If you frequently walk by the street corner in front of the Billy Graham Center, you have likely seen or met a man named Joe Stevenson handing out pamphlets and talking with students. The Wheaton Record recently had the opportunity to interview Stevenson, a Jehovah’s Witness, to learn more about him and his work.
He started the interview by telling us a little about himself. “I’ve been a Jehovah’s Witness of 37 years . . . I got four kids. Let’s see, they’d be 27, 28, 29 and 30 (years old).” Stevenson began witnessing at the College in the year 2000. When he is not at the BGC, he works as a truck driver and delivers dry ice to support his ministry. “The biggest customer is the airport. If you ever eat those meals on the planes, they take a piece out of the dry ice that looks like a piece of bread . . . We go to hospitals, meat cutters (and) laboratories.”
Stevenson brought his Bible to the interview and made frequent references to highlighted verses throughout the conversation. When asked what drives him to come hand out pamphlets, he explained, “The goal is to try and help people understand the Bible accurately . . . We give people the opportunity to find out what the Bible really says.” According to Stevenson, Jehovah’s Witnesses are carrying out this ministry in every country. Instead of churches, Jehovah’s Witnesses attend kingdom halls, which differ by language rather than denomination; for example, Stevenson’s kingdom hall has separate English, Hispanic and Hindi congregations.
Stevenson touched on the differences between the doctrine taught at Wheaton and that of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In regards to the many denominations now seen throughout Protestant churches, Stevenson said, “What you think passes for Christianity today isn’t Christianity.” He also spoke about Jehovah’s Witnesses’ view of Jesus Christ, explaining, “While we believe that Jesus is a god, we don’t believe that he is the almighty. In other words, we don’t believe that the Trinity is correct.” He remarked that they lose a lot of people on that point. According to Stevenson, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not participate in elections or war, and the effects of those decisions have cost many witnesses their lives. “As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we believe that the kingdom of God is a very real government and, as such, are strictly neutral when it comes to the affairs of this world.”
In his 15 years of dialogue at Wheaton, Stevenson has received a variety of responses. “It’s been interesting. We don’t have debates . . . If you believe something, show me from the Scriptures; if I believe something, I’ll show you.” When asked about his thoughts on Wheaton students in general, he said that they vary from person to person. “Some people are very open-minded, some people are kind. Others have already determined that they know what Jehovah’s Witnesses are: a cult, a sect, dangerous. So I let the individuals decide, just as we do when we go door to door.” While some people have called security on Stevenson, others have invited him to address classes.
Stevenson can often be found outside the BGC and asks that those with questions bring their copy of the Bible to use in conversation. “I try and get over there sometimes on Thursdays, which would be today, and yes, I’m planning on going on over there after I get done talking to you guys.”