“When religion rather than the person of Christ becomes central in our lives, we substitute Pharisaism for Christianity. Religion is central when that to which we are passionately committed is our manner of worship, our theological belief system, our form of piety or our particular religious experience. We then proselytize rather than evangelize. To proselytize means to convert people to our religion, to conform them to our ideas and opinions, and to make them disciples after our own likeness. To evangelize means to proclaim the gospel, to introduce people to the living Christ whether they join our religion or not.” ~The Christian Verdict, Vol. 5, No.2, 1982.
Are JWs evangelists or proselytizers? The word evangelist comes from the word evangel which means:
The question would be, do JWs focus their preaching work on Jesus? Do they principally try to inform others about the redemptive work of Jesus? or Do JWs principally focus on finding recruits? Do they point people to a person, Jesus? or Do they point people to an organization?
Although without a doubt the ministry of JWs does include information about the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, if we are honest we must admit that the publishers are trained to point people to the organization, not so much to Jesus. In fact most JWs believe that if a person doesn’t follow the organization it is impossible to follow Jesus. One must admit that there exists a difference between the prominence that the first century Christians gave Jesus and the prominence that the organization gives him. That was one of the things that struck me when I began to read the bible without help from the publications. The first century Christians certainly didn’t ignore Jesus’ Father. They recognized Him as the Almighty God, but the emphasis was on Jesus. Does this somehow take glory away from God? Does this emphasis on Jesus displease Him? Not at all, it is God’s will that we give glory to Jesus. It has pleased the Father to put Jesus in the role of Savior. Acts 4:12 -“Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (see also John 17:1-8; Philippians 2:9-11)
John 5:21-23 -“21 And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to anyone He wants to. 22 The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
The first century Christians were witnesses of Jesus. In view of these things it is a serious matter if an organization downplays Jesus’ role in the congregation. In the first century the primary question was: Is Jesus the Messiah? For JWs today the question has become: Are the JWs God’s organization?
There has been a shift away from Jesus and a corresponding increase in the emphasis on the organization. During some meetings Jesus is rarely mentioned. Also more often than not Jesus is mentioned in prayer only at the end when we say “in Jesus’ name, Amen”. It is God’s will that Jesus be the central figure in the christian congregation, not a figure head that stays in the background.
The question remains are JWs evangelists or proselytizers?
Whatever the answer it must be admitted that the leadership of the JWs isn’t particularly interested in reaching the most people possible with their message. The door to door ministry is largely a waste of time and valuable resources. Most people are not home or willing to discuss the bible with JWs. If a householder happens to be home and willing to listen, the presentation of the publisher mostly consists of quickly reading a bible text then leaving a magazine or book. The vast majority of the literature placed probably goes straight to the landfill without ever being read. Most non-JWs don’t have a clue what the message of the JWs is. For instance, how long have the JWs preached in your city? 50 yrs? a hundred? And still most people don’t even know what the message is about! How many years of JW style preaching would it take for every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth to have enough information to make an informed decision on the message of the JWs? If the “FDS” were truly interested in reaching the maximum amount of people in the minimum amount of time they would use television, radio, internet, billboards etc. Why do they not use these more effective means of preaching?
To say that the entire world will have their eternal life judged by if they accept the obscure message of an insignificant religious group or not, is to heap reproach on God’s name. It would be the height of injustice for God to judge everyone’s eternal life on the basis of a message they have scarcely heard or even knew existed. Certainly Jehovah’s Witnesses are not uniquely fulfilling Matt. 24:14.
It could very well be that this verse was fulfilled uniquely in the first century before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Notice the following scriptures that show the gospel was preached in the known world before the end of the Jewish system of things.
Col. 1:5,6 (HCSB)- “You have already heard about [this hope] in the message of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. It is bearing fruit and growing all over the world, just as it has among you since the day you heard it and recognized God’s grace in the truth.”
Col 1:23 – “[This gospel] has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a minister of it.”
Acts 2:5 – “There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven.”
Romans 10:18 – “But I ask, “Did they not hear?” Yes, they did: Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the inhabited world.”
Matt. 24:14 was without doubt fulfilled in the first century. But does it have a second fulfillment? Possibly, but to say that the JWs uniquely fulfill this scripture because of their chosen method of preaching (door to door) is not supported by the evidence. About 2 billion people today claim to be Christian. How did they hear about Christ and the Bible? Did not someone have to tell them? Is this not considered evangelization?
There is no evidence that the first century Christians went door to door preaching. It would appear that most of their preaching was in public places and synagogues. Acts 20:20 and 5:42 are easily understood if you compare these verses with Acts 2:46. It is clear that the Gr. word translated house to house means in private homes. Or in other words the first century Christians taught publicly and to further educate meek ones they taught in their private homes.
Preaching from door to door as the JWs do certainly is not wrong, but it is not a sign or mark that uniquely identifies the witnesses as fulfilling Matt. 24:14.