“Perhaps nothing distinguishes us as much as our extensive preaching work- from house to house, in public places, and wherever people are found.” (Awake! Sept. 2015, 7)
JWs believe their door to door preaching (field service) makes them the only true religion on earth. A friend told me about a Witness who called at his place and when he indicated he’s a Christian, the JW said “if you are really a Christian why are you not going from house to house to preach your faith?” The JW was trying to send my friend on a guilt trip; to reinforce the idea that “unless you are with us, you are not there yet”- a mindset often grilled into JWs:
“Do you know of anyone who preaches about God’s kingdom from house to house throughout the world?” (Does God Care? 2001, 30)
“Around the world today, who are making known God’s Word and who endeavor to live in harmony with it?” (Awake! 1989, 10).
In 2004, I went for evangelism in an area and we (the lady with me) tried to witness to a woman. Her visage was angry and her response was harsh. She wanted to drag us into an argument. She was a JW. Why was she so angry with us? Because in her cute little Watchtower world, she didn’t expect that anyone else would be preaching from house to house. They alone seem to have the copyright over that.
This “we alone” mentality fosters a sense of pride that blinds JWs from critically examining what they are being led to believe. Reflecting on this tactic, an ex-JW said “it doesn’t start out that you are the only ones who have the truth, but that you are the only ones making sacrifices for the truth.” An article in The Watchtower (Nov. 15, 2005) featured examples of JWs risking their lives, reputation and health to gain converts. But the same can be said about other sects like the Mormons and SDAs. This doesn’t distinguish JWs.
“Since the last days began in 1914, Jehovah’s Witnesses have preached the good news of God’s kingdom throughout the world in the manner ordered by Jesus, namely, at the homes of the people. (Matthew 10:7, 12, Acts 20:20) Millions of Witnesses call on people in every nation to talk to them about the new world.” (Does God Care? 2001, 30)
Let’s examine the proof texts used here.
(1) Matthew 10:7 “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’
In its entirety, Matthew 10 contradicts the JW’s manner of preaching. In vs 8, Jesus commanded His disciples “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” JWs do not heal the sick or drive out demons from house to house- since they don’t even believe such works of power operate today. They also collect money to cover the materials they give out.
Jesus’ disciples were instructed to stay in the houses they visit until they leave (v 11). He directly told them “Do not move around from house to house” (Lk 10:7). How many JWs stay in the homes of those they preach to, to eat and drink whatever they are given? How can they claim they follow the manner ordered by Jesus with such obvious contradictions?
(2) Acts 20:20 “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house.”
Apostle Paul was speaking to “elders of the church” in Ephesus, not to unbelievers (vs 17) and the “house to house” [Greek: kataiokos] was referring to how he taught them “in private homes.” The early Christians didn’t have church buildings, but met in private homes. And that was the way it was until around the 2nd century. This is why Paul wrote about Aquila and Priscilla “Greet also the church that meets at their house.” (Rom 16:5) “Give my greetings…to Nympha and the church in her house.” (Col 4:16)
If JWs are being consistent, they should also meet in each other’s homes, not in kingdom halls.
The term “house to house” is also used in Acts 5:42 “Everyday in the temple and from house to house they continued without let up teaching and declaring the good news about Christ.” The earlier explanation applies here also. The good news they preached was “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day…” (1Cor 15:3). Their message was about who Jesus Christ is and what He has done, not about a coming earthly paradise or Jehovah’s organization. They were witnesses unto Christ, not of Jehovah (Acts 1:8).
As the early Christians preached the gospel, God confirmed it with signs and wonders (Acts 3:6-9, 8:7, 13). They were not going from door to door like sales representatives of an organization parroting a doctrinal pretzel within 5 minutes like JWs are trained to do. The early Christians also “shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32). If JWs are following their pattern, they should be practicing communal living. The point is this: that a thing was done in a certain way in the first century doesn’t mean it must be done the same way at every century of church history. Jesus and the apostles didn’t just go from house to house, they also preached in marketplaces, synagogues and to crowds of people. They didn’t have a fixed structure on how the gospel must be preached.
Modern technology notwithstanding, many Christians from different denominations still take the gospel from house to house. But to teach that this is the only acceptable means of preaching and identifying true Christians is extremism. Even JWs are trying to modify their methods. They now organize display stands and outlets, use the internet, and since 2014, now have their own online TV.
The house-to-house system is obviously not bringing out the best results for JWs. For instance, some householders may not be home during their visits, and some may refuse to listen. Their preaching work has also been banned in many countries. According to Awake! (May 1, 2011), JWs spent 1.6 billion hours in their preaching work in 2010 alone. How does this translate into conversions? India, with a population of 1 billion has only 25,000 JWs. Pakistan has 1032 out of 145 million, while Indonesia has only 18,000 JWs out of a total population of 219 million. Most of their converts actually come from person-to-person contacts (colleagues or family members).
JWs have elevated themselves on a pedestal of false superiority by claiming “they alone” are fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. They have also made a legalistic system out of their preaching work. Every Witness is mandated to carry a house-to-house card, field service report and a territory map which are to be submitted monthly to their elders for grading. To be poorly graded means you are a weak Witness and that implies Jehovah is not happy with you. A JW must spend an average of 10 hours a month in door to door preaching; special pioneer Witness, 120 hours a month and a regular pioneer must spend at least 70 hours a month, to maintain a right standing in the congregation.
This is a system of works and guilt in which JWs have to continuously work to win the approval of their leaders. Christians do preach the gospel, but we do not measure out the hours required in order to maintain a right standing before God. How does it work going door to door with a stopwatch in our pockets and when it ticks off, to say “oh sorry, I have to go now, I’ve reached my hour limits for the week”? Our preaching is borne out of the love of God and obedience to His Word.
To safeguard this doctrine, the New World bible has been mistranslated. For example:
Romans 10: 9-10
“For if you publicly declare that ‘word in your own mouth’ that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”
What the Watchtower Society means by “exercising faith” has been explained elsewhere. The two key doctrines of the gospel- the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His bodily resurrection- is rejected by JWs, so the “gospel” they are preaching is false. The above text was deliberately rendered to support the idea that by public declaration or field service, JWs are saving themselves. This is legalism.
The Lord Jesus spoke of the efforts of the Pharisees and scribes who travel “sea and land to make a proselyte [convert]” and when he converts he becomes “twofold more the child of hell” (Matt. 23:15). Zeal and sincerity are good, but they can be misplaced. No matter what efforts a deceived person puts into preaching a false gospel, its in vain before God.
1. Since JWs are not the only ones preaching from door to door, they can’t rightly claim it as their distinguishing mark.
2. Their house-to-house preaching is based on misinterpretations (and mistranslations) of the Bible, and therefore cannot be valid.
3. Even if their interpretation is valid, the gospel they preach is a false gospel that cannot save both the preacher and listener.
4. Since their gospel is false, then they are not fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.