Let a Householder Talk Long Enough and He’ll Tell You Why He Needs the Kingdom

In an article from The Watchtower of May 1, 1984, p. 31 under "Questions from Readers" it states that "Jehovah's Witnesses do not go to people's homes in search of truth or clarification. Rather, they have spent countless hours learning the truth from the Word of God and, having learned the "good news," obediently go out to share it with other people.

Coming back to that one:

The idea that anyone would find this “problematic” (as did Bill Brexit) is almost too bizarre to comprehend. In my entire life, I have never opened the door to someone who doesn’t have something to say.

‘Let a householder talk long enough and he’ll tell you why he needs the kingdom.’ If they don’t, then they’re plainly not the type of person Witnesses are searching for. They look for the one who is ‘skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd’—and he knows it, if only subliminally. Anyone who sees the present state of human affairs and says, ‘Things are just hunky-dory here!’—that’s not the person they’re looking for. Do a little pleasant chit-chat, and I move on. As often as not, I’m not called upon to do any pleasant chit-chat. They’re more eager for me to move on than I am to do it.

It’s the notion Brexit seems to have that Witnesses call to shake down whatever people have so as to ‘build back better’ that is crazy. Can he really think that way? Witnesses have no interest in deassembling a person so as to reassemble that one. Their looking for persons who are already deasembled, who know it, and who are dissatisfied with it. Let them talk enough and they’ll tell you why they need the kingdom.

To this end, the ‘read a scripture’ approach works well for me. I’m not a fan of these open-ended questions which all-to-often have the effect of putting the householder on the spot. It’s uncomfortable to be put on the spot. Nobody likes that. Better to say, “I stopped by to read you a scripture, you tell me what you think, and I’m outta here. Good idea?” It’s not much of a request. Quite a few people say ‘yes.’ If they think it is not a good idea, I am true to my word and outta there. If they do an answer that isn’t an answer, such as, ‘I have a church,’ I say, “it’ll still work.” If they hem and haw a little, I say ‘in the time it takes to decide I can just read it,’ and I do. 

Read the scripture, explain why you chose it, in a sentence or two, and give them opportunity to converse on it if they like. If they don’t—hey, I’m happy—I read a verse and it fell flat. This is not the person I’m looking for. Move on with pleasantness. Even people who decline are apt to say, “but thanks for calling,” so pleased are they that you get right to the point and didn’t try to impose on their time. 

Recently I used 1 Thess 5:11, “Therefore, keep encouraging one another and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.

I explained I chose it for two reasons. 1) that it was the theme of a recent meeting (a witness in itself, because it gives an indication as to what goes on at a Kingdom Hall), and 2) it seems like a big ‘Duh’—a no-brainer—seek to encourage and build up—except we live in a world where that is almost never done. 

You reach this point, by which time a householder may have formed an opinion of you as a reasonable guy, not pushy, not wound up too tight, and then they may go off in a hundred different directions.

A guy I spoke with last week interrupted my spiel of 1 Thess 5:11 with, “You don’t work, do you?” 5023E7D5-EBED-4B2E-AA53-84D8BE2525F3I thought it was an attack. “Well—I’m retired,” I hedged. Turned out to be nothing of the sort. He just launched into how ugly people were at his workplace, how argumentative, how abusive—and, alas, I could detect a personality that would make it ten times worse, but it was a good inroad into discussing kingdom promises and the discussion went on for some time.

Bill Brexit seems to think it’s likely that the householder comes out to talk ‘theology’ with you. It’s not unheard of, but it’s not very common. 

(Photo: Pixabay)


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One Fine Day on Social Media Getting My Head Handed to Me on a Platter

“Should I be concerned that my first instinct when someone rings the doorbell is to pretend I'm not home?” someone said over Twitter. Within the thread were assorted GIFs, such as the one with the woman inside the refrigerator, pulling the door shut. 

Me, I just like to help: “Of course not,” I replied. “Sudden appearance of someone you don’t know is always a cause for concern. Just watch out that the yapping dog at the window doesn’t give you away continually looking back as though to say, ‘Well? Why don’t you answer?’”

I should have left it at that. But I took on another tweet in the thread:

“I feel like this is the result of boomer parents drilling into their millennial children that all strangers will murder you and you’re never to answer the door or the phone when home alone. Ever,” a woman said.

Tommy, shut up. You know you should shut up. Don’t say what I did: 

Yeah. It’s like when teens came to the door and I showed the ‘Be Social Media Smart’ video. Then on a return visit, mom appeared, I said she was the one I’d been looking for, and she said I shouldn’t talk to her kids. Well—I specifically asked them if they thought their parents would care—people are different—and they had said no. ‘Kids will say anything,’ the woman told me.

Be Social Media Smart is innocuous. Few would be anything but supportive of it, pulling out their hair as they do about kids’ online activity.

Uh oh: “The fact that you don’t see anything wrong with being a grown ass man having a conversation with children and showing them religious material without their parents present is exactly why millennials grew up not trusting men who knock on their door.” 

Caution: Disagreement ahead vs ‘children vs teens,’ also ‘religious material vs PSA:’

The teens answered the door. I wasn’t looking for them. I asked for the parents who weren’t there. The material I showed, after asking if folks would object, was perfectly innocuous, not preachy in anyway, and I have never known any parent, religious or not, to oppose it….1/2

The fact is, in two or three years, those kids will be in the workworld, in college, maybe the military, where they will meet many a situation more ‘threatening’ than there encountered. Not all parents want their teens to hide. Most realize they will soon enough face the world….2/2

“You didn’t know what that parent wanted because they weren’t present for you to ask. So instead of leaving and coming back later, you, an adult man, continue to speak to children at the door of their own home when their parents weren’t available.”

The video is essentially a PSA announcement, hard to believe it would get someone’s dander up so. Were the teens to resume watching TV/internet, they’d see many far more objectionable things. But I’ve no quarrel with you, nor your family rules & would never violate whatever rules you have laid down, or that your teens, were I to encounter them, would tell me about.

“You could have been going door to door to show them episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. The problem is that you didn’t leave once the kids said their parents weren’t available. As the adult it’s on you to disengage when the parents aren’t present, but you didn’t.”

Best drop it at this point. You often have to let people get the last word, unless you want to be drawn into a thread that may never end. I even had to look up what Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood was and I was a little concerned it might be some pervert video or other, but it was just an example of an innocuous and virtuous video for small children. (whereas we were talking teens)

Still, I gotta say, it’s not the most comfortable spot to be in. Does it make me rethink? Times have changed. Best not be a dinosaur when the meteorite hits. Best not think of how it used to be. Think of how it is now. I’m not even sure ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ works anymore, and—let us be honest—even if it does, am I one of that village?

It is a pretty rare scenario in these parts but it does happen. You never press any teen, but is it the rule now that you don’t talk to them at all? I certain youngster I chatted with briefly, he being the only one home and assuring me nobody cared if he exchanged a word or two with a visitor. Upon leaving, there was his mom driving up the driveway. “I asked your son a couple of questions and he answered intelligently,” I told her. “You should be proud of him.”

Several years ago—what, maybe 20–I worked door to door with Elena, newly arrived from South America. A child answered the door—this time it was a child, not a teen. I handed a tract with instructions to give it to her parent. As we walked away, Elena said, ‘I would have witnessed to her.’

Of course. She wouldn’t do it today. But where she came from, it was quite common for Witnesses to speak with children. Parents had no problem with it, and in fact, many were quite pleased that some would be learning the Bible. But something even then told me we’re not in San Kansas anymore. No way in Western lands do I ever speak with a child so young other than a ‘give this to your mom’ kind of thing.

And here I was speaking to Davey-the-Kid about the difference in kids. Youngsters in the Latin American countries take on responsibilities early and thus mature early, whereas in the States there are 30-years olds as silly as adolescents.

***And—best not ignore the elephant in the room. The reason parents are on hair trigger alert more than even 20 years ago is the fear of pedophiles. Nobody is above suspicion. Just last month a pedophile school principle, who called children into his office to sit on his lap, was sentenced to prison. Call it another sign of the times.

From Tom Irregardless and Me:

“For example, a former coach of youth sports, Bob Cook wrote: “The most upsetting thing about many child-protection rules is they assume any adult is capable of doing something bad. If you think of yourself as a good person, and the people around you as good people, you can’t help but be taken aback. You can’t help but think a wall has been put between yourself, the children you coach, and the families you deal with. It’s a wall that seems patently ridiculous when, in the case of the Catholics involved in my Virtus meeting, were tight-knit, south side Chicago parishes where families had known each other for

No sense fighting it. You’d better adapt. ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.’

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When They Come Out to Talk Theology

Occasionally they do come out to talk ‘theology’ with you. Here ‘theology’ is in quotes because the word itself almost guarantees that one will miss the point, elevating the ‘study of God’ over the ‘worship of God.’ If  ‘obedience is better than sacrifice,’ (1 Samuel 15:22) it’s infinitely better than study to see just how much (if any) sacrifice is warranted.

When they do come out to talk theology, you don’t quite know if they are on the up-and-up or not. No matter. If you get some irritation, build a pearl around it.

In one of those morning meetings for field service, a circuit overseer discussed how you might handle those persons, whether sincere or not, who press their own literature on you. ‘There was a time when I was searching,’ he related what he had said, ‘and during that time I would have eagerly accepted that literature—I searched literature of all sorts. But I have found what I had been seeking. My search as ended.’

Sort of like the fellow who finds the pearl of high value. He researches, confirms its worth, and off he goes to do whatever he must to own it. He doesn’t go visiting the pearl salesman in the adjacent stall. He would have visited that fellow at one time, but he’s found the pearl of high value.

Again the Kingdom of the heavens is like a traveling merchant seeking fine pearls. Upon finding one pearl of high value, he went away and promptly sold all the things he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

Andy Laguna, another CO, now deceased, would tell of those really insistent ones who would press literature on him—now and then you hear of people who keep a stack of stuff just for visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses. ‘Now, now,’ he said, ‘I stopped in on you. Plainly that means I have something I think is worth saying. Now, I might be willing to switch focus to what you are urging upon me, but that would have to be at a time when you call on me.’ The overbearing householder would press him for his address. ‘You’ll just find me in the course of your normal house-to-house ministry,’ Andy would say.

As an offensive statement, I’m not overly fond of it. It just seems too much a ploy of one-ups-manship. But as a defensivestatement, sometimes that is exactly what you do. Like when one snooty religionist heard me out, and said, ‘No thank you, I’m Christian,’ will the plain insinuation that I was not. ‘Actually, only a Christian would do what I am doing,’ I told him in seeming befuddlement, ‘and, frankly, I’m a little surprised that you’re not doing it yourself.’ Fade smug smile—one of the most beautiful sights in the constellation of stars.

I know it’s not exactly kosher, but I tend to just stuff donated literature in my pocket (or bookbag, when I carried one) if a polite decline doesn’t do the trick, with the proviso (depending upon whether I think the intent is to undermine or not) that I may get around to reading it or I may not. It gets the person out of my hair, just like countless persons have gotten Jehovah’s Witnesses out of their hair with a ‘take their literature and be done with it’ tact. Often that backfires on them, however, when they find they are not ‘done with it.’

It’s like when I returned to my parents, home for semester break, with the what I was sure would be the life-altering-for-the-better bombshell question, ‘Have you ever heard of the Watchtower and Awake?’ Turned out they had. They had been on someone’s magazine route and had accepted the magazines for years. I had never seen them lying around the house. I suspect it was not because my parents were then in the back room reading them eagerly.

My dad was amiable, not inclined to pick fights with people, not inclined to tell people off, though he personally had no use for religion. This may have been a carryover of his Catholic days as refined by World War II, an experience that did a number on many a person’s faith. The only exception to his not telling people off was when the Presbyterian minister stopped by and in the course of his visit pointed out that my churchgoing mom—she wasn’t home at the time—was behind in her pledge contributions. ‘Just remember who is the source of those contributions,’ my non-believing dad told him.


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Completing the Circuit on Time

The study article begins with, “In many lands, it has been common to see happy Kingdom publishers on busy streets offering literature to passersby.” Of course, that means that in many other lands it is not.

‘You will by no means complete the circuit of the cities of Israel until the Son of man arrives.” (Matthew 10:23) It’s a good escape clause. Without it, the zealots of ‘preach! preach! preach!’ would be working others into a frenzy far more than they do now. Like the zealot years ago who told the congregation that, per the Watchtower, every baptized brother should pioneer. I was pretty sure there was no such Watchtower, or if there was it was an ancient one, so I queried him afterwards. He said there was and it was recent. So I looked it up when I got home. Sure enough, it was recent, but it was a quotation from an ancient issue! Sheesh.

“You will by no means complete the circuit of the cities of Israel until the Son of man arrives.” With this verse, the above guys are checked. With it, their more balanced counterparts [in my view] can say, ‘Chill already. Do the best you can. That thug country that goes bonkers every time a Christian knocks on a door? Don’t worry about it. Go somewhere else if you have to. God will make it all work.’

Is not Geo Jackson’s address to the latest Gilead class (152nd graduation) fitting? When you get back to your assignment, you may feel the urge to do everything at once! It will drive you crazy if you give in to it. Plug away at your assignment instead, he counseled, with the reassurance that God knows who’s where and can see that those in the hinterlands are accommodated in time—maybe bring a representative or two of their number into your proximity, if need be. In short, it’s the serenity prayer. Do what you can, acquiesce to what you cannot, and have the smarts to know the difference. In time, maybe circumstances will be that you can sail out to where those big fish keep tantalizingly breaking the waves.

What will happen to those in the circuit of cities not reached. Little is said—probably because little is known. It’s well to avoid strong statements when you don’t know. And since they discourage speculation as well, that might explain why they touch the verse sparingly.

Then too, to put it undiplomatically, we subject ourselves to a sort of ‘carrot and stick’ approach through theocratic counsel. It’s a turnoff for some. It assumes people require a carrot and stick approach. Do they? In case they do, is it the shepherd’s job to provide it? Few would deny the ‘universal truth’ that humans are inclined to take the ‘path of least resistance.’ ‘Exert yourselves vigorously to enter the narrow gate,’ says the Lord. It goes against our inclination. Most of us prefer to kick back with a beer and watch the game.

Ah, well. Life itself is carrot and stick, isn’t it? It’s just beefers wanting something to beef about who beef over it. F302DDDF-D3F4-4797-A09D-3F54F01C1B82Strive toward rewards, veer away from unpleasant downers. We do it everywhere else—why not in spiritual matters too? It’s a matter of headship style. It’s handled well enough, a good enough balance between expressing heartfelt appreciation for what the friends do in light of the pressures they face and encouraging them to keep up the fine fight and, whenever possible, keep on doing it ‘in fuller measure.’ At any rate, it’s probably best to adapt oneself to the way things are rather than fret they should be different since you don’t have the power to make them that way. Praise the Lord and pass the toolbox ‘ammunition.’

(photo: commons.Wikimedia.org)

Even of the circuits that are completed before the Son of man arrives, a person can wonder: ‘completed to what degree?’ How much exposure is enough for people to take a stand upon? Perhaps most Witnesses have a makeshift informal list of workmates, acquaintances, family members and so forth, people thought to be ‘good at heart’ that Jehovah will go all soft in the knees for at the last moment—and if them, why not include those on the list of other publishers?—like He did with Jonah (prompting that one to pout in the 4th chapter of the Book of Jonah). But it’s never going to be written. Anyone writing anything is bound by the ‘baptism clause.’ “Baptism, which corresponds to [the Ark], is also now saving you . . .” (1 Peter 3:21)

So the hotheads are going to be able to charge till the cows come home that Witnesses look forward to the day when everyone but the tiniest handful of persons (themselves) will be brought to ruin. It is the Bible that says it. Many Witnesses punch the list with qualifications that may or may not pan out.


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Can One Prove the Faith?

“I don't really have any evidence that any prayer has ever been answered, at least since the first century,” said Whitepebble. “We walk completely by faith on this question.”

No longer do I try to prove the faith to those determined not to share it. They have an answer to everything—just as any faction today has an answer to anyone who have chosen something different.. 

The idea of living forever, minus the woes of this present life, appeals to me. The idea of gratitude to a Creator, who has superior wisdom, appeals to me. All I need is to clear up misgivings about the existence of evil, and that can be done in a reasonable manner. It’s not something you can prove, but it makes sense.

Conversely, the idea that humans will have the answers does not appeal to me. All I know and have experienced argues that following that course will just incur `one disappointment after another.

These qualities could be described as those of heart. Head has nothing to do with it. The heart chooses what it wants, then charges the head to devise a convincing rationale. This may lend the appearance that the head is running the show, but it is the heart all along.

There is a downside to being as cocoon-like as many are toward in-depth following of news events. We miss that people everywhere select the facts they like, that support their belief/value/political system, then use them to castigate those of different persuasion. People are like sports fans today. They cheer and boast when their side scores a point, wince and do damage control when their side suffers loss, but on no account do they examine the merits of the other side. There are no end of combative  ‘other sides.’ But we miss much of this due to lumping them all together as ‘the world.’

Critical thinking as a tool in the toolbox is fine. Critical thinking as an overarching philosophy is a joke. We’re not capable of it. Heart trumps head every time. We think the ‘activism’ against the Witness organization is something unique. Instead, it just demonstrates that we stand for something. Everyone that stands for something triggers activism from those of conflicting persuasion. The one way not to trigger ‘activism’ is to be bland and toothless. Then, since your faith doesn’t really matter, since it doesn’t meaningfully stand in the way of predominant secular values, no one has anything to object to.

There is little sense in trying to prove the faith to anyone other than yourself. ‘Prove to yourselves,’ Romans 12:2 says. ‘Taste and see Jehovah is good,’ says the psalm. Taste is subjective. If someone can’t stand the taste of beets, how are you going to prove to them that beets taste good? These days I just present the Bible hope. It appeals to some and does not appeal to others.

When people squawk about Adam and Eve being fairy tale, as many do in the modern world, I say treat them, and all that derives from them, as they would a jigsaw puzzle. When you put together a jigsaw puzzle you do not concern yourself at all with whether the picture on the box cover is real or not. Upon assembling the puzzle and replicating that picture, sometimes that in itself triggers a reassessment of the picture’s validity. 

But if you know the box cover picture is of Josh Grobin, 319D387C-D6AD-4C9D-9213-FBBA941EBC00and you do not like Josh Grobin because after you picked up your wife and her girlfriend from his concert, you learned in a sudden storm that bridge surfaces really do freeze before road pavement (and Josh thereafter didn’t even come to visit you—unlike Mozart, who would have done so), then you will not attempt to put that puzzle together. So it is with the ‘God, prayer, everlasting life, man dominates man to his injury’ puzzle. Some are intrigued to put that puzzle together. To others, the box cover is a turn-off. 

Similarly, prayer is not a topic that you seek to prove to someone else. Does the Bible ever suggest that course? It is personal back and forth with God, without regard for how someone else might view it. If one person thinks such-and-such is an answer to prayer, what business is that of anyone else? Besides, even believers have grown comfortable with saying that, while God answers all prayers, sometimes the answer is no.

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Halloween Witnessing

“Theologians Confirm 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' Doesn't Apply To Your Kids' Halloween Candy” reads the Babylon Bee headline. The accompanying photo is one of mom and dad raiding their kid’s candy stash.

Mine did not do that. Believe me, I would have known. The day after Halloween, I would dump my catch on the carpet, apportion it out and figure it might last three months. Invariably, it was gone in a week—and it wasn’t my parents’ fault.

Fast forward a few decades and a religion change later. A householder opened the door to me, the day after Halloweeen. Eyeing the porch jack-o-lantern, I told him I was half a mind to introduce myself as a trick or treater, my costume being a Jehovah’s Witness. 

It proved an icebreaker. I asked him if he had many trick or treaters the night before. He had, he told me, about 100. I have never had one, nor my neighbors, but that’s because we live on an unlit, unsidewalked street not conducive to kids. His neighborhood—I looked over my shoulder to spy a house with plastic blow-up ghouls almost the height of the house itself—teemed with kids. When I told the man my candy was devoured within the week, he expressed surprise it had lasted that long.

No sense in being a spoilsport. Some of our people go into overdrive dissing the macabre holiday—all of the holidays, for that matter. It works as a research project, if you’re into that sort of thing. But it’s not a witnessing project. It’s always good when you witness not to lead with a list of things you don’t do.

It’s a like when my Scrabble-cheating brother talks back to the state ‘Get Vaccinated’ campaign. They’re just tireless at it, pounding away at the mantra to ‘Get vaccinated.’ My brother, who is vaccinated against Covid but who drew the line at the frequent boosters, said, “Sheesh, you’d think they’d get it through their heads that if people haven’t taken the shot by now, they’re not going to.”

Same thing with Halloween. 1343C28C-715A-49F9-AE66-A9FD95736AB3Sure, point out its unsavory origin, but understand that nobody cares. If people haven’t trashed the day by now, they’re not going to. ‘It’s fun for the kids’ is what trumps all. You risk looking picayune and sanctimonious if you harp on it as a plan of action. Confine it to your own research. The holidays are among the trash carted to the curb a century ago by the ‘messenger preparing the way.’ You don’t obsess over the trash in real life. Why do it here? Move on as to what you’ve saved and what you’ve accumulated, not what you’ve thrown out. 

If there’s a party going on, children will want to be a part of it. Still, growing up, there were all sorts of celebrations Jewish kids would not take part in. (though I never heard Halloween was one of them). Nobody ever said they were deprived. It was assumed they had stuff in their own background to compensate. I don’t recall my kids raising a fuss over Halloween. If they did, it was minor. We tried to do things to compensate.

It certainly was nothing like the phony ‘Witness’ kids of the Clint Eastwood movie, A Perfect World. The Witness mother in the film—they made her out to be like a puritanical Amish— squelched the complaints of her two kids, upset that they could not do Halloween trick or treating, with the pious platitude, “We have a higher calling.” No Witness in a thousand years is going to say “We have a higher calling”—they just don’t talk that way. So I knew that Clint probably didn’t know anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses and probably didn’t have it in for them in particular; he just wanted a premise for a good movie.

And now it’s time to wrap this post up and raid the fridge for lunch. “I have a higher calling.”

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The Changing Face of the Public Ministry

As much as one likes the idea of cart witnessing—let people look you over and approach as interested—if you do it too much it can mess you up—make you rusty at conversation. It’s great as a spice, not so much as a main course. 

It’s a little like when I worked help desk for a startup DSL.* Nothing about the service worked. The goal was to have no one on hold more than 30 seconds. The first day it was almost 3 hours. Eventually, if was discovered that a handful of questions could be answered very quickly, and so if you had a gatekeeper to answer these quickies, sending others into the endless queue, it would overall speed up things.

I volunteered to be the gatekeeper. I’d ask callers upfront whether their problem was easy or hard—did it fall into certain categories. If is was easy, I’d answer it. If they tried to sneak a hard one in the fast lane, I’d say, ‘No can do,’ and toss them into purgatory. 

The upside was that it worked. The downside was gradual but insidious—I forgot how to do the hard questions! So watch out if specializing in carts. They’re fine as an alternative ministry. But when they become the mainstay, you forget how to speak—or at least I would. Probably you will not.

That is even more the case with the huge new pandemic-started push toward letter writing. They’re okay, but do it too much . . . Many during the pandemic wrote letter after letter and never received a single reply. It doesn’t work for me. I need feedback. So, drawbacks and all, I explored what could be done on social media where you get instant feedback.

 Things change. Even in things I like, things change. There’s no sense in saying ‘Why are the old days better than the present ones?’ That only marks you as an old buzzard. Get in the spirit of the new. Alas, I find it a little hard to team up with someone who prefers solid door-to-door uninterrupted by breaks. Everyone knows the experience of showing up for service and, for various reasons, getting not too much accomplished. I get jealous of my time as I get older—and I am starting to get up there. I want as much bang for the buck as I can get. One CO, understandably trying to encourage those whose strength is waning, said, “Always work at the pace of the slowest publisher.” “Brother CO,” I did not say but thought of it, “you have no idea how slow we can go!”

I’ve team up with a brother my age and we do two hours of straight door to door. He’s different from me but we work well together. We will do what the Watchtower says about offering encouragement to our companion. “Try not to screw this one up like you did that last door,” he says to me or I to him. He’s chatty, often triggers, ‘Get to the point!’ warnings, which have little effect on him, until he at last gets to the point with, “Would you like to live forever?” I steel myself, yet he’s doing essentially what we’re encouraged to do, asking such open ended questions. If he makes it past that steel moment, he does well. People gauge him and decide he is harmless, friendly, certainly well-meaning, and nice conversations take place.

If you don’t like those steel moments where you don’t know if you will get over the hump or not—not at all a concern for extroverts but very much a concern for introverts like me, you devise such a method as I have here:

It works well for me. What’s as important, it eliminates awkwardness. Do you think I can get anyone to adopt it? Publishers continue to ask total strangers, point blank, if they would like to live forever. It’s like at a pioneer school when the circuit overseer observed that inserting the question ‘How do you feel about the Bible’ made for a good transition. Most used it just that way, as a transition once conversation was rolling. But a few asked people point blank, “How do you feel about the Bible?” 

In this la-di-dah area we’ve been working, C86ED98F-97F7-491D-8F52-8A1756E77B59
we pass strollers on the public sidewalk. They see us two miles off and steal themselves to barge through as though a linebacker. My chum tries to waylay them in chat they were hoping to avoid. Sometimes if I’m in the lead I head him off, saying “You look like people who want to talk about the Bible!” So plain is it that they do not want this that they sometimes burst out laughing, and then you know if you can go anywhere or not.

(Photo: Yale linebacker Rodney Thomas II.jpg Wikipedia)

Again, you don’t cry that things are not as they used to be. You’re doing scripture with that advice: ‘Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?’ for it is not out of wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

Okay. I won’t carry on about how back in my day, if we wanted to talk to someone we called the common phone number and asked for whom we wanted. And don’t get me going on how if we wanted to change the channel, we didn’t just push the remote—we walked to that set, even if it was clear across the room! (“What’s a channel?” Oscar Oxgoad’s twirpy kid says, who streams everything off the internet.)

Who can say why they have changed or if that change is for better or worse? One reason duties ‘lighten’ for regular pioneers to 90 hours, then 70, then 30 for auxiliary during certain months (‘I’m holding out for 10’ I tell people) then (for regular again) whatever you want, then just conversing with people is enough, irrespective of jamming in Bible texts, evidently with the presumption of ‘out of the heart’s abundance, the mouth will speak’—is that the brothers don’t want to pile on the pressure. Life for most is much more stressful than prior days. The brothers express appreciation for what the friends do and try to go the way that Rehoboam was advised to go but didn’t.


**I was granted unusual freeness of speech at that help desk. Or at least I took it and no one ever called me on it. When one woman threatened to quit the service I told her she might have to. It’s a new technology, I told her, it’s all driven by Wall Street. They want to see long subscriber lists. “That’s why when you tell of service that doesn’t work, they throw in free additional months of service [that also won’t work].” I left out only the bracketed part.

The job burned me out in fairly short order, even though I was the first one to succeed in getting a caller through his ‘self-install’ problem. He, a lawyer, was amazed (and so was I) when he followed my instruction and the service began working. Months later, he called back and I recognized his voice and situation. ‘Oh, you’re the lawyer,’ I said. ‘Well, I’m a lawyer,’ he replied, as he must have wondered just how many customers we had.

I’m always nice to phone support people, no matter how frustrating is communication with them. It’s a holdover of my own support days, which didn’t last too long.

******  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'

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 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 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.


photo by Wilfredor—Wikipedia


******  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'

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 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'