In last week’s post, I warned you not to invite ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses to come to church with you too early in the process. The reason is that Watchtower indoctrination gives Witnesses a fear of and disdain for churches. They consider them to be false and satanic.
However, there may come a time when an ex-Witness has progressed to the point where he or she wants to visit your church.
Here’s how you can help.
Make sure they understand that the key to salvation is not finding the “right” organization but coming to Jesus himself. I recommend that you have them read John 5:39-40 and John 6:67-68. Tell them, “Jehovah’s real arrangement for salvation is that we come to Jesus and rely on him, not that we place our trust in any organization run by fallible men.”
Think about the culture shock that they will face. It’s as great as the differences you would face if you were to attend an Islamic service at a nearby mosque.
Before they decide to attend church with you, go over your church’s doctrinal statement with them. Your goal in doing this should be to make sure they don’t encounter unpleasant surprises. They probably won’t agree with all of the doctrines—at least not at first. Ask them if they still want to attend.
Make sure they understand that attending your church may involve some of the following (if applicable), which will be negative triggers for them:
• Informal attire of attenders
• Displaying of crosses
• Displaying the American flag
• Calling Jesus “God”
• Praying to Jesus
• Worshiping Jesus
• Raising of hands during worship
• Singing hymns with which they are completely unfamiliar
• Pastors wearing robes
• Choirs with choir members wearing robes
• Passing collection plates or other appeals for contributions
• Speaking in tongues or prophesying
Ask them about other concerns they may have and discuss them openly.
If they still want to attend, offer to go with them and sit with them. Make it clear that they are free to back out at any time if they decide to do so.
Sit near an exit and let them know that if they decide to leave, you will slip out with them.
After they have attended a service with you, discuss in detail their reactions to the experience. Ask them to tell you anything that troubled, upset, or confused them. Don’t argue with them but do talk through those issues with them if they are willing.
What can you do if the ex-Witness is too far away for you to attend with them?
This situation has arisen for me when some of my online correspondents have expressed interest in visiting churches in their area and have asked me for my thoughts on where to look.
Since you won’t be familiar with the churches they are considering and won’t be able to attend alongside them, I recommend that you tell them to proceed slowly. Before they try out churches they should study the Bible and decide what they are going to believe or at least what ideas they are willing to consider. Be willing to help them through this process.
Explain to them how to obtain churches’ doctrinal statements in advance online. Go over the statements yourself to make sure the church teaches sound Bible doctrine. Offer to discuss the doctrinal statement with them and answer any questions they may have.
Give them the same warnings about negative triggers that I mentioned above.
If they do decide to attend a service somewhere, follow up with them to see what they thought of the experience and to address any concerns they may have. Listen carefully to ascertain whether they have any misconceptions about the worship experience or about the teaching.
In retrospect, if it turns out that some of these precautions were unnecessary, that’s great.
Either way, your understanding of the transition issues the vast majority of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses face and your willingness to be their friend and guide at such a critical time will be a deeply appreciated example of genuine Christian love.