Who are your “heroes of the faith”? One of mine is Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was a pastor in Massachusetts back in the 1700’s and is closely associated with what is called America’s First Great Awakening. Although the nature and scope of that Awakening has been debated over the years, there can be no doubt that God did a wonderful work in rousing the hearts of Christians during this period in Colonial New England. Some awoke to their need for Christ and others to their need to renew their faith and work to make His name known. In fact, Edwards writing on the story of David Brainerd, a missionary to Native Americans, helped spark a renewed passion for missions and evangelism all over the United States and in England. Brainerd gave his life to making Christ known and his example encouraged many more to do the same.
Throughout history, God has worked in unique ways to awaken His people, calling them to greater levels of dedication to proclaim His goodness. Some call these historical events revivals, but that word has come to mean different things to different people. Some equate revival with a series of scheduled meetings in a church, but even so, we know that only God schedules revivals with a capital “R.” Many of us pray for revival, or awakening. Our need for it is ever present, maybe never more so than today.
Do you ever sense that passion for Christ and for missions that tell what He has done is on the wane in our churches? Sometimes we find instead a well meaning but somewhat self-centered focus on a strange kind of “therapeutic Christianity.” A self-help gospel is no gospel, though many people are hurting and in need of help. Likewise, social justice and political activism can be a good way of living out our faith, but it becomes misplaced if substituted for the message of God’s redemption. Even digging wells to bring fresh water for people in need—as great and important a blessing as that is—will not quench the thirst that is only addressed by Living Water. How I could wish there was as much interest in proclaiming the good news as there is in promoting good works among our church-going people. One should never be at the expense of the other, but it’s so tempting to focus on offering only giving those things that we are confident will be well received. The gospel falls on all kinds of soil and is often roundly rejected if not ignored. Yet nothing can compare with it’s eternal life giving properties. That’s why it is my prayer for God’s people today that we be awakened to the passion and the priority of the proclamation of the gospel.
When I was a Bible school student, I heard a lot about how tract-passing was passé, an anachronism, a method whose day had come and gone. At the time I was just beginning to serve with Jews for Jesus, and we were seeing the Lord do amazing things in the hearts of many Jewish people as we were willing to stand for Him and yes, hand out tracts on the street.
Today more than ever I hear the same thing: that tract-passing is passé and that proclaiming the gospel publicly is a thing of the past. But I’m not so sure that God’s people have ever been all that good at spotting trends. The people touting ideas about what no longer “works” often sprinkle in a lot of talk about post-modernity and generational change. Though some sound like experts when they pepper their theological opinions with a generous dose of Christian social theory, little of it is based on Scripture or much recent experience in proclamation evangelism. It seems to me like some of the Christian social science talk is behind the curve of what is actually happening in our society.
There are many ways to proclaim the gospel and of course tract-passing is just one of them. Last summer on our Jews for Jesus witnessing campaign in New York City we experimented with many methods of outreach, utilizing social media such as Facebook and Twitter. In fact, the number of people who visited our evangelistic Facebook site was higher than the number of people who received our tracts during the month-long campaign. I praise God for each and every way we can share the gospel and hope we never fall into the trap of thinking one way to proclaim trumps or excludes another. We in Jews for Jesus will continue to look for new and different ways to share the gospel, but one thing is certain, nothing we do and nothing you do to proclaim His name and give Him glory will ever become an anachronism.
This month we celebrate our Messiah’s victory over the grave. I am blessed to remember that it is that same resurrection power that is able to awaken people to their need for God. And it is that same power that can awaken a slumbering church to their need to make Him known. I can’t persuade anyone of the truth of the gospel and neither can you … but the power of the resurrection unleashed through the work of the Holy Spirit is able to accomplish what we cannot.
Think of it this way: every one of us was once “dead in our trespasses and sin.” Dead people can’t comprehend anything by reason or force of argument. But the resurrection power of Jesus is able to awaken dead sinners to life, and it is this very power that has and continues to revive and awaken the church. I believe God is doing just that in our midst.
For years we have been seeking the Lord and praying that He will raise up a new generation of Jews for Jesus who have a passion for the Lord and for the proclamation of the gospel. We are seeing this become a reality here in the US and around the world. In fact we made a documentary film about it entitled Awakening. This documentary shows that God is raising up a new generation to make His name known—vibrant young Jewish Christians with a passion for proclamation, who are stepping out to awaken people to the truth of the Savior.
Most of us need more than a sermon or an article expounding on the need for evangelism and missions. We need examples of what God is doing to inspire and encourage us to believe and to step out in faith. That is why we made this film, Awakening. Proclamation evangelism is difficult but rewarding, and God truly is at work with a new generation who are willing to face the difficulties and reap the rewards. I hope that many will see it and be truly inspired to stand with us and share their faith boldly.
As we celebrate Yeshua’s victory over the grave, let us renew our dedication to be children of light in this dark world, to live and walk in the power of the resurrection; to hear for ourselves and proclaim to others that good word of Scripture: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:14).