Where Do I Go From Here?
As hard as it is to leave the Organization, for many it’s even harder to figure out where to go after they leave. People react to leaving in different ways. Some continue to believe that the Witnesses have "the truth" and the problem is with them, not the Organization. These people feel like they have failed God, are unworthy and written off by God. They will feel this way until they "repent" and are received back into the Organization or until someone can help them realize that the Organization's ways and thoughts are not Jehovah's ways and thoughts.
Others do not believe the Witnesses have "the truth" but they don’t believe that any other religion has it either. They feel betrayed by the Organization and God and they see Him as having nothing to do with mankind, or worse, he only exists in the minds of men. So either they give up the search for God and truth altogether or they give up on God himself.
And lastly, there are those who don’t believe the Witness Organization has "the truth" either but they set out to find which organization does. In their search for the true religion, some simply join another church and take on its beliefs. They have, in effect, just switched "sides." Now they have a new set of beliefs that are the "truth" and all those who don’t believe in those truths are at odds with God. The mentality is the same--you’re either with us in our beliefs or you’re disapproved of by God and will be punished for it.
There are others in this last group who are also searching for the true religion. They too become part of a religious group or church and function very well within it's confines, learning what the fellowship has to offer while sharing and contributing what they have learned. These fellowships usually are more flexible and allow for different points of view.
After I left the Organization I didn't know where I was to go. So I decided to just leave it up to Jehovah to get me to where he wanted me. I ended up attending a fellowship called Bayview Chapel. Some of my friends that had left months before I did were there so I thought I'd check it out. The following is an account of what I learned while I was there. It is taken from chapter 3 of the book A Hand In The Darkness. (To obtain a copy of this book see the "Books and Materials Available" page.)
Bayview was a very special place. Because the thirteen of us were so different from "regular" Christians, Leon (the pastor) wondered what to do with us at times. Doctrinally we differed on many issues from the Hellfire to the Trinity. But that was what was so unique about Bayview. Being there wasn't about doctrine, it was about loving and accepting one another and letting God's Spirit teach each one what he or she must know. In the four years we were there, they never tried to change us or pressure us to join them. We were free to question, disagree, and even share, something that had been considered dangerous in the organization from which we had come. Besides Bayview, there were other Charismatic functions and Bible studies we attended as well. We found that same loving spirit wherever we went.
Fellowshipping with born again, evangelical Christians was quite an adjustment. I knew they sincerely loved both the Father and Jesus, but it seemed they mostly talked about Jesus. It was the opposite extreme from being a Witness where they mostly talked about Jehovah. This bothered me. Their behavior, too, was different from that which I was familiar. Although I loved the music and the freedom of expression, I found some Christians very emotional, even fainting when a minister laid his hands on them. Some saw visions and most spoke in tongues and received messages from God. It wasn't that I didn't believe God's Spirit was guiding and speaking to His people, it was just that I'd wonder how one could tell what was really coming from God and what was just coming from the individual. Many times I just felt "out of it" and wondered if I'd ever fit in. But I found myself staying because I knew they had something--something very special. It was a loving spirit, a humility and openness before God and a heartfelt joy that came from the shameless love they had for Jesus and the Father.
They were interested in us because we came out of that "cult," the one whose members let their children die for lack of blood transfusions, who don't believe in the Trinity or hellfire. Many Christians had family or knew someone who was a Witness. Naturally, they wanted to know how we came to "see the light." They just assumed that, because we left the Organization, we no longer believed anything the Witnesses believed. Sometimes I'd get upset when I'd hear derogatory remarks made about the Witnesses. It wasn't that I wanted to defend them, it was that the remarks were unfair and based on false information. In many ways the attitude of some Christians toward Witnesses was the same as the Witnesses' attitude toward them. They could see the Organization's faults but they couldn't see the same faults within their own religious systems. We did our best to help them see the Witnesses as people, dedicated people who, like them, loved God very much. They listened and many turned those negative attitudes around. It wasn't really their fault. They, like the Witnesses, had access to limited information.
By my close association with Christians, I could see they were not demonized or hypocritical. But, as I said, at times I found my self at a loss when trying to discern when someone was just being emotional or when he or she was really getting something from God. I finally decided that was God's problem, not mine. It was not my business to judge another's relationship with God. I just took in what made sense to me and trusted God's Spirit to teach me the things that were important for me to know.
The longer I associated with these people, the more I knew that accepting Christ is the number one priority for all people. After that, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to teach a person. (John 16:7,13-15) The important thing to Jehovah is that one comes into a loving, personal relationship with his Son, not that his doctrinal beliefs are in line with a particular religious system. It became evident to me that insistence on "true" doctrine is a great source of division and isolation in the body of Christ. God wants to unite Christians in love, not separate them from one another. Insisting that Christians adhere to a particular doctrine is insidious because it separates them and keeps them in spiritual bondage to man-made religious systems. Having an intimate relationship with Christ and an unconditional love for others are the identifying marks of a true Christian, not espousing "true" doctrine.
The Organization mocks Christians for their emphasis on love, saying it is sentimental and weak, that it gives Christians an excuse to sin and get away with it. It insists exercising discipline, sacrifice and determination in the preaching work is the real way to serve Jehovah.
The Organization denies that this attitude encourages its members to rely on their works to save them. But, by the simple act of substituting "exercising faith" for "believing," the Organization connects faith with works--following Christ's example rather than developing a relationship--a love/trust union with Christ. Consequently, a Witness must continually prove his or her love for Jehovah by doing, by working, by putting life on hold until the "new world." The guilt of not ever doing enough, the fear of not surviving Armageddon, and the pressure to conform to a set way of serving Jehovah places a heavy burden on many Witnesses. But Jesus said that serving God should be just the opposite..
"Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light. " (Matthew 11:28-30 NWT)
Serving Jehovah and Jesus should not be burdensome for a Christian. This is not because he or she must do any less or because he or she is free to do as he or she pleases. It is because a Christian is Spirit-motivated, not organizationally motivated. A person who loves God does not need to be controlled with rules, regulations and punishments. All he or she needs is the law of God written on his or her heart.
"The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest." (Hebrews 8:8,10,11 NIV)
As much as we loved the people at Bayview and those at the other Charismatic functions we attended, we didn't fit into the church structure or its set way of doing things. Like drops of oil in a glass of water, no matter how much we tried, we just couldn't blend in. As time passed, each one of us, in his or her own way, sensed it was time to go. But just because we left Bayview and the "born again" scene, so to speak, it didn't mean we felt any different about the people or loved them any less. We just realized Jesus, as head of his body, was leading each of us in a different way. (End of Chapter)
When a person leaves the Organization, there is no set place he/she is to go. We are all different, have different needs, strengths and weaknesses. Only Jehovah and Jesus know the best place for us to be. Some of us thrive in a church setting, others do for a time and then must move on. None of us can say what is right for someone else, we can only say what is right for us. And what I've found is that it's the PEOPLE who have the Spirit of God in them and that Spirit is what moves them. It is they who are the true church, not any organization they may be a part of.
And so, to sum up the question "Where Do I Go From Here?" I would encourage you to pray to Jehovah to show you his Son and what your relationship with him should be. Once you have found Jesus, your journey begins. Men cannot show you this, only the Spirit of God can bring you to Jesus. Once you have come to him, he takes over your spiritual education and your life as long as you let him.
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. ....every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." Matthew 7: 15-20
The "fruit" Jesus spoke of was the fruit of God's Spirit which "is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22,23
If ever you feel you may be in the wrong place, look for the "fruit" in yourself and in those you are with. If the fruit is bad in yourself then you're in the wrong place spiritually on a personal level. If the fruit is bad in those you fellowship with, then you're in the wrong fellowship as well.
Doctrine is not the touchstone by which you determine who is of God and who isn't; it is who produces the qualities of God, who has God's Spirit within them. For a Witness this is a heretical statement for they claim that possession of "the truth" is what sets them apart from every other religion. But if you examine some of their teachings, they do not have the truth of which they speak. If the leaders in the Watchtower organization were truly Jehovah's spokesmen, taught by the Spirit of God, there would be no error in their teaching--especially truths so fundamental as Christ alone being the mediator for all men.
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men (not just anointed Christians)...." I Timothy 2:5,6
(See 4/01/79 Watchtower, p.31; 8/15/89 Watchtower, pp. 30,31 for the Governing Body's teaching on who men must go to for salvation.)
"Yet to all who received him (not just 144,000), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent...but born of God." John 1:12,13
The Organization looks upon the Christian/Christ relationship for the vast majority of its members as the sentimental foolishness of Christians outside the organization. This is not surprising.
"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." I Corinthians 2:12-14
There are people all over the world, from different religions, cultures, and backgrounds who are producing the fruit of God's Spirit in their lives. You will know them by this fruit. And what binds them all together is the Spirit of God within each of them connecting with that same Spirit in the rest. This is the true "church," (not any one religious organization) and the place you want to be. Christ is the "head" of this "body" of people. And "... where two or three come together in my (Jesus') name, there am I with them." Matthew 18;20