What should you know when talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses?
It can get hot in the Dominican Republic, I mean really hot! Because of the heat, many churches have their Sunday service in the evening. When I first started attending a church that met in the evening, I took the opportunity to sleep in a little longer, read, and relax in the morning. After a few weeks I realized that a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses would walk by my house almost every Sunday morning. When I was out on my front porch, they would stop to talk. If I wasn’t out on my front porch, they would walk by without stopping, so I started eating my breakfast and reading on my front porch. If they came by, I would invite them for a discussion, and if they didn’t stop by, I would enjoy the cool morning air before it got hot. I soon met an elderly couple that wanted to return to my house the following week and start a Bible study with me; I gladly accepted. We began meeting almost every week to discuss Bible topics. It was through these discussions (which are still going on), and reading books about how to share with Jehovah’s Witnesses, that I learned these 6 important things.
1. Be kind and welcoming.
There were times while growing up that I would tell the JWs that I didn’t want to talk and close the door. I didn’t know what they believed and I didn’t know how to have that conversation. I then realized that these are people that need Jesus and they want to talk to me. If they want to talk to you, then you should want to talk to them. You don’t have to go looking for people to share your faith with. They are coming to you! If you are too busy to talk at that moment, see if they want to come back another day. They will almost always say yes. When they come, offer them something to drink and share the love of Jesus with them. Telling them about how they are wrong never seems to be the correct solution.
2. Keep meeting with them as long as they are willing to meet with you.
If they are willing to come to your house then I think you should continue meeting. I heard that the average Morman who becomes a Christian takes 4-6 years to convert. I assume that Jehovah’s Witnesses are close to the same. If they become a Christian, they will most likely be outcast from their family and friends; separated from everything they know. It is a big decision so don’t stop talking to them because they don’t change their mind after one meeting. Give them time to process what you are saying and keep welcoming them back as long as they are willing.
3. Be prepared
It’s easy to start talking about something that we don’t know much about. When we start to “shoot from the hip” we become less effective. The great Christian philosopher and debater, William Lane Craig, says the best way he prepares for a debate is understand the points of the other side and to have a response for everything possible. Know what they are likely to say and know how to respond. He says the worst debates are when his opponent brings up something he is not ready for and he has to go from memory. If one of the brightest minds in Christian Apologetics doesn’t like to rely on his memory, then neither should we. Most JWs are taught how to respond to your comments; they are prepared. Now you can’t be prepared for everything, so my strategy has always been to choose a topic for the following week. This will give you a week to prepare yourself. No matter how the conversation goes, I try to stick to my notes. Find one point that you can be prepared to talk about for the first day if they randomly come to my house. I always start with an argument based on John 1:3 which I will discuss below, but every following meeting I do my best to be prepared to defend a certain issue of Christianity from all angles.
4. Stay on important points.
There are many things that may seem interesting, but really aren’t that important. I feel that when we are speaking to a person of a different religion, we need to see what makes the two religions different and discuss those issues. The biggest difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christians is our view of Jesus. Since Jesus is the foundation to Christian faith and our way to salvation, I choose to focus on Him. Who was Jesus? Is he eternal or created? Is he God or a god? Other important topics are the Holy Spirit and how we are saved. In my months of meetings we have not talked about much else. I believe that this is the major deciding line between Christians and JWs. If you can show that Jesus is God then you have made a huge stride forward. Now you may get curious and ask about random topics and that is fine. What I’m saying is that we should focus the core of our discussion on major issues. We can’t both be correct.
5. Be willing to listen
This is simple. No one wants to talk to someone that doesn’t even listen to them. Make sure you listen carefully. This will help you better understand why they think the way they do and help you ask better questions. Asking good questions will challenge them to think more deeply about their beliefs. It’s not all about winning an argument but about having a peaceful discussion and helping them see the truth.
6. Stay away from John 1:1
Now by this I mean at least in the beginning. I got this idea from Greg Koukl and I really liked it. There were two different times that I sat down with JWs and discussed John 1:1 before reading Greg Koukl’s book Faith Is Not Wishing. The problem with discussing John 1:1 is that most likely you don’t know Greek and neither does the JW that you are talking with. Hours can be spent looking at the Greek and discussing the correct translation of “God” or “a god”. Most of the time you don’t get very far. Rather than having this discussion on Greek translations, which most likely neither of you are experts in, use verses that are translated the same way in your version as well as theirs. This will eliminate one obstacle right from the beginning.
Following basic rules of logic, John 1:3 creates a problem for them. They believe that first God created Jesus and then Jesus created the rest of creation. However, in the New World Translation (the version used by JWs) John 1:3 says, “All things came into existence through him (Jesus), and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.” Based on this verse, it is impossible that Jesus came into existence, because he is the cause for everything that exists. If God created Jesus first then he would be one thing that came into existence apart from him; making this verse not true. The other option is that Jesus would have had to create himself. Since something that begins to exist cannot cause itself to exist but needs a prior cause, it shows that Jesus has to be uncaused and is therefore the eternal God. Also, Isaiah 44:24 in the NWT says, “I am Jehovah, who made everything. I stretched out the heavens by myself, and I spread out the earth. Who was with me?” How can Jesus be the creator if Jehovah created everything by himself? The only way that Jesus can be the creator and not contradict this verse is if Jesus is Jehovah.
Don’t be nervous the next time Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your house. Be friendly and be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in you.