House to House Preaching
The Watchtower claims that only Jehovah’s Witnesses do the preaching work commissioned by Jesus:
“Do you know of anyone else who preaches about God’s Kingdom from house to house throughout the world? Does God Care? p.30
This type of claim makes the false assumption that:
- only Jehovah’s Witnesses preach house to house
- going house to house is a biblical command
It is incorrect to imply that only Jehovah’s Witnesses preach, if this were true there would be no other religion. Following are just some notable examples of religions actively engaged in preaching.
Seven Day Adventists successfully preach the good news at people's homes, and have grown at a similar rate to Jehovah's Witnesses. Chapter 13 of the Seven Day Adventist Church Manual claims “Our highest responsibility is to the church and its commission to preach the gospel of the kingdom to all the world….” Mormons preach from house to house, with the religion starting at a similar time to the Watcthower Society and growing at a similar rate as Jehovah's Witnesses. Baptists are renowned for their preaching efforts, and have the most missionaries of any religion. In 2004, there were 7 million Baptists outside of America, 600,000 baptisms and 21,000 new churches; in the same year there were only 200,000 Witness baptisms.
A current success story is the Jesus Film Project. www.jesusfilm.org (15th April 2006) explains that “The JESUS Film ... has been seen in every country of the world and translated into hundreds of languages since its initial release in 1979. Our goal is to reach every nation, tribe, people and tongue, helping them see and hear the story of Jesus in a language they can understand. ... As a result, more than 201 million people have indicated decisions to accept Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.”
The greatest preaching work of all have been by the Catholic Church, who boast over 1 billion members, and who virtually all other Christian groups owe their existence to. This work continues to our day and at http://www.catholicmission.org/ as of 23 July 2006 quotes Pope John Paul II as saying:
""I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes (to the nations.)" The site outlines the joy of joining in with spreading the message of Christ."
Where to Preach
The Watchtower places great emphasis on the "house to house" ministry. Though the house to house work is an acceptable way to preach, it is never indicated Scripturally as a sign of God’s followers nor prescribed as the way to preach.
The only time that the term ‘house to house’ is used in regards to preaching to unbelievers was when Jesus sent out the 70 disciples. On this occasion Jesus plainly stated not to go house to house.
Luke 10:1-7 “After these things the Lord designated seventy others and sent them forth by twos in advance of him into every city and place to which he himself was going to come. … 5 Wherever YOU enter into a house say first, ‘May this house have peace.’ 6 And if a friend of peace is there, YOUR peace will rest upon him. But if there is not, it will turn back to YOU. 7 So stay in that house, eating and drinking the things they provide, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Do not be transferring from house to house. (Ek oikia eis oikia)”
The Watchtower uses two other Scriptures from Acts to indicate preaching should be from house to house. However these Scriptures are incorrectly translated in the New World Translation and continually misapplied in Watchtower publications!
"The principal way in which that work would be done became evident immediately after the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. “Every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:42) Some 20 years later, the apostle Paul was engaging in the house-to-house ministry, for he reminded Christian elders from the city of Ephesus: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house.”—Acts 20:20." Watchtower 1991 Jan 15 p.11
The Greek used at Acts 5:42 and Acts 20:20 is not Ek oikia eis oikia, but rather Kata oikos. For this reason Bible translations usually render this “in every house”, “at home” or “in their homes”. Whilst the New World Translation of Acts 20:20 uses the phrase “house to house” the footnote admits that the Greek word means “in private houses”. At Acts 20:20, Paul is not discussing preaching to unbelievers, but rather teaching those who already were Christians. A more accurate way to understand these scriptures in Acts is, “we were teaching you at your homes”, similar to the way Witnesses used to hold congregation book studies.
Matthew 10:5-12 discribes how first century Christians preached:
"These twelve Jesus sent forth, giving them these orders: “Do not go off into the road of the nations, and do not enter into a Sa·mar'i·tan city; but, instead, go continually to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As YOU go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’ Cure sick people, raise up dead persons, make lepers clean, expel demons. YOU received free, give free. Do not procure gold or silver or copper for YOUR girdle purses, or a food pouch for the trip, or two undergarments, or sandals or a staff; for the worker deserves his food. “Into whatever city or village YOU enter, search out who in it is deserving, and stay there until YOU leave. When YOU are entering into the house, greet the household;”
Though used as a key reference to justifying the door to door ministry, the text at Matthew 10 is disregarded by Witnesses in its entirety. The Watchtower message focuses largely on the earthly organization and earthly paradise rather than the heavenly aspect of the kingdom. Miracles such as faith healing are not practiced. Rather than giving free, donations are requested to cover the cost of the literature and prior to the change of tax status were actively sold. Finally, the disciples did not go house to house, they searched out a single place to stay.
Preaching house to house is not an indicator of the true religion. The majority of preaching described in the Bible was done where people were, such as synagogues and in markets. If Witnesses were really interested in bringing people to Jehovah, they would spend less time door knocking on empty doors or travelling five in a car on return visits during mid week afternoons when most people are not at home.
The preaching work conducted by Jehovah's Witnesses is becoming less and less effective. A simple evaluation of the yearly report shows that it takes 5000 hours of witnessing per baptism (1 billion witnessing hours in 2004 resulted in a 200,000 baptisms). If you take the figure of 200,000 and halve it for those born in the truth and then halve it again to account for those reached in informal witnessing an even more realistic figure would be 20,000 hours of door-to-door work for one convert. That is the equivalent of 166 people doing 10 hours each a month for a year.
Other religious groups grow because members preach casually to friends at work, universities and anywhere else they may be found. They do not get hung up on where to preach and whether the hours can be put on a monthly report. One study I have read showed that 50% of new Witnesses came into the Organization from talking casually to Witnesses and not in the door to door ministry. Though Jehovah's Witnesses report a billion hours a year preaching, it is predominantly spent knocking on the doors of empty houses. If a person is interested in helping people and not just in reporting hours, there are far more effective ways to preach.
When I pioneered in the Pacific Islands most houses I called on usually had someone at home. However this is not the situation in developed countries. In modern society the majority of houses are empty at the times Witnesses call, with both husband and wife working throughout the week and entertaining or playing sport on the weekend. I remember witnessing week in, week out and only meeting one or two people in a whole morning. 5 of us would cram into a car for return visits during week day afternoons and be lucky if each pioneer found even one person at home.
Jesus spent most of his time preaching in the streets, the synagogues and the markets, anywhere that people were and rarely if ever went house to house. Did the apostle Paul enter a town and go door to door? Never is that recorded. Rather he always headed straight to where the most people would be. If Jesus were alive today do you think he would have spread his urgent message by trudging door to door when he knew no one was going to be there?
What to preach
Early Christian preaching was not intent on directing people to an Organization, they preached about Christ and his heavenly kingdom, condemning those that preached anything else.
Galatians 1:7-8 “… the good news about the Christ. 8 However, even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to YOU as good news something beyond what we declared to YOU as good news, let him be accursed.”
Acts 8:4-17 “Philip, for one, went down to the city of Sa·mar´i·a and began to preach the Christ to them… 12 But when they believed Philip, who was declaring the good news of the kingdom of God and of the name of Jesus Christ, they proceeded to be baptized, both men and women.”
Neither were Christians forced to study doctrine prior to baptism, and were warned of the danger of people that promote doctrine at John 5:39,40:
“YOU are searching the Scriptures, because YOU think that by means of them YOU will have everlasting life; and these are the very ones that bear witness about me. And yet YOU do not want to come to me that YOU may have life.”
Can it be said that the Watchtower message is ‘Good News” when in reality it is about the coming destruction of billions of people at Armageddon? The message the Jehovah's Witnesses is predominantly about Jehovah, the Organization and an earthly paradise, not the Christian message of Jesus and his heavenly kingdom.