In a recent theology seminar, many guest speakers came and told us about their experiences in the faith, but one particular testimony stuck with me. It was from an ex-Jehovah Witness.
Hearing about his Christian journey and leaving this religious group intrigued me so much. The seminar turned into a Q&A session with the attendees asking all sorts of questions.
Some could not believe that one could leave this sect, while others wanted to know what happens when you leave Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I listened carefully as the guest graciously answered all the questions. Inspired by this event, I prepared this article for others who might be wondering, can you leave Jehovah’s Witness?
Yes, it is possible to leave the Jehovah’s Witness denomination. One can abandon the faith voluntarily through a formal request or by forceful excommunication, otherwise known as disfellowship. Once you leave the Church, it is common for you to be shunned and no longer have contact with other members.
In this article, I will take an in-depth look into what it means to leave the Jehovah’s Witness church, how it happens, and if it is reversible.
This is a read you definitely don’t want to miss.
What Is Ex Jehovah’s Witness Called?
Ex Jehovah’s Witnesses are called apostates, which comes from the word ‘apostasy’. Apostasy is the act of abandoning or deserting the worship of God in the Jehovah’s Witness church.
Witnesses also believe apostates are people who acknowledge the Lord’s existence but reject the authority of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Organization, which is the religious organization of the Jehovah’s Witness denomination.
In this Church, some defining marks of apostates are that they cause division in the fellowship, do not engage in evangelism, or completely abandon the faith.
Why Would Someone Leave Jehovah’s Witness?
A member would have to leave the Jehovah’s Witness fellowship if they continuously break the Bible’s moral code of conduct or fail to repent for their sins.
In line with 1 Corinthians 5:13, the Church believes that disfellowship is allowed when a person displays inherent wickedness, and they should be removed from the others: “God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.'”
According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, sinning is not enough reason to be shunned. It must be repeated behavior worthy of exile.
Aside from becoming weak in faith, someone may also leave Jehovah’s Witness by their own volition. The denomination believes each member can make their choice regarding religion (Joshua 24:15), so one can request to leave.
How To Leave Jehovah’s Witness
JW.org provides two ways of leaving the Jehovah’s Witness religion: by formal request and action. For a person to leave the faith by formal request, they can either write a letter or make their decision orally.
To leave Jehovah’s Witness by action entails doing something that unequivocally shows that the member no longer wishes to be a part of the Church.
For instance, they may join another religion or denomination. Followers of the faith look at 1 John 2:19 as supportive scripture since it says those who belong in the Church would have stayed in the Church: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”
1 Peter 5:9 also reiterates the same by explaining that the Church is a brotherhood that stands together: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe deviating from the fellowship’s doctrines and moral code is a covert rejection of the denomination, which will warrant disfellowship or expulsion.
What Happens When A Member Leaves Jehovah’s Witness?
According to some teachings of the faith, when a person leaves the Jehovah’s Witness Church, they do not have to lose contact with those who are still members.
For instance, a disfellowshipped man with children and a spouse who are still believers can continue living with them as a family.
Additionally, some Jehovah’s Witness followers think a disfellowshipped member can attend Jehovah’s Witness services if they so wish. They can also receive counsel from other members and elders.
However, a vast majority of other Witnesses, Christian theologists, and scholars beg to differ. They propound that Jehovah’s Witnesses have harsh consequences for apostates.
AvoidJW.org explains that historically, members are completely shunned and excommunicated, even from their family units and workplaces.
They can no longer associate with other Witnesses and, essentially, are not let back into worship centers (Kingdom Halls).
How Many People Are Leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Official Jehovah’s Witness statistics from the Watchtower reveal that approximately 1 per cent of the denomination’s congregation is disfellowshipped from the faith each year.
That means around 1.3 million Witnesses were shunned between 1991 and 2020. Although the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses increases by 320 every day, according to data from 2017, Jehovah’s Witnesses are known to have one of the highest turnover rates of all Christian denominations and sects.
Further, of the 1 per cent that leaves the Church, only one-third return. It is customary for the Watchtower to publish the names of members that have left.
Can You Return After Leaving Jehovah’s Witness?
Yes, according to the Jehovah’s Witness ministry, you can return and become a Jehovah’s Witness again if you show remorse and repent for your past actions.
You must demonstrate a sincere want to return and follow the Biblical standards of the Church. Further, you must show total rejection of your previous ways.
It is taught in the Jehovah’s Witness fellowship that Jehovah does not forget his worshippers, even those who stray away.
Looking at scripture such as Psalm 119:176, followers believe that Jehovah reaches out to the lost and encourages their return: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
Do You Leave Jehovah’s Witness If You Are Dis-Fellowshipped?
In line with the beliefs of many Jehovah’s Witnesses, a disfellowshipped person must completely leave the Church. In fact, they believe they should be excommunicated.
For instance, a Watchtower article published on September 15, 1981, says that greeting a disfellowshipped member is the first step to following their path.
Scripture, such as 1 Corinthians 5:11, has been cited by Jehovah’s Witness elders as Biblical proof that the sexually immoral, alcoholic, and overall sinful should be completely shunned from the community.
The denomination further teaches that disfellowship and shunning wrongdoers give honor to the Lord and bring betterment to the entire community.
It is known as an “act of love” which produces righteous results.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.