A few months back, a JW called Glenn came to our door. Apparently he didn’t realise we live at a theological college – his opening line was, ‘Hi there, just wondering if you’ve ever read the Bible?’ We’ve seen him a number of times since then. Sometimes he comes back on his own, sometimes with someone more knowledgable than him.
We’ve formed a pretty good relationship with Glenn. Our house is pretty much open all the time so he always stays for a drink. At first we thought that because he was a missionary type, he must know his stuff but we’ve learnt that he’s just a pretty ordinary guy with no real formal training so we’ve dialled back our use of biblical languages and jargon. (Things got a bit interesting when he tried to tell us that God’s name was Jehovah and we read out the Hebrew to him!)
Our approach has been friendly, not combative. We talk about the Bible, but more to share different perspectives on it than to slap his ideas down. We say things like, “We would read this verse this way – what do you do with that?” and ‘I’ve always thought X about the atonement; if that isn’t right, what are the implications for Y?” Sometimes he knows; sometimes he handballs to his partner; sometimes he needs to go away and find out – he’s always sure there’s a good answer!
We’ve started praying for Glenn, that he would become unsettled with his false God and worship Jesus as Lord. But there have been things to learn from him as well.
The first thing is the importance of pastoral care. We’ve talked a lot about the Trinity with Glenn but he says that most conversations he has with people are just about how they’re going. It’s being the person they can talk to, showing them that someone cares. On one hand, that’s being like false teachers who worm their way into homes but isn’t it an indictment on the church, that there’s an opportunity for the JWs to do so?
Secondly, I’ve been impressed by their view of vocation. Glenn’s a carpenter. The guy he came with yesterday, Anthony, is a window cleaner, even though he did Engineering at uni. They choose very humble jobs so that they have time and flexibility to do their missionary work. It’s like the missionary work is their vocation and the job just pays the bills. Whatever their motivation (or whether this is a healthy theology of work), the commitment to the missionary task is impressive, even more so because of how they work their vocation around ministry, not the other way around.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.