Still on the Cutting Edge
In May, 1996, I stepped down from being executive director of Jews for Jesus. Since then, several people have written to me for assurance. They wanted to know that Jews for Jesus would go on in the same bold directions we have always taken, and that creative communication and evangelism would continue to be our single focus. I wish they could only observe firsthand the plans and programs set up by David Brickner, our new executive director. Then they would see that they need not be anxious!
I’m delighted that our new executive director has extended to me the privilege of writing this front page letter” because it provides me with an opportunity to assure our friends and supporters about this most important issue. I’m happy to tell you that David Brickner has exceeded all expectations with regard to the evangelistic projects he has proposed and is preparing for the continued outreach of this ministry.
For you to appreciate fully what that means, I need to reiterate briefly the short history of this ministry. Jews for Jesus grew out of my personal desperation to communicate the Gospel to my own people, who managed to ignore Jesus and resist evangelism.
I began to follow my calling as missionary-evangelist in 1956. Though I was seen as successful, by 1969 I became convinced of two facts: first, most Jews never gave a thought to whether or not Jesus was the Messiah; second, missions to the Jews were failing to show that Jesus was for the Jews as well as for everyone else. My concern grew into a desperation to get my fellow Jews to listen to the message of the Messiah. I realized that we needed to find new ways to raise the issue that the Jewish religion in itself, while good and beautiful, was not enough to bring people to salvation. God’s dealings with me came as a quiet whisper that built up to a roar. Then came a genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit— and what subsequently happened was God’s answer to my desperate prayer.
Jews for Jesus was a product of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when that moving of the Holy Spirit swept up numbers of dynamic, creative Jewish young people into the Jesus Revolution. I was moved to band together with them to help our fellow Jews and the whole world know that Jesus is for everyone. Our problem was how to communicate so much to so many people when we had so few resources. We knew that we had to be innovative and bold. We developed humorous tracts, street presentations of drama and music, posters and other grass roots methods of telling the gospel. We learned how to make people smile as they heard and read serious truths.
In our early days, one observer noted that Jews for Jesus was “on the cutting edge of evangelism.” Our high profile created quite a stir in the Jewish community. In a warning to its readers, the Jewish Press of Brooklyn reported that Rosen was just a front man, and it was obvious that he had Madison Avenue backing. Of course, we didn’t have such resources, but our message was reaching many. Whether or not people liked what we were saying, they could no longer ignore us. That was 25 years ago, when we only had the simplest tools of communication. Now we have greater access than ever to the public through all communications media.
Since I’m no longer the chief of Jews for Jesus, now I can say what I didn’t feel free to say before, because then it would have sounded like boasting. This is what you need to know: If Jews for Jesus was on the cutting edge of evangelism back then, today we are more creative and forthright than ever. God’s blade hasn’t dulled any, and there is no rust on us. We want to continue on that cutting edge, even though we know that is where we will encounter the most friction. We need your prayers for our continuing enthusiastic creativity, a constantly renewed vision and God’s strength to endure.
I’m so thankful that God has raised up as our leader David Brickner, who values, promotes and uses the more creative forms of evangelism. He continually demonstrates the courage to bring us boldly to places where others have not yet taken a stand for the gospel. One of these trailblazing opportunities involves electronic media and the X-generation.
David has been particularly interested in reaching this group of young people who are in their teens and twenties. They grew up knowing and using computers, and the Internet has become one of the chief tools by which to reach them. It is a viable means of communicating with thousands of people, and many are using it.
As with many things, the Internet can be used for good or for evil. We know from hearing about the Heaven’s Gate cult and their shocking mass suicide that many spiritually unhealthy things are dispensed on the Internet. Yet that doesn’t mean we should avoid using it. On the contrary, we who have the healing, life-giving message of salvation can use the Internet for good—to bring those precious truths to many who so desperately need to hear them.
To this end, Jews for Jesus was one of the first Christian organizations to have a Web Page on the Internet. Within months, we received the “Top Five Percent Award” for our Internet presentation. (Look us up at http://www.jews-for-jesus.org, and you can see why this outreach has been so effective.)
We hope to expand soon to several Web Sites. We’ll design them to meet the diverse needs of various people: unbelievers who need the gospel, Jewish believers who need basic instruction and Christians who need help in witnessing to their Jewish friends. We have summer interns to help develop these new sites.
I’m excited about the evangelistic possibilities of “chatrooms” on the various services, including America OnLine, among others. If you don’t know, chatrooms are areas dedicated to the specific interests of their participants. Up to twenty-five people can designate and segment an area to discuss a topic of their choice via computer.
In the chatrooms you’ll find people willing to discuss just about anything, from every kind of sexual perversion, to entertainment, diversion, nonsense—and some sense. You can choose what you will shun and what you will discuss. Any committed child of God can get in and witness to strangers who, because of such efforts, just might become brothers and sisters in Christ.
When you “enter” a chat room, you are identified by your screen name. You find a “room” or category on a list and sign onto it. Then your screen name is displayed along with the names of the others who are in that room. If you want to see who the others in the chatroom are, you click on a box labeled “get info.”
You begin by just typing a statement. There can be as much as a paragraph of information (called a profile) about each person. Some give very little information, and some give a lot. For example, my introductory profile is:
Member Name: Moishe Rosen (also answers to “Hey You”)
Location: San Francisco CA #415-661-2263
Marital Status: Married, two grown daughters
Hobbies: More details:http://www.jews-for-jesus.org
Computers: POWERMAC 9500, Powerbook 5300CS
Occupation: Founder, Jews for Jesus
Personal Quote: “For me to live is Christ to Die is gain”
Now that I have more time to be a missionary instead of directing other missionaries, the chat room on America OnLine has become a regular witnessing medium for me. In vocal conversation I frequently stammer, and the cadence of my conversational speech is so irregular that people often interrupt me in mid-sentence. They begin responding without realizing that I haven’t finished what I wanted to say. For me, “chatting” about spiritual matters by computer is ideal because it gives me time to collect my thoughts and express them without interruption.
I began this electronic witnessing a couple of years ago as time permitted. I would sign on and find a chat room marked Christian Fellowship or Born Again OnLiners. After a while, some of us came to know one another very well. At first, I was surprised to discover that Jewish people sought out these Christian chatrooms. Some came to dispute Christian beliefs and thus prove to their own satisfaction that they didn’t have to consider Jesus. Others came because it was a non-threatening way they could make an inquiry.
Many on our missionary staff are involved in this kind of electronic evangelism. I could tell you about numerous Jewish people who have come to faith in Christ through America OnLine. There are so many that I will leave that report for another time, except for a brief mention of one Jewish teenager.
The story begins with my discovery of a Jews for Jesus chatroom last September. When I entered, several people were there, and a very good witness was in progress. When the participants learned who I was, they welcomed me. I was able to answer some questions that arose and to cite various Bible passages.
Imagine my surprise to find that chat room! As the founder of Jews for Jesus, I thought I knew most of our activities, and I hadn’t heard of that one. Afterwards, I was curious as to who had started that Jews for Jesus chat room. My inquiry at our headquarters office led me to the conclusion that no one in our organization had done it. Then, further investigation led me to a most delightful truth.
I “met” a young Jewish girl who, through inquiring in other chatrooms, had come to faith in Jesus. Her Jewish mother had also come to faith in Yeshua through the chatroom! Evidently this girl had learned a lot in a hurry, because she was giving wise answers to people. She was showing them truths from Scripture that seemed to indicate that she was a well-trained missionary. I was amazed to learn that this leader in the Jews for Jesus chatroom was a 15-year-old!
When America OnLine changed its pricing structure, I started to use the service more. I got into the habit of opening a Jews for Jesus chatroom whenever my young friend didn’t. As I write this, we’re continuing to have some interesting conversations, though I must admit that we have four times as many Jewish disputers as Jewish inquirers in those rooms. The disputers try to filibuster so that we can’t get the message out, but even the anger with which they express their objections to the gospel seems to stimulate others’ inquiries.
If you’re into computer communication, check out the Jews for Jesus chatroom on AOL and see for yourself the great possibilities of this forum. Come on in. Whether or not you feel you have anything to say, just be there and pray. And once you’ve come in and “listened” a while, you’ll see why there’s a need to pray!
Our Internet site and chatrooms are not the only ways the electronic media has kept us Jews for Jesus on the cutting edge of evangelism. When we first had overseas branches, the missionary reports would take more than a week, and sometimes much longer, to arrive. Directives from Headquarters to the station chiefs were also slowed down. When our Russian work first began, mail was virtually impossible, and telephone calls were always a sometimes thing. Now, thanks to the Internet, overseas communication has been strengthened.
E-mail has not only helped us communicate to our staff in the field. It has also enabled inquirers around the world to ask us the questions about Jesus that God wants to answer.
It is said that the most significant commodity of our country is information handling. As God’s people, all believers in Yeshua would do well to make more use of that commodity. I would challenge the churches and the apostolates (that’s the more biblical word for missions) to get on with using Internet and chat rooms for witnessing. Join with us Jews for Jesus in getting out the gospel in this timely manner.
Right now, electronic evangelism is the cutting edge. I can’t help but wonder with some excitement what God will use next! Anyway, I think I can promise you this: whatever new means may arise, our new executive director will see to it that Jews for Jesus will use them to remain on the cutting edge to spread the gospel. As Paul wrote in Romans 11:13-14 “…I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.