Though thankfully it’s been a while since either the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses have come to my door (maybe by now they’ve taken a hint), there is something I feel I need to point out about how we as Christians respond to their advances.
They come to our homes unannounced but expect us to drop what we’re doing and talk about spiritual things. They’re not selling vacuum cleaners or lawn care, as if we can say either “I’m not interested” or “Tell me more”, but count on us to be polite and either accept what they’re saying or get drawn into a theological debate on the spot. Either way the game is rigged; they have the advantage because, unlike us, they choose and plan the time and place this will occur. By interrupting us in our own homes they have us immediately off-balance, yet as Christians we are taught that we must “always be ready”... and then we wonder why, after they leave, we did such a poor job, punishing ourselves for a “lost opportunity”.
I would like to suggest a new strategy: tell the “missionaries” that they’re being rude, and if they want to talk spirituality they need to make an appointment.
Seriously, it is rude to expect people to engage in discussions of such great import at the spur of the moment. This is not at all the same as when topics like this arise in the normal course of conversation, whether at work or among family or friends or neighbors. It is more like being accosted by aggressive sales people whose jobs depend upon quotas, motivating them to use any means to “make the sale” without regards to the individual they’ve “marked”. That is, we are prey and they are ambush predators.
Now it doesn’t hurt to take their literature... it makes fine fish wrap. And don’t think they treat our literature any better; I’ve had people (atheists) literally tear my stuff in half in my face without even reading it. But it’s probably a good idea to keep some literature of our own by the front door so we can make the trade and then go on with our lives. If a seed is planted, we will know it is God’s doing and not our debate skill or sugary-sweet disposition. Let the Holy Spirit get the glory.
But then, if they actually do want an appointment, prepare yourself. Know your own faith inside and out, paying special attention to the non-negotiable truths that eliminate all false gods. Know your Bible, but know your Jesus most of all, and then every attempt at falsehood will be easy to spot. You don’t need to be experts in cult teachings, but only to contrast what they say with what you know to be true. But be advised that the words they use will sound fine; it’s the meanings they attach to them that are not.
For example, the Mormons will tell you that they worship one God and trust only Jesus to save them. What they actually mean is that there is one God for this planet (or even universe) but that there are literally billions of other such gods, who were once men (yes, only males; the women “get” to spend eternity cranking out spirit babies). So they leave out the crucial fine print in a deliberate attempt to deceive. Now some of them might not be aware of this teaching; it may not be revealed till they have reached certain levels. But challenge them to ask their leaders about this; pin them down. Deception is inherently ambiguous and relies on us not asking too many or too pointed questions. Ask whether people can be worshiped in the next life; this is a much tougher question to dodge than “can we become gods”.
The JWs will typically attack the accuracy or faithfulness of our scriptures in order to make Jesus a created being or lesser “god”, and as a result they reject the Trinity. But they also require, as do the Mormons, good deeds that they define, including refusal to celebrate birthdays and most holidays. Keep in mind these are part of salvation to them, not merely personal convictions. And like Mormons they hold male flesh to be God’s privileged class. They are most known for their belief that blood transfusions are evil because of one solitary statement: “the life is in the blood”, spoken to Israel to explain why they shouldn’t eat meat with the blood still in it.
In general, if you do want to study the cults, go first to their official sites and then to the sites of former members (ex-Mormon, ex-JW) who will give much more complete information than what is available on the official websites. But we must know our own faith and scriptures, and above all our own Savior, to the point where all contenders are obviously fake. Don’t let them “sucker punch” you in your own home; be polite but firm. And please, don’t copy their tactics! Many “churches” see the success of the cults in going door-to-door and do the same thing, but it’s still rude and unfair. There’s advertising, and then there’s assault. Spread the Word, not the world.