Faith Builder

Jehovah’s Witnesses share the word in Lewistown
Miriam Campan
Friday, April 16, 2021
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Local Jehovah’s Witnesses Elder Jim Steen stands in front of the Lewistown Kingdom Hall, where services are performed via video conferencing until it is safe to meet once again in person.
Photo by Miriam Campan

It was a world movement that began with a Bible study. In 1870, Charles Taze Russell, gathered together like-minded individuals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where questions were raised on the orthodox views of Christianity, thus beginning the Jehovah’s Witnesses branch of Christianity. The movement continues today, due in part to their door-to-door evangelical mission.
Their name is taken from the Tetragrammatons’ JHWH or JHVH, pronounced either as Yahweh or Jehovah.  Jehovah’s Witnesses relied on the King James Version of the Bible, before adopting their own translation of The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.

Beliefs and practices
“Worldly people,” or non-Jehovah’s Witness followers, may associate the Jehovah’s Witnesses not only with their evangelical face-to-face missions, but also with declining to participate in the celebrated Christian holidays. Due to the historical connections with pagan beliefs, Christmas and Easter are not observed.

Other differences include their stand on not commemorating birthdays, refusing blood transfusions and involvement with the government, whether saluting the flag, singing the National Anthem or military service.
Unless a Jehovah’s Witness child is homeschooled, they see other children celebrating birthdays, saluting the flag, or exchanging gifts at Christmas.
According to Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, the approach to these differences and assisting their children in navigating the “it’s not fair,” stance typical amongst children is to be proactive.
Hendriks said, “Our parents are very proactive as our goal as mature adults is to try and think like Jehovah and think like Jesus. It’s not easy for the young ones of Jehovah’s Witnesses; it’s about really learning to love our creator more than anything else.”
Local Elder Jim Steen said, “To be honest, with my own children, I can’t recall a single occasion where they said, ‘it’s not fair.’ Education is the key to understand the reasons why we make a decision; it then becomes easy to follow. It is the primary responsibility of the parent to teach the children.”
The lessons taught come from a strong foundation of the American Standard Version Bible adopted by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
 Hendriks said, “King James is a literary masterpiece. When it was translated the name Jehovah was not used. We took up the American Standard Version, which was one of the bibles that restored God’s name to its proper place.”
Steen added, “In the New World Translation the name was restored to Jehovah, the Hebrew name for God.”
According to Hendriks, Jehovah’s Witnesses see no reference to the term “trinity” nor in worshiping Jesus Christ on an equal plane with God. They refer to the passage in John 14:28 “The Father is greater than I am.” Similar to their view of Jesus in the divine order, the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe the Holy Spirit is equal with the Father, but rather a force applied by God.
Further explaining, Hendriks said, “. . . if Jesus is a creation of God then he cannot be God. In a larger perspective Jesus intercedes on our behalf. The Holy Spirit helps us to do what we need to do.”

Spreading the word
Jehovah’s Witnesses take an evangelical approach in spreading the gospel. This goes beyond young people dressed formally and respectfully knocking on doors to share the word, to their publications: “The Watchtower” and “AWAKE” (available on their website). These publications   offer answers to faith-based questions such as: “Why Pray?” or “Does God Care About You?” These publications were routinely delivered to the Fergus County Sheriff’s Office Detention facility and the Nexxus Treatment facility for inspirational reading. Due to COVID, physical distribution of these publications is on hold until it is deemed safe to distribute once again.
Local Jehovah’s Witnesses continue the evangelical approach, but rather than door-to-door, the message is being delivered in the form of a letter.  The “message” is not to recruit, but to share Bible truth.
Hendrix said, “We are not like a typical evangelical church. We recognize we first have to satisfy the mind before it has any right to move the heart . . . we are not looking for recruits. We are looking to share Bible truth with people and hope it affects them in a positive way.”
Typically associated with Christianity is the term “church” to describe the meeting place for worshippers. According to Hendriks, in the New World translation the word “Kingdom” is used to describe God’s government in heaven. A Kingdom Hall is the gathering place to learn about God’s Kingdom.
During the pandemic the 40-plus members of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Lewistown continue to meet regularly and provide support to one another, whether reaching out through a telephone call, a letter or online with a Zoom service.
Steen said of the challenges of the pandemic “When I think of my faith, I think about what we learned at the Kingdom Hall and the support of other members. It’s been impressive to see how they, young and old alike in the congregation, saw the direction was not to meet in groups but to immediately make arrangements for video conferencing services for our members.”
Hendriks said, “The Word blossoms when it is shared.”



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