A repost from 2009. -JB
I had two very nice Jehovah’s Witness gals show up at my door this morning. I never quite know how to handle these encounters. I think these encounters are especially awkward for pastors/Bible teachers who are equipped to engage them in theological debate but don’t feel like that is the context (standing at the door freezing). Plus, they are usually just well-meaning laypersons who might not be able or wanting to actually be challenged themselves. What does one do?
Do I just play dumb, hide the fact that I’m a pastor, take their pamphlets and send them on their way with a smile? Other uncertainties include: Is it appropriate to invite them inside? Can they even accept and come in? (I think Mormons are a different story here — more willing to sit down and chat.) Is it wise when they are two women and I’m a guy home alone? Of course, behind all of these questions is my own sense of obligation to evangelize and try to convert them to the “true faith.” Should I feel guilty when I miss an opportunity to “witness” back to them — even when I don’t believe door-to-door evangelism is a very effective or wise approach to personal evangelism?
QUESTION: What do you do when Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons come knocking on your door?
I told them I was a pastor and a passionate student and teacher of the Bible. They shared why they are going door to door by showing me a verse from Matthew 24. I told them I share their love of the Bible and also believe God’s Kingdom is the hope of the world but we have some core differences in how we read the Bible and understand the faith. They were glad to find a home with a person who is at least a person of faith. I told them I admire their faith and boldness in going door to door to their message with others (see cartoon for how most people view them), took their pamphlet and said, “God bless you today.”
How did I do?
Many will immediately list things I should have said. I didn’t say those things because they already know them. For example, many would want to point out to them that I believe JWs are not orthodox Christians and are part of a Christian cult. But Jehovah’s Witnesses already know mainstream believers view them in this way. Others would insist that I try to convert them immediately, on the spot, with some slick evangelistic method or by pulling out several magical, fail-proof Bible texts. Does anybody seriously think this works? Does anybody think they will immediately go “Aha!” and join my church from a 2-minute encounter on a door step? I think it’s largely an exercise in futility or, worse, something we do to feed our need for self-righeousness or avoid the shame we feel will come if we neglect a “soul-winning” opportunity. Both of these motivations are unChristian.
I’m uncomfortable with all such impersonal, mechanistic, overly-simplistic approaches to personal evangelism. I believe our testimony is best received and most powerful in the context of relationships. While these two women were sweet and friendly and well-meaning, their door-to-door approach was as unpleasant and ineffective as a door-to-door vacuum salesman. And how many of you buy what they’re selling?
But I admire their passion and conviction and gospel urgency to get Jehovah’s message to the world. We can learn something from them in that regard.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14).