Are Jehovah's Witnesses a Cult?

Jehovah’s Witnesses Spent 2 Billion Hours Preaching in 2015, to Make 119,000 New Converts?

My math must be off. I’m good with numbers but admit I’m no accountant, so my math must be off. I must be missing something.

The 2016 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses was just recently released online, and this book contains all their important stats and figures when it comes to their preaching work, attendance, congregations, and so on. I’m sure much dissecting of the numbers will be done, but what I find inexplicable is that Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to have spent, worldwide, some 1,933,473,727 hours in their preaching work last year. That’s almost 2 billion, with a B.

Yet, their average number of publishers (the term used for those who actively go out in their preaching work) increased from 7,867,958 to merely 7,987,279 worldwide, or by only 119,321.

No, I’m missing something. Jehovah’s Witnesses spent almost 2 billion hours talking to people about the bible, reading them their Watchtower literature and bringing them to their Kingdom Halls, only to see 119,321 people join their ranks?

That’s a Lot of Hours, and Lives, Lost

Some people like to have numbers broken down for them, so note that there are 8,760 hours in a year. Two billion hours is the equivalent of over 228,000 years; figure about 80 years per lifespan, and that’s the life of some 2,850 people, from birth to death. So, if I’m not mistaken, Jehovah’s Witnesses spent the equivalent of 228,000 years or the full 80-year lifespan of 2,850 people preaching, just to convert the equivalent of a nice American suburb.

Figuring the Children … This Gets Tricky

When figuring these numbers, you then also need to consider how many children of Jehovah’s Witnesses are considered publishers or preachers, and who go out in this preaching work and get baptized at the behest of their parents. As a child becomes old enough, they start preaching and then become “publishers,” and their numbers are added to these stats.

Publishers then eventually go on to get baptized; according to the 2016 yearbook, there were some 260,273 newly baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses last year. Well, there are also tons of pictures and experiences of children of Jehovah’s Witnesses getting baptized, which needs to be figured into that number.

There’s no way to determine this accurately, but consider a typical congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses when it comes to the number of adults versus children who are counted as publishers. There are the parents, elderly ones, single adult JWs, and those who are in the religion without their families; would that make up 2/3 of a congregation’s publishers? Take those away from the 8 million-ish Jehovah’s Witnesses and you’re left with about 2,600,000 children of JWs who are publishers. Only 260,000 persons were baptized; that’s just one-tenth that number. One out of ten children of Jehovah’s Witnesses who preach then get baptized each year? I can honestly say that number isn’t too far-fetched, from my memory and experiences as an active JW.

Of course these numbers can be adjusted in any way; you might assume that children make up far less than 1/3 the number of publishers and those who were baptized, or far more, and this could certainly be true. The point is, no matter how you figure it, when you add* children who are raised in the religion to the number of newly baptized ones and the 119,000 who just became publishers this past year, new converts from outside the religion are obviously few and far between.

(*This phrase may have confused a few readers; I’m saying that when you “account for” the children who are raised in the religion. I’m not sure if that would mean add or subtract them to the overall number, but I think most people get the point. Sorry for any confusion.)

This also eliminates the argument that there are more converts than the 119,000 since you need to make up for those who die off or leave the religion; if 1 million Jehovah’s Witnesses pass away or leave the religion in a year, you need to bring in another 1 million just to keep the numbers even, right? Except for every one elderly person in a congregation who passes away and every member who leaves the religion that year, you’ll have one child of a JW who starts to preach and becomes a “publisher.” It’s a wash, whatever the actual math.

Return on Investment

The yearbook notes that Jehovah’s Witnesses saw a 1.5% increase in the past year, which is just slightly higher than the world’s population growth of 1.18% (per The Guardian). This increase may seem impressive to some; after all, it’s more than just keeping up with the rate of population. That’s fine, but it’s the work put into preaching versus how many people actually join the religion that make the stats seem so paltry and devastating. Two billion hours, versus 119,000 converts, if that?

I’m sure those hours also don’t include their website and new TV channel. I can’t imagine that the 2 billion hours they say they’ve spent preaching includes the hours of streaming television they have available, and obviously can’t include their own website, set up for research but also for converting others. Two billion hours, as well as a fancy website and TV station, and for what? An average suburban population.

The yearbook stated that there are currently 118,016 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. This increase of 119,000 is just a bit more than one new person for each congregation in the world. One new person, for the hundred or so publishers who go out in their preaching work day after day, week after week, tossing their literature at anything that moves. One person, for all that work?

No, I’m missing something.

God’s Blessing Seems a Bit Thin

What is also suspect is how Jehovah’s Witnesses often discuss their growth and increase in the context of how this proves they have god’s blessing, and must be the only true organization. Note this quote from the May 15, 2014, Watchtower:

“Because of the global preaching and teaching activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, millions of people have learned to worship God “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) For example, in a recent ten-year period —during the service years of 2003 through 2012— more than 2,707,000 individuals were baptized in symbol of their dedication to God. Worldwide, there are now well over 7,900,000 Witnesses, with millions more associating with them, especially during the annual observance of the Memorial. We do not boast in numbers, for it is ‘God who keeps making things grow.’ (1 Cor. 3:5-7) Nevertheless, it is evident that the great crowd is growing and becoming greater with each passing year.

There has been remarkable growth in the number of God’s servants because Jehovah himself is backing his Witnesses. (Read Isaiah 43:10-12.) This increase was foretold in these prophetic words: “The little one will become a thousand and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, will speed it up in its own time.” (Isa. 60:22) At one time, the anointed remnant were like “the little one,” but their number grew as other spiritual Israelites were brought into God’s organization. (Gal. 6:16) Because of Jehovah’s blessing over the years, the increase continues with the gathering of the great crowd.”

Capture geico

Preaching with god’s “backing.” Look at those crowds of interested persons; there are literally nones and nones of people gathered around that literature cart.

So, they “do not boast in numbers,” (or so they claim right after boasting their numbers), but they do come right out and say that Jehovah himself is backing their work and their religion, as supposedly proven by those numbers. However, I need to question this so-called “backing.” How can you put in some 2 billion hours of preaching, not to mention a website and TV channel, and boast only 119,000 new members if you have the backing of almighty god himself? All that pavement pounding just to knock on the doors of empty houses, calling back on potential bible studies who are never home and never commit, standing on street corners with carts that no one even notices; this all seems like a waste, not an effective work with solid results that unquestionably have god’s “backing.” If this was a financial return on investment, it would be called a miserable failure, a scam, a Ponzi scheme, a shell game. I wonder what we should call the religion.

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12 replies »

  1. Very well written article. Thanks. I knew the conversation number was astronomical but still it shocks me. So this religion seems to be based on intellectually arguing a convert to salvation. Yes? No? With that alone the numbers speak for themselves as the method being a failure. Did they assume that clever wit and intellect alone would haul converts in? Oh, and brightly coloured pamphlets too.

  2. Last years I went to conventions, I think 95% or even more of baptized persons were children. It was so sad… in district convention 2-3 years ago, approx 30 got baptized, average age around 15… adult decision? I felt sick.

  3. I like your idea and the way you write but I think the number should include the spaces the dead people left. 7,867,958 to 7,987,279 but many people died. So the number of converts is 119,321 PLUS the number of active JWs who had passed away.
    If there were no converts then the number would decrease per dead person. But the number went up. The JW increase is larger than it appears because the places of dead JWs are being filled.
    I think that there are more elderly in the organization than young people because years ago there was no proof that the governing body is a lying son of a bitch.

    • Well, no, because as I mention above, the number who die is compensated for by the number of children of JWs who become publishers. If two active JWs die in one year in a certain congregation, chances are there are also two children of JWs in the same congregation who become publishers, if not even more. The converts from outside who come in as a result of actual preaching would still be very low.

      • OK. I see it.
        Some hours parents preach to the children are also counted and I have heard that there are congregations with no children or very few children and like many other churches, there are more elderly. I suspect that more JWs are dying than children of JWs getting baptized.
        I have four children and none got baptized (thank God). I know several JW from the old school who have died.
        I think a preaching JW does not care for the pitiful number who are being added because of James 5:20 and Matthew 7:14.
        Keep up the good work. Presently you are the only anti-JW site I will read. I wonder how long that will last?

    • I think, however you slice it, the number of hours preaching is always going to be monumental compared to the paltry number of new converts from outside. I remember maybe half a dozen persons from outside being baptized in all the years I was an active JW, the rest were children of JWs. Lots of bible studies, but only that small handful actually going all the way to baptism.

      Thank you for the compliment, I would strongly suggest you visit JWfacts.com if you’re going to look at any other ex-JW site. It’s a great resource with tons of material that combats a lot of what JWs teach.

  4. Your title is wrong and a little misleading. A convert would be newly baptized individuals in 2014. 2 billion hrs were spent on the 260,273 that were baptized in that year. Your 119,000 I assume refers to the net gain for the year of 2014.

    • No, I’m going by the average number of publishers which would be in my mind a better choice for converts, since you need to be a publisher before you can get baptized. A person can be a publisher for years before getting baptized, but once you’re a publisher you are under their rules and are associated with the religion even though you’re not officially a member. That’s why they announce that you’re no longer a publisher if you commit a serious offense. That’s also why I would consider a new publisher a new convert, not just someone who is baptized.

  5. This amounts to more than 220,000 Man-Years of Field Service in each Service Year recently for a Kingdom that initially is only going to last for a Thousand Years. Just imagine one Brother or Sister preaching door to door 24/7 day and night for over 220,000 Years. !!! No time for rest or sleep or attending meetings!!! Astronomical! So just what is Jehovah of the Watchtower waiting for already??? Of course no doubt many Jehovah’s Witnesses must have already been convinced the Preaching Work had already been completed 40 Years ago in 1975 !!!

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