When Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your door, they won’t be adlibbing.
They have been well-trained in what to say in order to try to set up a series of meetings with you.
These will be meetings where they will be in charge and hope to systematically teach you Watchtower doctrine until you are ready to become a Jehovah’s Witness yourself.
Today, I’m going to walk you through that process so you’ll know what they will do and why.
The Initial Encounter
The opening encounter on your doorstep will be relatively low key. They will try to build rapport with you by discussing common concerns—crime, wars, disease, the economy, and the like.
They’ll ask you if you think things will ever get better.
Whether you express optimism, pessimism, or uncertainty, they will offer you “a hopeful message from the Bible” about God one day setting things right and turning the earth into a paradise.
They will leave some free literature with you and get your permission to come back in a week and answer any questions you may have.
During the return visit, they will ask if you would like to learn more about the Bible’s hope for the future, and they’ll offer you a no-obligation “free home Bible study” to be conducted at your convenience in your own living home.
Establishing Their Dominance
Assuming you agree, at the first “home Bible study” meeting, they will establish their roles as teachers and your role as their student. They will do this in a low key way.
They will encourage you to ask questions as you go along.
Of course, this establishes them as the Bible experts, the ones with the answers.
The “Bible Study” Becomes a Watchtower Book Study
You will soon discover that the promised “free home Bible study” is really a study of a Watchtower book designed to teach you the organization’s interpretations of the Bible. Witnesses will present this matter-of-factly as a systematic way of exploring Bible topics one-by-one rather than trying to wade through the entire Bible.
They will give you a study book which will be approximately a 20-chapter paperback. Despite its length, the size won’t be intimidating at all. Pages will be relatively small and will contain photos and illustrations as well as text.
The meetings will last about one hour apiece.
Witnesses are usually not in a hurry. They know this study process takes time—anywhere from six months to a couple of years. They know they will have to overcome questions, reluctance, and objections. As long as they believe they are making progress, they will continue to meet with you.
There’s a personal incentive for them to keep the meetings going. They have to report their witnessing activities in writing to the congregation elders once a month, and studies are “easy time.” They get to be in someone’s home rather than being out pounding the pavement. They get to spend time with a receptive person rather than risking a hostile reaction as they go from one door to another.
Proceeding Through the Book
Often, the Witnesses will ask you to read each paragraph out loud. That’s a good way for them to make sure you are actually reading the book. It’s also a good indoctrination method. You will be the one voicing Watchtower teachings.
At first, they will allow you wide latitude to voice whatever comments or questions you wish. If you tell them you don’t understand or even disagree with something the book says, as long as you aren’t openly hostile, they will be very patient. They are there to explain things and to answer your questions.
After a short time, though, the Witnesses will suggest that you defer some of your inquiries: “This topic is discussed in much greater detail in a coming lesson. I think that will answer your question. If not, you can always bring that up again and we’ll deal with it then. Would that be okay?”
Being a polite person, most likely you will agree.
Meanwhile, the Witnesses will point out that each of the book’s paragraphs are numbered and are accompanied by “study questions.” They’ll suggest going through those questions as part of the study. Perhaps they will contain the very questions that you want to ask. If not, you can always bring up additional matters.
The book’s study questions are not designed to get you to think.
They are designed to get you to parrot back the Watchtower’s answers to the Watchtower’s questions.
Jehovah’s Witnesses see nothing wrong with this study process. It’s the way they learned Watchtower doctrine themselves, and it’s the way things are done every week during “Watchtower Studies” at their Kingdom Hall.
The key problem with this process is that the Bible context isn’t setting the agenda.
Even your own questions aren’t setting the agenda.
The Watchtower is setting the agenda.
For example, page 12 of the Watchtower’s study book, What Can the Bible Teach Us?, contains these two questions:
- What is God’s name, and how do we know that we should use it?
- What does the name Jehovah mean?
Those aren’t your questions. Those are the Watchtower’s questions.
The Watchtower-approved answers are contained in the numbered paragraphs, and the Witnesses expect you to go back to those paragraphs in the chapter and give the Watchtower’s answers.
They are no longer answering your questions. You are answering their questions.
Notice that the study questions don’t ask if you agree with the Watchtower’s teachings.
The Watchtower’s teachings are conclusively presumed to be correct, and as a student, you are expected to give the “right” answers.
If you don’t, the Witnesses will patiently take you back over that part of the book and guide you into voicing the approved answer.
I can tell you from personal experience that if you lapse into this type of passivity, you will find yourself thinking more and more like a Jehovah’s Witness, and you will start accepting without question whatever the Watchtower tells you.
The Worst Case Scenario
Needless to say, you mustn’t allow this to happen.
If you aren’t experienced in dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I strongly recommend that you have one or more Christian friends who will debrief you after each session to make sure this isn’t happening to you.
If it is, then you need to terminate your meetings.
But that’s the worst case scenario.
Student Role Teaching
Next week, I’ll explain why Jehovah’s Witnesses must be the teachers in your discussions. The week after that, I’ll explain the technique of Student Role Teaching. Specifically, I’ll show you how you can let Witnesses be the teachers and still take charge of the encounters yourself and get them to look at what the Bible really teaches.
I will also be available by email through this blog to help you.