A couple weeks ago, I invited Peggy, the Jehovah's Witness who distributes literature around my neighborhood, to come to my house so we could talk about the Trinity. Toward the end of our talk, I asked her how she liked going door-to-door (I believe the JW word for her role is "pioneer"). She told me that she enjoyed it, because she cared about the work and she loved meeting and talking with people. She said that most people are nice to her, even if they don't engage in conversation for long. And she said that "when people are rude, I know I shouldn't take it personally; they're not rejecting me, they're rejecting God's message."
I affirmed that she should indeed not take rudeness personally. (I did not agree that rude folks were rejecting God's message, since I do not believe that the Watchtower Organization's beliefs or publications contain it.) But I reflected on her answer after she left, and I considered what it would be like to be in her shoes. Was I rude to her the first time she visited, when I was tired and frustrated? I don't think I was outwardly unkind or hostile, although I was certainly irritated on the inside. Was I irritated with the content of the publications she was giving me? Or was my frustration focused on the woman handing them to me? Reflecting on this inspired me to think of a few guidelines for evangelizing to JW's.
1. Always treat Jehovah's Witnesses with dignity and respect. I think it's crucial whenever we're evangelizing to anybody -- which is all the time, since actions speak louder than words -- that we remember to focus on the people themselves. Focusing solely on their beliefs or practices (some of which may be trying of our patience) will dehumanize them immediately in our minds.
Fellow Christians, don't let us ever forget what we believe. We believe that each human is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), a unique, unrepeatable soul. Marc Barnes, take it from here:
As Christians we are called to see our brothers and sisters with the eyes of God, and thus with the eyes of Love. We are called to see their immense value, not for what they do — Heaven knows we can be a vindictive, spiteful bunch — but for who they are....[W]e should allow the wonder, the mystery and the beauty of life — that unrepeatable, ever-new gift — to fill us every time we are with our fellow man. This is his commandment, that we love one another, that we see each other in the light of day, that our joy may be full.God knew us before forming us in the womb (Jer 1:5); we are each of infinite worth to Him. Jesus Christ, true God and true man, suffered a horrific death on a cross for the salvation of each and every human ever created (John 3:16, John 1:29, Matthew 26:28). He died for me, he died for you, and he died for every person who has ever hurt you, disappointed you, been cruel to you, or inconvenienced you by showing up at your doorstep while you're trying to cook dinner. That doesn't mean we can't disagree, but it certainly means we shouldn't be rude.
Remember that the JW's ringing your doorbell don't have it easy. I'm sure that even the most extroverted among them aren't immune to feeling intimidated or hurt during the course of their door-to-door ministry. Dig into the depths of your heart and be a balm of charity for them.
2. Stay close to God in prayer. Pray for the JW's who visit you, and for everyone in their organization. Pray that their eyes and ears and hearts will be opened to the Truth. And don't forget to pray for yourself. I always rush to the Holy Spirit when I'm trying to evangelize. My favorite prayer for these occasions is the beginning of the "Come, Holy Spirit":
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of thy love.3. Put on Christ (Romans 13:14). Evangelizing is trying and difficult; we cannot do it (or anything else, for that matter) of our own volition. Spreading Love and Truth and Goodness and Beauty requires dying to self and allowing our hearts to be transformed by God Himself. One of my favorite verses to meditate on is Galatians 2:20: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."
4. Remember that they are giving us an opportunity to learn. Strange as it may sound, delving into the teachings of the Watchtower Society, almost all of which are contrary to Christian teachings, has been nothing short of a Godsend. My research has inspired me to learn more about authentic Christian doctrine; it has also led me to spend a lot more time reading the Bible. It has been, and continues to be, a deeply enriching experience. Learning about God is a thankfully unending process -- there's always more to know about the Eternal and Infinite.
Observing the JW pioneers in my neighborhood has given me a lot of food for thought about evangelizing. Even though it may sound incredible to the many of us who have no interest in joining their fold and/or are irritated by their door-to-door campaigns, they win people over all the time, people who are searching for Truth. The Watchtower Society offers them a counterfeit, but they accept it as the real thing. How many times have we encountered someone who was searching, seeking, hungry and thirsty for supernatural life (John 6:35), and yet failed to lead them in the Light of Truth?