How are you at talking to cult members? I have just seen an article on the satirical site Babylon Bee which had the heading: New Smart Doorbell Will Argue with Jehovah’s Witnesses and LDS Missionaries for You. It goes on to say:
The Debate Ring Pro is designed to engage in theological arguments with visitors from other religious backgrounds. When the video monitoring software detects LDS missionaries or Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, the device gently, but firmly recites verses supporting the deity of Jesus Christ and other defenses for orthodox theology.
Brilliant! But before you get too excited, this is a spoof. You cannot really buy the Debate Ring Pro, but I wonder if we could purchase this doorbell, would we get one? And if we got one, what would be our reasons?
Perhaps you think it would take the pressure off when you see those pesky cult members walking down your path. Perhaps, it would remove the guilt of not opening the door or of not knowing what to say to these unwelcome visitors. Or perhaps, more seriously, you desperately want to talk to your doorstep callers, but you do not know where to start.
In this article I want to share some brief thoughts on how we might begin lovingly talking to cult members, engaging with those we find ringing our bell. I have used Open the Door as an acrostic, to hopefully aid memory.
O – Open the Door
Let’s begin with the obvious. In order to speak to cult members, you need to open the door. This is often the hardest part. I have heard many Christians say they pretend not to be in or that they believe that any dialogue with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons is a waste of time. I have even had well-meaning believers pointing their big Bibles at me, telling me that we should not open the door, for in doing so we take part in their wicked ways.
Friends, let me tell you why we need to open the door. Firstly, on your doorstep stand people for whom Christ died. They are lost and in great need. Without coming to faith in the ‘right’ Jesus they will be eternally damned. Secondly, as believers we are called to share the good news of the gospel, and here we have people on our doorstep ready to hear it. Thirdly, if you read the rest of this article – you have no excuse, for you will be ready to open the door!
P – Prayer
Prayer is of vital importance when trying to share the gospel, talking to cult members. We pray as they walk down our path, we pray as we listen to what they say, we pray for them after we have closed the door. We know that it is our job to tell them the good news and it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict them of sin and bring them to repentance and saving faith.
Prayer is our greatest weapon. We also need to pray because we are involved in spiritual warfare. If you have spent any time talking to cult members, you will know how draining it is, and how down and disheartened you can feel afterwards. It is therefore important, if you are meeting with cult members, to let other brothers and sisters know, so that they can uphold you in prayer.
E – Engage
We have opened the door, we have prayed, now we need to engage. I have found that if you are open and winsome with cultists, they often reciprocate. I may say something along the lines of ‘it is good to see you today, I love to talk to people about the Bible’. Without them realising it, it is important to be in control of the discussion right from the start.
I would do this by telling them that I am happy for them to share their message with me, as long as they allow me the same courtesy afterwards. They usually agree. When it comes to your turn share your testimony with them. Emphasise a changed life, sins forgiven, relationship with God, assurance of eternal life. This will be greatly challenging to them.
N – Names & Numbers
When talking to cult members I make it a priority to get their names and, where possible, their numbers. This is usually not a problem, although I have had one or two tricky teenage Mormon Missionaries who have not given me their names and inexplicably wanted me to call them Elder! The value of having their names and numbers is twofold.
Firstly, you can pass their names on to your prayer supporters and have them to pray for them.
Secondly, if you have their numbers, you can keep in touch and arrange another discussion. A little tip. If you get the numbers of Mormon Missionaries, know that the mobile phone is passed on to incoming missionaries after the ones you have spoken to are moved on. This gives you the opportunity to call/text and meet with new missionaries every few months.
T – Talk about Jesus
We need to make sure that our reason for meeting with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons is to talk to them about Jesus. Sure, we can share a few pleasantries as we seek to befriend them, but first and foremost in our minds should be to have them hear about Jesus.
Both the JWs and the Mormons believe in another Jesus, a Jesus who cannot save them. When talking to cult members we need to point them to one who is the Eternal God, the one who paid the price for their sin on the cross of Calvary. They need to know the one who triumphed over the grave by physically rising from the dead, the one who is the way, the truth and the life. Only He can save them.
If we are serious about talking to cult members, trying to reach cultists for Christ, then we will need help. It is good to know what these groups believe so we should make sure, best we can, that we understand why they believe what they believe and why they do what they do. Find good teaching resources – I hear Reachout Trust is excellent!
It is in knowing what we believe and why we believe it that we protect ourselves from cult doctrine and we are equipped to share truth.
But it is not only knowing what they believe, it is even more important to know what we believe. It is in knowing what we believe and why we believe it that we protect ourselves from cult doctrine and we are equipped to share truth. Therefore, read the Word and know your stuff.
E – Empathy
I apparently suffer from something called selective hearing, at least I think that’s what my wife said it was. It is so tempting, when listening to a cultist to not be present; to be thinking about which Bible verse you are going to launch at them next. Can I suggest that, when talking to cult members, we try our best to listen to what they are saying.
To listen and have empathy for them, is not to agree with them, but rather to try and put yourself in their shoes. Many of them will have been brought up in the JWs or Mormons and be totally sincere in their beliefs. They are desperately stuck on a treadmill of guilt and good works and they do not know how to get off.
Showing them some love and compassion goes a long way. If you do this, you will successfully befriend them and give them the opportunity to come to you with their doubts and fears.
D- Dialogue not Debate
Our aim in talking to cult members is to have an open and honest dialogue with them, not to get into a debate. It is so easy to find yourself in a heated debate, especially with the JWs, but we must pull ourselves back when we find ourselves going there. I have so many times found myself getting into a game of Bible verse tennis, where we are smashing verses over the net at each other. It is a waste of time.
Dialogue means, whilst not agreeing, we can respect each other’s views. I find setting some boundaries and humour goes a long way to creating the right atmosphere for discussion.
O – One Thing
Cult members tend to drag discussions all over the place (this can be stopped by setting out some boundaries). I have found it useful to have in mind one question, one topic, one point that I am going to try and stick to during our time together. An example of this may be a question that I will keep returning to.
I may ask, ‘according to the Bible how is a person made right with God’? or ‘according to the Bible, who is Jesus’? I will have done some homework on this, have all my Scriptures lined up and will have considered how they might respond. Sticking to one thing focusses your thoughts and keeps a discussion on track.
O – Openness
Being yourself and being honest are important when talking to cult members. As a Jehovah’s Witness, I would have lied rather than have said I did not know something. That is not what we are to do. It is okay to say ‘I don’t know the answer’ if we do not know the answer. We can be honest and say that we will research and try and have an answer for next time.
R – Red Herrings
Have you ever found whilst talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses, hopefully about Jesus, and you appear to be getting somewhere. Suddenly they will say something like: ‘yeah, but I bet you celebrate Christmas don’t you?’ Frustrating isn’t it? When they do this, they are throwing in red herrings.
Now you and I may like red herrings and we may want to take the bait, but we mustn’t. Cultists often major on the minor and as much as they want to get you into a discussion about birthdays, Christmas or whether you should vote, do not go down that rabbit trail.
As I said previously, we need to talk to them about Jesus so make sure we keep main thing the main thing.
OPEN THE DOOR
Remember that when we do OPEN THE DOOR to share the gospel with cult members, often imperfectly, often thinking I wish I would have said this or I wish I didn’t say that, our motivation should always be one of love. We share the gospel with these dear sincere people because we know it is the power of God unto salvation.
We cannot save anyone, our job in speaking to the cultist is to leave them with a stone in their shoe; and maybe, just maybe, something we said will be used by the Holy Spirit to wake them up and save them.
Lord help us to open the door.
 2 John 10