What’s a “Kingdom Hall” meeting like?
Witnesses are definitely meeting-oriented. In the 110,000 congregations worldwide, you will of course find cultural variations, but generally speaking, this is what you might expect.
Weekend meetings can be on a Saturday or Sunday. The Witnesses do not believe in a “Sabbath” meeting, whether it be 1st day or 7th day… inconsistent with their idea that they have inherited Israel’s promises is the notion that they do not keep Israel’s traditions, including a particular day of worship. Most of the Chicagoland area -where I live – seems to have a Sunday meeting. I read that Sunday is the choice of most because this is the day most people have off work.
The meeting, which is open to the public, will begin and end with prayer and singing.
Worship to Jehovah. (See also, “Obeisance” in the next section.) Prayers and other forms of worship will be offered only to Jehovah. Worship offered to Jesus is now considered idolatry. I say “now” because it was not always so among this cult. Worship of Jesus stopped in the 1950’s, roughly at the same time as the New World Translation was making it clear that Jesus is not God Almighty.
But Charles Taze Russell would have disagreed, and his legacy, the Watchtower of May 15, 1982 did just that.
Witnesses who disclaim Russell will still have to deal with Rutherford. In a 1939 Watchtower the “Judge” declared: “Jehovah God commands all to worship Christ Jesus… because He is the Executive Officer of Jehovah… ” Though we cringe at His theology, at least it allowed men and women to bow the knee to the Son of God.
The next President, Mr. Knorr, in 1945 stated that “… whoever worships (Jehovah) must also worship and bow down to Jehovah’s Chief One in that capital organization, namely, Christ Jesus, His Co-Regent.” In amending the charter of the Society in that year, the JW’s proudly proclaimed that the “purpose of the Watch Tower Society is to promote worship of Jehovah and Jesus.”
That was the official stand for 44 years. In 1999 the charter was once more amended, and erased the idea of worshipping Jesus.
But the Society changed before the charter did. For those 40 + years, a dual message was being sent out. In a Watchtower of 1954, we read, “… no distinct worship is to be rendered to Jesus Christ.”
The 1969 “Yearbook” of the Watch Tower folks, talking about its purpose again, says that it is to “promote worship of Jehovah and… ” Yes, Jesus’ Name is left out. In the 1971 publication, the wording changes from “God and Jesus Christ” as objects of worship to “God through Jesus Christ.”
The sub-title given to every copy of the Watchtower until 1938 was “Herald of Christ’s Presence.” January of 1939 it read, “Herald of Christ’s Kingdom.” Only 3 months later it was changed to “Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.”
Jesus has been nudged out of His place in the eyes of the Witness followers. In the April 8 Awake of 2000, it is so clear what has happened:
“… True Christians do well to direct their worship only to Jehovah God, the Almighty… to render worship to anyone… else would be a form of idolatry.”
God have mercy on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Back to the meeting…
Music will consist of Witness-created songs, only. This policy dates back to 1966. “Church” songs, even the greatest, are worrisome to the Society, as the message could be corrupted to a minor or major degree. Safer to sing our own songs. Witness songs indeed are part of the indoctrination (some say brainwashing) process.
Discourse. (Notice all aversion to using words that sound the same as church customs.) This is a sermon, or lecture, of about 30 minutes on a topic that has to do with the Christian life (from a Witness perspective, of course.)
Watchtower Study. To preserve unity of doctrine, the 1-hour “study” that follows is based entirely on something from the recent magazine offerings. A classroom-like discussion, guided by appropriate (safe) leadership, is conducted.
Offering. Not taken. Boxes for donations are available in the building. Tithing is not a Witness practice. People give, I must say – if the reports are true – in a very Biblical way, from the heart, as needs arise.
How do they dress for church? Very well. And the rules, whether written or not, are abundant and “lovingly” enforced. Like, “Get a haircut!”, “Wear a skirt!” etc. Ties are in. Jeans are out. In this, they remind us of another generation when their despised “church” folks did the very same. Another one of those areas I wish we had kept and not surrendered to cultists for their continuation.
One comment though, that I found helpful. An ex-JW says that the ties and skirts etc make the JW events seem more important than they are. If everyone came in street clothes, it would be hard to impress upon the gatherers that anything of note was happening among them.
Something for us to ponder, perhaps?
The meeting ends with more prayer and singing, as a rule.
Midweek meetings are also predictable. One will experience a Bible Study (meaning a NWT study, not the true Bible), a session on how to discuss the Bible with others, and a third session of application of “Bible” principles in the form of a Q & A discussion.
What about Communion? Since Jesus started the “Lord’s Supper” on Passover, reasons the Witness, we also should keep it yearly. (But Jesus or the apostles never said that. Looks more like it was weekly… “on the first day of the week, when the disciples were come together to break bread… ” At the very least the timing was optional, “… as often as you do it, do it in remembrance of Me… “)
Their “reasoning” power gets them into further problems. Surely such a meal, celebrating the “blood of the New Covenant”, must be for “covenant” people, they say. And who are the covenant people? The 144,000, of course. Those who are “called” in a “special” way, and who will rule in Heaven, only these can partake. (But Jesus and His apostles speak nowhere of Christians “ruling in Heaven”. What would they rule there? Angels already have a ruler! God’s elect will rule on Earth with Jesus one day!)
And who is the minister of this assembly? All baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses are considered “ministers”. Ordained ministers, no less. But be assured that the man up front (and Witnesses take male leadership seriously) is a carefully chosen and trained disciple of Russell/Rutherford and the Watch Tower Society. Even if he is just called “minister.” Though he may be called “elder”, too.
So there you have it. A meeting that would be pleasant enough to attend, until certain JW distinctives were either sung or taught. Hopefully you would find your way to the exit at that time, unless, Paul-like, you decided to be disruptive… Personally, I would have a serious problem trying to sit through the meeting, even though I can see that there is much which I would find quite Biblical.
And that’s the problem of a cult, isn’t it?