At The New System Dinner Table: Part 4–The Return of ‘Normal’

See Part 1 and Part 2) Part 3

It almost seems as though when the ‘New System Dinner Roundtable’ discussion presented at the Regional was first envisioned, the one [s?] writing it imagined the pandemic was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Recounting travails of the old system, one bro at the table recalls when the pandemic broke out “and the world turned upside down.”

It may well be the straw that hobbled the camel, but its back appears not yet broken. Is it going out too much on a limb to observe that the return of door-to-door sets some aback, as though they never anticipated that development? I had thought so myself—while witnessing in some form would continue, no doubt, wouldn’t Covid forever make people recoil as strangers approach their door? Well, maybe you could get around it by carrying a mask and offering to don it for any finicky person, I had reasoned, but there doesn’t even seem to be that concern anymore. Too soon to tell yet how many don masks and how many don’t. 

Now the work returns that many were thinking was gone for good. Fair to say that enthusiasm is mixed at best? I mean, we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, and witnessing is what we do. Everyone knows that. But it’s not the easiest work in the world to do; everyone knows that too. That’s why I wrote up a sample presentation, to both shore up others and myself. Many thought when the pandemic turned the world upside down, it would stay turned upside down—like what Cameron said about an honest politician: when he is bought, he stays bought.

‘Make sure to listen to radio such-and-such at 10:35,’ one bro told me. Some local spokesman is going to be interviewed about the return of door-to-door. I said I would. In fact I would have liked to but it occurred to me later that I no longer have a radio; everything is streaming these days. Probably there is some fancy-pants way of streaming radio but I don’t have that set up. Of course, the cars have radios, but the one in the dog’s car doesn’t work. My wife is off in cart work with the other one.*

What I’m a little worried about is that the bro is going to lay it on thick about how loving it was to abstain from door to door so as not to kill the householder with Covid and laudably obey government guidelines but now it’s ‘been there, done that,’ in the same way that we used to explain at length our former loving provision to do letters and phone calls. He might even say how the development is ‘historic.’ Look, everyone thinks what is front and center on their plate is front and center on that of others, but it generally isn’t that way. A presentation in the school led with the householder observing she hasn’t seen Jehovah’s Witnesses door-to-door in a while, which gave the student opportunity to explain all the above. I haven’t been out yet but I suspect most people will hardly have noticed. If anyone does mention it to me, I’ll say, ‘Yeah, we didn’t do that during Covid but now we are.’ [Edit: Yikes—now I learn it is not some local bro at all but Bro Hendricks from HQ. He’ll do fine, I’m sure.] [Further edit: He did.]

The ‘pandemic that turned the world upside down’ video may yet be vindicated. I’m not assuming it’s a paper tiger. But from being turned upside down it kept turning and continues to do so. Too soon to tell just when it stops.

*Not only does the radio in the dog’s car not work, but the whole ‘entertainment system’ is gone! The reason it is gone is that the car battery began draining 9BF35A99-204F-4618-9E28-2E5BBD1AB222overnight and the auxiliary package module (I may not be saying this right) was found to be the culprit. Fix it, I told my mechanic. But he said the new module would have to be ‘programmed into the car’ and he didn’t think the dealer would tell him the code. Pull the fuse then, I said, and all kinds of things don’t work now, but nothing safety related, only convenience related. When I broke down later and took it to the dealer, tired of not being entertained by my entertainment system, surprisingly it did not cost me a million dollars but only a little more than a hundred. But I think they did no more than stick a fuse back in it, even though I told them not to do that, for in a few months the problem returned. But the dog subsequently died, so it no longer cares about if he is entertained or not. This was the same dog that if you ran over the grooved pavement separating lanes, making vibration, it would climb between the front seats and sit on my wife’s lap for reassurance. With it gone, and I do miss him, I may even give the car a thorough scrubbing and vacuuming so that it once again becomes a people car, albeit a people car minus an entertainment system.

To be continued here

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

The Return of Door-to-Door for the Witnesses

Back to door-to-door the Witnesses go. Are they chomping at the bit? Some are nervous. It’s been a while.

We make it far too complicated with suggested presentations. They’re fine for chatty persons but not everyone is chatty. If you’re not, try this instead. Select a favorite verse, let’s say James 1:13. Play with the following words to suit your own temperament, but DO NOT lengthen it: ‘Hi. I’m Jerry. I stopped by to read you a scripture, you tell me what you think, and I’m gone.’ It they say no, be pleasant and leave. If yes they say yes, read: “For with evil things God cannot be tried, nor does he himself try anyone.”

In a sentence or two, say why you chose the verse. “I chose this verse because some people think he DOES do evil, or even think there is no God.’

After your one sentence say: ‘The next move is yours and you don’t have to make one. If this is interesting to you, we can explore it. If not, enjoy your day and I’ll continue on my way.’ If they say no, move on graciously. If they say yes, fish out some appropriate video. Your choice. Often I go with the basic ‘Why Study the Bible?’

Don’t ask to show it. Just start it up, with the observation that, ‘This video runs almost 3 minutes but you don’t have to watch it all. The minute it gets boring, just say so and I’ll stop it.’ If they demur, again, take your leave.

My experience is that even those who decline are pleased with the brevity and the clear signal you don’t wish to chew up their time. Many of those who say ‘no’ add, ‘but thanks for calling.’ It does at least as much as a more wordy approach, if not more, and is much more enjoyable. It is letting the scripture do the talking, which is our main goal in the first place. It takes charge of the conversation in an appealing way so the householder does not start fidgeting and say, ‘Where are we going with this?’ or worse yet, become irritated. It’s always clear where we are going, and they usually appreciate the straightforwardness.

Extroverts are fine with encountering people in any setting. They’re good at starting up conversations and guiding them anywhere they like. Introverts are less comfortable doing this. Sometimes they dread it. They prefer a door setting where it is obvious they came for a reason and they have only to tell that reason. But then we clog it up with awkward questions and open-ended conversations. If they work for you, go for it. But otherwise, keep it simple. Leave it for the extroverts to flesh out the more involved presentations.

A few weeks ago was a 5-minute service meeting part to the effect that if you think the suggested presentation is a clunker, you can change it. For an introverted person, most of them are clunkers. It must be extroverts who design those presentations. Or those who live in areas where people like to chew the fat with complete strangers that happen to stop by unannounced. Keep it simple. You’ll be surprised how liberating the above method is. And there’s no end of verses that you can make a presentation from.

In the ‘John Wheatnweeds’ chapter of Tom Irregardless and Me, I play with several of these presentations. John is the one who “hinders members from their ministry by spending inordinate amounts of time expounding on the text of the day before they set out,” as one reviewer put it. Tom Pearlsandswine is the one who is thrilled at the notion that you don’t really have to prepare for these presentations, since he has never prepared for anything in his life.

C1C0C812-7785-4664-89E4-371C38B4A423

photo by Wilfredor—Wikipedia

 

******  The bookstore

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

What the Society is Trying to Say is….

sister in a prior congregation (who later left the truth) was famous for saying, “What the Society is trying to say is….” I used to answer that they know how to write there at Bethel. Doubtless what they were saying is exactly what they wanted to say.

It’s not necessary to take the view, ‘what the Governing Body wants is this. If they want it, they’ll say it. Sometimes I think admittedly imprecise wording is in recognition and respect that each person’s conscience with move him/her differently.

I play with that idea of ‘what the Society is trying to say’ in Tom Irregardless and Me. John Wheatnweeds drags out meetings for field service to such an extent that by the time he is done, no one wants to go out in service anymore. Reminder after reminder comes from the Society to shorten his meetings. Each one he gets around, after commenting that, “What the Society is trying to say is….” 

After four of five letters that have had little effect on him, he receives another. “What the Society is trying to say is…” he begins, at which point the Society interrupts: “We’re not TRYING to say anything—we’re SAYING it! You get those publishers out the door in seven minutes!”

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Switching Study Guides—Good News from God to Enjoy Life Forever: Part 2

(See Part 1)

If they were “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd” then how much more are they now? (Matthew 9:36) Not only “skinned and thrown about” but they know it. “Have the governments of the world succeeded in bringing peace to the world? No,” says the public speaker. “Have they failed miserably? Yes,” he continues. Jehovah’s Witnesses appeal to those who don’t equivocate.

Seeking to run down the faith, one grumbler says its “publications pump out fear-driven content that keeps followers afraid that the end is coming...” Is it our publications that do that or is it theirs? Read the news headlines and try not to say it is theirs. One of my all-time favorite posts is that of the Newsweek cover decrying calamities of the week before capping it all with: “What the #@%! is Next?”

Normalize it if you will and some do. Those aren’t the ones Jehovah’s Witnesses look for. Anyone who doesn’t know where we are in the stream of time has been living in a coma, says Anthony Morris. Exactly.

Here is a study relating how “fifty-six percent of young people surveyed said they agreed with the statement that humanity is doomed, while 75 percent said they believed the future was frightening.” Are they “sheep without a shepherd—skinned and thrown about? They attribute their gloom to “their national governments, who they said were “betraying” them and future generations through their inaction” toward climate change.

Newsweek is up to its old tricks again. “A doomsday COVID variant worse than Delta and Lambda may be coming, scientists say,” screams its cover. That won’t make the young people feel any better, will it?  who now have yet another reason to feel doomed.

47744BEC-C551-4DAB-BBC9-475A98151735

And Jehovah’s Witnesses are the ones scaring people? Just how do people conduct themselves when they think they are doomed? At least the Witness “scare” offers a way of escape. Theirs does not. 

So maybe all this means that you don’t pussyfoot around with your new study guide. “The time left is reduced,” Paul said long ago. It’s much more reduced now. You don’s systematically examine belief systems so as to tell what wrong with them since the persons you’re looking at don’t have belief systems—they are skinned and thrown about, trying to find their way and place. Those who do sense at some level, whether immediently or in their gut, where we are in the stream of time—that’s who Witnesses look for. If they don’t sense it—there’s not much one can do about it. Look for those who do.

“This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ,” says John 17:3. Okay. Got it. Hold off on involved stuff for now. See how the basics resonate. Focus on introducing people to those parties, God and his Son. Help them build their own relationship with those two—this is what the new study guide Enjoy Life Forever does. With a relationship to Jehovah and his son, the rest comes easy. Without it, the rest does not come at all.

Pressures from this system of things will cause persons to move in both directions—some into Jehovah’s organized Christian arrangement and some out. The appeal of Witnesses is that one may understand the Bible. “It can be an open book to you,” the tract used to say. Should that open book appeal fade, people will depart as quickly as they came. Sometimes the fact that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7) causes ones to forget it is treasure.

“I don’t know,” Ruth, who was old even then, or was it that I was young? told me long ago as we were awaiting the householder to answer the bell—I don’t remember if he did or not. “They come in, and they go out. Seems it would be better if more stayed in.” Is it possible? We’ve consolidated Kingdom Halls in the US because they didn’t fill to overflow as we had hoped they would when we built them. One fellow at the coffee shop razzed me over one that had been sold. “It’s because of our great growth,” I told him.

If I had my druthers, I’d like to see focus on, not just why people come into the truth, but also why they leave it. “Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things,” Paul writes to Timothy. (2 Tim 4:10) How could he do that? “We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one,” states Paul, (2 Corinthians 7:2) Who said that they had? There must have been someone.

Were there more focus on why some leave the faith even as others join it, maybe “apostates” wouldn’t hold the bogeyman status among Witnesses that they do. Defuse the mystery of their departure, for it is always mundane. “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to men.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) I’m struck with how when people leave, answers to the burning spiritual questions that drew them in seemingly vanish into thin air and are never contemplated again.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Switching Study Guides—Good News from God to Enjoy Life Forever—Part 1

Chuck started his Zoom Bible study with the Good News from God brochure as guide. Since there was encouragement to switch to the new interactive guide when feasible, I looked for a seamless spot. I thought I had found one. I hadn’t.

Lesson 10 of GNfG seemed the spot. Entitled “How Can You Recognize True Worship?” with subheadings “Is there only one true religion?” “What did Jesus say about false Christians?” “How can you recognize true worshippers?” and “Can you identify the true religion?”

Intensify it only slightly to the “How False Religion Misrepresents God” of Enjoy Life Forever, Lesson 13, and it seemed a perfect transition place.

It wasn’t.

Chuck took to the transition and the new guide. Several lessons on Jesus followed. (15-17) “Who is Jesus?” “What did Jesus do on earth?” and “What was Jesus like?” He took to them all and carried on how he had learned so much about Jesus. He loved how we had [his words] “married Bible study, evangelizing, and technology.” We covered several chapters, two weeks per lesson.

He’s not one hard to draw out; he likes to talk. He was a philosophy major in college not so long ago. Need I say more? He’s not quite so participatory as Alex, who felt he had to act out the answers as though in a drama class—if the answer was ‘scribes and Pharisees,’ any other student would just say ‘scribes and Pharisees’ but Alex would bound off his chair and strut around his apartment nose in the air as he imagined the scribes and Pharisees would do.

Chuck doesn’t carry on to that extent, but he is loquacious. Think of the 30-second goal in commenting at meetings that our Watchtower conductor is a real bug on. The need-greater from Myanmar tells me it is not just so that more people can comment, but also that we may learn to be concise, just like Jesus was. I’ve even begun to, within very narrow limits, incorporate this counsel into my own writing. I’ve been known to meander forever before getting down to a topic. Yes, but the thing is, people tell me, we don’t really like you that much—why don’t you just address the point? Ah well—none of this matters in a home Bible study. It’s not me that talks, it’s him, and philosophers are seldom at a loss for words.

Presently, however, I began looking ahead in the guide and grew uneasy. Coming up were chapters such as “Are Jehovah’s Witnesses real Christians?” and “Baptism—a worthwhile goal.” Seriously? We haven’t laid all the groundwork yet! The topic of why evil and suffering exist is still ahead of us! All previous guides have considered it before it comes time to figure who has the true religion. What kind of sense does this new way make? Other lessons long considered basic, including many of those we’ve already covered in GNfG, are still ahead of us in ELF! What gives? We should be asking whether the students think JWs have the true religion before laying the groundwork that proved to us it does?

I tell Chuck I’m a little at a loss now that I’ve seen the two study guides do not parallel each other, as I had assumed they did—he’s the first study I have conducted with the new interactive guide. That makes me a pioneer! he says. Either that or a guinea pig, I tell him. Well, we can continue with the present course, I propose, speeding through it somewhat. Or we can go back to Lesson 1 and proceed from there, since it is different material, not parallel to the Good News from God at all.

What bothers me doesn’t bother him at all. Times change, he says. Curriculum adjusts. Of course it does, but I grasped it only upon reflection. He grasped it instantly.

To be continued…

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Building Street Cred in the Ministry

Jehovah’s Witnesses, over much time, have built up street credibility. They do the work. They log the time. Some will hear them out on that account alone. Their course is no more remarkable to them than putting the lamp on the lampstand. “It is only because someone is “making” them do it,” detractors may say. If they say it to me, I invite them to look around and identify that person.

Not only should speaking with Jehovah’s Witnesses be permitted—one might say (with hyperbole) that it should be a requirement. Jehovah’s Witnesses offer a safe setting in which one can talk about matters that are off the grid of daily life: matters not mundane, matters spiritual. Witnesses are not out to defraud anyone. They are not out for any sordid purpose. If you tell them no, they go away.

The greater world distrusts becoming too serious about the Bible, for fear the ones so affected may run a bit crazy, forgetting completely the goals that have been laid out for them. The fear is that they may develop other goals, goals leading off the charted path. I know this because my own mother was advised by one of her friends, the mom of my peer, “Get him out of there!” when I was expressing interest in Bible study with the Witnesses. The peer and I were not that close. I don’t know what became of him. However, I have since run across some peers who were close and I do not regret at all where life has taken me versus they.

It is a parent’s worst fear that his or her youngster may be drawn into something radical, something that purports to offer answers to questions that they, the parents, have not figured out and have come to expect no more, even supposing it dangerous to pursue such answers. Have they given up on exploring deep questions of life such as Why is there suffering? What is the overall purpose of life? What happens at death? What is the nature of God? They may reason, Is it not necessary to give up on such nebulous things so as to devote oneself to the practical matters of life? But they are unsure that their offspring will likewise give up, for they themselves at one time did not.

Jehovah’s Witnesses offer a safe setting to explore unconventional ideas with regular people. The worst you can do is to get stuck with somebody awkward or boorish. This can happen, as they are just regular people. But even at their worst, they want nothing from anyone. They are not out “recruiting,” or if they are it is an outcome so far removed as to be a non-factor. Sometimes, when I am speaking with persons concerned about this, I will say: “If it helps, let us both agree that there is no way on God’s green earth that you are going to become a Witness. You know it. I know it. So we can take it off the table.” 

Converting is so extraordinarily improbable with any given person—it would take up to a year of discussion were one to join up—that no Witness seriously entertains that prospect in their ordinary contacts. One cannot participate in a Bible discussion without knowing something of the Bible, and Witness visits are made solely with that immediate goal.

One can get stuck with a pest. But one will never get stuck with a menace. At worst it will be someone overeager for a cause and imperceptive. The news is good news, not bad news, and so the temptation is to over-present. Even so, it will be good training for a teen on how to deal with the tangle that is humanity today. It represents “training wheels” for later in life when one will run across scoundrels who are up to no good and one may not know just how to deal with them. Having briefly conversed with an adolescent who was the sole person at home, I took my leave and headed down the driveway. The boy’s mother pulled up in her car. I told her that I had asked a brief question to her child and he had answered intelligently. “You should be proud of him,” I said.

....

Visit Smashwords bookstore.  Also available at Amazon & other ebook retailers

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Filling Jerusalem With All Your Teaching

God is our refuge and strength, A help that is readily found in times of distress. That is why we will not fear, though the earth undergoes change, though the mountains topple into the depths of the sea, though its waters roar and foam over, though the mountains rock on account of its turbulence.” (Ps 46:1-3)

There is a sense—not just among  JWs—but among many, that things are coming together as though in a grand finale. “Doomscrolling” is the newly coined phrase; people scroll through social media to read item after item announcing their doom, be it extreme weather, economic chaos, pandemic, protests, or riot. Fixtures as rocklike and dependable as mountains, “topple into the depths of the sea”—the sea which is alway restless and so well typifies human instability. The very “earth undergoes change” as sturdy human governments reveal themselves fragile, and unhinged zealots yank them this way and that. “Future historians will be asked what quarter of 2020 do they specialize in,” is the new meme. Applied to any other year, it makes no sense. Applied to 2020, anyone can identify with it.

Add to this factors which JWs will especially appreciate, though they will not be lost on all others. What are the chances that the one worldwide religion that categorically rejects participation in war in any capacity for any reason will be declared “extremist?” Yet such is the case in Russia, and Witnesses will recall a multitude of verses to the effect that “if they have hated me [Jesus], they will hate you.” Two of the nine Sermon on the Mount beatitudes have to do with being persecuted for staying true to the cause.

At the same time, suddenly the preaching work cannot be done in any sort of normal way, and in lieu of this it was mentioned some might have the tendency to say “We’re done,” and wait to see how events unfold. I mean, can you really “fill Jerusalem with all your teaching” (Acts 5:28, cited in last week’s study—it’s a two part series) when you are reduced to letter-writing and phone calls? It is a bit of a high hurdle.

As to making phone calls, one local brother addressed “fears”—“It’s not so much the fear of doing it as it is the fear of being ineffective” that discourages him. Dampening my enthusiasm is my own self-awareness. Under no circumstances do I answer calls from unknown numbers—scammers will eat you alive if you do that. Callers can leave a message if it’s legitimate. 

Don’t most people do that? It has evolved over time. Mike used to devour Consumer Reports; consequently, he knew whatever product telemarketers were trying to sell better than they, and he would tear apart whatever crappy item they were hawking—his wife said it was a real hoot to watch him. And I have taken the tip before to witness to these characters—the phony Microsoft people with the Indian accents were stopped cold when I did that—but to me it involves using the truth as an offensive weapon. It’s not what I do. Naw—there’s just too many of them and people have things to do. Easier just to mute the phone.

Too, I’ll gear up to write a letter but then reflect that if I write a post instead I’ll reach dozens, ultimately hundreds—and I’ll get feedback too, which doesn’t happen much with individual letters. So I confess my participation in these two areas has been scant—not nonexistent, but scant. When we did door-to-door I focused on Sundays and evenings because that’s when the most people are home—not only home, but relaxed. Sigh—now we are “fishers of men” as before, but with a fishing line so long that you can barely see the fish.

So it’s my bad. I’ll have to get more in sync because I don’t like not being so, and even as we speak I am. Still, I was surprised that the move would be to replicate virtually the physical territory and car group experience—I mean, letter writing is not really a group activity. I even thought the virus might result in breaking away from “counting time” which works for keeping records but also triggers artificial situations.

I thought, for example, that starting with one’s own phone number, one might text each successive number. With the same area code, they’re not likely to be too far away, and since it is all virtual, who cares if they are? It seems you could more readily “fill Jerusalem with your teaching” that way. But it didn’t happen. Fairly soon came the word that bad results had come that way; some had received abusive or apostate replies. Well, “deal with it” I thought—that can happen anywhere. Still, I texted no more. It is a little dicey throwing out your phone number to all anyway.

But if you really want to “fill Jerusalem with your teaching”—isn’t “trending” the modern term for this? And where do things trend? Through phone calls and letters? Or isn’t it through social media? I wish we weren’t so averse to it. It’s not that someone can’t do it, but if you say that you do it is a little like butchering that trumpet burst and everyone in the orchestra stares at you aghast. So I don’t say it, at least not much. If I had my druthers, though, it would be considered a glass half-full, rather than a glass half-empty.

There is an art to it, but so is there is to everything. It’s not everything, but must it be nothing? You have to friend or follow those in the general community and not just the brothers if you don’t want to be preaching to the choir. And you have to engage with them on their topics, not just yours, not the Bible alone, or you drive most away. It’s pretty much like interacting in the physical neighborhood in which you live.

I like it when brothers are seamless on social media with their faith and their secular life, putting it out there for anyone to see how their latter is influenced by their former. Few do it. It’s almost as though friends have separate languages for believers and non-believers, belaboring only the most basic scriptures for the latter and thus stunting their own spiritual growth if they are not careful. 

Add it to the mix is what I would like to see, not replace the mix with it. The idea is to be well-rounded. Huge possibilities exist with  with regard to linking to items in JW.org. For the most part, we leave them untapped. 

Now, don’t misunderstand. Saying I would like to see something is not the same as saying: “This is what they should do,” just as as saying you would like an X-box is not the same as saying people should give you one. Some brother a while back advised Bethel that they should be stockpiling food, and Anthony Morris chuckled at the thought of such unsolicited guidance: “Imagine—a brother telling the Governing Body that they should be hoarding up supplies,” he mused wryly. I don’t want him saying: “Imagine—that yo-yo TrueTom saying the Governing Body should dispatch the friends to Facebook and Twitter!”

I get why we don’t. Isn’t the internet of the equivalent of the broad roads “trampled on by men?” Aren’t there even a lot of swine there, so that you think of the verse: “Do not give what is holy to dogs nor throw your pearls before swine, so that they may never trample them under their feet and turn around and rip you open?”  (Matthew 7:6) Let’s face it—I mean, no one will dispute this—there are plenty of swine on the internet. Many many times I have witnessed nasty battling of the trolls in areas of polarized opinion and I have said how nice it is that we stay out of public catfights—it lends our work a certain dignity. But that was before the pandemic.

Why should haters own the internet? Take a stand and deal with them if they show up. Any troll is OCD and usually toxic. The greater world will counsel to avoid such persons, not just us. Ought we not be “always ready to make a defense before everyone who demands of you a reason for the hope you have, but doing so with a mild temper and deep respect?” (1 Peter 3:15) We run like scared rabbits from opposers. Dish them out an answer or two and block them should they get obnoxious. For the longest time I blocked no one by replying with a link to something I had written on whatever topic they were harping one, effectively answering their 30 words with my 1000–link to something on JW.org if you don’t have your own stuff, or even if you do. But one day they ganged up on me and I did end up blocking a few. Still, I am always surprised to find that I am blocked by opposers I have hardly interacted with—more of them block me than me them.

Ah, well. “The wise one is cautious and turns away from evil, but the stupid one is reckless and overconfident.”  (Proverbs 14:16) Maybe I’m just stupid—and impatient. I write this post within days of two heralded vaccine breakthroughs—Pfizer and Moderna each coming up with something 95% effective. If genuine, that’s huge—we are pestered to get annual flu shots that are never more than 50% effective, often much less. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Is it that of an oncoming train? Or is it genuine light during which we may brace ourselves for the next tunnel? Maybe we will be back door-to-door soon, or at least cart witnessing. And in the meantime, new skills have been developed. My wife has come to enjoy phone calls—she is quite good at it, and letter writing to professionals with the ‘What is God’s Kingdom?’ issue, such as is being done this month is a significant unified accomplishment. 

“This is the government that has health in it’s platform,” I wrote to one of them, “and not just health care.”

7E836A56-CE54-4A04-AC4A-EF72A087BE25

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

How Do You Answer When Asked “What do you Do?”

As far as I am concerned, what pegs the “faithful and discreet slave” as faithful and discreet and effective is that they have redefined how most Witnesses view their own vocation. This came up in recent discussion of the daily text about Jesus being “the carpenter, the son of Mary.” He may have been “the carpenter,” but when he “began his work” (Luke 3:23), it is not carpentry that the verse speaks of. It is preaching and teaching the Word.

So it is that under the direction of the Governing Body, few if any of Jehovah’s people regard themselves first according to their occupations. They regard themselves as preachers of the good news first, who just happen to be doing this or that in order to pay the bills.

This is a huge accomplishment—to motivate people to redefine themselves.

They did it by steadfastly persuading the many who would say—I have said it myself—“Why can’t we be Jehovah’s Witnesses and just live normal lives?” Their answer would be: “How can you live a normal life in an abnormal world?” 

They have won that battle. It is an abnormal world. How can you live a normal life in it? Secular work occupies its place with our people, of course, but seldom do they define themselves by it. At the drop of a pin, they will chuck “career” aside totally for the sake of part-time work if they can figure a way to make it work.

Just about the time of the Proclaimers book, I thought there was a shift to speaking of the Witness way of life in terms of a “theocratic career”—is that my imagination? That way when our young people encountered classmates ecstatic at the careers they were going to have—being pushed that way by guidance counselors—they could come back with a career concept of their own. They wouldn’t have to answer, “Well, I’m just going to get a job somewhere, maybe in a tool shop,” much less, “Well, I think I’ll just be a janitor so I can have more time for door to door preaching.”

Now, as it turns out, I was a janitor for many years. And when my newly married wife was asked by a set of well-to-do non-Witness relatives what her husband did for a living, she said “He’s a janitor.” This occasioned a disappointed “Oh.” She added that “He owns his own company.” The same syllable followed, this time with opposite impressed inflection! It’s all a facade! It’s all a joke! It doesn’t mean a thing. While I was a janitor, I checked out just about every Books on Tape there was in the library that wasn’t contemporary fiction, I listened while working, and I find myself better “read” than almost anybody.

If there is one thing I regret in my past (actually, there are quite a few), it is that when I was asked—it is the 2nd line at any introduction—“And what do you do?” I would answer as to my secular work. This might lead to a discussion of how, with brilliantly shined floor, people’s spirits lift, yet they can’t put their finger on just why—or how when the floor is dingy by the baseboards, it is the fault of the janitor for slopping it there with his mop as he goes back and forth—how else could it possibly get there? But why in the world would I care about that? If you answered the question “What do you do?” according to what people expect, then you had to change the subject into one more interesting or suffer through one that you barely care about yourself.

Don’t play that game. Answer according to what you are and what interests you most. In time, I got so I would do that, but it took long enough. “Well, I do various things to pay the bills,” I would say, “but what gives me the most satisfaction is....” I should have done it years before I did.

Fay said how in Ireland (she had been there recently) when people ask that question, they really do want to know about you, and not just what you do for a living. I like it that the faithful and discreet slave (Matthew 24:45-47) has taken membership and persuaded them to define themselves and think of themselves as an army of preachers, diverse though their backgrounds might be. Can’t get more faithful than that.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

“This is the Carpenter, the Son of Mary”

This is the carpenter, the son of Mary.​—Mark 6:3

Talk recently during the Daily Text discussion was about what Jesus was known for. Was he executed for anything having to do with carpentry? The commentary cited Luke 3:23: “When Jesus began his work, he was about 30 years old...” What “work” was he known for? It wasn’t carpentry, yet he was described as “the carpenter.”

Curiously, the first Witness to be jailed in Russia after the 2017 ban in that country has a surname, Christensen, that indicates whom he follows. His occupation? A carpenter—just like that of the one he follows—and the last noteworthy thing he did as a carpenter was to build a playground for the neighborhood children. But he wasn’t arrested on account of his carpentry, was he?

They came from humble roots, those first-century Christians did, and for the most part that is true today. Their leading ones were said to be “unlearned and ordinary” (Acts 4:13) and for the most part, that is true today. These days, without letters appended to one’s name, people are barely worth noticing. Same thing back then. Doesn’t that explain why, apart from the early Christians themselves, there are only four figures in contemporary history (Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Philo, Josephus) who mention early Christianity at all—and all of them only in brief passing paragraphs, about one per writer—it’s never their main topic—almost the priority you might assign in discussing what the plumbers were doing back then. The doings of the common people are beneath the notice of the upper classes.

The apostle Paul wrote about letters. “Are we starting to recommend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some men, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, inscribed on our hearts and known and being read by all mankind.” (2 Corinthians 3:1-2) They did the work. They preached and made disciples. That was their letter, not some honorary title appended by some school to their name. Jesus said you could even be distracted by such honorary things: “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) They’re okay, those letters are—no harm in them and they do denote some study, but it is possible to hide behind them. They are not what cuts it from God’s point of view.

Another verse cited in the text commentary was 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” If you say you are expecting a workman to arrive at the house, what sort of person do you expect? A lawyer? Once again, the ministry of Christians is linked with humble work. Accordingly, the Christian organization today has taken to gathering together a “teaching toolbox” of materials, video and otherwise, for use in the ministry. It is not a portfolio. It is not a briefcase. It is a toolbox.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

The Watchtower Study of June 14, 2020

‪I liked this one from the Watchtower study: “Marc, a missionary in Burkina Faso, puts it this way: “The people I think will make progress often stop studying. But the people I think won’t go far progress very well.” Yeah. Same here. That’s why you don’t judge: You’re usually wrong.‬

This one provoked an image from that study, did it not? “Once, at a real estate office, she noticed a tattooed young woman wearing baggy clothes. ‘I hesitated for a moment,’ says Yukina, ‘but then I started talking to her. I discovered that she was so interested in the Bible that some of her tattoos were verses from the Psalms!’ Can you picture yourself reading right off her body and elucidating the verses for her? Not in all places of her body, of course. There is such a thing as decorum.

We also read of the Witness who “started a conversation with a 19-year-old man whose T-shirt depicted a famous singer,” said Gustavo. “I asked him about it, and the man told me why he identified with the singer.” Maybe it was the same kid I called on, wearing a Jim Morrison (The Doors) sweatshirt that I, too, commented on. “Let’s go see Jim Doors,” I would say for the longest time when doing return visits. 

The study was from one of those articles on how to be more discerning in the ministry, and I love that type of article, because I don’t think we always are. There was this experience: “In Albania, a woman who was studying with a pioneer named Flora stated firmly, ‘I cannot accept the teaching of the resurrection.’ Flora did not force the issue. She relates, ‘I thought that she must first get to know the God who promises the resurrection.’ She left it on the table and came back to it later.

My Dad did this with me as a boy on the literal table. I didn’t want to eat all the food on my plate—what boy does? So Pop would draw a line, separating as though Moses at the Red Sea, the food I had to eat from the food I didn’t. I came to anticipate it—“Draw a line, Pop!” I would say. In time I learned to devour it all and I do not have to say it now to my wife.

How about this one from paragraph 8? “Perhaps [the householder] has told you directly that he has his own religion. When that happens to a special pioneer named Flutura, she replies, ‘I’m here, not to impose my beliefs on you, but to talk to you about this subject . . . ‘ I go further than that. I tell them that if I call 100 times, on the 100th call I will ask if they want to join my religion, and then they can say no. In the meantime, it is just conversation—if it’s dull, end it on that basis, but if not—no need to take cover lest you fear being recruited for the cause.

Lots of people think we are there to recruit. I suppose we are, really, but it is so far down the road that it needn’t be a concern for a long long time. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not a people of ‘instant conversion’—you cannot ‘Come down and be saved!’ with them. Besides, “this good news will be declared in all the inhabited earth” (Matthew 24:14) is a goal in and of itself, without regard for how that news is received. It actually will not be acted upon in too many cases, for the verse John 12:37 was also considered: “Although [Jesus] had performed so many signs before them, they were not putting faith in him.” If they were cool on Jesus with signs, what about those who would speak of him without signs?

Paragraph 9 was of running into a religious person. “Try to find common ground. He may worship only one God, he may recognize Jesus as the Savior of humankind, or he may believe that we are living in a time of wickedness that will soon end. Based on beliefs you have in common, present the Bible’s message in a way that is appealing to that person.”

Sometimes this works, but certain types of evangelicals will argue almost from the get-go, and if they don’t do it us, sometimes we do it to them. With one such person, when it started to go that way, I said: “Look, we are both trying to follow the Word, but we are doing it differently. You think we are doing it all wrong and we think you are doing it all wrong. We’ll steal persons from your church in a heartbeat, and you’ll do the same to us. But we are both doing it—that’s the point—and we live in a world where most people aren’t doing it at all.” Instantly we were on the same side. There was a little chat about keeping the faith amidst a world that rejects it.

There was even artwork of witnessing on a row of townhouses. The Witness couple was at house 1, a pristinely kept up house. But they would soon be calling on house 3, a pigsty—blinds crinkled and askew, trash cans overflowing,  litter everywhere. One sister commented how the people there must be ill and you wouldn’t want to comment on the nice clean paradise to come because that might make them embarrassed. (My Lord—do we ever think the best of people!) Nah—I think they’re just a bunch of slobs who might not be so slovenly if they received a message of hope. But you never know the comments you will get over artwork.

I’ll bet the people in house 1 don’t care much for the people of house 3. I have even had in the ministry some 1-like people tell me that I should call on the 3-like people, who need what I have, whereas they, the 1-like people, do not. But they do a quick reappraisal when I volunteer to do just that and tell them who sent me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’