Evangelizing Jehovah’s Witnesses

June 5, 2014 | 10 comments

Last month I posted an entry on evangelizing Mormons. I figured it would be appropriate to follow that up with some tips for how to evangelize another group of people you’re likely to meet on your doorstep: Jehovah’s Witnesses. (If you’re unfamiliar with their beliefs click here and here.)

Make it personal

Unlike Mormon missionaries, who receive very little theological training before they go out and knock on doors, Jehovah’s Witnesses spend countless hours studying and practicing for conversations with potential converts. Most of their preparation focuses on answering arguments about the Bible and does not prepare them for questions like, "Why did you become a Jehovah's Witness?" If they mention that they are former Catholics, this can be a good opportunity to discuss any mistaken views of the Church they may still possess.

Don’t get caught in “verse slinging”

Due to the amount of study they engage in, the Witnesses are skilled at wielding dozens of memorized Bible verses to defend their beliefs. Even if you reply to these verses with sound biblical arguments of your own, the Witnesses can always dismiss your argument by saying, “That’s just your (incorrect) interpretation.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that all other Christian churches represent “apostate Christendom,” and only the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (which is the spiritual leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) can be trusted.[1] In order to make headway with Witnesses, you must challenge this foundational belief.

Stay focused on one issue: Authority

Ask the Witnesses to explain why you should believe (1) that the Catholic Church lost its God-given authority to interpret Scripture and proclaim doctrine and (2) that the Watchtower is God’s official organization on Earth with his authority to interpret Scripture.

In regard to the first topic, the Witnesses might cite Scripture verses that describe those who fell away from the faith in the early Church (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 2 Timothy 1:15, and Galatians 1:6-7). But these verses show only that some members of the Church fell away from the Faith, not all of them. This happens in all religions, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose early disaffected members left to form other groups such as the Dawn Bible Students. These groups still exist and share JW theology, though they do not recognize the authority of the Watchtower. This shows that the defection of some Christians from the early Church is not proof that the Church lost its divine authority.

Along with the lack of evidence that a total apostasy took place, there is positive evidence that such an apostasy could never have taken place. Acts 1:20 describes how the apostles could pass on their authority to future bishops. In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus makes Peter “the rock” on which his Church would be built and gives him “the keys to the kingdom.” In Matthew 28:20 Jesus says, “I am with you always until the end of the age”; and Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20-21, “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.”

You can always ask the Witnesses, "Why should I believe that the almighty God would allow his Church to perish from the face of the Earth and then wait 1,800 years to restore it? Didn't Jesus tell Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church?" (Matthew 16:18).

Demand proof for their claim to divine authority

The Watchtower makes it clear that one’s salvation depends on trusting and obeying “the faithful and discreet slave.” This term used to refer to a class of people destined for heaven, but since 2012 it has referred to the Governing Body in Brooklyn, New York, composed of seven men who lead the Jehovah’s Witnesses.[2]

One Watchtower article says, “Without the assistance of 'the faithful and discreet slave' we would neither understand the full import of what we read in God’s Word nor know how to apply it."[3] Another says, “Since Jehovah God and Jesus Christ completely trust the faithful and discreet slave, should we not do the same?”[4] Finally, one article goes so far as to say, “Just as Noah and his God-fearing family were preserved in the ark, survival of individuals today depends on their faith and their loyal association with the earthly part of Jehovah’s universal organization."[5]

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not appeal to any miraculous intervention from God as proof that the Watchtower has God’s authority. In fact, many of their publications don’t present any arguments or evidence for this claim; it’s simply assumed. In its 2005 book, Organized To Do Jehovah’s Will, the Watchtower says, “There are many reasons to have complete trust in the slave class. First and foremost, Jesus has appointed them over all his precious ‘belongings.’ This is a clear indication that he has complete trust in them.”[6]

But notice that this is simply an assumption dressed up as evidence. In other words, “How do you know Jesus has given the Watchtower special authority? Because Jesus has given the Watchtower special authority!” Organized goes on to say, “Second, God's Word admonishes Christians to cooperate fully with those taking the lead. . . . Through much hardship and experience, the slave class has demonstrated that the spirit of God is with it.”[7] Once again, these reasons to could apply to any Church, including the Catholic Church, which has a better claim to having served God for 2,000 years “through much hardship and experience.”

Only when the Witnesses begin to see that the Watchtower is untrustworthy can they be open to seeing which Church really does have God’s authority. One way to do that is to ask them why they believe the Bible is God's word or why the Bible has its specific canon of books. You can show the Witnesses how the Catholic Church best explains why we can trust the inspiration and canon of Scripture we have today.

Point out failed prophecies

Instead of saying, “Jehovah’s Witnesses believe X” or “You people believe X,” always phrase your objections in the form of, “Why does the Watchtower teach X?" or “I have a hard time accepting that God leads the Watchtower in light of X.” This will make the Witnesses less defensive or that you are attacking them personally.

Ask them to help you explain why the Watchtower:

  • Taught that the world would come to an end in 1914.[8]
  • Said this was a miscalculation and the world would actually end in 1915.[9]
  • Said the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be resurrected when the world would end in 1925.[10]
  • Strongly hinted that the end of the world would come in 1975.[11]
  • In 1995 stopped printing the following message about the end of the world in its magazine Awake!: “[T]his magazine builds confidence in the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.”

Deuteronomy 18:22 states that a person is not a prophet if he makes a prediction that fails to come to pass.[12] Jehovah’s Witnesses will respond that the Watchtower is not acting as a prophet but is “still learning.” However, not only does this contradict previous Watchtower claims to being “God’s prophet,”[13] it also leads to a simple yet intractable problem: if the Watchtower is “still learning,” why trust anything it teaches now? If God were really guiding the Watchtower, then why would he allow his “spirit-led” organization to lead so many people into error about the end of the world? The simplest answer to these questions is that men, not God, guide the Watchtower, and so it should not be trusted with our eternal salvation.

Don’t be rude

This should go without saying, but use only language that you would be comfortable with others using in reference to you. You shouldn’t refer to the guests at your front door as being members of a “cult” that has “brainwashed” them. How would you respond to a Protestant who spoke of the Catholic Church in such a manner? You would probably be unreceptive to his message, no matter what he had to say.

Instead, you should always be mindful to follow the admonition of 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”

 




[1] “Though apostolic Christianity was soon replaced by apostate Christendom, episodes in the lives of early Christians can still be glimpsed in Rome.” “Rome’s Many Faces” Awake! (July 8, 2001) 15-16.

[2] “That slave is the small, composite group of anointed brothers serving at world headquarters during Christ’s presence who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. When this group work together as the Governing Body, they act as “the faithful and discreet slave.” “Food at the Proper Time” Annual Meeting Report (2012) http://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/activities/events/annual-meeting-report-2012/

[3] Earnestly Seek Jehovah’s Blessing” The Watchtower (September 15, 2010) 8-9. http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2010682?q

[4] “They “’Keep Following the Lamb’” The Watchtower (September 15, 2009) 27. http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2009123

[5] “Are You Prepared for Survival?" The Watchtower (May 15, 2006) 22. http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2006366

[6] Organized to do Jehovah's will (Brooklyn, NY, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 2005) 18.

[7] Ibid., 19.

[8] “We see no reason for changing the figures - nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble." Zion's Watch Tower (Jul 15 1894) p.226. Over time the Watchtower started teaching that the world began to end in 1914, not that it was going to end in 1914 (even though this contradicts the Watchtower’s assertion that 1914 was not the beginning of anything but the end).

[9] This miscalculation was due to confusion over whether there was a year “zero.” Russell wrote, "In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished near the end of A.D. 1915.” Charles Taze Russell“The Time Is At Hand” Studies In the Scriptures Series II (1915) 99, 101, 242.

[10] "Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in Hebrews 11, to the condition of human perfection." Joseph Rutherford, Millions Now Living Will Never Die (Brooklyn, NY: International Bible Students Association, 1920) 89-90.

[11] “[W]hatever the date for the end of this system, it is clear that the time left is reduced, with only approximately six years left until the end of 6,000 years of human history." The Watchtower (May 1, 1970) 273.

[12] ‘When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him.”

[13] So, does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them of dangers and to declare things to come?  These questions can be answered in the affirmative. Who is this prophet? . . . This "prophet" was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah's Christian witnesses.”  “They shall know that a Prophet was among them,” The Watchtower (April 1, 1972) 197-198.


Ever since he converted to Catholicism at the age of seventeen, Trent Horn has had a passion for explaining and defending the Faith. After earning a degree in history from Arizona State University, Trent traveled the country training pro-life advocates on college campuses to engage opponents in...

Answering Jehovah's Witnesses
Jason Evert's Answering Jehovah's Witnesses gives you everything you need to handle the missionaries. He explains what JW's believe, where their religion goes wrong, what they want to convince you of, and how you can evangelize them.

Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  Bill Burns - Boise, Idaho

Very timely! I had a visit today from an older JW and a younger person he was probably training. After he gave me his brochure, I asked him about the translation of John 1.1. He referred me to John 1:18 in his translation. We went back and forth a bit, but I had to cut things short (middle of my workday). I invited him back to talk more. I will try to stay away from the battle of proof texts and follow this approach.

(BTW, something that might be good to mention in the tracts is that John 1:1 literally says "and God was the Word." Now, the construction is essentially equivalent to "the Word was God," but it makes it even harder to justify the Watchtower's translation.)

Peace,
Dcn. Bill

June 5, 2014 at 6:56 pm PST
#2  Josh Monroy - La Palma, California

My Catholic friend became a Jehovah's Witness similar to my experience when I became a Protestant. We were misled, when you read the Bible without knowledge of Christian tradition you fall into all kinds of heretical errors. Fortunately God has returned me to the Catholic Church. I remember that at one point I even cursed the Church because I was so heavily influenced by Protestant teaching. I think it's important that perishes offer Bible study from a Catholic perspective. I'm praying for my JW friend to learn the truth and return to the only Church Christ established.

June 5, 2014 at 8:21 pm PST
#3  Ryan Inductivo - Marikina City, Rizal

Good day brothers and sister in Christ! The Catholic Answer is GREAT and AWESOME! I have been here for about 6 months reading all the post of blogs, tracts, quick questions, etc. It helps me to understand more about my CATHOLIC FAITH and to Defend it from other christian sect/denomination like INC (Iglesia ni Cristo), MCGI (Members of Church of God International), Born Again, JW (Jehovahs Witnesses), and more. By the way, there are lots of JW who comes to our door, and some of them are in the crowded places with print magazine stands here in Metro Manila, Philippines. One day those JW approached me and told me about their teaching and belief of having a Paradise Earth and living here on Earth. I've come here to search for the answer, and the Catholic Answer is the right place. In this tract http://www.catholic.com/tracts/more-stumpers-for-the-jehovahs-witnesses i found out that they are mere wrong in interpreting the bible verse regarding inheriting the Paradise Land. And other distinctive beliefs of theirs are also found here. Also, i found out that the one whom JW I have conversation with is a former Catholic, and I noticed with him that before he became a JW (he is a catholic), he learned from his high school and college years, those MYTHS regarding in Catholic Church like the Trinity, Inquisition, Crusades, the history of the church, holy/sacred images and statues, prayers for the saints, etc. He was misinformed by those issues and he is confident that he learned that those, but I have to refute him to his misbeliefs he learned. At that time he seem so quiet after hearing those from me that he could look into in reliable source such as this one Catholic.com And finally when we have a discussion with their weird teachings like If Jesus was a god and also the Michael the Archangel, ( i have used those tracts/blog/quickquestions post here at your site to answer them) I have noticed that if they couldn't answer me back, they would keep on twisting and jumping to other verses and/or topics, or they are reading those verses OUT OF THE CONTEXT. So, this kind of website is Very Useful for us in Defending Our Faith, The CATHOLIC WAY. Many Thanks to the staff and directors and apologist of CATHOLIC ANSWER. GodBless and AMEN. :)

June 6, 2014 at 2:51 am PST
#4  Per Holmer - Älvängen, Västra Götaland

Very good! Took you guys long enough...
Some thirty years ago, I helped a young polish chaplain and
he had received a letter written in swedish, saying that a latinamerican family in the diaspora wanted to leave the Church, and they wanted it in writing.
I talked to the people trying to convey what the parish priest had
told me.
Anyway, I went with the priest to the family in question,and it was
heartwrenching, the grandmother lit up when seeing a priest, but
the son and his wife didn t share her enthusiasm.
They got their signed paper, I don t remember what we wrote,and
we never heard from them again.
Then the priest got word from the spanish mission that some other families had stopped showing up for Mass , sowe guessed that they were also targeted.
I ordered their advanced literature, and soon got an idea of what
this really was, and then moved on.
I really do recognize the need for an approach to counter their activity, but you have to realize, they really believe they re doing
the right thing.It is not going to be easy.
Evangelizing them is even better, they are deprived of so much of
the Lord s teaching and his spouse-Holy Mother Church!

June 6, 2014 at 7:16 am PST
#5  Candy Adams - Federal Way, Washington

Excellent article and so true. I have been involved with the JW's for the past four years and in the meetings it's Jehovah this and Jehovah that and all about the organization. They don't mention Jesus very much, probably because he is a created angel and not that important. I am not a baptized JW and never will be. There are many issues keeping me from going that far and one of them is the authority of the Watchtower Society.

Verse slinging is their favorite pasttime and one can tell which Bible verses they have memorized because they repeat them so often in the meetings. But the issue of authority is the best place to begin when talking with the witnesses and if you can get them to doubt the authority of the Watchtower, great!

I have been working on a project about the Watchtower organization, surfing the web and looking into their CD Rom for all the articles I can find. It has truly been an eye opener.

Keep up the good work Catholic Answers. I have found a great many articles on your website to help me defend the Catholic faith as well as purchasing books. Thank you.

June 6, 2014 at 12:33 pm PST
#6  Philipp Rogall - Frankfurt am Main, Hessen

Dear Trent,

thanks for the article! A friend of mine is a JW, which is why I appreciate this post a lot. There is one issue, though:

In the paragraph "Stay focused on one issue: Authority", you list two questions to ask, the first one being why the Church lost Her authority according to the JWs. I don't think the Witnesses will accept that question as valid, because they don't think the Church "lost" Her authority. They would say she never had it in the first place.

The apostates you mention will be said to be the ones who founded the Catholic Church, mere men. JWs will say that Jesus founded their religion, and there were always "true Christians", but they were far outnumbered by the "apostate Catholic Church", citing the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds.

Perhaps you can address that? Thanks. :)

June 9, 2014 at 1:06 am PST
#7  Kevin Saito - Honolulu, Hawaii

Hey Trent,
Wanted to thank you for your guidance on how to converse with JW and share my experience with one I met in Japan.

She was a Japanese lady I met while in a public park with my family. She seemed earnest and polite enough and I was curious what made a person convert to JW in a nation filled with Buddhists. Throughout our multiple conversations, she seemed REALLY focused on hell and kept trying to change my belief that hell was real. She insisted that hell was NOT real and that EVERYONE would be saved regardless of their belief or deeds.

In the end, as I prepared to leave Japan and return to the States, she introduced me to her pastor referring to me as "hell boy." I just took it in stride but later thought maybe the pastor was curious what a "non-believer" looked like (to a JW.)

During the period of conversation, my wife mentioned my on-going discussion with a JW to a Catholic priest who immediately contacted me and ask why I was talking to JW. I was honest about my reason and the content of our conversations and he was very understanding, offering to loan me his books on how Catholics differ from the JW belief. I should have taken him up on his offer then so I could start my apologetic education earlier in life.

To this day, I'm thankful for my wife's concern and for that priest who wanted to be sure I wasn't being influenced away from the real Church. Converting to another religion never occurred to me but I can see how others might be swayed.

God Bless you and everyone at CA. Truly you do God's work.

June 19, 2014 at 5:16 pm PST
#8  Perry White - Thomson, Georgia

Dear Josh, so what you are saying is that you were mislead because you were "reading the inspired Word of God without the opinion of mere men". Is that corrrect?

Please see II Timothy 3:16.

We do not judge Gods Word by the traditions of fallible men, we judge tradition by Gods Word and thereby avoid error. Tiny little point but rather significant.

August 15, 2014 at 10:29 am PST
#9  Andrew Sondag - Dunnellon, Florida

Just saw this article a year and a month late, but better late than never. One of the best aids discussing the Bible with JWs is an accurate translation of the Bible. JWs' Bibles are inaccurate in many passages that they quote. Even the approved Catholic Bibles have some passages that could be more accurately translated. For those who do not know Greek, I have discovered this website called the Greek Interlinear Bible NT that gives the Greek text along with the literal translation. By knowing the accurate translation, it sometimes helps to point out to the the JWs that they are not quoting the Scripture correctly. I have a friend, who is a Greek scholar, who was able to help a JW in this way. http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Greek_Index.htm

August 19, 2014 at 11:48 am PST
#10  Andrew Sondag - Dunnellon, Florida

One quick extra comment, read the date wrong on when the article was posted. Only month late, not year and a month.

August 19, 2014 at 11:54 am PST

You are not logged in. Login or register to leave a comment.