My friend, Michael Clark, manages to get into extended discussions with a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I asked him to write this guest post explaining how he does this and offering advice for those of us who would like to do so as well.
When making contacts with Jehovah’s Witnesses, the first impression is the most important. Behavior psychologists call this the “halo effect”. It is extremely difficult to change a first impression once it has been established. In the first meeting do not try to convert the person.
Think about the first time that you met a new friend that you came to admire. Many times we become friends with people because we feel as if we can open up and be ourselves around certain people. We can relate to the other person, and we can “buy-in” to their purpose. If your main purpose is to convert every Witness, then do not be surprised if they do not “buy-in” to your purpose in meeting with them. I prefer a more modest approach, which is to get to know the person that I want to meet with.
The key for anyone who wants to minister to Jehovah’s Witnesses is to show interest. If you are not interested in what they believe, then they will not waste their time. In most cases Christians meet Witnesses and engage in Bible Ping Pong, bouncing proof texts back and forth until the other person gives up and leaves. They are trained for this tactic, and they are good at it. Instead of entering into a battle for position, I recommend letting the person know that you are interested in their approach to disciple-making. Let them know that you are impressed with their door to door work. It is difficult to get angry at someone who is impressed with something that you do.
When Witnesses knock on your door it will be tempting to immediately explain your beliefs and teach them the truth. However, if you do this, most of them will simply offer a magazine and walk away, never to return. If they believe that your agenda is to teach them, they will view you as unteachable.
There are some tactics to get around that which I hope to share in future posts. Just remember that it is not your job to impress them. You are not trying to sell them anything. As a person who is interested in what they believe, they have to convince you. If you are meeting with someone who you cannot connect with, then do not study with them. Do not ask to study with them. Pray that God leads the right person in your path, then make yourself available.
Some Christians will immediately ask them questions that they cannot answer, or will immediately show them contradictions in the New World Translation (NWT) with other Bibles, or will show them that the NWT does not even agree with what they teach. All of these things can be effective at the right time, but unless they know you, they have no reason to trust you. It could be that you are trying to deceive them; at least that is what they might think.
If you bombard Witnesses with challenges they will go to their elders, and the elders will likely tell them not to meet with you. Too much information will overwhelm them and will making meetings uncomfortable, and they will view you as an enemy. Don’t be surprised if the Witnesses you are meeting with come across as distant and unwelcoming.
For this reason, meeting Jehovah’s Witnesses and discussing spiritual matters can be painfully challenging. Coming across as an opponent who sees them as a cult member, someone who is spiritually blind, or an enemy usually only draws them closer to their held beliefs. In their mind, they must be in the truth or they would not be getting persecuted in this fashion.
The goal for anyone who wants to seriously make a difference and communicate effectively with Jehovah’s Witnesses is to treat them as you would a friend. If your best friend or sibling were a Jehovah’s Witness, most likely you would be patient, loving, and respectful.
When you meet with the Witnesses, you can use the approaches explained in David Englund’s coming book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses. He will be explaining these approaches on his blog as well.
Have you had Jehovah’s Witnesses unexpectedly break off meeting with you? Did this article help you understand why that may have happened? What would you do differently next time?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
Coming next: Stage 3 of a Witnessing Relationship: Treading Lightly