I got to know Chris Stire a few years ago when I was teaching with the Lay Pastors Training Program. At that time, he mentioned to me that he had been a Jehovah’s Witness. That intrigued me (my interest in the Jehovah’s Witnesses finally materialized in my own book, The Watchtower and the Word) and I finally got around to asking Chris to share his story. So here, in his own word, is the story of how Christ Stire left the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I will be the first to state that I was hesitant to see the Jehovah’s Witnesses defined as a cult, That definition even, when I was still one of them made the hackles of my neck stand up in anger that we were defined as a cult. The definition of ‘cult’ is as follows: “a quasi-religious organization using devious physiological techniques to gain and control adherents:“ from the Freedictionary.com. My experience of thirty years sadly does align the Jehovah’s Witnesses with this definition. During my three decade tenure as a Jehovah’s Witness a cult to me meant reclusive individuals in black robes holding worship services in deep dark woods chanting satanic rituals. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, under their legal entity the Watchtower, Bible, & Tract Society present themselves as a wholesome, united, God-honoring society of individuals and families, all claiming to be ‘Christian’.
To be Christian, is to follow Jesus the Christ, in subjection to him and by living his teachings and commands. It is to accept his words recorded at Acts 1:8, that we are to be witnesses of HIM. My thirty years as one of them however proves that these requirements of a Christian do NOT exist in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. A lot of folks have asked me over the last two decades what it was specifically that caused me to leave this following, leave years of what I once considered Truth, stability and a member of the one and only group on earth that was supposed to have God’s approval. I believed I was in the only group that would survive Armageddon and then live on a restored paradise earth for eternity.
Let me first state further some of what defines Jehovah’s Witnesses as a cult. 1) They must follow the words and directives of a group of leaders who declare they and they only receive directly from God his teaching and directives, to be dispersed to others. 2) No one is allowed to question these leaders, or confront them on any teaching or policy. 3) Members are not allowed to reason on the scriptures for themselves and must accept what the leaders say about the scriptures including meaning, and application. 4) Any supposed infraction of rules or the reading of other religious material, especially that critical of Jehovah’s Witnesses is strictly forbidden and met with swift retribution, even disfellowshipping (excommunication). These few points alone should be enough to alert thinking individuals to the dangers inherent.
I was four years old when my mother took up with Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1967, with my father to follow a year later. It was not until I was baptized by Jehovah’s Witnesses at age seventeen that I developed the courage to really look into what I had been taught, made to believe, and had lived by all my life. It was my mindset then that if Jehovah’s Witnesses had the Real truth, then I wanted to know all about them from their very start. I figured this would give further support and credibility to what I lived by and as, and what I had to share with those who were not yet Jehovah’s Witnesses. I boldly went forth doing so, confidant that I would be further convinced of the righteousness of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. To speak plainly here, I was extremely disappointed. Gradually the more I proceeded in my quest, the more it was that the whole system of belief and living I had previously followed in being a Jehovah’s Witness eroded away and literally, the “bottom fell out” of all I had relied on and believed, when face with the actual truth of the Bible. They are false prophets according to Deuteronomy 18:20-22. What in the world would I do now?
Glaring at me most of all was how many times their doctrine had changed, even from things once discarded and then believed to being accepted again, and then sometimes discarded again. They will use the text at Proverbs 4:18 to support these changes, claiming the more once proceeds the ‘clearer; or ‘brighter’ truth will become. Their own denominational bible the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, in the most recent 2013 revision states this text as “But the path of the righteous is like the bright morning light, That grows brighter and brighter until full daylight”. According to their teaching when I was still a member, this ‘path’ is supposed to be ones journey in seeking the real truth and knowledge of God. The ‘bright morning light’ is that supposed Truth, which, as we learn more and more becomes more evident, hence the term ‘brighter’. The ‘full daylight’ sated here would of course be the acme of truth and understanding, should that ever be attainable. The Watchtower Society will acknowledge that they have made mistakes in the past, but that these can be passed off as ‘truth becoming brighter’, in effect God actually changing teaching He once gave. I could never swallow this claim.
Also, I could never make myself accept the Watchtower Society teachings that defame Jesus, relegating Him to a mere created being albeit the first-born of creation. They strip Jesus of any deity whatsoever, and claim that He is now, Michael the Archangel. Likewise, Jehovah’s Witnesses will not accept any personage or deity of the Holy Spirit. They teach He is a mere force by which God gets things accomplished. Rightly so they believe that all things were created through Him and by Him. Therefore my study of Genesis 1:26 showed me that Jesus has to be God. It reads there and this again from the Jehovah’s Witnesses own translation “And God said” Let us make man in our image according to our likeness” “. I ask, who is / are the ‘our’ stated here? Man was created, and created obviously by more than one being.
My research to in Isaiah at chapter 6, further confirmed that Jehovah’s Witnesses were teaching falsehood about Jesus. Again using their own translation Isaiah 6:9 declares “For a child has been born to us, A son has been given to us, And the rulership will rest on his shoulder, His name will be called Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” –[bold font mine]. Here, and even acknowledged by the Jehovah’s Witnesses is that Jesus is Mighty God. Period. But, when asked do we worship Him, they will adamantly declare no. Asking them then, that if Jesus is a God is he a false God or the True God? The scriptures state that there is but ONE God, and this is whom the Jehovah’s Witnesses declare to be Jehovah. That being so, what about Isaiah’s words here? They will dicker around with that it states here a Mighty God, and not Almighty God, and that Mighty God is inferior to Almighty God. Even so, according to these scriptures Jesus is God.
One very important and much needed aspect of ones spiritual journey is the assistance and guidance of and by the Holy Spirit. He teaches us, inspires us, convicts us, and corrects us in our meditation on and study of Gods’ Word, leading us aright in our learning… without the Holy Spirit, all truth seeking is in vain. Now this creates a dilemma with the Jehovah’s Witnesses in that they will not recognize the true place, the true being of the Holy Spirit, they will not accept who He is… therefore, how can they receive from Him? They can’t, and they don’t, hence their error-filled belief and teaching.
One more major uproar in my being a Jehovah’s Witness is that I also could not accept their teaching that not everyone could relate to Jesus. Only a select few could ever have a relationship with Him, the rest of us would only be able to go as far as being subject to Him, and the rule of the select few with him, after the earthly life ends. This doctrine of theirs smacks of the devil, robbing people of knowing the one and only God and Savior Jesus Christ. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have John 14:6 in their translation, where it is adamantly stated Jesus’ words: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” yet they first follow the Watchtower Society who claim to be the intercessory between God and man. Also in John 14 at verses 2-4 Jesus declares that there are many rooms in the Father’s mansion, and the He would now go and prepare each of us a place there in that mansion, even emphasizing this by declaring His words to be truth. The Jehovah’s Witnesses will teach that these words apply only to the select whom they teach are the only ones who will see Jesus. No, I could not by this.
So, here I was now close to thirty years of age, a full decade passed with myself at odds and difference with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, evermore losing faith and my once devotion to them. I pondered what was in my future next. To state adamantly my disbelief and better yet my new beliefs gained from study in the actual Bible, would be social suicide. This would result in my being removed from their membership, the only life I had ever known. It would mean being shunned, not only by the membership but more affectingly by my own immediate family who still abided by Jehovah’s Witnesses, with every aspect of their lives rubber-stamped by Watchtower Society rules. In my mind were again Jesus own words where he declares that we may have to give up father, mother and family in order to fully follow Him. Was I prepared to do this? For the next five years following 1996 I told myself no, even in that my family still kept their distance as I was now supposed to be bad association, being that I no longer attended the Kingdom Hall nor submitted any longer to the Watchtower rule of my life. I mean I still loved my family dearly, and I missed my mother terribly, and longed for their closeness. They did on a couple occasions visit me but I see now these were more a fact-finding mission than a caring supportive visit. My brother (*) would not serve as executor to my Will unless I came back to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The stress mounting in my person was unbearable. My wife and I separated and eventually divorced. She was from a Jehovah’s Witnesses family but had too left them. I tried to state that even though I no longer believed as they do, my family and I could still see and love one another. However this is not condoned by Jehovah’s Witnesses. They teach too in part, that shunning is supposed to make the so-called errant one re-think the error of their ways, and want to come back into fellowship. My mother adhered fully to that mandate. Although they hoped I would “come back” all visits and corresponding ceased. During my last years as a Jehovah’s Witnesses I began to reason that if they were indeed right, I would be killed at Armageddon because I no longer was one of them; and yet if I did return to them and they obviously were in falsehood I would not find the real TRUTH, and die in the judgment. Sad and dismal to say the least.
I buckled under the pressure, and began drinking heavily. I had been diagnosed earlier with bi-polar depression. I received medication but often abused it as well as pain killers and of course the mixing of it with alcohol took its toll. I was hospitalized. I wept often, longing for my mothers’ love, longing to be understood and not ignored and turned away. On two occasions I attempted suicide once with my car and then by a serious overdose of all the medications I had in my possession. The latter caused me to pass out. My wife then and my brother found me laying on the floor in the bathroom. I was placed in the psychiatric hospital on two different instances. Literally, I was dying emotionally, had given up, and lived bewildered at life having become that for me. One of my places of respite was the harbor area in my hometown. I often sat down there at dusk, the sun setting in all its’ majestic splendor, the waves on the shore, the birds coming in to nest. It was peaceful yes. Yet this peace was attacked by my sense of loss, fear of what was not understood and seeing nothing positive to live for. I knew being that I could not swim, all I had to be was gun the gas pedal and plunge over the curb into the river and sink to the bottom. That would be it. Case closed. Door shut. Lights out. But, for some reason I could not bring myself to do it. I pictured the endearing face of my younger brother, and how he would grow up without me should I have went for that plunge. I remembered kindness that I had received from townsfolk who knew my family, and these folks never Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Moving ahead to October 1996, I declared to myself I had had enough. ON the 15th of that month I called a Jehovah’s Witness elder to come for a visit. For two hours that evening I shared everything. Specifically I stated my now discontent for all things “Watchtower”. This had him fidgeting in his chair. I queried him on the new truths I had learned, and showed him the error in the Jehovah’s Witnesses belief and teaching. He said little, but declared that I should NOT be reading the Bible for myself (cult like? Oh yeah!) and that by doing so I would be lead into error and independent thinking! He left, and I have ever entertained such ridiculous again to this date and never will. However I was still faced with lack of direction as to what I should personally do next. If there was truth, I wanted it, but if there was no truth to be had by we humans, then damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead to whatever outcome there may be. October 15, 1996 was though a day of change for me, in that two things occurred: I left Jehovah’s Witnesses for good, and that was the last day I ever drank alcohol, I have been sober since.
By 2000, I was still longing to know what God and eternity and salvation was about, what it really was and is according to scripture. I tried to make that longing go away but I just could not get over it. I had remarried in 1994 and my wife had actually become a Jehovah’s Witnesses also but only for a short time. By 2000, she wanted nothing to do with God, etc. Here I was longing for Him. All I had was the Jehovah’s Witness bible so I began reading it. For all its current inerrancies I was actually reading without being forced to accept Watchtower enforced ideology. Wow! What a difference. I actually began and this to the annoyance of my wife, speaking about finding a church! Now that in itself will separate one from the Jehovah’s Witnesses faster then the drop of a guillotine. They are taught that churches are the abode of the devil and his demons, and that pastors and church leaders are devil possessed and lead.
In the winter of 2000 my wife left for someone else, and there I was with no wife, no family, and no friends to speak of, because the ones I had had were all Jehovah’s Witnesses. Enter our Lord. In my complex there was living a Christian lady, who reached out to me in love and understanding. I eventually met her Pastor. One evening in my own apartment I was feeling so mixed up, rejected, lost, confused, and sad. It was amazing to me that I even had the courage to do what I did next. I cried out to whoever God was, telling Him that if he was real, then let’s get on with it. I was kneeling over my footstool, tears falling, and weeping. My dog licked my face, and sat up right close to me, knowing somehow the distress I was in. I went to bed that evening weak, melancholy, and worn out. The very next morning at about 10:00 am I received a knock at the door. I opened it to find a man in his late sixties standing there, who introduced himself as ‘Barry’ and stating he was the Pastor at the church the lady had attended. She spoke to him of me and he decided to visit. I welcomed him in and we sat on the couch. He asked how I was doing and related to me what he had learned about me thus far. I proceed to give him a rundown on the last few years of my life. We talked, and he encouraged me and comforted me. He then offered help and support, and asked if he could pray with me. That was another definite taboo for Jehovah’s Witnesses, that is to have anyone not of them, pray with them. Since I had cried out to God the night before I said yes. Folks, those were the first quietest and most comforting moments I had in ages! A peace filled the room, my tears dried away and I actually felt happy enough to smile. One month later I attended that little church, and a month after that was ready to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. On March 15th, 2001 which was a Wednesday we were at an evening Bible Study and towards the end I could not help but tear up again. I wasn’t sad, but overcome with the warmth and peace extended from real Christians, real people who were non-judgmental, and really cared. By the time of the closing prayer, I had covered my face in an attempt to muffle my sobs, and Pastor Barry asked if I would like to go up the sanctuary with him, which I did, There in that tiny church, on a cold March evening, Jesus became mine and I His! Wow!
I never looked back from that point on. That autumn, I attended seminary in my efforts to learn all I could. The lady had bought me a non-JW Bible that I simply could not put down. I read it, no exaggeration, cover to cover in about three months. The Word came alive with a fire like never before. I had met another lady in town, and she and I became good friends. We went to the church together, and were married in May 2004 at a Baptist Church. For the years 2005-2008 we attend a small rural church, the very one my wife had grown up in, and where I was invited to serve as assistant Preacher. Wow, what a blessing! I was learning fast and learning a lot! In November of 2008 we attended back in town at Centre Street Baptist Church, where we remain today. In early 2009 the Pastor there introduced me to a program of training by the CBOQ (Canadian Baptists of Ontario & Quebec) to train church leaders as Lay Pastors. My wife and I prayed over this, and in October of that year I entered the 2-year program. In April of 2011 I graduated with a Certificate as Lay Pastor. In the autumn of that year I was invited to serve as a Deacon in our church, which I continue to do to this day. Back in October 2004 I had received an invitation to attend the Witnesses Now For Jesus gathering at New Ringgold in Pennsylvania. This is an annual gathering of former Jehovah’s Witnesses from all levels of that organization, who are now following Christ. I accepted, and my wife and I made the journey there by bus. I gave my testimony and felt so at home among others who had come from the darkness and blind adherence of a Jehovah’s Witness.
Now today here in 2015, I continue to serve as stated above. I no longer have to seek an “okay” from any man, but can go to the Savior, Jesus Christ Himself in a one-to-one communion. Praise Him, Hosannah!
(*In 2008 my brother and his wife also were delivered from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We now enjoy each others company and association.)