In this fourth article further challenges will be highlighted for the Christian trying to evangelise the adherents of High Control Organisations.

Attentional Bias (1)

When a doctrine that is promoted in a way that invokes our emotions this will draw our attention away from other factors and possibilities. For example, this is particularly evident when talking about paradise earth with Jehovah’s Witnesses. There is some biblical evidence for the idea of people living on an earth forever, but it is more the emotions that the WtS invokes that confirms the idea in a JW’s mind.

Picture of an earthly paradise

The images of children playing with lions amongst spring flowers, the joy invoked in meeting lost loved ones, and the idea of no war, sickness or pain generates powerful emotional responses in people.

So, presenting logical evidence against it has a much reduced effect as it wasn’t really logic that convinced the JW in the first place. But, for a Christian, the idea of living in a heaven with the Father and the Son forever should be far more appealing than that of a paradise earth. Consequently, if presented with a sincere emotion, it can be more effective in overriding the attentional bias generated by the WtS.

In Group Bias (Them-and-Us) (2)

Humans have developed as social beings where the ‘group’ in which we find ourselves can provide safety and security and we will automatically tend to trust those in the group over those outside it. This is the core basis of racism and many other isms; to distrust anyone outside our group. Members of High Control Organisations are often encouraged to see a them-and-us situation where outsiders are not to be trusted.

This will lead them to put much greater emphasis on what the group teaches over what ‘outsiders’ teach. For example; the WtS lumps all other churches together and label them ‘Christendom.’ (3) They go to great lengths to decry what they do and what they teach.

To best evangelise an adherent, it helps to get them to see us as more part of their group and so break down the walls of distrust. Going up to some JWs on a cart and opening the discussion by telling them that they are wrong in what they believe, that they belong to a cult, is not going to engender their trust. Trying to find common ground such as a love of the Bible, how bad the world is, or how you are looking forward to the return of Christ and the rule of His kingdom, will help break down barriers.

The basic niceties of good manners will help too; ask them how they’re doing, have they spoken to many people today, isn’t the weather bad/amazing, anything to get them to see you less of an outsider. You might consider dressing more like them too! Approaching JWs in a shirt and tie for the men and a long skirt/dress (4) for the ladies will encourage them to see you as one of theirs, even if they consciously know you’re not – the sub-conscious is a powerful ally sometimes.

Authority Principal (5)

In addition to the In-Group bias the Authority Principal (see the previous article for more information on this) means that the doctrines presented by their High Control Organisation’s ‘authority’ (Governing Body [GB] for the JWs, for example) will take automatic precedence over you as they do not see you as an ‘authority’. Only by breaking the grip of their authority can this bias be reduced or negated.

Breaking through to an adherent has been likened to destroying a tree; you can either attempt to pick off the leaves (doctrines) one by one, or simply cut the tree down at the trunk (severing it from the top authority). This is, of course, easier said than done, but, anecdotally, I have seen the grip of the GB eroded by their constant shifting of ‘brighter light’ (6).

It is possible that the latest embarrassing changes to the doctrines; dealing with disfellowshipped persons, the growing of beards, the change in dress codes for both men and women (7) and the opening of the invite into the ‘ark’ of the organisation during the great tribulation (8) may be the last nails in the coffin for some JWs who have become disillusioned with their leaders.

The WtS’s ideas on the light getting brighter (9) has proven to be a powerful ally in their ever-changing ideas and is oft quoted by JWs when these changes are brought up. A discussion on their use of this verse and possible responses can be found on the Reachout Trust website (10).

What Can Be Done?

The human conscious (system 2 – see article 3) is capable of overcoming these biases if it can be brought to bear upon the points under discussion. One technique that can be used to achieve this is to propose a hypothetical scenario. For example; if you are in a situation where you have the time then asking the adherent what techniques they would use to hide the true gospel if they were Satan can encourage them to think.

How would they make sure people did not see the truth in the Bible, how would they remove from the group those who had realised their mistake, how would they get people to listen to them rather than the Bible? By seeing how they would do it might just highlight to them how their High Control Organisation is doing the same.

Trying to get them to see things from your perspective can help them to start thinking too. Can they understand why non-JWs are so skeptical about the Governing body; its constant changing of its doctrines, the fact that they state they are neither inspired nor infallible, the many failed prophecies they have made over the years? If they can be encouraged to see things the way you do then you’re half way there!

Asking them what their immediate response is to being shown a Bible verse that appears to contradict their teachings and then highlighting where this response is based in their sub-conscious may help them to overcome that response. Understanding the cognitive processes they are suffering from can help to open their minds to how they have been manipulated.

Any technique that actually gets them to think about what is being said rather than simply rejecting it can be helpful in breaking them free of their biases.

Sunk Cost Effect

I think it perfectly understandable that if someone has dedicated many years of their life to supporting a High Control Organisation they will find it very hard to break away and accept the fact that all those years have been basically wasted. It is much easier for the mind to reject ideas that would lead to this happening and to continue on as before.

JWs and Mormons spend much time going from door to door or standing on the carts and JWs may well have lost loved ones whom they have been forced to reject due to being disfellowshipped (11). They might have also lost loved ones because they were forbidden to accept blood transfusions or possibly an organ donation (banned between 1967 and 1980 (12).

To have to accept that this was all in vain would be an almost insurmountable barrier. I have the utmost respect for any JW in such a position who has the strength of character sufficient to break through this barrier and escape the organisation.

I have found that those members who have been in the organisation the longest are the least receptive to anything I might have to say and most quickly end any discussion. Of course, the ‘three score years and ten’ that we have on this earth are nothing compared to the eternity we face at the end of our lives, yet, as temporal beings at present, we find it hard to let them go.

It can be helpful to highlight what will be gained by leaving the organisation and receiving Christ. This must be our aim (13); which is basically guaranteed eternal life due to Christ’s sacrifice rather than our own hard work. Becoming children of God and having Him as our eternal Father actually makes anything we may lose in this life seem of little consequence, even if we may find it very hard to come to terms with (Phil 3:8 (14)).

Polarising (15)

Pointing out the constant flip-flops and changes in doctrine of the authority can be an effective ploy if the adherent is ready to receive the information, but it can also have a negative effect by pushing them to defend their leaders and so polarise the discussion.

Polarisation occurs when two persons or groups are on the opposite sides of an argument, but both are initially close to central ground. The discussion can quickly ‘polarise’ with both groups moving away from the centre to the extremities, which often leads to arguments rather than a discussion.

Care needs to be taken to not push a point too hard and so encourage the adherent to actively and aggressively support their leaders, thus increasing their allegiance rather than reducing it. Simply offering the point and leaving it for them to ponder is often the best tactic unless the adherent actually asks for more information or for evidence to research.

Spiritual Pornography”

Bible tracts are a well tried and tested method of passing on any message and are much used in religious circles. The WtS is a huge publishing company and pumps out tracts and magazines by the truck load and always has; its original full name was the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. However, if you were to try and offer a JW a Bible tract from anyone other than the WtS they are more than likely to refuse it, or at best to politely take it and throw it away at the earliest opportunity.

They have been taught that such things are ‘spiritual pornography’ and why would you want to read pornography! It certainly does no harm to offer them tracts, but don’t be surprised by a negative response! Sometimes a handwritten note is better as this appears less of a tract and is automatically more personal. There is no harm in trying!


When combining the powerful techniques used to convince the adherent of the High Control Organisation’s doctrine in the first place and the great difficulties facing anyone trying to evangelise them, it is not surprising that often little headway appears to be made. We seem to be facing impossible odds, but we must remember that with God all things are possible.

I would consider there would be an almost zero possibility of an adherent being ‘converted’ in front of you and his or her companion (they usually come in groups of two or more), but we don’t know what effects our words may have had in the long term.

We may be just one step in the journey of the adherent towards accepting Christ and we should never shirk from playing our part, however small and apparently ineffectual that part may appear to be. We must remember, too, that Jesus Himself did not always convince people of the truth of His words so we should not be surprised when our words appear equally ineffective. We need to cover everything in prayer and remember the words of 1 John 4:4;

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”


  3. A search on the website for the term “Christendom” reveals how the WtS is fixated upon denigrating it and its members
  4. Though ‘new light’ has led to women being allowed to wear trousers rather than skirts or dresses
  6. WT 15 May 1987 p28
  8. WT SE May 2024 “Trust in the Merciful “Judge of all the Earth”, ibid p9-12 “What Do We Know About Jehovah’s Future Judgements?”
  9. Proverbs 4 v 18 “But the path of the righteous is like the bright morning light That grows brighter and brighter until full daylight” NWT
  11. Watchtower Kingdom Ministry Aug 2002 p3 “Display Christian Loyalty When a Relative is Disfellowshipped”
  12. WT 15 Nov 1967 p702-704 Questions from Readers (QfR), WT 15 Mar 1980 p 31 QfR
  13. Our primary purpose when witnessing to others must always be to bring them to Jesus so as to get them in to the Kingdom. We are not there to win an argument or prove the other person wrong (except where this aids the primary purpose). A person who leaves a cult is often worse off than when they were in unless they can then come to know Christ as their saviour.
  14. Phil 3 v 8 “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” NIV