Getting to the Point in a Crazy World

In America, one must get to the point quickly. Often I begin house-to-house visits by observing, ‘The world’s crazy. We think the Bible can help—how did it come to be that way?/what hope for the future?/how to best live in the meantime? I want to read you a scripture on that, you tell me what you think, and then I’m on my way. Good idea?’

This is not some laid-back land where you must ask about family, tell about yours, and if you don’t, you are rude. No. Tell why you came quickly. One man responded that he was not a religious person. ‘That doesn’t mean that the world isn’t crazy,’ I replied. He agreed that it didn’t.

His neighbor instantly agreed that it was—crazy—even repeating the words. What people had to do, she said, was to ‘stand up.’ Well, sure, it’s hard to disagree with that, and I didn’t. But it’s a little vague. Won’t people, when they stand up, stand up with different fixes and so work at odds with each other? Whereupon, she pointed out that she didn’t believe in any ‘second coming of Christ.’

She was not like still another neighbor, who was concerned that we were ‘recruiting.’ I told him we were not. Or rather, that on my 200th visit, I would ask if he wanted to become a Jehovah’s Witness like me, but it would not happen until then, and what were the chances engagement would go on for so long? In the meantime, it’s just conversation. No. This woman instantly got that it was just conversation—though after ours, when I floated the idea of coming back, she did ask, ‘To what end?’

I initially feared the call would be a clumsy disaster. When she first appeared at the door, so did a couple of noisy dogs, eager for engagement of their own. They weren’t mean or anything. They were more like, ‘Oh wow! Visitors! Lemme go check them out!’ Some people get crotchety trying to curb their dogs for a visit they never asked for in the first place and I thought she might be one of them. She wasn’t. She just wrestled with the creatures.

‘Did I ever tell you how much I like dogs?’ I said to one of them while petting it. That eased tension. It’s true. I do like them. Ever since the days my daughter moved overseas and left us Samson, a boxer/lab mix. Sometimes I would introduce it with, ‘Do you know the Samson from the Bible, who pushes apart the pillars? This the Samson that pees on them.’

The scripture I read was the one some are already familiar with, ‘Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ from Matthew 6:9. It packs a lot in few words. God’s will is done in heaven, no doubt. He must have it all together up there, but it sure isn’t done on earth. And it won’t be until ‘thy kingdom comes’—so just what is that kingdom?  This is where she said she didn’t believe in any second coming. But in time, I suggested she might want to rethink that. She did believe in God. She did believe he cares for us. So will he really just leave humanity to go down the drain as they are so plainly doing at present?

When she had mentioned chaos in her family over the last few years, I asked her what bad things had happened. Turned out it was all pandemic related; some family members were no longer on speaking terms over accepting the vaccine. As for her, she said she ‘reads scientific papers.’ If it helps, I told her—you get on the same page with your householder whenever you can—I also passed on the vaccine. (as had my companion) It was easy for me, being retired, and there were a few supplements I took instead. (which she also took). But, in answer to her question, the Witness organization mostly did get vaccinated. Here they were, sitting on their hands, and you weren’t allowed to do anything without vaccination, so they monitored those they found easiest to track—a few tens of thousands of other volunteers—detected nothing immediately unpleasant, and so went ahead with the program because they did want to do things.

When she said she didn’t accept Jesus as God, but thought he was a man, it was time for another ‘if it helps.’ (The teaching that Jesus IS God all but dooms any attempt to understand either the Bible or God’s purpose—nothing makes any sense with that albatross strapped around one’s neck.) ‘If it helps,’ I told her, we also believe he was a man, and in a nutshell I told how only a perfect man can exactly counterbalance what Adam had lost—‘repurchasing’ what he ‘sold.’ She played with the thought, not sure how she felt about it. People need time to adjust to anything. I left her the card that has one of those computer things you can scan and bring up the Bible study course. It works best when you do it with someone to guide you, I said, but there’s no reason you can’t look it over yourself. I showed her the lesson that expanded on just how Jesus offsets Adam for those who put faith in the arrangement.

I did caution her, though. She had said she reads scientific papers. Most people don’t. Don’t be put off to find the material is written very simply. It’s not the course’s intention to talk over the heads of the vast majority of people. As was true in the first century, it is the ordinary people most likely to respond, whereas the educated people are sometimes prone to be all full of themselves; there’s not much God can do with people like that, but with humble ones he can do a lot. The caution proved unnecessary. She offered up her view that university was mostly ‘indoctrination’ these  days anyway.

People are busy. I’ve had so many discussions with someone I find once, and then I never find them again. So, these days I have my text number on that QC card. I’ll pop in eventually, but in the meantime, if anything grabs her attention, she has a text number to respond to.


******  The bookstore

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Invite a Telemarketer to the Memorial

A sister at our Sunday meeting said she invites all telephone solicitors to the Memorial. She thereby resolved a minor crisis for me.

I have been assigned the 3 minute talk this week. Invite someone to the Memorial and show them how to locate a meeting in his area via the website. The implication is that this is not door-to-door. If it was, the matter of locating a meeting would not come up. Just go where the tract says.

So, the assignment calls for me to do something I would never do in real life. I’m all for ‘Jesus at the well’ conversations, but it would be a very unusual circumstance for it to escalate to a Memorial invitation in such a short span. Not saying some can’t do it. It’s just not my M.O. I figured I’d probably end up doing it the door-to-door way, meeting a person who will be out of town that day.

But then, viola! that sister’s comment. I told my householder to push an extended car warranty (his choice of scams) for all it was worth. Return to the subject at least twice, but on the third time, let me carry the ball. Point out then that he really would like to go but how? It is not as though he is in my area.

I’ll write it out here to get it in my head better. I’ll rehearse briefly with my householder this afternoon over the phone. Word for word is not necessary; a dry run to get in the spirit of things is all I’m after.

Hello, is this Mr. TrueTom?”

”This is he.” [You don’t say ‘yes’ because some of these liars use a recorded ‘yes’ in your voice to work other mischief. In fact, I had some reservations about enacting this at all. These people are very good at what they do. But in the end, I thought it was worth it to get a ‘G’ Besides, now that there is Chat GBT, they can do what they want with or without your cooperation.]

I’m calling about your car warranty. It’s about to run out. I want to extend it for you so you will be protected from unexpected repair costs.

”I almost never answer the phone from unrecognized numbers. Do you know why I did it today?”

Um—well, no.”

”It turns out there is a big event coming up. We’re inviting people. We do it every year. I’m doing it this year. It is the memorial of Christ’s death, which will be celebrated this Sunday. I’m inviting you. If you and your family are able to attend, we’d love to have you.”

But, Mr. Truetom, do you know the average cost of auto repairs now is almost $1000? And if it comes up unexpectedly, all at once, it is a crushing burden! With an extended warranty, you can manage future costs and protect your family.”

”I’m sure it’s a very fine product, but—C’mon! It can’t be as important as Christ’s death. I’ll go back to not answering calls next week, but this week I . . .”

$150. an hour! That’s what says is the labor rate today for auto mechanics! You don’t want to find yourself without  . . .”

”Yeah, I don’t want it.”

No? But why would you not want  . . “

”I dunno, I just don’t. I do want to celebrate the Memorial, though. Jesus actually said, ‘Keep doing this in remembrance of me until I come.” So Jehovah’s Witnesses do. Every year. It begins with a talk that explains just how his death benefits us. Seriously—I’d like you to come if you can.”

I’m not a Christian.”

”You don’t have to be. It turns out that his death can benefit people whether they’re Christian or not. That’s why there’s a talk first—so you can see if it makes sense to you.”

Well, it really does sound interesting to me, but I’m not in your area.”

“Again, it doesn’t matter. You can find one online. Can you remember two letters? J W? You know, Jehovah’s Witnesses—J W. Just go to Scroll to the bottom. You’ll find a link to ‘Memorial’. Click on that. Then you’ll find a link to ‘Find a Memorial.’ Please come. I think you would like it.”

“I may. Thank you. You’re not posting this on your blog, though, are you?”

*****  The bookstore


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Speaking with Evangelicals

A circuit overseer serving congregations in the Bible Belt (Southern U.S.A) tackled how to respond when people ask, ‘Are you saved?’ ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?’

If you hesitates in any way, he said, maybe to explain that with us it is not ‘once saved—always saved’—you can lose your ‘saved’ status, or maybe to explain how Jesus is God’s Son, not God himself—or maybe to explain that our individual salvation is not the central issue under all creation, but the sanctification of Gods name is . . . if you hesitate in any way, they take it as a ‘No.’ 

So why do it? Are you saved at present? (Yes) Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior? (Yes). Just because the phrasing is not exactly as you would put it, why make a fuss? Whereupon, he had the congregation repeat in unison several times: ‘I am saved.’

I mean, there is such a thing as building bridges rather than burning them. Why burn when you don’t have to? Even my response to a truly condescending evangelical (a minority among them—few are this way) who said, ‘No thanks, I’m Christian,’ with the unmistakable implication that I was not—even that, I have rethought. I had said at the time, ‘Well, only a genuine Christian would do what I am doing. Frankly, I’m a little surprised you’re not doing it yourself.’ (Fade smug smile—a beautiful sight) But I have rethought it. Even toward those who blatantly deserve it, it amounts to ‘striking back’ and does nothing except satisfy the ego. 

Better to do, when some evangelical is intent to pick a fight (and if it is not them, it is us), ‘Look, I know you think we’re doing it all wrong. And we think you’re doing it all wrong. You’d steal our sheep in a second and we’d do the same to you. Got it. But the point is, we’re both doing it, and we live in a world where more and more people are not doing it.’ I’ve seen conversation turn on a dime with such remarks. Instantly, an adversary becomes a confidant. Discussion turns to mutual challenges of keeping faith in a faithless world, on the mutual trials of raising a family in one, and not one of ‘Our religion is better than yours.’

You can clear up those things later, if conversation goes that far, and it probably won’t, but it doesn’t anyhow.  Better to depart with a good taste in your mouth and theirs, than with a bad taste.


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

A Watchtower Study to Settle the Faith-Works ‘Debate.’

Reference was made at yesterday’s Watchtower Study about how “For centuries, the relationship between faith and works has been hotly debated in Christendom.” Some insist it is saved by faith, and some insist by works. So the Study explored that topic, and it is a big ‘Duh.’ A child can understand it. Barely any ‘education’ at all is required. It is different ‘works’ in different contexts that Paul and James refer to.

[‘Faith and Works can Lead to Righteousness’—December 2023 issue]

So you begin to wonder why the learned one haven’t been able to settle it “for centuries.” Is it that “debate” is their method of choice, as though the way to settle anything is through triumph of the intellect? One brother pointed to a faulty silver lining in that approach; it enables professional debaters to say that it’s okay never to reach resolution because the Bible writers themselves couldn’t agree! However, said that Watchtower (paragraph 9): “Jehovah inspired both Paul and James to write what they did. (2 Tim. 3:16) So there must be a simple way to harmonize their statements. There is​—by considering their writings in context”—and, without fuss, they did it.

Or is it that God blesses those who put obedience first? As in, ‘obedient ones are blessed with understanding, but the ‘great thinkers’ never figure it out?’ As in, “Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice,” (1 Samuel 15:22) in this case, the ‘sacrifice’ of brainpower. As in, ‘You don’t have to know everything, but act upon what you do know.’

I suspect that’s why the scholars will never be running the show at JW Central. It’s too easy for scholars to take refuge in their scholarship and be unconcerned that no practical application is ever made of it. Said Jesus to the learned of his day: “How can you believe, when you are accepting glory from one another and you are not seeking the glory that is from the only God?” (John 5:44) The first activity interferes with the second—it is a trap scholars can easily fall into. Run with what you have, instead. If you don’t have everything, as you never will, figure it out on the fly.

Or is it some other factor? Is it that the faith people are such because they don’t want to do any works? Or the works people are such because they don’t have much faith, but do like to shine before others? At any rate, it is very strange that the relationship between faith and works can be cleared up in a single Study at the Kingdom Hall (it was just a refresher study anyway, not anything new) whereas the theologians have debated it “for centuries.”

Some of these points came up in field service the day before. ‘Here you are going door-to-door,’ one evangelical man said to us, ‘but don’t you know that salvation is by faith and not by works?’ ‘Yeah, everyone knows that,’ I replied. None of Jehovah’s Witnesses think they’re ‘earning’ anything. It’s just a matter of showing appreciation for a priceless gift. If you receive such a gift and it makes no change whatsoever in your life afterwards, one might justifiably wonder just how much you really do appreciate it.

This fellow also went on and on about the pastor of his church. The pastor will quote this or that from the Bible and then you should not just take his word for it, he would say, but you should check it. ‘Yeah, we’re trying to make all our people pastors,’ is what I would have said had I thought of it in time—our best lines always occur to us too late. Of course, not all our people are pastors—we too have plenty of weak or immature Christians—but the Witness organization doesn’t cater to them by appointing just a single person to serve as the ‘pastor.’ There’s no reason everyone can’t attain to the role. Besides, a pastor is always at risk that his special qualifications and background doesn’t go to his head. Sometimes it does.


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

You Can Remain Confident During Uncertain Times

Now that Jehovah’s Witnesses are no longer the ‘counting time’ religion or the ‘no beard’ religion, it is almost as though a rebranding is taking place.

Any time the Watchtower trots out Haggai and Zechariah, as was done in the 1/28/24 study article, ‘You Can Remain Confident During Uncertain Times,’ you know it’s a reinvigorating work going on.

From para 7: ‘Jehovah wants us to focus on the lifesaving work of making disciples. As mentioned in paragraph 7, Haggai urged Jehovah’s people to make a fresh start in their sacred service, as if they were laying the temple’s foundation again.’ [bolding mine]

Clear out some trash, just like the ‘messenger preparing the way did’ long ago, and you can tackle the building work once more. Doesn’t negate what’s been done before, but it is still time for a ‘fresh start.’

Brother Splane asked in the latest Update, ‘Did you ever work a street and nobody is home, then pass by Sunday afternoon and notice a car in every drive?’ Yeah, I did notice that. It used to drive me nuts. Why are we visiting when people aren’t home?

Other publishers in that Update expressed happiness that, ‘Now, all I have to focus on is starting conversations.’ It suggests the question, ‘Well, what did they have to focus on before that they no longer do, a focus that interfered with starting conversations?’ ‘Counting time’ comes to mind. The friends used to have to do it, now they don’t. One reason Sunday after the meeting has long been unpopular for field service is that you can’t count much time that way. Better to go out on a weekday morning where you can generally count much more time. If few people are home—well, at least we got to count more time. 

That’s done. Finished. ‘Now all we have to do is think about starting conversations.’ Maybe an even greater ‘heresy’ will happen later with regard to evening worship, where a half hour of activity can produce more conversations than 2 hours of when people aren’t home. Plus, you reach a different sort of people, often more relaxed because the day is done.

Maybe the end of suggested presentations also factors in. It’s long been stated their use is optional (I kicked them to the curb long ago), but many friends seemed to feel it was all but mandatory to use them, lest you appear to be saying ‘contemptible bread’ of the produced food. 

No more. You can’t focus on those suggested presentations even if you want to. They’re not there.

Tom Whitepebble may be on to something when he suggests the Governing Body must sometimes be aghast at what they have unleashed as regards following men. It’s hard to find just the right emphasis—one person says, ‘Thanks for the new rule!’ while his neighbor says, ‘Huh? Did you say something?’ So, they strive for the right emphasis, but do they always find it?

‘Look, we said facial hair is not an issue,’ they said back in 2017. ‘Nobody listened to us! So now we’ll devote an entire Update, complete with video and chariot, to show we’re serious about it—we don’t care about beards!’

Will we see parallel developments in other areas?


None of the above was the overall focus of the article, though. In the first paragraph was the statement:

“You may be concerned about your family’s safety because of unstable political conditions, persecution, or opposition to the preaching work. Are you facing any of these issues? If so, you will benefit from considering how Jehovah helped the ancient Israelites when they were confronted with similar problems.” The discussion that followed was the challenged of those released from Babylon to rebuild worship in their former home. They got off to a quick start, but then languished, cowed by that day’s counterpart of the above trio.

“Unstable political conditions” is among that trio of woes that cause Christians problems today. In country after country, the political right and left are at each others’ throats to the point that civil war is floated as a possibility.

The world is run by crazy people. Lunatics of whatever side are no longer marginalized but rise to the top. Any time something whacky happens, ‘conspiracy’ is always a possible reason. If sane people ran the world, it would not be so: one of those things would be just ‘one of those things,’ but not with crazy people running the show. I’ve heard people say that, given the lunacy of those in charge, any conspiracy theory will be accepted on sight until proven wrong, an 180 degree reversal from how things have always been.

Whenever you undertake a challenging work, you want to make sure you have good footing. The above trio might suggest our footing is not very solid at all. So I liked the article’s encouragement to stay focused on what truly is good footing, really the mainstays of Christian faith: gathering together, prayer, scripture reading and meditation, and speaking to others of God’s purposes.


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The End of Counting Time in the Ministry

On the final month of reporting time, I reported 50,000 hours to the congregation secretary. Might as well go out with a bang. 50K in a month not physically possible, you say? “Go to the ant, you lazy one.”

The guys that made the model for counting time in the ministry came from a factory era in which, when there was nothing to do, you’d better nonetheless look busy in case the boss happened along. This being the model for work, it seemed natural that it might be applied to ‘working for the Lord,’ and so they did apply it. It would take a future generation, raised under different circumstances, to say, ‘Jehovah doesn’t work that way.’

It is an explanation I’ve heard to account for how we (Jehovah’s Witnesses) once counted time and now we don’t. It’s as good as any. At any rate, I never saw the change coming. But there at 2023 the annual meeting was discussed how it’s not for anyone, whether an elder from HQ or not, to monitor another’s service to God; that’s a matter between the individual and God. It is obviously so. But I never saw it coming. Nor did anyone else I spoke to, and I know a lot of people.

Any time you change any practice with a hundred year history, it takes some guts. Counting time worked well enough for the longest while. In the days of print-only, it was well to know how many of this or that item was placed so you could print up more. You’d get an overall view of how the ministry was going in this or that area, important if you were trying to live up to the commission that ‘this good news of the kingdom will be preached into all the inhabited earth for a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.’ (Matt 24:14) But what will you do when someone shows an online digital video? Does that mean it is used up and you have to make another one?

Any model wears out in time. What will the new one mean? For starters, it will aid informal witnessing. And if removes once and for all any notion of being ‘on duty’ or ‘off duty.’ It also completely obliterates the instinct to compare one’s service to that of another’s. Nate Nazi used to grumble about the type of service he phrased as ‘driving around all day avoiding people.’ This type service used to rankle those who preferred more bang for the buck, boots on the ground, maximize those contacted per hour. Now it doesn’t matter. Let each do as he/she sees fit and/or is more comfortable with. Certainly there is nothing wrong with spending much time in the company of the friends, mixing service with socializing, even with errands, and with searching for ‘long shot’ return visits. It just used to rankle those who all but supposed efficiency was a fruitage of the spirit and who’d rather devote their non-contact time to other activities. ‘Always work at the pace of the slowest publisher,’ one CO advised, apparently wanting to accommodate the greatest number in the public ministry. Alas, one can worry he has no idea how slow we can go. Now it doesn’t matter. Let the fast ones work fast, the slow ones slow. Let each team up with like-minded and/or like-abled sometimes, polar opposites other times, without fretting about how it affects one’s field service report.

Regular pioneers continue to count their time. They are now likened, as are special pioneers, COs, build servants, etc, to the Nazarites who voluntarily took on a special vow.

Informal witnessing, the way we are being encouraged to do it today, calls for restraint. Toss the ball of conversation; see whether they toss it back to you. If they do, advance it by a degree. If they don’t, move on. Like with Jesus at the well, you do not lead off with a question—that makes it ‘weird.’ Instead, you throw a spiritual statement into the mundane mix and see if you get a response. In short, ‘You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away’—and if you do it right, ideally you will never have to ‘run.’ However, when people are ‘on the clock,’ they tend to not be content with just a statement, for they must give a ‘thorough witness.’ They push beyond that point—must not cheat God, after all, who is monitoring the clock—and end up having to ‘run’ when their imposed-upon non-interested party finally gets fed up. 

I like the end of counting time—it better enables informal witnessing, which is becoming more and more of a ‘thing.’ It even anticipates should the door-to-door ministry one day become illegal; ‘anti-cult’ loons try to spin it as ‘taking advantage’ of people. 

And, once and for all it puts a lid on people who insisted Witnesses had a model indicating they thought they were ‘earning’ salvation. Put it in the same category of ones insisting that the literature distribution was commercial (and therefore taxable); So to make clear it was not, it was stated that from then on literature would be distributed at no cost.

The brothers have operated in accord with this snippet from a recent daily text commentary: “Spiritual goals give our life direction and purpose.” For men who overwhelming come from the work-a-day world where you get paid for work by the hour, it couldn’t have seemed a draconian goal to ask for 10 hour activity per month when the workday model they were raised in called for 40 hours per week at a minimum. They’re rethinking it, something I thought would never happen. Maybe they’re cracking open the door to whether congregation members need go in the organized preaching activity at all. The former door-to-door in this area isn’t what it once was.  Is it yielding to another model? Probably not, but maybe to some extent.

Want to criticize them retroactively, as though they should have changed the model long ago? I don’t play that game. The game I play is to say that the people who brought the truth to me were the people who counted their time. The people who didn’t count their time also didn’t bring the truth to me. In fact, they could not have, because they were yet steeped (and still are) with trinity, immortal soul, God & Country, and so forth. And in case anyone says, ‘You don’t need any people; you just need Jesus,’ I will say that the people Jesus used to bring the truth to me were those who counted their time,’ etc. I’m just happy over the change, that it was recognized as an idea whose time has come. I’m not inclined to say, ‘What took them so long?’ By playing that game, you can be dissatisfied with everything. You find fault with headship both before and after revision. After all, there are plenty of scriptures that fit the old model, such as the Master sending workers into the vineyard.

So, if it was stated again and again at that annual meeting, which went on to consider other things, ‘We must not be dogmatic,’ does that mean they were dogmatic before? It is another game I don’t play. The ‘too dogmatic’ people brought the truth to me. The ‘laid back, reasonable’ ones did not. People are a product of their times. To be sure, when my favorite circuit overseer commented on the separation of the Watchtower into private and study edition years ago, he say, ‘It should have been done a long time ago.’ But he said this only to me, plus whatever one or two others were in the car group with me.


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The Catholic at the Door

The man answered the door and said he was Catholic. He also said he very much respected Jehovah’s Witnesses and the work they did. But he was Catholic, 4th generation Catholic, very involved, and so there was no way he would ever change. “Fortunately for you,” I said, “we’re not recruiting. It’s just conversation.” Whereupon, he added that he was also busy.

I thought of Dave McClure, the circuit overseer from ages ago, who had said how you could “pre-empty” certain objections by anticipating them up front. “We’re calling on busy people today” he would say to illustrate. What are they going to say—they’re busy? You could even do two. “We’re calling on busy people who have their own religion, and . . .. ” But there was a limit. You really couldn’t do three. “We’re calling on busy people who have their own religion and who aren’t interested, and . . . ” No. It doesn’t fly.

This man really was busy. He and his wife were soon to depart for a medical appointment. But apparently not that soon, for he then went on to say some nice things and even asked a few questions. When they do this, it means that, while yes, they are somewhat busy, they also have learned their lesson from when Oscar Oxgoad called on them a few years back, saying he would be brief. To their dismay, they discovered that ‘brief’ to Oxgoad meant he’ll stay there all day if he possibly can!

When you make it clear that you really do intend to be brief, miracles can happen. This you do by saying something like, ‘The world’s crazy. We think the Bible helps—telling why it is that way, what can we expect for the future, and how to live in the meantime. I want to read you a verse, you tell me what you think, and then we’re on our way. Good idea?” It is not as though someone is going to tell you to get to the point. This man agreed to it.

For him, the verse selected was one he would surely recognize, the Our Father segment of Matthew 6:9 which goes, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Yes, God’s will is done in heaven; surely he has his act together up there. But it sure isn’t done on earth; at least, it does not predominate—and it will not, says the prayer, until “thy kingdom comes”—so just what is that kingdom?

You can go so many ways upon reading this verse. After explaining why you selected it, as above, invite the householder to participate if he likes, or not if he doesn’t like, or not if the time is not right. This is the point where this man said he was Catholic and busy, but then engaged us with a few observations of his own.

These days, Jehovah’s Witnesses are departing from those clunky silhouette presentations once offered up at meetings for a more conversational approach. Of course, there isn’t there isn’t that much difference. They always strived to be conversational. But there is a limit. If you call on someone formally, you cannot just say, “Anything you want to talk about?” You have to provide a reason for your call, and that was the whole idea behind the silhouette suggestions. Alas, any such offering can be committed to memory, after which it comes across as ‘canned.’ Just be conversational, is the new guidance that is not really new.

It is a very challenging task undertaken. Take persons who are just as “uneducated and ordinary” as were the first-century apostles and send them to people who, in some cases, are educated and are not ordinary—some of whom take much pride in those circumstances. Some will be hospitable, but some will look down their noses at the disparity; it is just the way people are. The congregation doesn’t really “send them”—their own understanding of the Bible does. “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,” says the Word. Who’s going to preach it—those who don’t believe it? So the congregation does not send them, but they do support and coordinate them.

Though not suddenly becoming unbusy, the man was growing more comfortable and somewhere along the line mentioned that his aunt had died in the Holocaust. “Was your aunt of the Jewish faith?” my companion asked. Jehovah’s Witnesses will almost always do this, and why not?—there is nothing like bonding over a horrific experience jointly suffered. Jehovah’s Witnesses, with their stand of neutrality, were among the very first concentration camp inmates, even preceding the far-more-numerous Jews. Sometimes you can even point out that Jehovah’s Witnesses were more than victims in the Holocaust; they were martyrs, for they alone had power to write their tickets out. All they had to do was renounce their faith and agree to work with the Nazi regime.  

The aunt, it turned out, was not Jewish. She was Catholic. She had resisted Hitler’s policies and was incarcerated. 

Talk about what they want, not what you want. As Dale Carnegie said, ‘Who cares what you want?’ Once in a while you may luck out the way that geeky reporter did, with Bruce Wayne telling Alfred to write him a grant just because he asked for one. For the most part, though, you’d better build a bridge and you always start with a genuine—not contrived—interest in the other person. Talk what they want to talk about.

The Catholic Church has a long tradition, I offered him, and they’ve done a lot of good. They have problems, some quite serious, but they have done a lot of good. I even told him about the Pope who arguably saved the word. I thought the man would not know about it because nobody does. It is all but the most closely guarded secret of our time. I only blundered upon it myself by sheer accident. During a time when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, respective heads of the two superpowers, struck up a friendship. It was a friendship not without strain, mostly because both were surrounded by warmongers who were sure the two were daftly naive, even traitorous. But, though the world teetered on the brink in the days before, during, and after the Cuban Missile crisis, the two managed to pull it back. And the man who served as catalyst, bringing the two together: Pope John XXIII. Who would have thought?

It’s purely a function of a determination to fix the world as opposed to being no part of it. But in this case, it bought the ‘ol globe some time under its present rulership.

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

One Fine December Day in the Ministry

The man answered the door and wasn’t thrilled to see us. I understand the feeling. I take cover myself when I spot unknown persons heading up the driveway. But often you can defuse any anxiety if you are not too weird.

My companion said something about the Bible and the man replied that he was not much of a Bible reader. ‘Have you always felt that way?’ the companion said. It is sort of the latest pick-up line, uttered in the belief that it may spur on conversation which, depending upon the person, it often does. No dice with this fellow, though. He told us a big problem in his eyes was Christians who carried a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other. A jab directed at us, I thought, as I played with his two large poodles which had bounded from the house to jump all over me. “Did I ever tell you how much I like dogs?’ I said to one of them.

“Here’s something you may not know about Jehovah’s Witnesses—which we are,” I interjected. “They are absolutely apolitical and none of them carry guns. Their weapons are words only. Tell them no and they go away. And they don’t afterward go to some congressperson to urge passage of a law to make others do what they say. “At first glance, they are the most intrusive people on earth. At second glance, they are the least. They say what they have to say, but otherwise they are completely live and let live.”

When you interrupt your companion, you don’t do it permanently. You inject a thought and then hand it right back to her. You usually don’t do it at all, so as not to derail her train of thought. But I have thirty years on my companion, so I can do it a little. Not much, usually not all, but a little if the situation calls for it.

She went back to reading and commenting on a certain verse. It engaged her, and the man, if not warming up to the message, was warming up to us. The call concluded as most of them do—he had had no use for religion and still didn’t—but just as we were leaving, I thought to extend to this fellow a contact card featuring the Bible study program. “Most church teachings are not found in the Bible,” I told him. “It is the attempt to read them in that makes people pull out their hair and say, ‘Nobody can make sense of this book!’”

Look at it if you like, I told him. I’ll never know if you do or not. You may still not agree with it; most likely you won’t, but there is a big difference between a book that makes sense and one that doesn’t.

I always write a number to text on these cards and even observe how it has “one of these computer things that you can scan”—overplaying the tech-inept hand, but I still didn’t want to do with them as I had done with ‘crosstags.’ “They’re hashtags, Dad, not crosstags,” my daughter had told me about this other digital innovation, which had occurred recently by human standards but ice-ages ago by digital standards.

The home was on top of a hill. Descending the long winding driveway opened up a magnificent vista. We had already commented on how smart someone must have been to build up there. “Don’t worry about the dogs!” the man said, now quite friendly, as we were taking our leave. “They’ll chase you down the drive and bark like mad but once they reach the invisible fence they’ll stop.” And that is exactly what happened.


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

‘Don’t Let the Door Hit You in the Rear End.’ Moving on from Scripted Presentations.

Just finished the Nov 6 broadcast. What grabbed me most was not the announcement about not counting time. I’ve gotten used to the idea in the past few weeks. I decided to go out with a bang, reporting 50,000 hours to the secretary. When he said that was physically impossible, I answered, “Go to the ant, you lazy one.”

So, the time announcement was anticipated. The talk that got me going and was not anticipated was the one about conversations, the accompanying brochure, and the news that it would soon be incorporated into the midweek meeting. Loved that part. 

I’ve been uncomfortable voicing that I thought most of the suggested presentations were clunkers, so I didn’t voice it. But now that they are on their way out the door, I can. It’s not that they can’t work, or that they were inherently bad. They weren’t. It was that it meant using someone else’s words. That’s hard to pull off. Of course, any number of times the organization said you don’t have to use them; feel free to do something else, put everything in your own words, but there’s something about the friends to make them feel you were all but disloyal not to use them.

I abandoned them long ago for a much easier approach that involves an offer to read a scripture and leave—staying only if that offer is accepted. If it is, having read the verse, then is the person up for considering it briefly? Lately it has been. ‘The world’s crazy. We think the Bible can help—why it is that way, what can we expect, how to cope in the meantime. I want to read you a verse, you tell me what you think, and we’re on our way. Good idea?’ After reading it, ‘The next move is up to you and you don’t have to make one. I can discuss or go now—up to you.’ It works at least as well as anything else I have seen. And more importantly, it’s no stress. 

So long as we were using those scripted presentations at the meetings, one could hardly speak against them—it smacked too much of saying ‘contemptible bread’—couldn’t do it. But now that they are on their way out anyway—well, don’t let the door hit you in the rear end as you leave! Oh yeah—moving on. Learn to converse. Learn to use your own words, not someone else’s. And, glory be, base whatever you say on how people are in your territory, something the scripted presentations can’t possibly take into account. 

The grapevine had it that the new publication was like a Make Sure of All Things; Hold Fast to What is Fine, only geared toward the friends. The grapevine was wrong. Instead, it is a tool to advance conversation. The twelve or so attributes are all there in order to enhance conversational ability through their cultivation. I like it. 

Of course, the new change wasn’t introduced as above. Instead, it was ‘What was wonderful has become even more wonderful!’ Lots of fond reminiscing about doing things the old way. Ah, well, I guess it must be done that way. In this cynical age, crack the door open even a little to previous things having been bloopers, and there’s no telling what we’ll all be like, dissing everything. Were they even bloopers? Some things are good for their time and then times change.


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The Newbie Who Eclipses the Vets

Working in the ministry with a 75-year old who just became a Witness, he makes a better impression than me (who can be accused of having been around so long as to know every spiel.) But not him. With him, it is pure conviction and sincerity. ‘I had never read the Bible,’ he said, despite his long church affiliation. ‘When I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.’

It was at a home where no one had answered at first, and you wonder whether that is on purpose or not; sometimes people don’t answer. But upon returning, there she was, an older woman, puttering around in the garage. We crossed the street to speak with her.

She was guarded about my invitation to read a scripture, get her thought, and then be on our way, observing that she was Roman Catholic. ‘Fortunately, we’re not recruiting,’ I told her. ‘It’s just a scripture from a book you know as well as us.’ She then added that there were some Witnesses in her extended family—with the air that ‘They keep me informed so you don’t have to?’ Dunno. Could be, but dunno.

I offered a ‘deal’ which was—sometimes when there are Witnesses in the family, you wonder why they do this or that, you have some views of them which may be good or bad, usually some of both, but you would not just come out and say it to them because—well, they’re family. You don’t want to mess with the chemistry. ‘But us you’ll never see again,’ I told her, ‘so anything you wonder about them we can tell you about.’ 

All this either loosens a person up or shuts them down. If it shuts them down, then off we go. In this case, it loosened her up. Family members had responded differently to her Witness relatives, she mentioned, but as for her, she is open-minded. It was plain that she was open-minded when we finally did read that scripture—in this case it was Matthew 6:9-10, the ‘Our Father’ prayer; I prefaced it by saying, ‘This is where Jesus tells his disciples how to pray,’ upon which she interjected, ‘Supposedly.’

‘She doesn’t really believe it,’ Keith observed to me as we were discussing the call later. Just like he hadn’t really believed church things either during his nominal time as a member. That’s not to say he disbelieved them—only, that he had formed no decisive opinion—they might be so or they might not be. 

Keith had come into his own during this short call. I had gradually yielded to him. They had some things in common, such as having recently lost a spouse. One never knows how someone will respond to the Bible until you run a few verses past them and they get to put it in context.

Strange how some, like Keith, say that once they started reading the Bible, they ‘couldn’t put it down.’ Even I was able to put it down, if he’s speaking of reading it straight through. But once a person is given a few keys to it—then one is not able to ‘put it down’; then they are forever flipping back and forth to see that this portion really does explain that portion. They are just drawn to that basic Witness approach to understanding the scriptures: for any given passage in question, gather together all other passages on that same topic and on that basis decide what the scripture means. In the process of doing so, one sees through and jettisons a truckload of religious doctrines that serves to impede understanding.

But others will read the Bible and see a lot a nasty doings chronicled. ‘If it’s there, it must be A-okay God,’ they figure. What is wrong with people to think that way? It’s just history. It’s history of what people did when they knew of Jehovah, when they didn’t know of Jehovah, and when they knew but were oblivious to his requirements. Obviously, he has requirements. The creator of humanity—we are going to have requirements of him or he or us? That doesn’t mean people pay any attention to them. Sometimes comeuppance for such straying is prompt and sometimes it is not. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all and is one of those things for which we must stay tuned.

And here I am, on another occasion, with a fellow long-time Witness. Keith, meanwhile, is working in the field service with someone else new—in this case, someone who ran a local youth agency until he retired. He and Keith are chatting up a storm at one door. No one had given my fellow and me the time of day.

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'