The Watchtower Machine
I guess the first thing we should briefly touch on is the “machine” that drives the Witnesses from all walks of life. What makes a Jehovah Witness tick, what drives every Witness to be a teacher, a bringer of the Good News of the Kingdom? Firstly it must be understood that while many witnesses may seem almost brainwashed they are not. The WT (Watchtower) organization uses what has been described as a "destabilising method" on its members. From my own experience I can vouch for my own daily routines. As my study of the bible got serious I began to organise my day to accommodate as much bible study as possible. My week went something like this:
Monday: Prepare for book study which takes place every Tuesday night, normally preparation consisted of studying several pages of a WT publication. If I had ownership for this meeting I would have to do an in-depth study of all literature and scriptures cited ensuring that I had a full understanding of all the material presented.
Tuesday: Attend the Book Study; this meeting would normally be held in a private home. The group would typically be a relatively small one consisting of between 8-15 people. It lasted for an hour however it would not be unusual for the meeting to last for up to two hours when socialising was taken into consideration. Again typically the meeting would be held in the evening time.
Wednesday: No gathering on a Wednesday however this was always a busy night for me as I had a study meeting to attend. For several years I had a personal bible study with an individual that was studying the bible on his way to becoming a JW. This study involved coming to an in-depth understanding of the bible as understood by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Similar to the Book Study the student goes through a specified book, Knowledge that Leads to Eternal Life, (the first personal bible study I had studied the book You can Live Forever on Paradise Earth, following this we studied a second book United in Worship) typically it took 12-18 months to complete the bible study. Sometimes an individual might meet the requirements to become a baptized Witness before completing the book, other times it would take many months or even years before a person decided to become baptized.
I would also prepare for meetings on Thursday night. These meetings were two hours long and could involve preparing for several parts in both meetings.
Thursday: These meetings were often particularly difficult meeting for me. The meetings lasted for approximately 2hrs and were broken into two parts. The first part was the Theocratic Ministry School, this meeting lasted for an hour during which student would present out an assignment that would have been given to them several weeks earlier. The meeting was based on the Watchtower publication, the Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook which contained many lessons and hundreds of gems on how to speak in public. Even children (although not yet JW’s) gave five minute discourses which consisted of an introduction, a bible reading and a conclusion summarising the reading. I would have regular participation in this meeting, giving 15 minute talks summarising different materials from various Watchtower publications. I would often take on a talk if there was a no show usually speaking extemporaneously because of having little or no preparation time.
The second meeting on the same night was called the Kingdom Ministry. This meeting was base around a monthly publication called The kingdom Ministry which gave instructions on how to present out the current magazines (The Watchtower and The Awake magazines) plus some of the other current publications. The KM could contain advice and demonstrations on how to engage the public in conversations in light of recent events.
Friday: No meeting on a Friday however as I would normally go on the door to door work on a Saturday I would take the opportunity on a Friday evening to go through the current publications so as to get the full benefit out of them when presenting them while on my ministry.
Saturday: Saturday mornings would normally be spent on the “ministry”. Going from door to door or stopping people in the street as we met them. We would try to go as a family taking the kids with us though they weren’t witnesses. I would usually spend two hours doing this.
Saturday evening would be spent preparing for the most important meeting of the week. On Sunday morning we had a public talk followed by the Watchtower study. Every second week the WT publishes the Watchtower magazine. This magazine acts as the mouth piece for the organization. Any new teachings are reasoned out in this publication so an in-depth understanding of the articles in this magazine is seen as vital for ones spiritual health. As I had two bible studies for a long period of time, it was absolutely necessary that I had a good knowledge of any new teachings or anything else that was topical in the Watchtower as it was a certainty that one of my studies would question me on the articles in the magazine. So a good deal of Saturday was spent going through these articles line by line.
Sunday: The first meeting on a Sunday was normally the public talk. This consisted of a male* Witness giving a talk on a topical issue. When I say topical I mean it might be a talk entitled “Why does God Permit Suffering”? It could well be that recently there was a natural disaster or a war that made the headlines. The society will draft an outline with any key points and scriptures that it wanted called out or emphasised.
There were also the talks that emphasised the teachings of the organization, if you were around for long enough you would see these talks coming around at regular intervals.
During my time as a Witness I gave several of these talks, while I was in no way an accomplished public speaker I was seen as been wordy of “representing Jehovah” in this fashion. If I wasn’t in good stead with the congregation I wouldn’t have been asked to give the talk.
* Women are not allowed to teach directly from the pulpit or in any other forum apart from having a personal bible study with a non witness. If a woman is given a part in the Thursday night meeting she will always give it with another Witness as she is not allow to teach in a direct manner. A woman would not be permitted to take the lead in a prayer in the Kingdom Hall as again this is seen as the male role.
The second meeting is the Watchtower meeting that I have already alluded to above. It normally consisted of a total of twenty paragraphs with many scriptural references. Each paragraph has a question or two associated with it, the answer is always in the paragraph. It would be expected that those with experience would answer if necessary so the person handling the meeting will not be left for too long waiting for an answer. However is a new member puts his hand up he will be given the opportunity to answer first as this is seen as part of the learning process.
It is easy to see from the above why I would refer to the Watchtower as a machine. It has its own dynamism that over the years has become more and more powerful as time has passes. If someone had said to me the day I started to study that within a year I would have been doing the above I would have laughed into their face, absolutely no way. When you meet a Jehovah Witnesses they don’t present their organization in that way, it is always “do as you feel you can”, nor is it pointed out that enough is never enough...despite their claims to the contrary...