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Removing the Fear of the "Visitors" at the Front Door

When a cult member knocks at the door, missionary Santiago Guerrero wants Christians to be ready to respond.
Every year, God sends tens of thousands of people to the doorsteps of Christians to hear, for perhaps the first time, a clear and accurate presentation of the gospel. And every year, thousands of Christians turn their backs on these divine appointments because they’re afraid.

Santiago Guerrero is a former Jehovah’s Witness and the only AG U.S. missionary to Cults with Intercultural Ministries. He understands that many Christians are afraid to open the door to Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses when they knock not because they fear for their faith in Christ, but simply because they are unsure of what to say when confronted with individuals trained to share their faith, as misguided as it is.

Guerrero became a Jehovah’s Witness at the age of 12 when a neighbor invited him to a Bible study. He was a steadfast believer, becoming an editor during the summer months for the Jehovah’s Witness well-known publication, Watchtower magazine, when he was 18.

“During the winters, I worked in Corpus Christi, Texas, at a petrol chemical refinery,” Guerrero explains. “A new employee started at the refinery, who was a Christian, and we began to talk and debate. He knew his Bible very well and he led me to Christ. Six months later, I quit my job and began attending an Assemblies of God Bible school in Mexico.”

Guerrero graduated from Bible school in 1998, having met and married his wife, Margarita, at the school. At the invitation of then Northern Missouri District Superintendent Manuel Schultz, he moved to Trenton, Missouri, to reach out to Hispanics working in the numerous poultry processing plants in the district.

A year later, God opened the door for Guerrero to become the first U.S. missionary to cults, with a focus on Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Now Guerrero travels throughout the United States giving seminars in local churches to equip them to not only understand what Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe, but how to effectively witness and reach out to them when they come to the door.

Pastor Gary Fisher of First Assembly of God in Atlantic, Iowa, has had Guerrero speak at least a half dozen times at the church.

“I was shocked at how little people in our pews knew of those groups,” Fisher says. “We even had individuals thinking that Mormons were Christians too. But Santiago does an excellent job of using their [the cults’] literature and explaining what is wrong about it when compared to Scripture. He tells us how to speak to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, gives us materials, and points us to websites that could also help.”

Although Fisher is hesitant to give Guerrero’s visits all the credit, he does point out the “coincidence” that Atlantic, a town of about 7,000, used to have a Mormon temple and a Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall — both have closed since Guerrero started holding seminars at First Assembly.

Guerrero says that as a Jehovah’s Witness, he knocked on tens of thousands of doors and guarantees that if a person hasn’t been visited by one group or the other, it’s only a matter of time before it happens.

“I was rarely challenged by a Christian,” he recalls, “because they didn’t know how to respond. You have to understand what they [cults] believe, not just to ask questions or argue, but to share the gospel with them. They’re not going to hear the gospel in their own churches . . . instead of hiding on the other side of the door, look at it as a ministry platform to share your faith.”

In addition to holding Bible studies with local families who are Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, Guerrero also travels to debate apologists at universities. He knows that he’ll likely never convince the person he’s debating to turn to Christ, but his goal is to educate those in the audience about the cult they have bought in to or are considering — as many don’t know the full story.

“After a debate I have so many people coming up to me and asking questions,” Guerrero says. “It’s one thing to say this is what Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, but it’s another to have an authority there who is confirming this is what they believe. People don’t know or understand all their teachings and through the debates they begin to question their faith when compared to the Bible and it opens the door to witness to them.”

One of the unique ministries adventures Guerrero has was to visit the Mormons’ weeklong general conference with 5,000 CDs. “It was a six-minute CD where I shared the gospel in a way Mormons can understand,” he says. “I expected the CDs to last throughout the week, but by noon of the first day they were all gone.”

Guerrero decided to stay and talk to people for the week, but then the next day, he started getting calls — 50 families wanted to meet with him to learn more. Of those, 15 came to Christ following their meeting, with Guerrero making sure to get them placed with a local church willing to disciple them.

Although Guerrero enjoys the opportunities handing out CDs and debating afford, he says his desire is to conduct more seminars and see more church bodies get involved in grassroot efforts. He believes the key to reaching multiplied thousands more individuals and families who are willingly, but deceptively, involved in Mormonism or with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is through the local church.

He explains that too often well-intentioned Christians get sidetracked on things that are really not the key issues, such as why Christmas or birthdays aren’t celebrated. “The gospel message and how to be saved, that is what needs to be centered on,” he says, “as that is what is going to change their lives — just as in the Bible in Acts 16 when the jailor asks, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ — that’s the big question.”

As part of his seminar ministry to churches, Guerrero helps Christians understand that for a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness to accept Christ, it’s a decision that is filled with great personal sacrifice. Individuals who become Christians are often shunned by friends and family. People and places that were once warm and welcoming are now cold and condemning. It can be a very lonely and isolated existence for a convert, which is why it’s so important for the church family to provide ongoing demonstrations of Christ’s love and care for converts.

“Santiago is one of the best kept secrets in the AG,” Fisher observes. “His message impacts people’s lives and changes the way they see those who knock at their doors . . . I believe many churches are looking for someone like Santiago to teach them about reaching people in cults and they don’t even know he exists.”

For Guerrero, the question for Christians is a simple one: When God sends them to your door, will you be ready?

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.