Jehovah’s Witnesses will provide you with a paperback copy of their study book free of charge. As I mentioned at the start of this series, the study book, What Does the Bible Really Teach? is also available online at the Watchtower website.
- Establish Safeguards
In Chapter 4 of my book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Approaching Bible Discussions in Unexpected Ways, I advised my readers to establish safeguards before you begin ongoing Bible discussions with the Witnesses.
This is especially important when using “The Watchtower Study Book Approach” explained in this series.
Don’t get overconfident and think that you know far too much about the Bible or Jehovah’s Witness’ doctrines ever to get sucked into the Watchtower organization.
First, pray about whether you are ready to use this approach. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. If he warns you off, then don’t get involved in such a study.
Second, if you do use this approach, it is wise to have one or more trusted Christian friends debrief you after each session with the Witnesses to make sure you are not lapsing into the role of a passive student. If necessary, call off the study.
Under no circumstances should you agree to let Jehovah’s Witnesses walk you unprepared into passive submission to one of their Watchtower book studies [LINK: http://daenglund.com/?p=4393].
That said, don’t just remain unprepared. If you identify important deficiencies in your understanding, continue to study my book and blog and seek out answers from other reliable Christian sources so that you will grow in knowledge and become adequately prepared for future encounters with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
My comments—both in my book and in my blog—will enable you to be both a prepared and an active participant. You will be discussing the topics set out in the Watchtower study book, but you will be addressing them your way, not the Watchtower’s way.
- Read the study book all the way through
The best way to prepare to discuss a study book chapter actively is to read it through and take notes on what the Witnesses will try to get across and why. Then—using my book and blog as resources—decide what you want to get across and why. Then prepare your discussion points accordingly.
“Bible Teach” is only 223 small-size pages (including the appendices), and its style and non-technical vocabulary make it quite readable.
There are several advantages to reading it all the way through before engaging in discussions:
- You will know what is and isn’t in it, so you won’t be caught off guard.
- You can spend more time discussing what the Bible says because you’ll be spending less time reading the Watchtower book aloud paragraph by paragraph.
- You can focus your attention on your questions rather than on the book’s study questions.
- You won’t be distracted from pursuing your questions by the Witnesses telling you that they will be answered in a future chapter because you will already know what those chapters do and don’t contain.
In his blog, Evidence Ministries President Keith Walker discusses his wife’s experiences in following this procedure. I recommend that post to you.
- Agree on a topic for each session and stick to it
Of course, you can’t discuss the entire book all at once. You’ll need to go slowly—topic by topic. Once you agree to study a book with the Witnesses, always discuss what part of their book you will be covering in your next session.
If the Witnesses surprise you by trying to steer the discussion toward a topic for which you haven’t prepared, just tell them, “That’s an interesting point. Can we take that up next time? I’d really like a chance to think about that more deeply before we talk about it.”
- Prepare thoroughly
As you prepare for each meeting, go back and use my book or blog as guides. Make your own notes on specific questions you will want to ask and points you will want to make. You shouldn’t have my materials in the room when you meet with the Witnesses, but it’s perfectly acceptable to use written notes that you have made to help you stay on track.
Also, feel free to mark key words or phrases in the study book with pen, pencil, or highlighters. Witnesses often do this with their copies of Watchtower magazines in preparation for their Watchtower studies at the Kingdom Hall. To them, it’s an indication that you are actively involved in reading and digesting the material.
As you use my materials:
- Be selective.
I try to be thorough in what I write so you will be well prepared. My book contains 13 different approaches. Each one has many facets, and my blog contains additional comments. However, you don’t have to use every approach or every suggestion I make.
The broad scope of topics in the Watchtower study book will provide you with openings to use each of my approaches. Remember, though, that your objective is to share the gospel effectively with the people with whom you are meeting, not to see how many of my approaches you can try.
God may lead you to use some and not others.
- Be flexible.
If you use a particular approach, don’t feel that you have to cover everything I have said about it.
Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to skip certain points or even to stop using a specific approach altogether.
- Use repetition appropriately.
Watchtower study books repeat a number of points in the various chapters, so you may also have to repeat some points in various contexts or during several different sessions in order to get across your thoughts to the Witnesses.
That’s fine, but don’t alienate them by beating a dead horse.
- Be prepared for the study questions.
As you will see when you get into the Watchtower study book, What Does the Bible Really Teach? (“Bible Teach”), each paragraph of the Watchtower study book is numbered and each has a study question (footnoted at the bottom of the printed page or in the text above the paragraph in the online version).
These questions assume that whatever is taught in the paragraph is true and are designed so that the student will simply repeat or paraphrase the Watchtower-approved answer from the paragraph.
You won’t respond this way, however. As much as possible, you will ignore those Watchtower questions and instead ask your own.
If the Witnesses insist on going through the study book’s questions, you will ask yourself in what way those questions simply assume the book’s teachings are correct. You will challenge those assumptions whenever necessary and get back to the approaches you prepared to use.
- Choose your battles wisely.
In my younger days, I wanted to contest every point of disagreement because I didn’t want to leave any falsehood or heresy unrefuted.
But sometimes less is better. People can only digest so much at one time. Sometimes
it’s more effective to let a point go in order to concentrate on an issue that is more important.
What is or isn’t important depends on the person with whom we are talking.
What do they need to focus on?
What do they need to hear?
The only way to know is to listen to them carefully and to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.