Cultists at the Door and Holy Week

A couple of well-dressed, polite, well-spoken young men came to my door today. They could have been Mormons (there are a great lot of them out west) but these fellows happened to be Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Of the two there was an older, more assured, experienced fellow. He was probably training the younger, quieter fellow in the background. My concern was for the latter more than for the former. Existentially, I suppose, it seems as if the younger, less certain fellow is not as hardened to the truth as a more experienced Witness.

Like a visit to the doctor’s office, the annual conversation at the door with the JWs is part of the cycle of life. They seem to come whether I want them or not. I quite dislike these conversations. I know what he’s going to say and he knows what I’m going to say. It’s almost like a ritual dance. Nothing I say about the reality of Jesus’ true deity or humanity seems to sink in. Nothing I say about the Greek text of the NT or the falsehoods of the New World Translation seem to make a dent. When I quote the Nicene Creed, they just stare at me. He responds by telling me how popular the JWs are and how many good works they’re doing and by challenging whether I really believe my faith. After all, he’s out knocking on doors and what I am I doing?

I responded by pointing out that if we’re going to count noses then we all might as well become Muslims. As to knocking on doors, I didn’t tell him that I’ve done plenty of it. No, I confessed that I’m a horrible sinner and that I’m trusting only in the finished work of the God-Man on my behalf and I repeatedly urged them both to do the same, that as long as it is called “Today” there is still hope for salvation. I urged them to turn from their good works to Jesus the Savior.

I know I shouldn’t but I always despair of these conversations. All the time I’m talking I can hear Walter Martin in my head accusing me of failure. I remember the things I’ve read about how to talk to cultists, how I should love them and how I should invite them in and spend hours with them. I didn’t. I didn’t do any of it. I’m sure I failed. Walter Martin is spinning in his grave.

It’s a strange way to enter Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Today I understand a little better the bewilderment of the disciples as the authorities and the mob led Jesus away. Nothing was turning out as the disciples had planned. The paradox of the kingdom is that it does not come in glory and power. It comes in weakness and foolishness. It comes as Jesus submitted to his Father’s will, as he allowed them to take him away and by that he fulfilled that which he had committed to do from all eternity—even as his friends abandoned him and left him to face the coming wrath all alone.

I wish I could say that I had magic words, that I had more gnosis than the gnostics, but I can’t. As far as I know, they left my door as certain of their commitment to their rationalism as when they came. So I do what I can do. I trust the Lord and count on the sovereign Holy Spirit to do the work only he can do through the foolishness of the Word preached. I pray for the men who were at my door, that the Spirit will overcome my frailty and make some, miraculous use of my fumbling through Christian verities and gospel truths and I give thanks for the foolishness of the message preached, that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. don’t despair. most attempt to go the doctrinal way with jw’s and that doesn’t work. You have to hit them on the official changes of their various doctrines over the years. Most of this type of evangelistic approach to JW’s is at the website or .org can’t remember. however, since reading that site, it does cause them to question what they’re being taught and one gal has come over quite frequently to discuss things more.

  2. Sir: what more could you have done? You say you should invite them in for coffee and spend countless hours trying to prove the gospel but I ask you, sincerely, don’t you think they would have spent that time trying to evangelize you?

    I have invited JWs to come back for a longer discourse and often they don’t return. It seems they never change their minds and it feels useless. I think you were right: Leave it to the Lord. Not by might nor power…but by the Lord. You gave them the Gospel. Thank the Lord for the foolishness of the Gospel and men like yourselves who know how to proclaim it.

  3. Man, I’ve been through this too. I’ve had the “I’m knocking on doors, what about you” line as well.

    I remember having Mormons over and it ending up with one of them shouting at me because I believed in predestination. I’m sure they’re saved now because of my influence…

  4. It sounds like they don’t blacklist people in your community. After one visit, it seems I always get blacklisted and they never come back. It happens every time we move. We see them once and never again (at least not until we move again).

  5. We don’t get many here in Little Geneva, maybe for obvious reasons. But the last young fellow I received was actually more interested in getting a bit of cash for school; he wouldn’t have interested in one word I had to suggest. He was peddling, I don’t know, some tripe out of a box. He couldn’t get to the punch line fast enough, and I had noodles about to need straining, so I cut him off and returned with a few bucks. He wanted to leave a fistful of materials with me, I declined, he turned tail and left. I felt a twinge of guilt for not going all Walter Martin, but it was quickly swallowed up by the fact that I’d showed more care by helping toward an education, even if it turned out to be a heretical one. I’m sure many would raise their hands at this. But, then again, I also got a thing against calling false religionists trying to be good neighbors and citizens “cultists.”

    • Zrim,

      When I call JWs cultists, I mean “sects” as in BC 29. These fellows didn’t seem to want any cash. They wanted something far more valuable—my soul. My judgment of them isn’t political or civil. I’m not advocating that the magistrate do anything to or for them! My judgment of their theology has to do with the ecclesiastical and spiritual kingdom. We have to make such judgments, do we not?

  6. RSC,

    Verily, verily, we have to make such judgments. But I don’t see why we can’t make them without more linguistic care. In fact, the case could be made that we have a duty to make uncompromised spiritual judgment by way of better care. I may be wrong, but I tend to think that the fellow at my door will be at least a bit more open to my contention that I hold to truth and he to falsehood if I frame the conversation that way instead of sanity versus kookiness–after all, the things we believe are pretty strange, too, when you think of it.

    I know we’ve been here before, but I just think in the post-Jamestown age we have to do better to distinguish between false religionists and kooks. I can’t help but think those who make such a needful fuss between sola scriptura and solo scriptura would see the worth. And it’s what I think when I think BC 29.

    • Zrim,

      I’m not devoted to the word cult. I suppose the most accurate word for them is “heretic.” They do hold a classic Christological heresy.

      They’re not insane, but they are a threat to the church. They do seduce people into very serious, soul-threatening error. They’re not just confused (though they are that). I guess I see them (at least the senior witnesses) as malevolent.

  7. Dr. Clark… I have many times had the experience you describe (though with less grace and truth than you supplied). But, so that you don’t feel too bad I wanted to share my Holy Week experience of this year with the JW knock on the door. It was morning, last Sunday. The blinds of our living room were still closed. There came a knock on the front door and instinctively I knew it was the obligatory visit from our local JW evangelists. This time, rather than answer, I remained absolutely still knowing they might soon leave (after several knocks) and all I would have to contend with was the tract they would leave. And so it happened. I think my impact was no less than last year’s conversation. But then again…


  8. 2 John …

    7For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

    8Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

    9Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

    10If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:

    11For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

  9. Last time I met (at least 4 times over a few months) with the JW, it ended with me chanting: “Unless you believe that I AM, you will perish in your sins” over and over again. They said they’d call me back to schedule another appointment… they didn’t.

  10. Scott, if you did a bad job, what’s that say about me? I just tell ’em I’m not interested and close the door in their face (mainly Mormons). I just don’t have the patience that you do.

    I’ve noticed that JW’s are very interested in chronology. Some of the best critics are former or lapsed JWs who target the Watchtower Society on one of their weakest points — their view of ancient history. Maybe next time you could engage them on the issue. Carl Olof Jonsson has a good book on the subject called *Gentile Times Reconsidered*:

    He also has some good discussions of Watchtower or Watchtower-inspired chronology at:

    Best wishes,


  11. “Verily, verily, we have to make such judgments. But I don’t see why we can’t make them without more linguistic care.”

    Not this again. They’re cultists. Cultists. Cultists. Cultists…


    Your experience with the JWs sounds exactly the same as mine. They never returned to my place like they said they were going to, so I’m pretty sure I got blacklisted.

    The conversation I recently had with the two Mormon cultists that showed up at my door left me feeling rather depressed in the same way, mostly because I feel like it’s had no effect.

  12. No, I confessed that I’m a horrible sinner and that I’m trusting only in the finished work of the God-Man on my behalf and I repeatedly urged them both to do the same, that as long as it is called “Today” there is still hope for salvation. I urged them to turn from their good works to Jesus the Savior.

    Reminds me of the tactic a Presbyterian missionary to a Muslim country shared that he regularly uses. Something along the lines of, “I would make a terrible JW/Mormon/Muslim. I’m just not good enough. I could never be good enough. I have no idea how you do it. I need a God that can love and deal with bad people like me.” He finds it tends to provide just enough shock to their self-righteous sensibilities that he either gets a “What do you mean?” response or he gets a bit pause in their typical canned schtick so that he can talk about the gospel of grace.

    Last time I tried it on a pair of JW’s I just kept coming around in the conversation to repeat to them, “See, I could never be that good. And frankly, I think if you’re honest, you know you’re not good enough either. How are you going to handle that?” Like you, I was most concerned with the younger trainee and hoping to sow seeds of self doubt for them to consider after they’d gone from my porch.

  13. I think many households in predominantly Christian Nations do not openly welcome Jehovah’s Witnesses because their door to door ministry seems designed to mislead the housholder into beleiving the same lies that Satan told in the Garden of Eden.

    If you read the following newsletter you should see the parallels to the Edenic Sin:

    They really are like Satan dressed in a nice suit and tie knocking on your door!

    No wonder so many Nations have banned them!

Comments are closed.