.:DENNIS – Fear of Armageddon led him out of the Watchtower
Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, the biggest fear that drove Dennis to conform to Watchtower standards was the fear that God’s battle of “Armageddon” would come and destroy him if he wasn’t faithful enough. Years of striving to make himself acceptable to God and serving in many leadership roles in the organization left Dennis feeling like a hypocrite. His conscience simply would not permit him to support the unloving policies he was witnessing in the Watchtower organization. How could he continue to wear the façade of being a loyal Jehovah’s Witness when he was not one in his heart? Leaving his leadership position in the Watchtower, Dennis turned to God and found true love in a Christian community where people are accepted, not because of their performance, but because of the ransom sacrifice Jesus Christ applied to all who place their trust in Him alone for eternal life.
I was born and raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. From about 7 years old, I was active in the Jehovah’s Witness ministry and enrolled in the Watchtower Theocratic Ministry School. The biggest thing I remember about my childhood was constant fear. I took the Watchtower idea of “Armageddon” seriously. (The Watchtower teaches that Armageddon is a battle God will bring to the earth that will end all world governments and destroy all wicked people, including unworthy Jehovah’s Witnesses). I was afraid that if I or any of my siblings did anything wrong, Armageddon would come and we would not survive.
There were many doctrines of the Watchtower that I had trouble with fully accepting, even as a teenager. One of these doctrines was the idea that God lovingly gave His Son for us but was ready to take His approval away from us for any small sin. This just didn’t sound right to me. I also had a problem with Jesus being the Son of God but not being “divine” (in the same way that God is “divine”) because so many places in the Bible seemed to say He is God Himself. It just seemed that the Watchtower Bible, the New World Translation, contradicted itself on this issue. The elders answer to my concerns was to pray and devote myself to Jehovah and God would cause His “holy spirit” to help me understand these contradictions.
Throughout my teenage years, I was a regular part of the Watchtower organization. My mother was disfellowshiped (kicked out of the organization and shunned by other Jehovah’s Witnesses) when I was 16 years old. By the way people treated me, it may as well have been me. While I could talk to friends and their parents, and at times, an elder would always come over and stand with us during the meetings, I was never invited to get-togethers for the youth. When I was 17 years old, my best friend tried to commit suicide and they disfellowshiped her almost as soon as she was out of the hospital. I could not believe how unloving that action was, but I knew I was not allowed to question them about it.
When I was 21 years old, I married a woman outside “the truth” (Watchtower organization). I was distracted from my devotion to the Watchtower for most of the 7 years we were married, but she studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses off and on. Finally, toward the end of our marriage, I started going back to the meetings, and after my divorce, being a single parent, I became “active” in the Watchtower again. I was a single parent for 5 years until, through incompetence of my lawyer, I lost my girls and my ex-wife disappeared with them. The Watchtower brothers (male followers) told me what I needed to do to cope with this situation. Their advice was to work hard and make sure I survived Armageddon into the new system, because if neither my ex-wife nor I made it into the new earthly system, then there would be no hope that any of my children would survive. So, for the next 5 years, I was very active.
I became a “Pioneer” (Jehovah’s Witness in full-time door-to-door activity) and moved to a Spanish congregation because the need was great there. I learned Spanish and was appointed as a Ministerial Servant (level of leadership under elder). Eventually, after about 4 years, I was asked to move to western Kansas to help with an isolated Spanish group. I was the public talk coordinator, ministry school conductor, gave many public talks in both Spanish and English, conducted the Watchtower study, and organized and directed the territory assigned to our congregation. It was while I was doing this that I realized that what I did not understand about the organization’s doctrine and policies were actually things that did not make sense to the common mind and were actually false.
Two things happened to push me out of the organization. I had been single for about 9 years when a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses from California came out to work in an unassigned territory in western Colorado. There was a Chinese “sister” (female follower) that I met and had gotten to know quite well. I was thinking that maybe this was a relationship I would like to pursue into marriage. I talked to a couple of trusted elders and the circuit overseer about whether I was free to remarry after my divorce. They said “no,” and talked at great length with me about why the Bible says fornication is the only grounds for divorce that allows for remarriage afterward. Any other reason for divorce and remarriage, the Watchtower Society interpreted as adultery. In conclusion, they told me that this was what the Watchtower Society taught and, since God’s “holy spirit” directs this organization, we could not question any of its doctrines.
A couple weeks later, I was giving a Sunday discourse entitled “Finding Honor and Joy in God’s Ministry.” We got to a part about the hypocrisy of a televangelist, and I realized that I was doing the same thing by the doubts I was entertaining in my mind. I realized that I was representing myself as a fully-devoted Jehovah’s Witness when I was not in my heart. I do think this is the time I truly begin to feel the drawing of the real Lord Jesus. Shortly afterward, I stepped down from leadership and within a couple of years, I had stopped attending meetings completely.
For about 6 years, I tried to make my faith a private matter. I could not trust any Christian church enough to try going to one. Finally about 3 years ago, I attended a United Methodist Church in Newton in order to hear a friend sing in the choir. I went a couple of times and talked to the pastor. He gave me a book on the major beliefs of the United Methodist Church. I was shocked with how many of the beliefs corresponded with what I had come to believe.
I started attending Grace United Methodist Church and from the first Sunday, I knew that I had found my church home. I do believe God had a hand in it. I walked up to the door the first time and it was not clear where I was supposed to enter. I wasn’t even sure how to ask. Well, just as I was about to turn around and leave, a kind couple came up to me and they took me in and introduced me around the place.
I introduced myself to the pastor and talked for just a minute, but later in the day, he called me and invited me to Sunday school. I became very active in the church from the beginning. I attended services, Sunday school, and a couple of weekday bible studies. About 3 months later, he invited me to attend a 3-day seminar on leadership in a growing church. A short time later, I started teaching a basic Spanish class at church. A couple months later, I facilitated my first adult bible study class. They respected my bible knowledge and ability at teaching, and I was soon found myself facilitating a Sunday school class.
A few months later, I received a call from my pastor. Now, part of me was still used to life as a Jehovah’s Witness and in the Watchtower if an elder called you, it usually meant that you were in trouble for something. Well, in my church the opposite was the case! The pastor had called to offer me the chair of the Christian Education Ministry. Along with being chair of a ministry, I was also asked to be on the church council.
Over and over, I have been surprised as I realized how many things the Jehovah’s Witnesses taught me about Christendom’s “churches” that were wrong. First of all, unlike Watchtower claims that Christians did not know or use God’s name, I did hear Jehovah’s name used in services, prayers, and hymns that I sang in church. The focus on God’s grace and love that I experienced in church, contrasted strongly with the focus the Jehovah’s Witnesses had on obeying so many rules to earn your way into God’s new system. Finally, I found a church home where I could worship God and Jesus in truth and not be afraid to express my faith openly.
Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, I never imagined the joy I feel now that I can worship God and have a true relationship with Jesus. To know that He loves and approves me because He wants to, not based on my compliance with man-made standards. He has blessed me immensely these past 3 years. Although I have suffered the loss of my Jehovah’s Witness family who will no longer speak to me because I have joined a church, I have gained many real and dear friends.
After 13 years of searching, God also blessed me with finding my youngest daughter. I now have a great relationship with her. After my divorce and leaving “the truth” (Watchtower organization), I had accepted that I would never marry again, but God had other plans. Soon, I will be marrying a fine Christian woman. Our relationship centers on being in worship and prayer together in Christ. I can only call it a miracle that I found someone who shares my commitment and devotion to Christ and is active in a ministry that helps others.
I am amazed at what God has done for and through me. I look back on the difficulties that I faced and realize that faith is a journey and that the things I endured made me what I am today. Faith is a journey and I don’t know what God will call me to be in the future, but I do know that He is an amazing and wonderful God and I trust Him completely. He has always been there for me and always will be. I hope that you find something in my testimony that helps you in your faith journey. No matter where you are in that journey, know that God is always with you and will provide. He is a loving God and is looking for ways to approve you if you trust Christ’s righteousness and not your own.
This post is also available in: Spanish