North Carolinians are used to seeing occasional Jehovah’s Witness missionaries at their door. On Aug. 3-5 and 10-12, PNC Arena will have 20,000 for the “Safeguard Your Heart!” District Convention.
The convention has been held in Raleigh since 2007. Both weekend meetings will feature Bible-based activities including speeches, analysis of Bible verses and a play.
The Raleigh gatherings are part of 385 meetings being held nationwide in more than 100 cities between May and September. With each convention centering on a biblical passage, North Carolina’s theme is “Safeguard Your Heart,” drawn from Proverbs 4:23.
“The whole idea is to resist the overall takeover of badness and stay true to Bible principles,” said George Spratt, a spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Activities include speeches titled “Let God’s Word Reveal the Intention of Your Heart,” “Beware of Dangerous Heart Conditions,” and “Do you have a Heart for Working?” There will also be discussion on the importance of baptism and two additional programs titled “Do Just as You Have Resolved in Your Heart” and “Inculcate God’s Word in Little Hearts.” The meetings will culminate with a discussion titled “Never Let Your Heart Become Terrified” and a play called “What is True Love?”
With so many people projected to take part in the convention, businesses in the vicinity of PNC Arena could be affected. Trevor Chambers, a manager of Bella Monica Italian Restaurant, expects the event to have an impact on his restaurant across the street from the arena.
“Anytime there is an event like that, it has an impact,” said Chambers. “We usually get a trickle when events happen at the arena.”
The North Carolina convention is expected to draw Jehovah’s Witnesses from 130 congregations across eastern and central North Carolina. While the event is open and free to the public, Spratt says the main goal is to celebrate the religion, not to attract people to its ranks.
“It’s not so much about attracting or converting people to Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s about a belief in the Bible,” Spratt said. “We focus on trying to tell what the Bible teaches, and we do this by going house to house.”
Modeling itself on first-century Christian organizations, Jehovah’s Witnesses has no clergy-laity division. All baptized members share in the preaching and teaching work. The group counts 7.6 million practicing members worldwide.