Note: This post is not meant to discuss the child retention rate of Jehovah’s Witnesses itself. It is a short rebuttal of what is said this retention rate represents.According to a 2014 Religious Landscape Study conducted by the Pew Research Center, Jehovah’s Witnesses have the lowest child retention rate when compared to other ‘religious traditions’ at 34 percent. This simply means that 34 percent of individuals raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses identify as such as adults. But Jehovah’s Witnesses need not be discouraged by this number.
Many times, opposers will cite this retention rate as evidence that our beliefs and practices are wrong, or unscriptural. Their argument goes something like this: “If you have the true religion, then more people would stay” or “...they would not leave at all”. The argument that our beliefs are wrong because only 34 percent of people raised in the faith believe it as adults is the same as saying that the Earth is flat because only 34 percent of people raised to believe that it is round continue to believe that it is round as adults. The argument is faulty because it operates under the assumption that popularity or consensus equals validity.
This raises an interesting thought, however: If true religion is determined by how well it retains people, then the religion with the highest retention rate would be the true religion, which, according to the data I have found, would be the Hindu religion. Do our opposers believe Hinduism is the true faith? Not likely, so it becomes apparent that these statistics are used as a means to discredit us. That being said, what does the Bible have to say about the popularity (or lack thereof) of true Christianity?
People would “fall away”Jesus Christ spoke an illustration highlighting the fact that people would “fall away” from his teachings. He presented different types of “soil” (or heart conditions of people) who would hear and accept the word initially, but for various reasons, eventually fall away. (Luke 8:11-15) Was Jesus here uttering a prophecy that his teachings would prove to be false because he knew people would leave them?
Jesus never suggested that retention rates would determine the true faith. He said the results, or “fruits” of those that obey him would be the determining factor. (Matthew 7:16, 20) In other words, both conduct and teachings are what marks true Christianity. This is why there is such a thing as false religion. (Revelation 17:5) Furthermore, Jesus stated that “few” would find the road to life, while “many” are on the road to destruction. (Matthew 7:13,14) Many of Jesus’ disciples no longer walked with him when they did not agree with some of his teachings. (John 6:66) Obviously, numbers played no role in the veracity of the Jesus’ teachings.
The following are Bible accounts showing how much Jehovah cares about numbers:
- Only eight people survived the Flood – 1 Peter 3:20
- Only Lot and his two daughters survived destruction - Gen 19:15,26
- Jehovah used a mere 300 men to defeat 135,000 enemies – Jg 7:7, 8:10
Like God and Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not concerned with how many people remain with our organization. What we have taught for decades is that Godly conduct and true teachings are marks of true Christianity.
The Watchtower of June 1, 2009 had this to say regarding how one identifies true religion: ”True followers of Christ must display love for one another that is so outstanding as to characterize them as true worshipers in the eyes of observers." The question remains, why do our opposers fixate on retention rates, while neither we nor the scriptures do?
What the Child Retention Rate Really MeansRelatively low child retention rates are indicators that Bible prophecy is being fulfilled. Jesus compared our day to Noah’s day, when most people took “no note” until the end of that system of things began. (Matthew 24:37-39) It also tells us another thing: that Jehovah’s Witness are not at all “brainwashed”. The fact that 34 percent of children raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses remain as such as adults is some of the strongest evidence against alleged “brainwashing”. Brainwashing would surely manifest itself in higher retention rates, not lower ones.
This is not to say that we have the truth because we are relatively small. If that were the case, then any small group could represent the true faith. What is being shown here is that people leaving our faith is not unprecedented. If people walked away from following a perfect man who preformed miracles, how much more so will people walk away from an organization run by imperfect men?
Really, focusing on how many people leave or remain Jehovah’s Witnesses is nothing more than a means of distracting people from the real factors that mark true Christianity. This is the goal of apostates and other opposers, to distort the truth and draw people away from it by any means.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, could easily retain people if they wanted to and bolster their membership numbers by celebrating holidays, by adding gimmicks to their worship services, or having more lax and liberal standards and not removing unrepentant sinners.
But we will not do this because we understand what determines true Christianity – conduct and teachings that closely represents those of Jesus. (Luke 6:46-49; 10:16; John 13:35)