In all honesty, my heart sank. There they were. In their pairs. Systematically visiting every house in our street. The JW’s were in my manor. Well meaning but utterly deluded. And worst of all, about to deceive others. It’s one thing to believe a lie yourself, but to try and persuade others. That stinks. But you’ve got to admire their zeal, even if their theology sucks.
I suspect that if my curate and children’s worker hadn’t been there I’d have probably smiled and walked past. I had work to do. Two sermons for Sunday that needed work. But we stopped and we chatted. I felt bullish. I had the combined might of two theologically articulate heavyweights with me. Humanly speaking we were well armed. And hadn’t I just spent three weeks teaching on the docctrine of the Trinity? If this was going to be worthwhile we had to go in hard. So we did.
I waded in with Jesus. If we were going to stop we may as well dispence with the niceties and go to the heart of the issue. ‘My issue with what you teach is that I don’t think you have a high enough view of Jesus’. I didn’t want to be talking eschatology. I couldn’t trust myself to keep a straight face if we got onto the 144,000! I wanted them to worship Jesus. It was a salvation issue and so it really mattered. And so with the battle lines celarly drawn we entered into theological combat. Neither side really gave much ground. It was probably a home draw. But we weren’t really interested in winning the argument. We wanted to win them. And we didn’t.
But it was wierd. It was like no other evangelism I’d ever really done. In the circles in which I move, people don’t usually have a well articulated doctrine of the two natures of Christ. But withe these guys we could talk about the Trinity, we spoke about the Son being eternally begotten of the Father and even recounting some early church history seemed like the most normal thing in the world. It was like arguing at theological college, but this time salvation was at stake. And I told them that. ‘You’re so close to the truth, but you’re so far. And that matters’.
I came away thinking that I need to pay more attention to the footnotes in Grudem’s Systematic Theology and his discussion there about John 1. Here was an evangelistic opportunity laid on a plate. I don’t get many of those these days. And I’m not sure I was as prepared as I could have been to give the reason for the hope that I have. And so we’re going to have a doctrine slot at church on JWs in the next few weeks.
My parting shot ‘Jesus is much bigger than you think’ is unlikely to make it into the how to reach JW’s manuals. But it’s true. I meant it. And I want it to gnaw away inside them, chafing at their domesticated view of Jesus.
Was this an exchange worth having? I think so. At one stage we had six of them around us. And if it achieved nothing else, at least we slowed their progress down the street and gave a few of the neighbours the chance to get away!