Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses – Practical guide to next Steps
There is not a lot more daunting in one’s life than to consider leaving from somewhere you been for many years, whether it is leaving a Company that you have worked for, a club, or if you are religious, leaving your church/religious group. When you leave there is always going to be the issue of what happens to all your friends you have grown close to, as you now contemplate what to do next. In terms of a job or club, the prospects as sad as they are, are generally manageable over time, as chances are you will be able to at least keep in contact with some of your acquired friends, and it is reasonably likely you could find an alternative club/Co to join. But when it comes to religion it is a different proposition as it is more than just a place of work, or pleasure, it goes far deeper, and that is even more significant if the particular Religion is the Jehovah’s witnesses.
Why is that? Well it is because they operate a policy that requires all believers to stop associating with the person that has left, this is what we identify as “shunning.
Before going into what are the next steps, we need to first understand the JW Policy on Shunning.
There are 3 categories identified by the JW Org, and they do have different connotations
1 Drifting out of the Org, otherwise known as becoming “Inactive”
This is simply where a JW decides to stop attending meetings, field service and any other associated activities organised by JW’s.
In this case as long as you do not act in a way that would give rise to concern over your beliefs, the elders are fairly powerless to take matters further, and that means that for the time being you would not be shunned. However depending on the Congregation, the elders may contact you and try and find out why you have stopped. They will in the meantime time mark you as “inactive”.
I know in some cases where individuals have been classified as “Inactive” for years!
The important thing here is you don’t give them a reason that may justify them to take further action, eg confessing something that is in the list of criteria for “Dis-fellowshipping”. Also it is worth noting that you are under no obligation to explain anything to them.
This is where you have taken the initiative to inform the elders that you have decided to leave the JW Org, and you may include a number of reasons for this, and this is usually served in the form of a letter. The elders will treat this in the same way as being “Dis-fellowshipped”, but it at least negates the elder’s ability to pull you into a judicial hearing, albeit they probably will request for you to meet with them, but there is no obligation to do so. Either way the elders will eventually announce this to the congregation and that all members will be asked to stop associating with this person
This is the most severe of the three categories, as the elders are far more involved, and will drive the whole process to its conclusion.
Here once the elders have wind of an act that is against the JW Org policy, ie falls in line with the list of reasons for Dis-fellowshipping, the elders will call the person in for questioning and this can take several hours. If at the end they are satisfied this act has been committed and you do not convince them you are repentant, then it will go to a judicial meeting (usually made up of 3 elders) and again this can take several hours and usually it is not a pleasant experience as you will be pretty much grilled. Depending on the act there may be a grace period where the elders will give you time to resolve the matter, e.g. giving up smoking. Following this meeting the elders will make a decision and usually it is to dis-fellowship the person. Again this is announced to the congregation and everyone is asked to stop all association with this person.
Latest Update: In cases where you have family that are JW’s, the Watchtower has said family can have contact with this person but only where it is over urgent family matters, eg funerals etc, but they don’t make it clear where the line is to be drawn, and what does not help is at their recent convention, it is still stressed that people that leave the Org will also lose their family and friends, so chances are your family will in fear & obedience to the WT, stop associating with you completely, and there are many testimonies to support this.
So what are the next steps when you decide to leave?
As there are so many ways you can deal with this matter, many of them can be absolutely devastating, so we would like to offer some guidance that can help make this process as painless as possible, and hopefully enable you to pick up the pieces and re-build your life going forward.
You need a Strategy!
You need to be clear on why you decided to leave, and if possible keep it to yourself.
It will help if you can do some personal research on the matter and at the same time look more in to the Organisation that you trusted so much in the past. You owe it to yourself to find out what is the real truth, rather than simply relying on a man-made Organisation.
We highly recommend reading the Bible exclusively and look at the many websites that they provide extensive research on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. A lot of these will provide absolute evidence on the Organisation with documentable proof, so you should be able to get a pretty good picture of many of the activities that were otherwise secret from its followers. The sites will also help prove why the doctrines you believed in are in error, and what the bible is really teaching, this can be very revealing and challenging at the same time, so do take your time and make sure you are fully convinced before you move on to the next point.
Once you have built up a strong case, you will feel a lot more confident that it is the right step to make.
Here is a shortlist of recommended Sites
Make new friends
I highly recommend you make some new friends outside of the WT, and if possible ones in particular that you can confide in. This way when you eventually leave you are not completely alone and also able to receive help along the way.
Whether the reason to leave is based on the many abhorrent practices of the WT, or simply due to the discovery of their many false doctrines, you now need to start the “De-programming” process.
This is all about freeing yourself from the heavy indoctrination of the WT Organisation, and start becoming independent. The Org use many mind control techniques, so what will help is to develop ways to not fall back in fear/obedience of the WT. We recommend getting advice from prominent experts in this field, one of which I can highly recommend is the Leading Cult Expert & licensed mental health counsellor, Steve Hassan. He has written some brilliant books on the subject and can really help practically in getting yourself in a good mental state.
Prepare yourself to handle JW’s close to you
Prepare yourself to be able to start explaining some of what you have researched with those that are close to you, so that at the point when they know you have left, it won’t be such a shock and they will at least have some good reasons why you made the decision, but you need to take these steps slowly. What will help is to demonstrate a good and loving nature. Where you may struggle to convince them in words you can impress them in your deeds.
Once you decide you want to leave, we highly recommend to choose to first become “inactive”. Slowly stop attending and reduce your ministry activity and again try not to explain too much to the Elders or any JW as this may give the leadership reason to grab you to an elders meeting before you have had chance to make your move to leave. In some cases it may be a good idea to move Congregations as part of the process.
The Elder Confrontation
If despite every effort, you are not be successful in avoiding a meeting with the local Elders, we recommend you firstly request a reason for the meeting. Do not disclose more than what they have provided at this stage, as it will likely be counted against you and this will only make the meeting a great deal more stressful. Ultimately they can’t force you to attend, but if you decide to go, give yourself plenty of time to prepare, your additional research as explained earlier, will put you in good stead to defend your position. Be prepared with some questions as this will take some off some of the pressure and also challenge the elders with their agenda. Do not let them intimidate you, stand up for what you believe, but at the same time try to be respectful and professional. If you can walk out of the meeting with your head held high knowing that you have done nothing wrong, this will help your confidence in dealing with your departure from the Org.
Strengthen your Faith in Christ
While you still have a love for God, it is highly recommended to spend more time in prayer and in reading the Bible alone. There is no better friend than Jesus Christ, and you will find that this the real key to a successful departure from the WT. As you read the scriptures more closely, you will discover that Christ is where you need to focus on, not the JW Org.
There is so much to gain here, namely
- Discover what it really means to be Saved (Romans 10:9,10)
- Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)
- Christ has the power to help you his burden is light (Matthew 11:30)
- To receive all the riches of Christ in your life ( 2 Corinthians 8:9)
- To be truly free in your relationship with God ( 2 Corinthians 3:17)
- Now issue is too great for Christ (Matthew 21:22)
- Christ is the mediator between you and the Father (1 Timothy 2:5)
One of the issues surrounding leaving the JW Org, is that you can easily get in the state of thinking that there is no God, you want nothing more to do with Religion, or just become so rebellious that you decide to do all the things that you were deprived of for so many years. The danger here is you could end up worse than when you were a JW. This is why having a close relationship with Christ is so important.
Physical & Spiritual Welfare – Get Support
Once it becomes known that you have left, you will need all the help you can get, and when your family/friends stop associating with you, it can be a very hard and lonely place. This in many instances has given rise to serious depression, ill health and even to the point of suicide. This is why it is important that you developed friends early on it the process, so that the step into society is not such a daunting one. You will also need spiritual help, because you will unknowingly be in a spiritual battle. Satan will know this is a time where you are very weak and vulnerable, and will do everything it can to trip you up, so this is why you need to stay close to Christ as he is the only one that has the power over the opposition. Christ has also used many Christians that provide support, and we recommend you get in touch with these groups, some of which can be found by contacting the list of web-sites provided, and they will put you in touch with someone that can help you on a personal level.
Rebuild your Faith
Once you have developed a genuine relationship in Christ and now have a real understanding of the truth, it is time to start developing a network of Christian Friends, at this stage it maybe not a good idea to jump into the nearest Church, but instead pray about this and try and get to know a few people that demonstrate a genuine love for Christ first. The lord will always be with you and will help you find a new Church; knowing what you have gone through, it is important you make the right step in entering a Church that is truly filled with God’s Spirit.
Keep your contact with Christians that especially understand your situation, as mentioned there are many EX-JW support groups that can be found on the Internet, and many of these have members that were once a JW that have since come to Christ, and their calling is to help ones to escape from the WT and find Christ also, all part of God’s provision. These ones can really help you build your faith as they can relate to what you are going through.
Your new found faith will also help re-unite the relationship with your JW family & friends, albeit it is unlikely to be the same while they remain a JW, but at the same time with God’s spirit, there is always the hope that they may also one day leave the Organisation, and there has been many testimonies found on the above listed sites and others, to support this.
Note: The above article is in no way a prescription on how to exit the JW org, but simply provides a list of suggested steps that we feel will help you in the process. Ultimately it is Christ that will help you find the way.
Ray has personally been through and speaks with genuine experience, here is his story.