Two men in white shirts approach your front door.
“Who’s there?” you reply, perhaps through your app on your phone while you’re otherwise occupied.
“We’re with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
“Uh, no one is home,” you reply—from within your home.
Actually, in recent months these “missionaries” have not been as publicly visible due to Covid restrictions. With digital ways these days to see who’s there, we often don’t answer the door anyway, especially to strangers . . . in collared white shirts . . . with nametags . . . carrying literature or Bibles.
While Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses ceased their door-to-door operations during the strictest part of the pandemic lockdown, many have resumed operations, sometimes donning facemasks and sometimes with hand sanitizer.
And with some surprising results.
Friendlier receptions at the door
Reports indicate people are more open and receptive to their solicitation since the lockdown lifted. The cessation (and relief) of their persistent campaigns of the past, coupled with the public’s pandemic-starved hunger for face-to-face interaction, could account for much of the friendlier reception they are now experiencing.
And perhaps people are hungrier now than ever before for answers about life here and about the hereafter. I am surprised at my own less-than-scientific observation and experience recently with those visiting my small Anglican church how open many are to us following up with them.
But no matter how interaction-hungry we are or how clean-cut and friendly those “knock-knockers” might be, there’s still a problem.
The question Christians need to answer
While they quote “the Bible” (at least their versions of it) and revere “Jesus,” (their version of him), he is not the Jesus that mainline Christianity knows and loves. Both give him a high and lofty position: as a god but neither accept him to be the God.
It becomes incumbent upon us as Christ-followers to answer the question Jesus asked his first disciples in Mark 8:27: “Who do men say that I am?”
The disciples gave a variety of answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet. All complimentary, but inaccurate. But then Jesus asked them a pointed question in verse 29, “Who do you say that I am?” (emphasis mine).
He’s still asking each of us that question.
Believers then and now need to be able to answer it. Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ,” was certainly correct. But, today, defending and explaining that answer requires a more thorough response.
How to discuss the Bible with Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses
Here’s a way all of us who believe can respond. It doesn’t require any memorization. But it does require trust in God’s word and trust in the Holy Spirit to empower you to speak confidently. While many acts of bravery we see on TV sometimes have the disclaimer, “Don’t try this at home,” this is one you must try at home.
First, do you have the time, spiritual maturity, and passion to engage them?
If not, ask for another meeting time and have someone with you who does have those elements. You’ll note that those at your door are always in pairs and sometimes more. There’s usually a reason. One is more mature in their discipline and often training the other.
Second, engage them under clear conditions.
I always say that I am willing to listen to them for as long as they’re willing to listen to me. Minute for minute. This indicates your confidence and maturity in the faith. And that generally makes you someone they are not willing to engage. In my experience, many walk away at this point. Note: they shut me out, not vice versa.
Next, if they are willing to engage on the above condition, give them the option about who speaks first.
It doesn’t really matter who speaks first. Isaiah 55:11 assures us that God’s word will “not return void.” In other words, it will have an impact whether spoken first, second, or tenth. You may not see its result, but trust God’s word even when you don’t see immediate results.
How to defend Jesus’ divinity
So, what do you say?
Because of Isaiah 55:11, as much of God’s word as possible is the best approach.
Trying to debate their theological errors or dubious founders and history is of little use. Concentrate on building something, not tearing anything down. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, will take it from there.
Don’t interrupt them, and ask that they not interrupt you.
The seminal issue always is, “Jesus is God.” Your job is to introduce him to them. I generally give the elevator-speech version of my testimony, ending with, “Jesus is the central focus of my faith and all that I believe.”
I have marked my Bible in such a way that I share what Jesus said about himself, what his friends said about him, what his enemies (especially demons) said about him, and what Scripture says God the Father said about God the Son.
On each page I highlight the Scripture to be read. At the top of the page, I write a note or two on any necessary context (his words, his friends’ words, his enemies’ words, etc.), then I read the passage. At the bottom of the page, I write the reference for the next verse to address. I also write the page number of the next verse so I don’t spend any unnecessary time flipping around.
In the front of my Bible, I have written:
- Pray! (with them or silently)
- Establish condition (time)
- Share brief testimony ending with “Jesus is the central focus of my faith”
- Go to Exodus 3:13–14 (page #)
There are other passages you could use. These are the ones I share and what I have written in my Bible:
- Top – Most holy name of God
- Highlighted – Exodus 3:13–14
- Bottom – “Jesus=I am” John 8:57–58 (page #)
- Top – Jesus’ own words
- Highlighted – John 8:57–58
- Bottom – Jesus = God, John 10:30 (page #)
- Top – Jesus’ own words
- Highlighted – John 10:30
- Bottom – Jesus had authority of God, Matthew 28:18 (page #)
- Top – Jesus had authority of God
- Highlighted – Matthew 28:18
- Bottom – Jesus had authority to forgive sin, Matthew 9:2 and 6 (page #)
- Top – Jesus had authority to forgive sin
- Highlighted – Matthew 9:2 and 6
- Bottom – Jesus had authority over death, John 11:43–44 (page #)
- Top – Jesus has authority over death
- Highlighted – John 11:43–45 (reference vs 41 affirming Lazarus was dead)
- Bottom – Even demons recognize his authority, Mark 5:12–13 (page #)
- Top – Jesus has power over demons
- Highlighted – Mark 5:12–13
- Bottom – Even God the Father calls Jesus God, Hebrews 1:8 (page 3)
- Top – God the Father calls Jesus God
- Highlighted – Hebrews 1:8
- Bottom – His best friend called him God, John1:1 and 14
- Top – His best friend called him God
- Highlighted – John 1:1–14
- Bottom – Jesus’ friends, his enemies, the Father himself and Jesus’ own words and actions affirm that he is God. Not just “a” God, but the God. So do I.
Years ago, I met a young woman who was a convert to Jehovah’s Witnesses. We discussed much of the above. Over time, I lost track of her.
In recent months, she found me online through Facebook and joyfully shared that God’s word reached and changed her. Today she is a vibrant, faithful follower of Jesus Christ—the One who was, is, and ever will be God.