Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses preach?

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I’m not looking for the usual answer  that they will probably repeat to you verbatim. “Because Jesus did”, or “we are only following Jesus’s example”.

Let me tell you a little memory of mine about a Jehovah’s Witness regular pioneer. I will call her R in my story, she was a friend of mine, in fact she was one of the first friends I made in the congregation when I was still ‘in’. She regular pioneered for years straight out of high school, she  worked part time in order to make sure she could still be in full-time service. Her one ambition (if I may say so) is that she wanted to go to Bethel. At that time the South African Bethel hardly ever took in single sisters, so she did finally get in by marrying a bethelite. Roughly seven years later she left bethel with her husband and is now still pioneering, well last I heard anyway.

That is some background for you, as a person she is the sweetest loveliest person I knew. She was always looking out for every one else. She often had ‘gatherings’ at her house for the youngsters so we could have some fun, supervised of course.

One night on our way to the meeting, I was sitting with her in the back of the car and I could see she was exhausted, completely shattered. She told me how she had been up since early that morning trying to get her hours in as it was the end of service year. For those who are a little lost here – the JW’s have a ‘service year’ just like a ‘financial year’ of a company. In that year a regular pioneer would need to put in a total of 840 hours. It works out to 70 hours a month. Since she only had like a day left in order to make up her hours she had been doing ‘crazy’ amounts of time to reach her goal.

As usual I deprecated my own service saying that I only did like two hours all month (I had heavy responsibilities taking care of my chronically ill mother – I wasn’t just slacking off) and that doing all her hours must feel amazing. Instead of agreeing with me she said very honestly that she thought my two hours given to Jehovah in joy and love were worth more than her ‘forced’ hours of seventy. Pretty much a quality over quantity thing. I was quite surprised by that because QUANTITY is all about being a good JW. That is why they have these hour requirements, that is why there is a congregation average of about ten hours a month, that all publishers should at least try to achieve.

Now that I am out and able to think clearer her comment  strikes me even more. Here was a regular pioneer, doing everything that should make her ecstatic with happiness according to the JW checklist, and instead she was half envying my happily given preaching hours.

So, why do they preach? Because THEY HAVE TO. You cannot be a Witness and not preach pretty much, if you don’t preach for three months consecutively you are then labelled as ‘inactive’. You need to hand in a ‘field service report’ every month to declare how much you have done and this is how the elders monitor your ‘spiritual health’ because if you are doing too little that means they need to follow up with you.

In fact I have heard so many stories of how JW’s at the time would falsify their hours just too keep the elders off their backs. Just imagine if a quarter of a congregation of say a hundred members are giving in fake hours, how much of that yearly report is pure fiction? Are they faking their hours out of malice? No, its out of fear because they don’t want the elders to start boring their eyes into them wondering what is wrong.

The next time a Witness knocks on your door, they may be just like my friend R. When you feel that usual understandable annoyance, just think that they are forced to be there in order to maintain their image of being in ‘good standing’ or completing their service hours. Oh they also need to recruit for the Organization, but honestly the overwhelming reason is to get those hours in. The new ‘cart witnessing’ is a real demonstration of that, are they talking to anyone? Most of the time they appear to just stand some distance away and watch or sit in their folding chairs keeping an eye on the cart. Hardly the way Jesus preached, but then that really wasn’t the issue was it?

 

My first false baptism

The thought of baptism has been on my mind a great deal recently. A young sister that is currently been forced to get baptised as a Jehovah’s Witness even though she doesn’t want to has reminded me very strongly about my own baptism way back in 2000 when I was 18 years old.

Flashback to a very cold day in August 2000 at the Eikenhof Assembly Hall in Johannesburg, South Africa. I was so nervous that day, in fact to be very honest I was terrified. My panic was at 200%, the hours before the baptism talk I was shaking with nerves. All baptism candidates sit in the front of the Hall, and I sat there feeling so scared and just wanting this situation over with. I cannot remember what the baptism talk was even about, though I’m sure it was pretty generic. We then stood up and we said the  required ‘Yes’s’ at the right time. We then filed out to the baptism pool outside. My anxiety was so high that I could barely feel myself walking down the aisle and outside, it was like I was hovering above myself and observing this all around me, like it wasn’t really happening to me. In the little changing room, I shakily got out of my clothes as I had my swimming costume underneath. I waited my turn at the door as we queued up and stepped down one by one to the brother in the pool ready to dunk us. The water was icy and I was shaking even more as I approached the brother and clumsily folded my arms, held my nose and then splash and out, it was all over. Cold to the bone I stumbled out to grab my towel. After getting dry and dressed there were the usual round of ‘congratulations’ and ‘well done’. Did I feel joyous? Not really, my overwhelming nerves has only just calmed, I felt exhausted. A huge scary thing was over, finally.

Should I have been that scared that day? In hind sight, yes – my emotional reaction was spot on regarding what I was getting myself into. I had no idea at the time! I was dedicating myself to an Organization. To backtrack a little more, before baptism you have to go through  100 questions in the ‘Organized To Do Jehovah’s Will’ book. There are three parts, and you go through all those questions in three sessions with three different elders. They will then decide if you are ready for baptism. If you are, an announcement is made at the next meeting, and you will be baptised at the next assembly or convention.

Getting baptised is becoming a fully fledged Jehovah’s Witness. Already having reached the age of 18 meant that most of the young Witnesses in the congregation were already baptised, being one that wasn’t made me stand out. Peer pressure at its best, but then I genuinely thought this was the right thing to do, even though I was so scared. My Bible study conductor brought up the subject first, once I had completed all the books it means the next step is field service and then baptism. Elders will also apply pressure, but then I have also noticed how harassed they look when they have too many baptism candidates that have to go through all the questions and the closest assembly is just days away. It all looks like WORK.

In comparison to this full on exam on their publications and then baptism that sort of feels like sheep being dipped quickly and smartly to join the rest of the slaves that are beholden completely to the Organization, there is the usual Christian baptism.

I am now looking forward to my new and proper baptism as a Christian. Guess what, there are no 100 questions and no pressure from anyone for me to do so. It is up to me, when I’m ready, that is all. The requirement is that I accept Jesus as my saviour. That’s it. I feel excitement, a touch of nervousness, but over all joy, that I going to get baptised. Very different from my first time round!

Even though my baptism should have brought me closer to God, it did no such thing. I felt no different. The baptism talk also warns you that now you will be in Satan’s cross hair’s even more than ever. I wonder now if Satan is actually just saying ‘hello’ to another one obligated to an organization and dragged further away from Jesus. (just my personal musing).

If you feel like you are being pressured, unduly influenced and strongly persuaded that you should get baptised as a Jehovah’s Witness, really think about where this pressure is coming from. Is it from a good place? People that only want the best for you? Perhaps its because you are the only one in the family that isn’t baptised yet and its making your parents look bad, or its making your Bible study conductor look bad. This decision is not up to them, and you shouldn’t be doing it to make other people happy. This is a serious decision that only you should make, without any undue influence muddying the waters.