Witnessing to JW's - The Test

Do you fail the test?

Do you fail the test?

One of the most common questions I get asked about witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses is “Do you have a magic bullet?” or words to that effect. What this really means is; is there one all encompassing, completely & utterly unanswerable argument I can give to a JW on my doorstep which they cannot possibly refute? No, there is not.

I have tried everything I can think of to engage JW’s in a rational discussion, but sooner or later the conversation goes pear shaped. By that I mean, they will not persist in a doorstep conversation which looks like it will humiliate them in front of their peers. I can understand that.

That’s why I try to speak to them one on one. The doorstep moments are almost a waste of time (I know I shouldn’t speak like that, but they are not comfortable for anyone are they?). However, there are plenty of ways to leave each one of them with a sleepless night. That now becomes my goal in these doorstep debates.

Apart from that, who can ever remember those ‘bulls eye’ verses when the heat is really on? JW’s seem to have us on toast here. The heart starts pounding, the head gets giddy, the mouth is dry. We need to stop making these encounters a test of who can quote the most Scripture.

Hopefully, I will get the chance to befriend one of these folk and chat regularly to them about something more important than the latest war or moral issues. I want them to confront the person and work of Jesus and so that is where I head with them as quick as I can.

Having said all of that, I will now offer you one bow to put in your quiver; one argument which I have found success with over the years. It’s not a magic bullet, but it has stopped them in their tracks several times. I call it “The Test” and you don’t need to memorise much Scripture to use it.

First I need to set it up.

House to house witnessing

Quite often, the JW’s will tell us that it is obvious they are the only true Christians in the world because only they go door to door witnessing. When they say this, we wince a bit because we don’t generally do much of it (and it is probably the least effective method there is) but as the saying goes, any method is better than no method. If you don’t do any witnessing, then the JW’s have a point, don’t they?

This, apparently, they get from Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 24:14;

 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world”.

 They obviously don’t think whatever it is we do is preaching.

But there’s a bit more to it. In Luke 10 we read of Jesus sending the 72 out to witness “two by two”. Even the JW’s don’t always go “two by two” these days, there are often more, but they definitely see this verse as an endorsement of their practice.

Imagine the shock they get when they read verse seven;

Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. (Luke 10:7)

It’s almost too good to be true. Jesus actually tells them not to go door to door! But this really only deals with a trivial issue. Witnessing is good wherever you do it no matter how many you have with you so of course Jesus does not stop us going to our neighbours. More importantly, this passage deals with the specific mission of the 72, not what we might do today. Context!

Nevertheless, they keep using this “We’re the only ones” argument. For them, it is proof of legitimacy. It makes them feel assured that they are “in the truth”. (nb “In the truth” is JW speak for someone who is a true Christian. ie a JW)

There a two other verses they sometimes quote in support of the house to house method.

  • Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 5:42)
  • You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. (Acts 20:20)

Fair enough, but these verses are only descriptions of what the early Church did, not commands to do it. By that I mean, Acts 5 and 20 are not teaching passages on the subject of witnessing. Besides, it is possible the houses being referred to are in fact Churches. After all, they met in houses did they not?

Former Jehovah Witness David A. Reed refers to these verses in his book Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses Subject by Subject;

In both verses, however, the expressions translated “from house to house” in Acts 5:42 can also mean “in every house” (KJV), “at home” (American Standard Version), “in private houses” (The Twentieth Century Version). [Baker Books, 1996, pg 142]

You might also ask a JW to show you an actual account of door to door witnessing in the Bible. They are few & far between, but we’re getting a bit off the track. As usual, the JW’s have milked these verses for more than they are worth, but there is not a lot to be gained from this argument so we will move on.

So what is the test?

After you have debunked their “we’re the only ones” claim, you are now in a position to say “No, we’re the only ones”. Thankfully you are not going to take that opportunity, but you do have an alternative qualification test.

 In 2 Corinthians 13, Paul says this to the Church;

 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Cor 13:5)

 And there is the test. It should not come as a surprise that the real test of legitimacy is that “Christ Jesus is in you”. It is a simple test of conversion. Have you accepted Jesus as Lord?

JW’s are very suspicious of anyone who claims to be indwelt by a spirit. The Holy Spirit to them is “God’s impersonal active force”. A bit like electricity, unlike a person and definitely not God. So at this point they are going to look at you as though you are dangerous. They will be trying to work out exactly what they’re dealing with.

 The closest thing we might experience is having a conversation with someone who turns out to be a practising Satanist. A non-Christian seems far less threatening than someone who is demon possessed!

 Setting it up

So let’s have an imaginary conversation with a JW on your doorstep. Christian (that’s you!) and JW have been chatting for a few minutes when our friend drops into the conversation the thought that he represents the true faith.

 JW -               We believe Jehovah is going to put an end to all wars soon.

Christian -     Yeah, so do I.

JW -               So you believe in God then?

Christian -     Yes, I attend the local Evangelical church.

JW -               I’m sorry to hear that.

Christian -     Why?

JW -               Someone who believes in God should be in his true church.

Christian -     Well, I am. We preach the Gospel.

JW -               Do you go door to door like us?

Christian -     Well, I chat to my neighbours regularly & share my faith when I can, but I don’t go out regularly for the specific purpose of door to door evangelism.

JW -               Well you’re not in the true church because it says in Matthew 24 “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come”.  [Note: the Bible JW’s use, called the New World Translation is different to ours, but more on that another day.]

Christian -     Yeah, but it doesn’t say Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only true Christians.

JW -               But that’s who we are, we are Jehovah’s Witnesses. No one else does this.

Christian -     I have to admit I could do more than I am, but you’re wrong about being the only ones. We do have an active plan for witnessing, it just doesn’t have to happen on a Saturday morning like this.

JW -               Well Jehovah says in the Bible that his people can be identified as those who go from house to house. Here, look, it is in Acts 5 & Acts 20.

Christian -     I’m not saying people shouldn’t go door to door, I’m just saying it is not an accurate test of who is a true believer.

JW -               But that is the only test we have.

Christian -     No it isn’t. What if I told you the Bible does actually give us a test we can use on people to find out whether they are a true or false Christian? And it actually uses the word “test”. Would you be interested in taking that test – the Bible’s test?

JW -               Well, if it’s in there.

Christian -     It is. Turn to 2 Corinthians 13:5

JW no. 2 -      Look at John 14:28. It proves the Father is greater than Jesus.        

Christian –     We can talk about that and any other verse you like in a minute, but first I want to follow this through because it is a critical issue. Our eternal lives are at stake.

JW -               Where do you believe we are going to be when we die?

Christian –     Let’s not worry about that for now. I’m more interested in how you get there. Now, have you found the passage? It gives you the test. Read it. It says “Is Jesus in you or have you failed the test?”

JW -               Our Bible says “in union with you”, not in you.

Christian –     Whatever. The point is, do you know Jesus as Lord? Paul has given us the test of a true Christian and he doesn’t say anything about door to door witnessing because that’s not the issue. He doesn’t ask where you go to church, how you dress or who you hang out with. He doesn’t even mention Jehovah. He asks if Christ is in you. That’s the test and he says if you don’t have Jesus, you will fail the test. When you go home tonight, do the test. Now, what are those other things you were talking about?

 I know I have made it sound so easy & simple, but this is based on real conversations I have had with JW’s on my doorstep. I can’t tell you that any have dropped to their knees and accepted Christ on the verandah, but that’s not really the issue is it?

Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church”. I will leave the results to him. My job is to be obedient to the command to take the Gospel with me, live it and share it.

 So have a go at “The Test” and see how you get on. Perhaps you can even improve it. One Christian friend of mine was so taken by this method he printed off a bunch of business cards with nothing but 2 Corinthians 13:5 – Do you pass the test? on them. Now there’s a new thing; giving JW’s literature when they come to your house!

 Terry Allen