(Editorial note added 8/22/10: If you are happy as a JW, we are not advocating that you leave, nor are we advocating division among the Lord’s people. What we are expressing here is that Christians in any Church should have the freedom and liberty to express their views of scriptures, based on personal and honest study of God’s Word. We are not advocating the causing of chaos and turmoil within any Congregation, but simply that our Liberty in Christ should allow one to express differences of opinion without fear of discipline, rebuke and punishment. How can any Christian be confident they have arrived at the Truth in a repressive environment controlled by fear? But let us not fool ourselves by believing we will have this Liberty in other denominations. Sadly, you will not find yourself welcome in most Churches where you contradict the Pastor in the Bible studies. Bible Students will allow you to contradict the study leader, but we will not allow you to dominate or take control of the study.)
So you are discouraged and dissatisfied. You want out of the JWs. But you feel trapped. How can you leave the organization without being labeled an Apostate? The organizations main weapon is separating your family from you. Once you are labeled as an Apostate, it could be all over for your family life. The cost is too high! You just can’t do it! Or can you?
The purpose of this post is to get a discussion going on how a JW can leave with minimal injury to themselves and their families. Is it possible? Please share your ideas and maybe together we can put together an Emergency Escape Plan that actually works. This is a link to the Book written by Br. Raymond Franz:
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?
Before you even consider leaving the JWs, perhaps you need to decide what your doctrinal stand is. What do you really believe? Have you proven what you believe from scripture? Is your faith unshakable? Or do you not really care, because you just want out?
Will the injuries of leaving the organization be so great, will you be so angry and so bitter, that you will be willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater? Are you okay with going back to hell, trinity and immortality of the soul? Are you willing to give up your belief of Paradise earth? Will the Catholic, Methodist or Baptist Church be okay for you? Or will you be content to be by yourself, even though the Apostle Paul said “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together” Heb 10:25.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
If and when you leave, you are not alone. There are many other Jehovah’s Witnesses who have left that are looking for fellowship. You are always welcome to come and visit the Bible Students. How can you find others to meet with? Finding Bible Students is easy enough, because you can find dozens of our websites on the Internet and by contacting any one of those sites, you can be put in contact with the Bible Students nearest you. If there are no Bible Students nearby, you can join one of their weeknight conference call studies. I can provide you with that information.
JEHOVAH’S WITNESS REFORM MOVEMENT
How about joining one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Reform groups? I think you can do so, but it might be a challenge. As far as I can see, there is no far reaching organized mega-JW reform movement to join, and actually that is a good thing, because you are probably trying to get away from a controlling organization. However, this ragtag Freedom Seeking Reform Movement can be far more effective than it has been. Here are my suggestions. First, there needs to be a “trusted source” having JWs best interests at heart, that maintains a database of new JW Reform groups forming. This database can be organized by geographical location so that you can find the JW Reform Bible Study Group nearest you. The website should contain helpful information about each group to help searching JWs learn more and make an informed decision.
For example, let’s say I am a Freedom Seeking JW checking out this hypothetical database. I would click on the city near nearest me and an information page on the Reform Groups in that city pops up. I click on one of the reform groups and see the following information:
* Location and street address where they meet
* Day and time they meet
* Approximate number of attendees in their group
* Contact phone # and email address
* Group website if one exists
* What We Believe statement.
* Other information the group wants to share with you
The What We Believe statement is important. For example, a JW seeking alternatives may want to know whether you still believe in Paradise Earth or Hell Fire.
HOW DO YOU LEAVE WITHOUT GETTING HURT OR LOSING YOUR FAMILY?
I am reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Tim 2:12, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him,” however, I realize that some may not find this comforting since the implication is that following Christ (rather than man / an organization) can result in suffering. However there may be some more effective ways of leaving while minimizing the potential fall out to your family.
Here are some more thoughts. Are there JWs in your Kingdom Hall that you can talk to freely without fear of being reported to the Elders or Circuit Overseer. If so, I suggest you discuss your concerns together and see if you they would be willing to quietly meet together for a weekly Bible Study. You might want to start out with a one-on-one study before incorporating them into your larger little study group. Once they become a regular participant with you, they can join a larger group with less fear they they will report you all, since they have already been a regular participant with you. (I know. Achieving liberty takes a lot of work, just ask the Founding Fathers.)
If you can safely do so, you might also want to feel out your family and see if they are willing to participate in your weekly study; but before doing so, you might want to meet with your family privately, if you are afraid they will report the other brothers and sisters attending your weekly study. Getting them in the study is important in bringing them into the process of freeing their minds to appreciate the importance of open dialogue and liberty in Christ.
Meeting together weekly will help demonstrate whether your little group has chemistry and the possibility for creating an independent breakaway reform study group. If some time passes and the group study is working well and if you are enjoying the Freedom and Liberty you have in Christ and being able to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to Truth (John 16:13), then may be ready for step#2. But your whole study group must realize that step two may ultimately result in their being disfellowshipped and that if they are not willing to follow through with that, they should make it known that they will not support you, so that you are not surprised when you are left holding the bag of the fall out. However, being a martyr may ultimately result in saving others. Are you willing to risk it all for Liberty in Christ?
SHOULD YOU PUBLICLY MAKE YOUR MOVE?
Publicly making your move will help you to finally break free and encourage other JWs to join you. There is no telling how long you can continue to quietly meet with your little study group. Some of you may want to take your chances just doing that for as long as you can. However, sooner or later you may be discovered. It might be hard to maintain a secret study indefinitely. It will also be hard to be continually carry this burden of secrecy, which is the opposite of Christian honesty, but which seems like a necessary evil under your difficult/oppressive circumstances.
For step 2, the one in your group most courageous might try politely, but firmly, challenging a point of view you disagree with in a Kingdom Hall study and see what happens. (Try to pick an issue where you have powerful scriptural support and you are confident of your view.) See if you are immediately shut down or if you are permitted a difference of opinion without reprisal. If on the off chance you are permitted a difference of opinion, then with patience and over time your little study group can politely disagree with objectionable thoughts promoted at the Kingdom Hall and provide your scriptural support. At some point, if not immediately, you will be shut down. But hopefully, you will have gotten some of the others to think.
IF YOU MAKE YOUR MOVE PUBLICLY
Now you are ready for step 3. The one in your group most courageous should make an announcement at the Sunday Kingdom Hall meeting. Probably, you are not allowed to make announcements yourself, so you will be breaking protocol and interrupting the meeting. Because they will probably shut you down quickly, your complete message should be in your first sentence. For example, you could say something like this:
On Thursday nights at John Doe’s house you are invited to study the Watchtower article “Fill in the Blank” with us.
If you can get this far, you are doing well. You may be labeled as a rebel, but I don’t think this yet rises to the level of an Apostate. By selecting a Watchtower article to study, you are making your move less objectionable. If you can get JWs to meet with your group, on your turf, in your home, you might have a chance to influence them toward a free, honest and open discussion. If opposing Elders show up, be prepared for a showdown. Do not be rude, but loving and willing to listen. Only disagree in love, not in anger. If you want to continue with the more subtle approach, you can try to continue the study of the Watchtower article and see where it goes. If you are permitted to do this, you can help get the group in the habit of freely expressing their views, even if different. However, I imagine the opposing Elders will not allow you to have a non-organization sponsored study without disciplinary action. Be prepared to be disfellowshipped.
If you still agree with JW teachngs, you can take the position that you are still a Jehovah’s Witness and that nothing has changed except that you believe it is unhealthy not to permit differences of opinion to be expressed in JW studies, as long as accompanied by honestly presented scriptural evidence. I imagine this makes it more difficult them to brand you as an Apostate. You tell me.
DEALING WITH THE AFTERMATH OF DISFELLOWSHIP
Hopefully some or all of your family is with you and you have been able to minimize the personal damage to your family life. If not, you need to seek your support structure in your little study group and other brothers and sisters in Christ. Remember that nothing is more important in life than your personal relationship with Jesus Christ and also remembering that on Paradise earth, if not before, someday your family will thank you for the stand you took and the example you set at great personal sacrifice.
Try to keep the communication lines open with family that have been pressured into rejecting you. Assure them that you have not denied Jehovah and still believe that same teachings (if that is true). You can quote scriptures listed at the end of this posting about liberty in Christ. Here is a novel idea. I have no idea if this will work. Try referring them to the JW DVD “Faith in Action: From Darkness to Light.” If you feel it is true, point out that you are making a move back to your roots and want to be like the original Bible Students, where there was congregational freedom and no organizational rule and oppression.
Even once disfellowshipped, if you can, continue with the weeknight study that you had announced on Sunday, over the next few weeks or months, when others think it is safe, you may find some sneaking into your study group to check it out. Whatever material you are studying from, we believe that you must accept the Bible as the ultimate authority and you should have the humble attitude of honestly submitting to the teachings of scriptures, if you see them to be clear and yet different from what you had previously thought. Don’t let your emotions sway your doctrinal determination. Base your beliefs on the teachings of scripture after you have studied the evidence for opposing points of view. Sad to say, in my opinion, I see too many Christians influenced by peer pressure and conformity.
BIBLE STUDENTS CAN HELP
Bible Students know where you are coming from. We too had to make a decision to leave the organization after J.F. Rutherford took over and tried to take away our liberty in Christ. We would like to help. On our Friends website, under “Friends Links,” you can find links to some other Bible Student websites with lots of electronic study material. Pick out what you like or what you agree with. Many of our websites even offer hard copy books, literature, DVDs and CDs which are sold at cost and can be shipped to your home at a nominal cost. At your request, Bible Student elders would be glad to visit and speak to you, or lead a Bible Study, even on a topic of your choice. Consider us your friends. We’re here if you need us, but we are determined not to get in your way or interfere with your own freedom and liberty to make your own choices.
The flagship book of the early Bible Students was the Divine Plan of the Ages. A beautiful condensed easy to read version of this has recently been prepared. It is called, “God’s Grand Plan of the Ages” and is sold under cost for only 50 cents a copy. It is a great book, endorsed by all the Chicago Bible Student elders and we encourage you to order a copy and read it for yourself.
ELECTION OF ELDERS AND DEACONS
To prevent yourselves from falling into the trap of following man again, we suggest that your study group adopt the practice of the early church, to have regular (not one time) elections of Elders and Deacons. When the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was originally founded, it was merely a publishing house supporting Bible Students with study materials. Its founder, Pastor Russell, was against organizational control of Christian thoughts and beliefs, which was the impetus for his supporting the organizing the independent Bible study groups, which became the Bible Student movement. Later, under the dictatorial control of JF Rutherford, the movement was transformed into an entirely new organization that tightly controlled the thoughts of its members.
A guidance manual, so to speak, on how to operate a study group according to the scriptures is outlined in Pastor Russell’s sixth volume of the Studies in the Scriptures series, called “The New Creation.” You can find the chapter describing the election of Elders and Deacons here:
TROUBLE IN PARADISE
You are not accustomed to having group debates and making group decisions through vote in a business meeting (something Bible Students do regularly). These business meetings are great for character development, since you will quickly find that everyone doesn’t always agree with you and too often, you are not getting your way. It’s easier to just have the organization tell you what to do, but this is the price of freedom. Be patient with your brethren. Allow them to make the wrong decisions, as you see it, unless it so violates your Christian conscience that you cannot bear it; because at this point you are taking about splitting off into yet smaller groups. Yet we recommend that the development of patience, understanding and submission for each other is generally a better way to go.
Eph 5:21 – Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ. NWT
1 John 3:14 – We know we have passed over from death to life, because we love the brothers. NWT
The next big challenge will come when one of your aspiring study leaders is not elected as an Elder. He may feel hurt, bitter and angry that the group doesn’t seem to understand what a great spiritual leader he will be. To such we recommend the spirit of humility and submission, remembering that “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Prov 16:18, NWT.
IN 1933 THE BIBLE STUDENTS LEFT THE WATCHTOWER ORGANIZATION IN CHICAGO.
In 1933, Chicago Elders defied JF Rutherford’s forced takeover of the Chicago Bible Students. Elder Irving Foss courageously announced that brethren not in harmony with these forced changes were invited to meet together the following Sunday at 1016 N. Dearborn Street… and thus the Chicago Bible Students were re-formed, maintaining their freedom and liberty in Christ. You can read more from testimony of Bro. Irving Foss.
LIBERTY IN CHRIST / THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE
Gal 5:1 – Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. NKJV
Gal 5:13 – For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. NKJV
2Co 3:17 – …where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. NWT
John 8:31, 32 – And so Jesus went on to say to the Jews that had believed him: “If YOU remain in my word, YOU are really my disciples, and YOU will know the truth, and the truth will set YOU free. NWT