speak the Truth in Love. To allow anyone to believe false doctrine is not love. We must be willing to reach out to those who have fallen into the snare of the cults and share the Truth with our neighbor.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the so-called good people walked past the wounded stranger. But one faithful soul stopped and gave aid.
Luke 10:25-37 says, “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’
He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’
So he answered and said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’
And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.’
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’
Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’
Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.”
So rather than slamming the door in their face, the next time a JW knocks on your door…be a good neighbor and ask him if he believes his own literature.