Several times, I have had to learn lessons about witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses the hard way.
The effective use of silence is one of them.
- You don’t have to answer every point.
Have you ever watched a scholastic debate competition?
The participants’ scores go up the more arguments they make and the more evidence or supporting quotations they present.
Conversely, their scores go down whenever they fail to present convincing evidence to refute an argument their opponents have made or—even worse—when they fail to address a particular argument of their opponent at all.
Because of this scoring system, the debaters talk nonstop. They also talk very rapidly, trying to cram in as much as they can in the allotted time.
Those techniques might win you scholastic debate medals, but they aren’t the way to get through to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Why not? Because as Christians, we aren’t trying to win a scholastic debate competition; we are trying to win souls.
It took me years to learn that silence is sometimes more effective.
Having served as a trial judge for 12 years, I can tell you that skilled advocates choose their verbal battles wisely. They decide which issues are critical and which are not. They let minor points go unanswered and instead focus their attention on the critical ones.
- Don’t gild the lily.
Skilled advocates sense when they have made a persuasive point and then they slow down and even stop talking in order to let that point sink in.
I confess that for many years I made the mistake of doing just the opposite in talking with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I would have them read a couple verses from Romans that contradicted Watchtower teaching on some matter. They would pause to try to come up with an answer.
But the silence made me uncomfortable.
So I made the mistake of blunting the effect of the point I had just made by breaking the silence in order to press my “advantage.” Before they replied to the verses in Romans, I took them into Ephesians where Paul made a similar point. Then I switched to a related point in 1 Peter. I piled on more and more evidence (more verses) and more and more arguments.
If we had been competing in a scholastic debate, I would have won hands down.
But I didn’t get through to the Witnesses.
I didn’t allow them time to let my best points sink in.
In fact, by distracting them from a passage that was having an impact, I sabotaged my own efforts.
- When you “win,” stop talking.
A fellow judge once told me a story about a lawyer who was notorious his nonstop talking.
At the end of a long hearing, the lawyer was making an even longer closing argument. The judge interrupted and said, “Mr. Snooks (not his real name), let me cut this short. I’ve heard the evidence and I’m going to rule in your client’s favor unless you keep going and talk me out of it.”
Guess what Mr. Snooks did.
Undeterred, he droned on and on nonstop for another 20 minutes. When he finally ended, the judge said, “Well, Mr. Snooks, you talked me out of it.” The judge promptly ruled against him and left the courtroom.
What’s the application of this (true) story to your efforts to get through to Jehovah’s Witnesses?
If a Jehovah’s Witness ever goes silent staring at a Bible text or trying to come up with a satisfactory answer for a question you asked, you have “won”—at least temporarily.
When that happens, don’t break the silence.
Silence is golden.
It gives the Holy Spirit time to work. Use the period of silence to pray (silently!) for God to open their eyes.
Once they respond to you, don’t rush to reply.
Instead, take time to think about what they have said and how they said it. Pray for wisdom as to what to say next or even whether to say anything at all.
I think you will find that your efforts to get through to Jehovah’s Witnesses will be greatly enhanced.