fter 12 years as a devout Jehovahs Witness, Rudy
Gonzalez encountered the spirit-led faith of his friend David Reyes. So
compelling was his friends scripture-based presentation that Rudy prayed to
receive Christ on the spot.
But when he woke up the next morning, his 20th birthday, Rudy had grave
doubts about his decision. Fortunately, the Jehovahs Witnesses had instilled in
him a deep reverence for the Word of God. So Rudy and his motheranother devotee
of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS)decided to check it out for
They took all the books they had received in the preceding dozen years of
Kingdom Hall teachings and packed them in a box. They placed the King James
Bible on the kitchen table and for five months read it only. At the end of that
time, and with the Holy Spirits guidance, Rudy was convinced that he had been
badly deceived by the Theocratic Kingdom School and that David had introduced
him to the true gospel. Rudys mother was the first person he had the joy of
introducing to Christ.
The Gonzalez family had emigrated from Mexico to San Antonio, Texas. When
Rudy was 9 years old, his father found work in Chicago, leaving his mother and
three brothers to fend for themselves in a Latino neighborhood in San Antonio.
Unable to speak English or drive a car, Mrs. Gonzalez was an easy target for
those who came knocking.
"The Jehovahs Witnesses came around," Rudy said. "They made themselves
available, took my mother shopping." It wasnt long before they were having
regular Bible studies in the Gonzalez home and both Rudy and his mother became
fully convinced that the teachings they were hearing were true.
Mrs. Gonzalez was baptized at the Kingdom Hall, and she and Rudy began
"publishing" (Witnesses term for door-to-door sharing) every other
"I probably knocked on every door in west-side San Antonio," Rudy said.
Growing up as a member of a cult was not easy, Rudy recalls, but he saw it
as no hardship since he was absolutely sold out to the Watchtower
"Jehovahs Witnesses place a set of demands on their followers that are hard
to live by. They make you stand out in the community." Rudy listed some
examples: "No Christmas, no birthdays, no pledge of allegiance, no weddings
outside the Kingdom Hall, no community prayers." When people ask a Jehovahs
Witness why they dont celebrate holidays or other traditions common to the
culture, they are taught to use that as an opportunity to witness, he said.
Like his fellow adherents, Rudy was "proud and self-assured that Jehovahs
Witnesses had the truth and that everyone else was in ignorance." His job as a
follower of the Theocratic Kingdom was to enlighten the world.
Falsehoods from Jehovahs WitnessesThere is no trinity. There is one God, namely Jehovah, but the Holy
Spirit and Jesus are not divine. The spirit is nothing more than a
depersonalized force. And Jesus, originally created as the archangel Michael,
is the "adopted" son of God.
Jesus did not die on a cross or return in human form after His
death. Jesus died on a pole (torture stake) with both hands nailed
together above His head. Jesus appeared only in spirit form after His
Heaven has different levels. The "heavenly class"144,000 faithful
Jehovahs Witnesses whose salvation was won through the blood of Jesus on the
torture stakewas chosen long ago. Heaven is full. These "anointed ones," who
are in heaven with Jehovah, co-rule with Jesus the "paradise on earth" that is
created after Judgment Day.
There is no assurance of salvation; the only hope is to earn eternal
paradise. The faithful Jehovahs Witness multitudes that remain must work
hard "publishing" to secure a spot in restored paradise, a place of perfect
peace and harmony. These "other sheep" will repopulate the world at the end of
time where they will live eternally. Jesus and Jehovah will reign but not be
There is no hell. Satan, the demons and all people who do not
embrace the teachings of the Theocratic Kingdom will be annihilated.
There is no salvation apart from the Watchtower Bible and Tract
Society. Jehovahs Witnesses consider the WBTS to be Jehovah Gods only
channel of accurate biblical interpretation. Association with a Kingdom Hall is
the only hope for paradise.
Rudys mother was the first of many Jehovahs Witnesses he has introduced to
the truth of the gospel of Jesus. Understanding where they are coming from has
been vital to his success as a genuine witness.
"I dont use words that derail communication," Rudy said. "I dont ask about
church involvement or worship experience. These are alien concepts to Jehovahs
Witnesses. If I use these terms, they will think Im ignorant and wont take me
What we call church, they call Kingdom Hall.
The sermon is called a discourse.
Sunday worship and prayer meeting go by the name Theocratic Kingdom
Rudy lives by these four principles gleaned from 27 years of genuine
witnessing to Jehovahs Witnesses:
Let the Holy Spirit guide.
"Above and beyond everything else, Jehovahs Witnesses deny the personality
and power of the Holy Spirit. I believe the Spirit indwells, giving the
Christian power and discernment. When I talk with them I ask the Spirit for
discernment as I look for scriptures. This is a spiritual work: God does the
work; God brings conviction; we dont win people," Rudy said.
Rudy rejects the canned approach: "I know the Roman Road like the back of my
hand, but, because they do everything by repetition and rote, I prefer
Let love motivate.
"Do I love this person who I am sharing Christ with or is he a target, a
trophy?" This is the question Rudy asks himself every time he shares the
gospel. "I view them as people whom Jesus died for on the cross and I ask God
to give me love for them." Jehovahs Witnesses dont knock on doors out of love
but from a fear of Jehovah and in an effort to make it into paradise, Rudy
said. "We must genuinely love and pray for them."
Stay focused on Jesus.
"Avoid getting sidetracked. Keep the conversation focused on the person of
Jesus ChristWho He is and what He did on the cross. Jehovahs Witnesses like to
do biblical gymnastics to impress you with how much scripture they can quote.
This will only confuse the issue," Rudy said.
Agree on a scripture translation.
The success or failure of a genuine witness hinges on this: "If you can get
them to set aside the New World Translation (NWT) Biblewhich supports most of
their doctrinesyou have a chance at getting somewhere," Rudy said. Heres how he
does it: "I ask to see their NWT. I turn to the copyright page and point out
that the date is from the 1950s or 60s. Then I ask them what translation
Jehovahs Witnesses used prior to that time. If they know their history, theyll
know it was the King James Version. At that point I ask if they would mind if
we used the same version and if they agree, we both use a King James
Fortunately, Jehovahs Witnesses believe the Bible. Rudy has proved over and
over that they are not beyond convincing if they hear a compelling argument. If
he cant convince a Jehovahs Witness to put away the NWT, Rudy says there is
little chance of making any headway. Although Rudy is a Greek scholar and able
to dispute the faulty translation of the NWT, arguing translation is too
complex for most Christians.
"If there is no point of agreement on scripture, there is no point in
continuing the discussion. I dont recommend going down that road," he said.
With a sincere offer to pray for the Witness, Rudy closes the discussion.
The underlying assumption in all of the above is this: "We must be people
who read our Bible, who know what we believe, and who know why we believe what
we do," Rudy said. "Im comfortable with my Bible. I know how to find key
Rudy, Interfaith Evangelism Team director for the North American Mission
Board, recommends anyone wanting to witness to Jehovahs Witnesses should read
the Belief Bulletin published by the Interfaith Evangelism Team of the North
American Mission Board for in-depth information about what they believe and the
Christian response to those doctrines. Belief Bulletins are available online at
www.namb.net/evangelism or can be ordered through LifeWay Christian Resources
Connie Cavanaugh is a writer and speaker living in Cochrane,
As a teen, I became a friend of some Jehovahs Witnesses. I visited their
Kingdom Hall, but their speaker said Jesus of Nazareth was the Antichrist and
not the true Messiah! Although I wasnt a Christian, I knew that was not
Baptist students on our school bus began discussing Bible doctrines. I
listened, and observed but never entered the discussions. When doctrines such
as the deity of Christ were discussed, the Baptists used scripture, and talked
about what Jesus meant in their own lives. My Jehovahs Witness friends used
rote memory, reciting definitions, as if reading from a dictionarynever
personalizing what they were saying.
Eventually I went to church, because one of the students on the bus dared me
to. I had been avoiding church because I thought God would judge me as being
bad. At church I heard that Jesus can remove judgment through forgiveness. I
had always believed that Jesus could forgive my sin if He wanted to, but I
didnt think He wanted to, because I had such a low opinion of myself. When I
learned that He loves me, I asked Jesus to forgive me.
Today, Jehovahs Witnesses dont intimidate me, because I know most of them
dont know scripture well. I have attempted to be an
effective witness to the ones I meet by learning scripture and explaining
how it applies to my life. I pray that I will approach Jehovahs Witnesses with
a heart of care and genuine concern for their soulsand not as someone trying to
win a religious debate.
Clairann Haney, Oak Harbor, Washington
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