The Jehovah’s Witnesses shun celebrations of Christmas and Easter, two major holidays connected to Jesus Christ. That could be contributing to the perception that their denomination isn’t a Christian religion.
A series of three-day district conventions being held over the course of the summer in Reading, Pa., should debunk that widely held notion. The theme is: “Follow the Christ!”
Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Jersey are knocking on doors and inviting their neighbors to attend the convention, which will explain how following Bible principles that Christ promoted can help people improve their family life, draw closer to God and gain everlasting life, said Mark Weaver, a spokesman for the Reading conventions.
“We want to give everybody the opportunity to get what the Bible’s really teaching and get what we learned,” said Jennifer DiFilippo, 35, of Blackwood.
Rita Clement, 65, of Voorhees, added: “So many people claim to be Christian and to be Christian you have to be Christ-like and follow his example as set out in the Bible.”
Clements said they are engaged in the disciple-making work, in imitation of Jesus Christ, offering Bible studies to all interested ones.
“Jesus Christ said, “Go make disciples,’ ” said another member, Raft Brown, 57, of Pine Hill. “Those were his parting words in Matthew 28:19, 20. We’re inviting people to learn what the Bible has to say, what Christ has to say about the times we’re living in.”
DiFilippo, Clement and Brown are full-time “pioneers” in their congregation, volunteering 70 hours per month in the ministry work.
The Witnesses, which have more than 6.7 million members worldwide, are hoping to duplicate the success of last year’s campaign advertising their “Deliverance at Hand!” convention.
That coordinated effort contributed to a sizable increase in convention attendance worldwide compared with the previous year’s figures, according to the public information office for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This year’s convention program will be held in more than 150 countries over the next few months. Organizers hope it will help those in attendance follow Christ’s example and his teachings as closely as possible with the idea of becoming better individuals — spouses, parents, youth, neighbors, employees and employers — when they return home, they said.
“Witnesses consider Jesus as the greatest of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” according to one prepared statement.
Witnesses are inviting others to attend the annual convention so they can learn for themselves what the Bible says about Jesus’ life and his teachings. The series kicks off June 22 to 24.
On Friday morning, a keynote address, “Jesus’ Unique Role in Jehovah’s Purpose,” will set the tone of the entire convention. In the afternoon, there will be a series of talks on the topic, “Keep Christ’s Mental Attitude In You.”
The second day will encourage Witnesses to carry on their ministry in imitation of Christ. An afternoon program hopes to show how following Christ’s example will lead to a happy family life, with emphasis on the role of husbands, wives, parents and children, organizers say.
On Sunday morning, Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” will come under examination in a six-part symposium. There also will be a public talk debating the question: Who are the real followers of Christ?
The convention highlight will come Sunday afternoon, a traditional full-costume drama, based on Colossians 3:12, with a cast of more than 25 characters. It will focus on Gehazi, the greedy attendant of God’s prophet Elisha.
June 9, 2007
Wilford S. Shamlin