It appears that the public invite for the 2016 Worldwide Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been leaked!
It is of course hard to confirm at this time if the images that first appeared on Jehovahs-Witness.com are genuine, but they certainly have the look and formatting of previous convention invites, and the art style is certainly that of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
We will of course keep a close eye on this story for more information, and will update this post to confirm or debunk the veracity of the leak as soon as we get the required information.
If this leak IS real, however, it reveals a choice of topic for the convention that is rather puzzling. Remember, this invite is not designed for those who are already Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is an invite designed to be given to members of the general public.
Such an invite needs to convince people who may be hostile, skeptical, or just indifferent to Jehovah’s Witnesses to take time out of their busy lives and make a journey to a crowded, noisy convention centre to listen to 3 days of programming. Thus such an invite needs to promise discussion topics appealing to the public. It needs to be appealing, enticing.
So what is the chosen topic? The paradise Earth? The resurrection? Love and brotherhood? Perhaps something exciting like biblical prophecy that we are seeing fulfilled right now on CNN and the BBC!
The topic is Loyalty to God.
Remain Loyal To Jehovah!
- Friday: How Jesus set the example of loyalty
- Saturday: How the example of Job teaches us to be loyal despite intense suffering
- Sunday: How King Hezekiah remained loyal to God whilst besieged by enemies
…it’s not exactly eternal life with pandas and ice-cream, is it?
It’s hard to see how this invite will appeal to the general public. If they have their own religion, they won’t have much interest in being loyal to the Witness God. If they are an atheist they won’t see the point in being loyal to a deity that they don’t believe exists. And if they are simply indifferent or have not thought much about religion, it’s hardly the most gripping of topics to stir their interest.
Two possibilities exist as far as I can see:
Firstly, it’s possible that this is simply a very poorly thought-out invite that fails to consider its audience; either due to a genuine lack of ability in marketing on the part of those who created it, or because those who created it have lost perspective on the fact that those who do not believe in Watchtower’s version of Jehovah will have little interest in learning loyalty to him or the Governing Body.
The second, and far more interesting possibility is that this invite and this convention isn’t really concerned with bringing in new Witnesses at all.
Rather, it is entirely about frantically trying to hold on to the Witnesses that Watchtower already has.
Jehovah’s Witnesses: A religion in crisis?
It has been a brutal few years for Watchtower. We’ve seen sweeping reductions in their published literature; painful lay-offs from their full time servants; bethel services slashed and bethel families downsized; repeated calls from Watchtower’s Governing Body for more donations and admissions that they are running low on funds.
We’ve seen appalling revelations over Watchtower’s mishandling of child abuse within it’s ranks making world headlines, and causing members of the Governing Body to be dragged before the courts to give less than impressive testimony, or flee from the courts altogether. And it’s clear that worse is still to come for Watchtower in this area.
We’ve seen that the key New Light teaching of the “overlapping generations” is struggling to take hold in the faith of many Witnesses, if the repeated attempts at explanation from Watchtower are anything to go by. The promised new world is slipping into the distance, it would seem, and leaving more and more Witnesses with questions that Watchtower seems unable to answer, problems exacerbated by the increasingly eccentric behaviour of the Governing Body.
And it would seem that all of these problems are taking their toll.
The 2015 yearbook showed that world wide growth in their membership was 1.5 percent. Not that great, but if you then factor in that worldwide population growth for that year was 1.18 percent we see that growth has essentially stopped. And when one looks at the figures in detail, and compares for example, the number baptised with the overall growth it becomes clear that Watchtower is losing both funds and members at an alarming rate.
It’s possible therefore that this convention is a direct response to all of the above, and that Watchtower’s leadership is focusing this convention not on the public, but on the Witnesses themselves. Yet if this indeed what is going on behind the scenes, the Governing Body might find that simply lecturing their followers about loyalty might not be a good long term fix. Why?
Because loyalty cannot be commanded.
It has to be earned.