Cultists on Your Doorstep

jws.jpgIntro: Over the years as I’ve spoken to members of Reformed churches, I’ve noticed that far too many don’t know what to do when the door-bell rings and they find themselves face to face with Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons. In most cases they simply try their hardest to get them to go away as quickly as possible, and a few have admitted to me that they will pretend they aren’t home instead of opening the door.

In doing this we are missing an opportunity to witness for Christ to people who are in the most pitiable of situations; they think they have entered via the narrow gate and are on their way to salvation, but are in fact following blind guides down the broad path that leads to destruction. Witnessing to cultists is far from easy, but I would argue that it falls under the calling of all Christians to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)

Accordingly, I’ve put together this brief guide designed for laymen and those with no prior experience on how to begin the process of “witnessing to the (false) witnesses.” Rather than reinventing the wheel, I’ve also included links to the profiles and beliefs of the JWs and Mormons provided online by CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry).

Also OSP pastors and planters take note, if your congregation members can’t/won’t defend or present their faith to cultists, chances are very poor that they will be willing to do so with friends, relatives, and coworkers as those confrontations are actually in many respects more difficult because those confrontations are far more personal. It’s one thing to tell someone you’ve never met before and quite possibly never will again that you think they are going to hell, but it’s another thing entirely to say that to grandma or the coworker they see every day.

Cultists on Your Doorstep

A Brief and Untechnical guide to interacting with cultists going Door-to-Door

Your doorbell rings, you open the door and there stand two well-dressed young men who want to give you a small blue bible and talk to you for a moment. What should you do?

I) Pray! Even as you begin to interact with them, lift up a silent “arrow” prayer for God’s help and defense as you speak with them.

II) Figure out which organization they are with. Most cult organizations will travel in groups of at least two when doorknocking. Some giveaways that will allow you to figure out which one they are with:

1) Two young men (around 17), both wearing “Elder” name badges and white shirts and ties: Mormons. They will identify themselves as being with “The Church of Jesus Christ” and less commonly “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints.”

2) Two individuals (male or female), well dressed with copies of “Awake!” or “The Watchtower”: Jehovah’s Witnesses (hereafter JWs). The will identify themselves as being with some permutation of “The Watchtower.”

If you can’t tell immediately, just ask them, “Are you Mormons?” or simply “What organization are you with?” They will tell you. You may have to translate the name however, as they like to fly under the radar.

Why is it important? So you will have some idea of who they are and thus what they really believe, and how to speak to them. This is especially important as Mormons are now marketing themselves as a Christian organization in their witnessing and want you to think of them as your brothers in Christ.

III) If you aren’t yet comfortable enough in your own understanding of the Christian faith, then don’t invite them in, politely tell them you aren’t interested in talking or taking their literature. This is the less preferable option however, for a number of reasons.

If you are comfortable in your understanding of Christianity, invite them in. (The exception being if it is a single member of the opposite sex and you are alone.) You may be used in their conversion, and at the very worst, you will slow down their progression through the neighborhood. Invite them to sit down. They usually will.

Some basic ground rules: Neither will generally accept refreshments beyond water. JWs are specifically told not to take any “apostate literature.” Mormons will generally be willing to listen more and talk less than JWs, keep in mind you only have about an hour to talk with them at most. With JWs, one will be the leader, and the other the learner. The one doing the most talking is usually the leader. Use either a KJV or an NKJV in witnessing to them. Both groups will generally accept quotes only from the KJV, the JW’s however have their own Bible, called the New World Translation. As a translation, it’s hopeless, its primary purpose is to transmit faulty JW theology. For instance “1 In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” (John 1:1 NWT) Neither will generally accept tracts or other materials from you unless you’ve really made headway with them.

Basic Presuppositions: JWs will generally be local people. Mormon visitors generally will not be local. You are just another potential notch in their belt, their objective is to get you to come to a meeting, they want to get you interested in their organization. Your objective is to teach the truth about Christ, refute their teaching from the bible and somehow be used of God in leading them to a saving knowledge of the Gospel. Remember the consequences to them of leaving false religion. They will lose their friends, their “base,” and oftentimes alienate their family. Conversion for them is socially a VERY BIG DEAL – bigger even in some cases than non-cultists.

Plan Your Interaction: Part of your time will inevitably be spent listening to them, it has to be or you won’t gain the right to talk to them. Remember not to venture much into history, stick to the Bible as much as possible. A good tack is to ask them a question about an unbiblical doctrine they teach, and after they explain it, adopting the Columbo routine: “There’s just one thing I don’t understand…” and then going to texts that unequivocally refute what they teach. As you interact, be doing all you can to show them, gently and respectfully, that their feet are planted in thin air and that the word doesn’t actually teach the doctrines they have been taught.

Brief Backgrounds and Beliefs of the Two Main Organizations

Jehovah’s Witnesses & Mormons

(links to profiles from CARM – CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS & RESEARCH MINISTRY – http://www.carm.org)

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ History

Jehovah’s Witnesses in a Nutshell

What do the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach?

Mormonism’s History

Mormonism in a Nutshell

What does Mormonism Teach?

Basic Bible Verses to Help You in Witnessing to JWs

Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?
4 “While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

(Also ask them how one can lie to “a force” and not a person? Can you lie to electricity, for instance?)

Luke 3:21 When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

Col. 2:9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

(Ask the Witnesses if Jesus is an Angel and if we should worship Him (they will answer “yes” and “no”) – then read this text:)

NKJ Hebrews 1:1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son”? 6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

Is. 44:6 ” Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.

(who is the first and last? “Jehovah”)

Rev. 1:17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

Exodus 3:14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “

(who is the I AM? “Jehovah”)

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” 59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

(“Should we Worship any Created thing?” – JWs will answer “no”. Here are texts in which JESUS receives worship and DOESN’T rebuke those who worship Him:)

John 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Luke 24:51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matt. 28:9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

Matt. 14:33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” 34 When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret.

John 9:35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” 36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” 38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him. 39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

(What happens in the bible when mere CREATURES are worshipped?:)

Rev. 22:8 Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

Acts 10:25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.”

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About Andrew Webb

Andrew James Webb, Pastor Providence PCA, Fayetteville NC. Born: July 29, 1969 Rochford, Essex England Education: MA Modern History, St. Andrews University, Fife, Scotland, 1991 M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, PA, 2001 Personal Details: Husband of Joy Webb, Father of Margaret (6), Victor (5), Graham (3) and Isabel (10 Mos.) Secular Work History: Upon graduation from University, I returned to the United States and worked for two Madison Ave Advertising Firms in copy writing and advertising space sales. After moving to Northern Virginia, I went into computing. I worked as a Systems Administrator in Washington D.C. for both the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) (a legal publishing firm,) and the International Republican Institute. Experience: Licensed by Potomac Presbytery, May 1997 and Philadelphia Presbytery in 1999. From 1998 to 2001 I did a three year apprentice/internship under Dr. Mark Herzer while working with the Christ Covenant church plant in Hatboro, PA. Ordained as an RE at Christ Covenant PCA in 2000 and as a TE by Central Carolina in 2001 when I was called to be the Organizing Pastor for Providence PCA Mission, Cross Creek PCA's church plant in Fayetteville, NC (home to Ft. Bragg and Pope Airforce Base). In 2005 when the Providence PCA Particularized I was blessed to be called by the congregation to be their Pastor. Presbytery Committees: Assistance and Membership (Philadelphia), Candidates (Central Carolina), Nominations (Central Carolina) GA Committees: Bills and Overtures, Covenant Theological Seminary Other: I have had a number of my essays on theological topics published including What is the Reformed Doctrine of Divorce? and Five Reasons Not To Go See The Passion of the Christ Why I Don't Have an English Accent: I don't have an English accent because my parents moved to New Jersey when I was six!
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6 Responses to Cultists on Your Doorstep

  1. Baus says:

    You forgot one very important thing: if we’re going to “let them in” so that we may “teach them the truth about Christ, refute their false teaching from the Bible, and call them to repentance, faith, and a saving knowledge of the true Gospel…

    we must
    1) tell them that we are Calvinists right after we find out what organization they are with,
    2) tell them that we do NOT welcome them as evangelists or teachers or elders or witnesses, but as neighbors in order that we can tell them about the truth

    When you do this, some JWs and certain varieties of Mormons will thank you and LEAVE. It is important to them that they be welcomed only as teachers/witnesses.

    Why is this important to us? 2 John 10-11
    We are misrepresenting the gospel if we invite them into our homes on their terms (viz, that they are coming with a true gospel). 2 John clearly teaches that we cannot receive as teachers any who bring a false gospel.

  2. Joseph Ivory says:

    Andy
    I would also stress the importance of trying to establish some sort of relationship with them. Believe it or not, this can be done without in any way shape or form condoning what they teach or stand for. I was able to have relationships with many Mormon classmates and missionaries during college without leaving them any room for doubt that what they taught was a false gospel. The reason for this is that I look upon them as poor, lost souls first and foremost, and I did my best to show them the love of Christ even while I told them that Joseph Smith was a false prophet and that their Gospel does not save, but damns them to hell. You don’t have to invite them into your home or anything of the sort. You just need to talk with them and be willing to engage them as people, and not treat them with disdain.

    Secondly, if you are going to witness to cultists, you need to become familiar with their literature. You don’t have to become an expert, but you need to know what their organization teaches. One reason for this is that if you are going to go on the offensive, you need to have accurate knowledge of what you are attacking. Secondly, it shows that you have done THEM the favor of actually reading what they publish. When you have accurate knowledge of what the LDS Church teaches, and you use this against them, they can’t cry ‘persecution’ and dismiss you as an ‘antimormon’ (which they are trained to do at the slightest provocation).

    Of course, as Andy pointed out, this requires that you be comfortable in your faith first. I would not recommend a baby Christian get involved in ministry to cultists beyond basic witnessing to them about Jesus Christ. JWs and Mormons are trained enough with the Bible that they can tie a baby Christian in knots in no time flat.

    Anyways, those are some thoughts from my experience. Do not expect ‘miracle’ conversions with cultists. The evil one has them in his thrall, and most who convert report that it took years before they were saved. But even if you only get to witness once, you may be planting a seed that someone else can water.

    Joe

  3. Roy says:

    No matter the cultist, Mormon, JW, or roman catholic,I always open the door, invite them out of the heat or cold, and offer appropriate refreshment (water). Then I usually aim at the same point of contact: assurance.

    I remark that I’m impressed by their commitment and sweatwork (I am), that I not only recognize it but commend it. Then, Columbo style, if you will, I ask them to explain that commitment, what they figure to gain by it, what is the percentage in it. If they answer honestly, we’ve moved the conversation toward the idea that I find the genius of Evangelism Explosion even if we’ve never used EE’s terminology: how do you know that you are right with God? (Every reason to assume the prima facie evidence that this issue concerns the cultist). If course the cultist answer hinges on works, tho it may take some exploring to get the people to put it in their own words. Furthermore, over the years of interacting with Christians I think the cults have morphed. I hear not only in their conversations with me, but read in their literature increasing sensitivty to the seriousness of assurance. They demonstrate that sensititivy by adopting biblical lingo re assurance sans biblical content.

    At some time I make at least the following invitations: 1) Good news: your answer is wrong. Can’t be right because of what God says about himself, about you. Basically EE modified to be biblical, ie, sovereing grace saturated rather than arminian. 2) Don’t write me off, but return. I’m willing to continue listening, talking, and studying as much as they wish. (Only rarely gets results. Cults are into brownie points gained by number of doors knocked on, not into really wrestling with truth.)

  4. Zrim says:

    Roy,

    The only Roman Catholic I have had come to my door was Uncle Mike. And I think he would take great exception to my calling him a cultist. I invite him in as well, but more because he’s the life of the party and a beloved family member…he had the rest of his brood.

    Lumping RCs in with the JWs and Mormons and calling them all cultists only helps make my larger point that the C-word to reference these folks is quite problematic in our day and age post-Jonestown. Despite whatever formal definition of “cult” is dredged up in order to justify the antiquated slur, I always find it curious that those of us who make such collosal fuss over the word “alone” when the topics of grace and faith come up can have such a blind spot for distinguishing between “cultist” and “false religionist.” Usually I am told “it doesn’t matter what term is used.” But if that is true, I cannot understand why the suggestion to drop “cultist” when describing my Mormon neighbor is met with so much resistance, which is to say, the resistance seems to suggest “it matters.”

    Zrim

  5. Brent says:

    First question I ask when talking with JWs, Mormons, etc: “What do you have to offer that Christianity does not have?” or something to that effect. Stock Mormon answer I have heard is, extra revelation from Joseph Smith, which gets the ball rolling.

  6. Anna Hight says:

    Thanks for this post here Andy. I’ve been interacting lately with a pair of aging JWs and while I am somewhat aware of their heresies (I actually got one of them going on about how Jesus isn’t God the other day and had a chance to point out that anyone who believes that is NOT, as they claimed, a “Christian” at all) but it always helps to have more fodder for the fire, as it were.

    I do NOT, however, invite them in. Ever. I have found it almost impossible to genuinely communicate to them that you are inviting them in on any terms but their own, and I absolutely refuse to allow even attempts at proselytizing to false religions and cults in my house. I tell them I am happy to talk to them, willing to spend even hours sitting OUTSIDE, but they tend to respond positively to a refusal to allow them inside and respect that.

    The best job I ever did talking to a pair was with a young woman who actually started asking GOOD questions of the older woman she was with – questions the older woman was starting to have a hard time answering. The older one got them away as quickly as she possibly could and I heard her scolding the young one for “doubting” as they walked rapidly away. The next time she came back, i was with a different youngster in tow, and when she recognized me as I refused her literature, she would not interact but just left. I still wonder what happened to the first young one.

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