Witnessing vs. Wasting Time

Last month I wrote about a chance encounter with a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses and my sudden appreciation for the usefulness of the Nicene Creed and other memorized prayers. Christian LeBlanc asked this question, “Curious if they accepted any data that was not from the Bible?”

I was wondering the same exact thing as I somewhat hesitantly made the choice to offer a counter to their message, rather than just politely close the door. And on a deeper level (which probably reveals my lack of faith in the mysterious ways of the Holy Spirit) I was wondering to myself, “Am I just wasting my time?”

To answer Christian’s question: What was their reaction to the use of non-Biblical data?

One of the men responded relatively positively, nodding, “I respect that.”

The other man was more skeptical and challenged the use of the Nicene Creed, asking, “Where is the Trinity in the Bible?” This led to my pointing to Matthew 28, which led to more conversation on the role of the Holy Spirit in baptism, and on, and on…

And that leads to the questions I was asking myself as the conversation dragged on—am I just wasting my time talking to them? Why bother continuing this conversation? 

I didn’t really have solid answers to those questions at the time. In all honesty, I didn’t continue the conversation out of an explicit faith in the workings of the Holy Spirit or an enthusiastic response to the call to proclaim the Gospel. I likely continued the conversation because it was a beautiful early-autumn day to be standing outside, the men were happily entertaining my infant son by taking turns rocking him on our porch swing, and the alternative work they had pulled me away from was the unpleasant task of unpacking moving boxes in the basement.

As the conversation was winding down, after we’d gone back and forth over many verses of the New Testament, one of the men was explaining what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about eternity and final judgment, and offered a “helpful” comparison, “Well, you know how Catholics believe God punishes people who are bad by burning them in Hell…”

Ah ha! Finally, I had an opportunity to really witness to the faith explicitly! I excitedly responded, “I’m Catholic and that’s not the full picture at all…” and began to share the basic truths about God’s character, our salvation, and eternal life. And then, the conversation took a surprising (and somewhat amusing) turn.

One man responded, “No, that’s not what Catholics believe.”

“I’m Catholic, and I’m telling you, it is.” I replied. “How are you going to tell me what my Church teaches?” I added with lighthearted smile.

He responded, with some confusion, “You are Catholic?”

The other man chimed in at this point, “She’s Catholic. She said that before.”

The confused one continued, “Well that is not what Catholics I know believe.”

“Well,” I said, “You can look it up in our catechism…it’s free, online, just do an internet search. You can read all about what we believe about salvation, forgiveness—everything.”

Our conversation eventually wound down and the men departed. I smiled, as I felt very blessed that circumstances would lead me to hang in there, and not politely close the door at the beginning. Though I had initially thought that I might be wasting my time, seeing their surprise at the teachings of the Catholic Church knocked some sense into me! While I wasn’t anticipating an immediate conversion of either visitor, right there on my front porch, the Holy Spirit had used the situation to plant seeds in a way I had not expected (note to self: stop underestimating God!).

I don’t know (and won’t know, this side of eternity) what fruit our conversation might bear in their lives. But now realize that I wasn’t wasting time—I was giving the Holy Spirit a bit more time to work.

Copyright © 2013, Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Reiss Vermeulen, M.Div., M.N.A., blogs, ministers in parish life and lay/deacon formation, and serves as a U.S. Army Reserve officer. She and her husband, Luke, have been married since 2011 and live in Ypsilanti, MI with their two young sons.

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