Reflections on a Decade with Jews for Jesus
My name is Glenn Harris, but I have been called a lot of other names, particularly since I am Jewish and have been a follower of Jesus for twenty-two years now. For a little over ten of those years I served on the staff of Jews for Jesus. They were some of the most challenging and rewarding years of my life.
Three of those years were spent traveling on a bus with the Liberated Wailing Wall. We sang about Messiah in hundreds of churches, passed out tens of thousands of Gospel tracts and shared the faith with Jews and Gentiles alike. Spending those years on the road with other Jewish believers taught me that I was capable of accomplishing more than I had ever imagined, and also reminded me that contentment comes from drawing near to the Lord, not in the abundance of one’s possessions.
I spent a little over a year in the Approved Student” program, which Jews for Jesus established to help Messianic Jews like myself complete a college degree in biblical studies, and graduated from Northeastern Bible College in 1989. In exchange for an additional year of service with Jews for Jesus, my last year of undergraduate studies was completely paid for!
It was during my tenure in New York that I met and later married my lovely wife, Alexandra (whose reflections on serving with Jews for Jesus accompanies this). Some have complained of Jews for Jesus leaders being too “controlling” but in my estimation I was given wise counsel. Alexandra and I took a step back and evaluated what a future in full-time Christian ministry means, and thirteen years later, we are glad, very glad, for that time of reflection. Ministry in almost any capacity is very demanding, physically and emotionally. I have seen the deleterious effect of two people, even both being believers, but “unequally yoked” as far as their willingness to be inconvenienced for the sake of the work of advancing the Gospel. Once it was determined that we both had our sights set on serving Yeshua, we were encouraged in every way, and upheld at all times during the course of our years in Jews for Jesus.
I also served as a full-time missionary, mostly in New York and New Jersey. It goes without saying that sharing the Gospel with Jewish people is “an uphill climb.” Yet, the challenges to my faith and my Jewish identity were accompanied by marvelous friendships and the privilege of seeing both Jews and Gentiles come to know the Messiah.
Personally, I can’t think of anything more Jewish than following the Messiah, and urging others to do the same — especially my fellow Jews.
I have served both under Moishe Rosen and David Brickner. Both are fine men of God, and both would be quick to point out that they are also quite human. Certainly we have had disagreements. I have worked in several other fields, too. I have found that human beings, fallen and fallible as we are, are bound to have personality clashes and differences of opinion. But during the decade I served with the ministry of Jews for Jesus, I was treated with respect, dignity and given many opportunities to serve and to lead. It was clear that the ministry had high expectations of me. Most of the time I found that God enabled me to rise to those expectations and showed me how much can be done when we work cooperatively and look expectantly to Him.
I left Jews for Jesus at the point when I anticipated that in time the demands of leadership would ultimately be more than the combination of my abilities and willingness would meet. There were no hard feelings in me, nor in my supervisors. I was told in no uncertain terms that both Alexandra and I, and our contribution to the organization, would be missed. Not only were we treated lovingly and respectfully, but David Brickner also assisted in helping arrange my present place of congregational service.
I recently discovered a web site which contains the stories of some people who left Jews for Jesus with very bitter feelings. While I am not unsympathetic to people’s experiences, I think they’ve lost sight of something very important. What they think of Jews for Jesus is ultimately immaterial. Jews for Jesus is not the issue. Knowing the Messiah who cleanses us from sin and reconciles us to God is what matters. But I am saddened that some people harbor bitterness in their hearts, and have chosen to make common cause of their private grievances with the organization. Yeshua gave us the proper model for settling grievances, and it means going directly to the individual first, later with another brother (if necessary), to accomplish reconciliation. The public airing of one’s grievances may feel good to the one offended, but injures the faith community as a whole, and only provides fodder for those looking for excuses not to believe.
“The first person to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17). For those who have heard very negative things about Jews for Jesus, consider my perspective to be a little part of “the rest of the story.”
One of the important lessons I learned while working at Jews for Jesus headquarters and on the road with the Liberated Wailing Wall was the blessing of perseverance. The commitment is greater than any of the potholes along the way. I have noticed that a number of people these days are ready to switch churches over the least misunderstanding or perceived offense. They don’t allow themselves to endure. The result of endurance is worthwhile, and I learned that serving with Jews for Jesus.
Particularly while traveling on the road with the music team, we had hours of practice, bright moments of laughter, joyful times of worship and fellowship, hurtful disputes, forgiveness and growth — the very things that comprise a realistic community of believers. There were times when it was tempting to “throw in the towel” but that just wasn’t an option, and it forced us to grow in grace and humility, and in retrospect, I am grateful for those lessons.
Some of the Jews for Jesus staff members I have known, especially those who continue to serve with the ministry, have made a great impression on me. They are truly dedicated to God, and have also managed to maintain a sense of humor and humility and I consider them to be the “salt of the earth.” I count a few of them as dear and lifelong friends.
Glenn and Alexandra Harris