Practices of Jehovah's Witnesses




Jehovah's Witnesses avoid making rules and regulations beyond those provided in the Scriptures, and they do not follow traditions that contradict Bible teachings. Emphasis is placed on personal application of Bible principles and the value of a sound, Bible-based conscience. {1}

Baptism

Jehovah's Witnesses baptize those "of a responsible age" who have made a conscious decision to join the faith. Baptism is done by full water immersion and is a sign of one's devotion to God. After baptism, primary duties expected of a Jehovah's Witness include regular attendance at Kingdom Hall meetings and evangelism.

Witnessing and Evangelism

Probably the most well-known practice of the Jehovah's Witnesses is evangelism, which is most often done door-to-door. An official website of the Jehovah's Witnesses explains the reason for this practice as follows:

Jesus told his followers to "make disciples of people of all the nations," and he set the example by "journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God." The apostle Paul taught in public places, in the marketplace, and from house to house. We follow their example. Other religions have acknowledged the Christian obligation to preach in public places and from house to house, although this is often left to a limited group of missionaries or clergy to fulfill. {2}

Evangelism is central to the religious life of a Jehovah's Witness. Witnesses who are employed full time, known as "kingdom publishers" are expected to spend as much as possible evangelizing (mostly door-to-door) each month. "Pioneer publishers" hold only part-time jobs and devote 100 hours each month to witnessing. "Special publishers" are full-time, salaried employees of the Watchtower Society who are expected to spend about 150 hours per month on evangelism. {3}





Each Kingdom Hall has an assigned territory for which it is responsible to evangelize, and each publisher has an assigned neighborhood. Statistics related to these efforts are tracked carefully. Each month, statistical data such as number of visits, hours spent preaching, Bible studies conducted and tracts distributed are reported to the society's headquarters in Brooklyn. {4} Worldwide statistics for 2003 can be viewed on the official Watchtower website.

Kingdom Hall Services

Jehovah's Witnesses hold religious services in buildings called Kingdom Halls, which could be a rented building, an auditorium, a gymnasium, or a simple building constructed for the express purpose of serving as a Kingdom Hall.

Inside, Kingdom Halls usually have chairs for the audience, a lectern for the speaker, a library, and an area providing religious literature. There are no crosses displayed outside or inside Kingdom Halls.

Congregations usually consist of less than 200 members, and most Witnesses attend the Kingdom Hall closest to their home. {5}

Religious Services

Jehovah's Witnesses usually meet three times per week: once on Sunday and twice during the week. The Sunday service consists of the Public Meeting, a 45-minute Bible-based lecture, and the Watchtower Study, a one-hour discussion of a recent article in the Watchtower magazine. Although all baptized members are considered ordained ministers, services are usually led by elders or "ministerial servants." The services begin and end with prayer and usually include some singing. Worship is simple and includes very little ritual. {6}

True worship emphasizes, not ritual and outward show, but spirit and truth. It is characterized by genuine love for God, obedience to his commandments, and love for one's fellowman. {7}

The Theocratic Ministry School and Service Meeting are held on a weekday evening. The Theocratic Ministry School is a 45-minute lesson and practice session on public speaking. At each meeting, six students give a speech on an assigned Bible-related topic and an instructor provides commentary and suggestions for improvement. All ages can enroll in the Theocractic Ministry School, and one need not be a Witness to participate. At the Service Meeting, Witnesses discuss methods and techniques for evangelism. {8}

Assemblies and Conventions

Jehovah's Witnesses maintain contact with other believers throughout the United States and the world by means of assemblies and conventions. These meetings include religious lectures, interviews, prayer, skits and singing.

Every year, about 20 congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses meet in two-day circuit assemblies. Also once per year, about 200 congregations from a particular region gather at an auditorium or coliseum for district conventions. District conventions last three to four days. About once every five years, Witnesses from around the world meet in a major city for an international convention. {9}

Shunning/Disfellowshipping

One of the more controversial practices of the Jehovah's Witnesses is that of "shunning" or "disfellowshipping" certain members or former members. Critics of this practice, most of whom are former Witnesses who have been disfellowshipped, have argued that the practice is divisive and emotionally damaging. Some see the practice as evidence that the group is a cult that attempts to control its members.

However, Jehovah's Witnesses regard the practice as a biblically-sanctioned means of bringing the wrongdoer back into fellowship while also protecting other members. A Frequently Asked Questions page on an official Jehovah's Witness website explains:

Those who become inactive in the congregation, perhaps even drifting away from association with fellow believers, are not shunned. In fact, special effort is made to reach out to them and rekindle their spiritual interest.

If, however, someone unrepentantly practices serious sins, such as drunkeness, stealing or adultery, he will be disfellowshipped and such an individual is avoided by former fellow-worshipers. Every effort is made to help wrongdoers. But if they are unrepentant, the congregation needs to be protected from their influence. The Bible clearly states: 'Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.' (1 Corinthians 5:13) Those who formally say they do not want to be part of the organization any more are also avoided.

What of a man who is disfellowshipped but whose wife and children are still Jehovah's Witnesses? The spiritual ties he had with his family change, but blood ties remain. The marriage relationship and normal family affections and dealings can continue. As for disfellowshipped relatives not living in the same household, Jehovah's Witnesses apply the Bible's counsel: "Quit mixing with them." (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Disfellowshipped individuals may continue to attend religious services and, if they wish, they may receive spiritual counsel from the elders with a view to their being restored. They are always welcome to return to the faith if they reject the improper course of conduct for which they were disfellowshipped. {10}

Blood Transfusions

Based on Acts 15:20, 21:25 and similar verses advising Christians to "abstain from blood," Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions. The organization has done a great deal of research into alternatives for this procedure, and many articles on the topic can be found on the official website.

Politics

Based on their interpretation of the Bible and their expectation of the coming theocracy, Jehovah's Witnesses do not participate in politics or secular wars. They do not salute the flag, support one politician or nation over another, or enlist in the military. This has often resulted in persecution by governments who views these stances as anti-nationalistic. However, Witnesses also recognize the need for secular governments and authority, and abide by this authority fully except "on those rare occasions when a government demands what is in direct conflict with what God commands." {11}




References

  1. "Membership and Organization." Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  2. "FAQ: Why Do You Go From Door to Door?" Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  3. "Jehovah's Witnesses," EB.
  4. Ibid.
  5. "Worship and Conventions." Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  6. Ibid.
  7. "Beliefs - God, Man and Future." Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  8. "Worship and Conventions." Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  9. Ibid.
  10. "FAQ: Do You Shun Former Members?" Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  11. "Role in Society." Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses.

More Online Resources on the Practices of Jehovah's Witnesses

Shunning/Disfellowshipping

Blood Transfusions and Medical Issues

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