The Door-to-Door Work of Jehovah’s Witnesses
|By: Lorri MacGregor; ©July 2002|
|Jehovah’s Witnesses are required to spend many hours going door-to-door offering magazines in exchange for donations to the Watchtower organization. Lorri MacGregor examines the Scriptures Witnesses use to validate this requirement. Are they justified? Or are the Scriptures being taken out of context?|
Everyone is familiar with the inconvenient door-knockers, the Jehovah’s Witnesses offering their Watchtower and Awake Magazines or other literature in exchange for a “donation to support the Worldwide work.” They consider it their right to knock on our doors any time they feel like it… except in Stratton, Ohio. This town is a close-knit community of mostly the elderly. To protect its vulnerable population from scams and frauds, the town requires anyone knocking on doors to obtain a permit to do so. No permits have ever been refused. They cost nothing.
Jehovah’s Witnesses took this one all the way to the Supreme Court in October of 2001. If every community required these permits, Jehovah’s Witnesses would be greatly inconvenienced. However, in this day and age we all need to be very careful of opening our doors to just anyone. Jehovah’s Witnesses are entering our private property (trespassing some say), uninvited and usually unwelcome. A recent Dateline program showed a convicted pedophile Jehovah’s Witness going door-to-door, still in good standing with this religion. This is an unsettling situation if kids are home alone, to say the least.
Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses go door-to-door? They are convinced that Jehovah God requires it of them in order to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. They believe their salvation is dependent on this activity. However, there is no biblical precedent showing Jesus going to every door to preach the gospel in His day. The Scriptures Jehovah’s Witnesses use to motivate their faithful into this difficult activity (which most of them dislike) are isolated Scriptures, taken out of context. Let’s examine them, one by one.
Matthew 10:12-14 is often used to get Jehovah’s Witnesses going in the door-to-door work: “As you enter the house, give it your greeting. And if the house is worthy, let your greeting of peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your greeting of peace return to you. And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet.”
This misused Scripture is necessary for the Jehovah’s Witness training, since most calls will be unreceptive, but the Jehovah’s Witness must still be made to feel that he is doing God’s will. Many self-righteously feel that their work decides the householder’s fate on judgment day, and go away quite smugly from unreceptive doors.
However, is this Scripture talking about the present-day work of Jehovah’s Witnesses, or even anything similar to it? Not at all. As in all Scriptures, we must consider the context or setting. If we look at the previous verse, we find the context: “Into whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it; and abide there until you go away” (Matthew 10:11).
Notice that the disciples were traveling and therefore entering cities or villages. Notice also that they were to “abide” at that one house to which they gave a greeting in verse 12. Obviously these Scriptures referred to the subject of accommodation for the disciples. Calling at every house was not even implied in this account!
Furthermore, if we read the entire chapter of Matthew 10, we find out other interestingfacts, such as to whom the disciples were sent and what they actually did. Verse 6 makes itplain that they were sent to the Jews only, not the Gentiles at this time, and that their message was “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (verse 7). Notice their activities in verse 8: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.”
Could we even remotely apply these Scriptures to Jehovah’s Witnesses? Never! They do not believe in heaven except for 144,000 of their select members, so they are not preaching the “kingdom of heaven” at the door. Rather, they stress their peculiar doctrine of living on earth, which is arrived at by out-of-context Scriptures as well.
Secondly, they do not do the same work as the disciples at all. The dynamic ministry of the disciples bears no resemblance to the dreary and boring presentations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the doors, trying to pass off the Society’s publications as truth! You may wish to read parallel accounts about the ministry in Jesus’ day in Mark, chapter six, and Luke chapter nine.
Despite the claims of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be “footstep followers” of Jesus, we canfind no resemblance between their ministry and that of Jesus Christ and his early disciples.
Some of the other times when Jesus and His disciples were spoken of as being in houses, they were obviously guests, not door-to-door drop-ins. Other times the disciples were visiting the churches that met in the various houses. In fact, the Bible phrase parroted by Jehovah’s Witnesses—“house to house”—indicates “church to church,” since believers were gathered in houses. Disciples traveled from “house to house” (or church to church) for the purpose of teaching and encouraging believers. They were definitely not unpaid salesman, soliciting funds for a multi-million dollar publishing house by knocking on every door with a sales pitch!
Let’s briefly consider some Scriptures showing that the early church met in houses. In Paul’s greeting to Prisca and Aquila, he continues in Romans 16:5, “Greet the church that is in their house…” (see also 1 Corinthians 16:19). Colossians 4:15 instructs, “Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.” Philemon 1:2 says “…to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house.”
These Scriptures show that the apostles ministered to the believers gathered in various houses having meetings. The apostles went “house to house,” but not in the way Jehovah’s Witnesses think!
Finally, we will consider the all time favorite “proof text” of Jehovah’s Witnesses for going house to house. Every Jehovah’s Witness has Acts 20:20 at the ready, should anyone complain about their persistent house-calling. It reads, “…how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house” (New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses).
Now let’s examine the true context: “…declaring to you….” Who is this “you”? Verses 17 and 18 of Acts 20 tells us to whom Paul was speaking: “From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them….” Yes, Paul was speaking to the elders of the church, not to random people he contacted house-to-house! Instructions to the church make up the rest of Paul’s discourse.
Once again, Jehovah’s Witnesses have no biblical basis for their house-to-house work. There is no biblical command against going house to house, but neither is there a Bible precedent, and Jehovah’s Witnesses should not attempt to invent one!
Jesus and His disciples did preach in the Jewish temples, and they did speak to crowds out of doors, and to individuals they met, but they did not organize themselves and call house-to-house on everybody. Rather, people sought them out because of the evident working of God in their lives, and the witness of others. If modern Jehovah’s Witnesses did not call door-to-door, who would ever seek them out?
Although Luke 10:7 refers to the disciples seeking accommodation, since Jehovah’s Witnesses use such Scriptures inaccurately to further their house-to-house work, I suggest that they use this one also: “Do not keep moving from house to house.”
Since there is little hope that Jehovah’s Witnesses will cease knocking on doors, it is up to us who are behind those doors to be prepared to witness effectively to them. They are truly a mission field marching right up to our homes. Be prepared to share the true gospel of salvation by grace to these earnest, but misinformed workers.