One of the most frustrating things about trying to share the gospel with our friends and neighbors is that most unbelievers simply don’t want to talk about it. They feel like they know about Christianity already, and they aren’t interested in hearing any more. If only there were people who wanted to talk about religious things. Well, there are–and they have probably come to your door recently. Unfortunately, for many Christians the twin silhouettes on the porch are cause for whispers and a hasty retreat to a back room rather than excitement at an opportunity to share the gospel.
Our hesitation is understandable, of course. It is hard to know what to say to a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon, and it is frustrating to invest time in a conversation that will most likely bear no immediate fruit. But a little preparedness can change all that. Ask yourself this: How many chances have you gotten to share the gospel in the past year? Is it as many as you would like? As Jesus would like? When a JW or LDS team shows up, God has literally brought a witnessing opportunity right to your door. Don’t let them get away!
Prepare Ahead of Time
Both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons explicitly target Christians for conversion. They are taught what sorts of questions to ask and what Bible verses to bring up to make a case for their distorted gospels. If you’re going to give them a good answer, you need to be prepared.
The best preparation is simply to read, know, and love your Bible. JW and LDS missionaries specialize in misinterpreting individual, out-of-context verses. Knowing what the Bible really says about a subject will prepare you to respond thoughtfully to their arguments.
Having a good reference resource is also very helpful. It can help you figure out difficult or obscure arguments. Personally, I like Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and The New Mormon Challenge. Additionally, there are many, many online resources you can turn to, such as the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry’s sections on Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism.
When you encounter a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon, you should anticipate that you’re not going to have very long to talk with them. Such brief conversations can be frustrating, but you need to reorient your expectations. It typically takes six to seven years for someone to leave behind JW or LDS beliefs, and that process is in God’s hands, not yours! Your job is to sow a little seed when you have the opportunity, then pray and trust God to bring other believers to sow and cultivate other seeds.
With that in mind, I recommend that you have one main question in mind, with appropriate followups, for any Jehovah’s Witnesses you meet and another for any Mormons. It should be thought-provoking; something that will stick with them and encourage further study. It’s amazing how many former JW or LDS followers describe such a question as the start of their exodus from their mistaken beliefs. Good questions should typically focus on the person of Jesus, the way of salvation, or the authority of the Watchtower Society (JW) or Joseph Smith (LDS). Do some studying and find an issue you feel you understand and are passionate about, then think about an opening question and how to follow up.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say “I Don’t Know”
Of course, they’ll ask you questions too! Sometimes, you’re going to find an area you simply don’t know about. For example, John 1:1 is a problem for Jehovah’s Witnesses because it says “The Word [Jesus] was God,” which the Watchtower Society denies. (They believe Jesus was a lesser deity and argue He should not be worshipped.) If you point to John 1:1, though, they will read from their own translation of the Bible, which says “the Word was a god,” and will state that many Greek scholars say that is the correct translation. They will even point to other versions of the Bible which agree with theirs. Now, if you do some digging, you’ll find that the so-called scholars who did the original “translation” work for the Watchtower version literally did not even speak Greek, and the versions cited in support of their translation of John 1:1 are obscure and untrustworthy, but you probably wouldn’t know that off the top of your head. In a situation like this, it’s just fine to say, “You know what, I’m not sure about that.” Tell them you will look into it, and invite them to come back to discuss it further once you’ve done your homework! (If you ever run into a challenge you don’t know what to do with, feel free to shoot me an email. I’d be glad to help.)
Love, Love, Love
If you were a door-to-door missionary, what sort of picture do you think you would develop of the people on the other side of the door? Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are routinely yelled at, cursed at, even threatened; and often by people claiming to bear the name of Christ. More than any theological argument, you need to show these misguided missionaries the genuine love of Jesus. Is it such a burden to give them a smile, five minutes of your time, and maybe a glass of cold water? Remember the story of the woman at the well (John 4:4-42), a Samaritan whose distorted Judaism was not unlike today’s distorted JW or LDS gospels. Think of Jesus’ bold, patient compassion and the glorious fruit that it bore, and ask yourself what his example suggests for you the next time you hear that ring of the doorbell.