A couple Jehovah’s Witnesses came by the other day and we visited for a while. What would you think about my approach if you knew that I made the following points?
- They weren’t telling the truth when they said they weren’t trying to convert me
- They are in the wrong religion
- Their religion has characteristics of a cult
- They are worshiping the wrong Jesus
- Their New World Bible has some deliberate mistranslations
- If you really love Jesus you’ll want to ensure you understand his nature properly
- Hell is real
They must have thought I was a big meanie, right? Just another one of those jerky know-it-all judgmental Christians.
Nope. I made all those points quite clearly, yet the way I navigated the conversation resulted in the lead guy sincerely telling me at least three times what a nice guy I was (I give a lot of credit to Stand to Reason and Greg Koukl’s book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions for this approach).
Now we all know I’m as friendly as a basket full of puppies (We do know that, right?!), but you usually wouldn’t expect that reaction after I just made all those points about their religion. So what made the difference? Things like this:
- I focused on the Bible, because we both claim that is the word of God.
- I stuck to a few key points: John 1:1* (which I knew they’d have a ready response to, even though I could counter it), John 1:3** (they weren’t ready for that), the JW rule about them not being allowed to take written materials from me, and that their New World Bible translation has easily identifiable errors. I continually referred to the real Jesus — the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the creator in Genesis 1 and John 1, the one whose descriptions are used synonymously with those of God in the Old Testament, etc.
- I told them I appreciated how they cared enough to go out and share what they think is true.
- I used common foes (Mormonism, Islam) as examples before addressing the JW theological errors.
- I noted that it doesn’t bother me that they think I’m wrong and that I think they are wrong, so we can have a friendly discussion on where we differ. We were both trying to convert each other, and that’s OK. The question was the content of our arguments.
- I realized I had said “JWs” instead of their religion’s full name then sincerely apologized if they found that shortcut offensive. They didn’t, noting that they use it themselves, but my desire to avoid unnecessary offense seemed to resonate with them.
- I listened carefully when they made their points.
- We had some friendly chit-chat interspersed with the theological discussions (one guy was from Italy, so we talked a little about that).
- It was a hot day (August in Texas!) so I gave them each a bottle of cold water as they left.
- I gave them one of my “business” cards that has my church information, email address and blog site. I know they are unlikely to visit, but I smiled and encouraged them to come spy on what the Protestants are up to.
Where these guys end up theologically is between them and God, but I was pleased with the interaction. It always glorifies God when you speak the truth about him, regardless of how people respond. And it definitely planted some seeds. The lead guy was going to take the John 1:3 objections back to one of their experts to try and respond to me. And my comments on the textual criticism issue seemed to stick with them (i.e., that with the thousands of manuscripts we’ve found around the world from different centuries we know that the New World translation has errors).
I admit that I find using these tactics much easier in person than on-line. But they do work. I encourage you to try them if you haven’t already. You can’t control their reactions, but you can speak the truth in love.
*Their Bible ends John 1:1 with “a God” instead of “God.” (The right version: John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.)
**They haven’t mistranslated John 1:3 (All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.), so you can show the logic of how Jesus can’t be a created being. This can be used with Mormons as well.