Evangelism on a City Bus – Jehovah’s Witness

As missionaries in Russia, we’re always looking for ways to steer conversations towards spiritual themes. Sometimes, you get asked directly!

My wife and I were on the bus, going home from a Romans’ seminar that was held at our church downtown. On Russian buses, there are sections of four seats that face each other, in pairs of two. Like a booth at a restaurant, but there’s no table and your legs are often intertwined.

Our Russian language MacArthur Study Bible was sitting on Nansi’s lap, the description written on the spine. The man across from her leaned over and asked what a “study bible” is. Talking to strangers is highly unusual behavior for Russians in public, so I was a little confused at first. I took the Bible, opened it up and showed that the text is at the top and commentary at the bottom of each page.

Study Bible Russian

The man asks, “how do you know to trust what the commentary says?” That’s a brilliant question, one that I did not expect from someone in a nominal Christian culture where nobody reads the Bible. “He’s a known, respected and trusted author,” I respond. Nansi adds that we compare what we read against the text – which was actually a much better answer!

“You shouldn’t read any commentary, just read the actual text,” the man replies. As if to prove something, I show him my English Bible, which doesn’t have any commentary.

“People pray here about the Kingdom of Heaven, but they have no idea what the kingdom actually is.” Presumably he’s referring to the Lord’s Prayer, or as even Russian Protestants call it, the “Our Father.” I took the bait, “what is the Kingdom of Heaven?”

“A government in heaven, ruled by Christ, established 100 years ago in 1914. If I give you some literature, will you take it?” Let’s find out who this guy is, I think – not knowing this piece of JW theology. As he’s getting ready to exit the bus, he pulls out a magazine – the Jehovah’s Witness style is unmistakeable.

My wife made an insightful comment, that would have been pertinent had the man not left. We’re not supposed to read commentary, just the Biblical text … but we should read the Watchtower? How is that not commentary?
Watchtower Russian May 2014
This is the second time that we’ve been engaged by Jehovah’s Witnesses. First, while in Bulgaria waiting for our visas – now, on a bus in Pskov, Russia. They definitely deserve an “A” for effort.

Granted, he had a very helpful hint that we would be a good target, we were carrying a study Bible in plain view. Still, I can’t imagine that many Protestants are looking to start spiritual conversations in the city bus.

I know, from speaking to other Jehovah’s Witnesses, that they need to earn their place in heaven, to be one of the 144,000. It is a religion of works, and he’s trying to do his part to evangelize not just because he’s concerned about us, but also because he’s concerned about himself.

He is trying to earn salvation by his evangelism. That may give him greater impetus to do it – but are we, who are secure in our hope, silent?

The conversation continued with the man’s neighbor in part 2: Evangelism on a City Bus – Russian Orthodox

6 thoughts on “Evangelism on a City Bus – Jehovah’s Witness”

  1. Interesting post – it would seem culture has an influence on how jws operate too as if it were stateside the guy would have launched into a full fledged attempt to convert you and Nansi. Great job interacting with him !

  2. i ask them for the JW plan of salvation. For us Christians to coherently explain the plan of salvation, takes no more than 2 min. But if you give them 45 min they get lost in their own interpretations and religion and never give i direct answer other than they are Not sure if they are part of the 144k and not sure in their own salvation. On this basis i have found it to be really easy to plant the seed of grace and not works, and encourage them to think outside the box or the “teacher” . also on several occasions i have found out that they are not allowed to read the actual word but MUST have an interpreter decipher the bible for them. Which i found to be strange. If the bible is in your hands, just read it. But it seems that all they do is stick to the Script (watchtower brochure) and point back to key points of the bible. (usually a NLT where the Godhead is misused and so i Begotten son, allowing them easily to venture to the realm of possibility that God had many sons, jesus was one of them)

  3. @Brandon, I was quite shocked that he spoke to us. I agree that culture and setting play a role. The JWs we met in Bulgaria we invited in for a discussion, there wasn’t really time for that. Plus, they invited us to the Kingdom Hall. I think just handing us the lit in this culture was a win for him!

  4. @Alex, The JWs we sat down with in Bulgaria actually knew their stuff very well. One of the women had moved from Ukraine to Sofia as a missionary, and our conversation with her was in Russian so that all of us could understand. Maybe she was sticking to her script, but she knew it very well!

    The weirdest thing to me isn’t their bizarre interpretation of the end times. After all, Dispensationalism takes the 144,000 number literally. It’s their fixation on the minor detail of the name “Jehovah.” Any time someone is obsessed with minutiae, the cult meter goes off for me.

  5. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in a paradise on earth. The 144,000 are part of the heavenly government under the leadership of Christ Jesus. The 144,000 are made up from annointed christians. The first of them were annointed at pentecost in the first century.

    Worldwide there are over 8 million JW’s going from door to door every month. They believe that they will get eternal life in a paradise earth not in heaven.

    Also they do not believe that one can ‘earn’ salvation or a place in heaven. Its a matter of faith. However the bible teaches us that faith without works is dead.

    Kindest regards, DaMenace , The Netherlands, Europe

    For more info about Jehovah’s Witnesses see their official website http://www.jw.org it can be accessed in more than 700 languages and offers free downloads of books, magazines, movies in even more languages.

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