This is a classic feature article from the July/August 1991 issue of the Bethel Ministries Newsletter edited by ex-Jehovah's Witness and former Watchtower Headquar ters staffer Randall Watters. It still has relevance today.
HOW TO WITNESS TO JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND SUCCEED!
What You're Up Against
Many of you may be under the impression that Jehovah's Witnesses joined the Watchtower due to the attractive doctrines they present. While this is a factor in mo st cases, more powerful motivations are at work in the conversion and indoctrination process of the Watchtower.
Studies involving persons who are ex-members of various cultic religions reveal a com mon factor in their indoctrination. The common factor is not low intelligence, genetic predisposition, or even gullibility. May who join cults are very intelligent, idealistic and even skeptical at first. The common factor is vulnerability, caused by a ch ange of circumstance in a person's life, such as a new job, a recent divorce or broken relationship, or at a time of pain or insecurity in one's life. Such a change of circumstances can shake oneÕs foundation, allowing him/her to question beliefs p reviously settled or not open to discussion.
All of us like to think of ourselves as being objective, able to make wise decisions and to think clearly, considering all the options. But strong emoti onal factors often cloud our thinking or drive us to a conclusion before all the facts are considered. LetÕs use the example of a friend who goes to buy a used car from a car dealer.
John i s looking for a good transportation vehicle. He prefers a four door for the wife and kids, even though he will be using the car most of the time (she has he own.) He is willing to spend up to $10,000 if necessary. While on the lot, he notices a snappy red sports car that he has often admired on the streets. He tells himself, "No, don't be crazy, you donÕt want to spend all that money on the car and insurance, not t speak of the likelihood of getting tickets!"
The salesman notices his interest in the car immediately, and begins to talk the car up. He has John take it for a test drive. ("What he heck, why not?") The salesman touts the car's horsepower, the leather interior, the stereo, and even works up payments to lessen the impact of its $15,500 price tag. Because John is emotionally predisposed toward the car, he ignores the shoddy paint job, the tell-tale signs of a previous wreck in the body panels, and transmission tr oubles when shifting. The salesman, of course, will not point out these things because he wants to sell the car. Before he knows it, John is driving the car home.
John's wife Linda sees him drivin g up and goes out to greet him. "John, what have you done?" Immediately his defenses go up for two reasons. One, he has always loved these particular cars and secretly wanted one for the last two years. Who is she to keep him from what he knows will make him happy? She just doesn't understand! Secondly, he already feels a little guilty for making such a quick decision without checking everything out, and he doesn't what to face the possibility of being wrong or foolish. So he must become defensi ve and defend his purchase. John gets angry with his wife.
Note several things:
John did not buy the sports car because it was the most pr actical thing to do. He did no research on the car by reading Consumer Reports or asking other car owners. He took the word of a biased party, the salesman. He did not take a mechanic with him to check the car out. In other words, John did not make an obj ective decision, but bought it from other, more powerful motivations. Yet, if you ask him, John will tell you that he made the right decision.
This is much like the person who becomes a Jehovah's Witness. Whether it is a housewife who is lonely and needs friends or a young man who is insecure and needs to see the meaning of life, the emotional and psychological motivating factors will prevent the person from weighing all the facts if the Watchtowe r offer something that they really want. Often it is a sense of community and caring atmosphere in the Witnesses that is so attractive. The prospect of having instant friends to a lonely person is a very powerful drug in itself! Furthermore, the ability t o see the world in clear, black-and-white distinctions dispels any feelings of insecurity and insignificance. The following changes often occur in the person studying with Jehovah's Witnesses:
¥A sudden feeling of euphoria due to embracing powerful new "truths."
¥A sense of confidence oneÕs life is "straightened out."
¥Ego gratification in seeing that others are unable to refute one's position, and instead they act out of anger or other emotions.
¥Inability to entertain th oughts critical to the Watchtower's way of thinking or to dialogue with those critical of the Watchtower.
Christians often don't know what to say when they ask a Witness if they actua lly checked out the Watchtower before they got involved, and the Witness answers, "Why yes, I've read many books about the history of the Watchtower, and I even read one by an ex-Witness." What this usually means is that they read the Watchtower 's version of their own history, and that though they read a book by an ex-Witness, they saw it simply as some kind of "hate" book and were not open to any objective points being made. The potential Witness wants the Watchtower to be true so bad ly that he/she is driven to quickly dismiss any facts that may cause "dissonance," or internal struggle, over what actually is the truth. This is the equivalent of Linda trying to tell John that he made a bad decision in buying the sports car. H e simply does not want to hear it, and will not listen without getting emotional and storming out of the house.
In the scene involving Linda and John, it would have been great if John had brought a friend with him to the car dealership who could ask some pointed questions and pressure John to be more practical in making his decision. But is it really too late to ask questions? Maybe in the case of buying the sports car, but not with the person who has already become a Jehovah's Witness. It is never too late to seek the truth and to be willing to reshape one's life in accordance with it. The hard part is getting the Witness to think clearly and objectively.
I have discovered that the JW is only willing to entertain the possibility of the Watchtower being wrong for two reasons: (1) they have become disillusioned with the organization or the people therein (for whatever reason), and (2) they h ave become more confident and secure, and are no longer afraid to question the Watchtower. They realize their world would not fall apart if it was wrong. Sometimes people even grow beyond the need for such a rigid, controlling structure and are seeking th e freedom to think for themselves and not to just trust someone else's judgment. (See footnote 1)
Most of those who leave the Watchtower do so for the first reason (having become disillusion ed). "God's organization" becomes a human organization. The human failings, mind control and manipulation become more obvious as the years go by. Bad experiences with others in the organization temper oneÕs idealism regarding living for e ternity on a Watchtower-controlled earth. Once the idealism is lost, it is replaced with either cynicism or a searching for better things. The Witness may start voicing their disillusionment to others, though it is dangerous, as they could be turned in fo r "apostasy." Often. their criticism is limited to a few individuals, perhaps even those outside of the Watchtower organization. Sadly, however, many of these will continue in the Watchtower even when they know much of it is in error, simply bec ause they are afraid to start over or even face the insecurity of searching once more.
There are quite a few Witnesses who fit into the second category, though (being no longer afraid to question), and the Watchtower no longer holds the same attraction for them.
Because they are not primarily influenced by fear or guilt for entertaining doubts, but feel more secure with themselves, they are driven by the hope of something better than the Watchtower has to offer, and by faith in God who may be bigger than the Jehovah of the Watchtower. Often they come to the conclusion simply by looking intensely at Christ and seeing something more than the W atchtower has said about Him. One of the most influential passages to me when I was leaving the Watchtower was Col. 2:8,9 ("See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, accordin g to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form.Ó"
Encourage Positive Thoughts
< FONT FACE="Palatino">If the Christian detects that the Witness is one of the two types described above (see footnote 2) , they can do several things to encourage the Witness's thinking process. Even if the Witness is bad mouthing the organization or the people therein, if would not be well to encourage this. The goal is to get them thinking more positive thoughts, and to gain confidence in their own thinking abilities. Additionally, they will appreciate a broader view of God's grace a nd the freedom He gives. People are usually drawn towards a more positive outlook on things, and if you have nothing better to offer than criticism of the Watchtower, they won't see nay point in leaving because what you have to offer is no more attractive that what they have.
Many Christians will say that they want to offer them "Jesus," and then proceed to argue the Bible with the Witness. This almost never has any good effect, as they n eed to SEE and FEEL something better. They need to see your humility, your willingness to understand them, and your desire to be their friend regardless of what they believe. In other words, they need to SEE the love of Christ, not just hear about it.
Here are some tried and tested tips for reaching the JW with success:
¥DON'T argue the Bible with them. Stay away from doctri ne initially.if they ask doctrinal questions, have a brief answer ready that will take them off guard and then direct the conversation back to more critical questions. The goal is to get them thinking and resolving difficult questions on their own, apart from the Watchtower mindset. To do this you need to ask questions that they are not "programmed" to answer. Such questions encourage them to think and reconsider why they joined the Watchtower.
¥DON'T tell them you will pray for them or that you feel sorry for them, or tell them they are brainwashed or stupid. Witnesses usually have a strong egos, and quickly take offense to a condescending attitude. Rather, say that your are interested in the Watchtower organization and why they have come to believe in it, and do they mind if they ask some questions about the Watchtower? A curious or questioning stance is not usually threatening to the Witness, but a negati ve, judgmental stance will drive them away from you.
¥DON'T show them all your literature regarding the Witnesses and their faults.This will only scare them away and they will categorize you as one who is prejudiced against the Watchtower. Read the books, but keep your points in your head, not under their noses. It will come in handy eventually.
< FONT SIZE=+0>¥DO show an interest in them. what attracted them to the Watchtower, and what they like the most about it. This will give you a clue as to their primary motivating factors, and what they are REALLY looking for in life. Speak to that need! Offer them something more fulfilling or superior to what they have.
¥DO read up on the mind control aspects of how cults work. An excellent book is Combating Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan. Experts usually address the mind control issues before they even bring out the Bible or the photocopies of their false prophecies.
¥DO pray for them! Pray specifically that God would s how them their true needs are not being met in the Watchtower, and that He would create a new hunger in them for something better. Pray for a shakeup in their lives that will initiate a more honest investigation of the Watchtower organization.
Remember to be patient. It may take months or even years to bring the Witness to openly question the Watchtower, yet love for our friends and relatives drives us to persevere and show them the love and freedom that lies just beyond the Watchtower curtain.
1. in cults, the leader is assumed to be from God or chosen by God, and is therefore qualified to interpret the Bible. The members are not to question his/her authority or interpretation, as they are considered inadequate for the t ask. When the cultist realizes that he/she is just as qualified as they are if not more so, the fear of "disobeying God"disappears and they feel some what free to entertain questions and doubts. This is a healthy process, and is even encouragedb y the Watchtower to outsiders regarding other religions, but not toward the Watchtower or JWs themselves.
2. When Christians encounter Witnesses that desire to come out of the Watchtower, th ey may come across one who fits neither of the above types, but is simply Ógung hoÓ for the Watchtower. Unless the Holy Spirit is directly working on the person, there may be little hope to plant seeds in their minds. For this purpose we hav e printed the tract, "Opening the Closed Mind,"which contains many questions to plant as "tought- bombs"in the Witness's mind.
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