We Jews for Jesus are beginning a new chapter. God laid it on our hearts to explore new avenues of outreach, and I look forward to telling you about some of the many new ways to reach Jews in the months to come. Our ministry is on the move! We have room to grow and new enthusiasm to go. We hope God will raise up many more friends to grow and go with us.
As the new Executive Director, I’ll keep you informed of our plans, but even more I need to articulate those principles that will remain at the heart of who we are and what God has called us to do. I want you to know at the very outset that while we will use innovative projects and programs to break new ground, our focus will remain the same: reaching people with the Good News of Yeshua (Jesus). If you are a long-standing friend of Jews for Jesus, perhaps you already know and appreciate our principles of ministry. But if you are just getting to know us, you’ll find that Jews for Jesus is committed to direct evangelism; personal encounters and visits with individuals are central to our mission. We must always care more for people than programs.
As a boy, I had a poster on my bedroom wall that illustrated a grown-up dilemma: the familiar comic strip character Charlie Brown stood with his arms spread open wide as if to embrace the world. The caption read, I love humanity. It’s just people I can’t stand.” Schultz’s cartoons delight children but make many adults smile ruefully. A good cartoonist can point out problems in a light hearted way and cause us to recognize certain attitudes within ourselves that we need to fight.
There is a tendency in some ministries and churches that should concern all Bible-believing Christians. That tendency has us wanting to reach many people in general but no one in particular. Strategies based upon population statistics, growth projections, demographic profiles and other “tools of the trade” often leave out the key factor. As long as we speak out to people in general and no one in particular, we can avoid the discomfort of possible reaction. We can avoid being vulnerable.
To reach out to an individual is to risk that person’s response. The risk is that they might reject our message. But if we don’t risk rejection, we don’t open the door for acceptance, either. Our goal in Jews for Jesus has always been personal, one-to-one encounters. This is a biblical model. The Great Commission mandate to make disciples implies personal encounter and discipleship of individuals. It requires one-to-one ministry. When it’s not one to one, it ceases to be discipleship. We might give some very good teaching to a group of people, but discipleship is more than teaching lessons in a classroom or from a pulpit. The ministry of discipleship is a “come and see” model whereby we share our own spiritual lives and discoveries with others.
Surely you’ve noticed how so much of Yeshua’s ministry was person to person. Think about his most startling encounters and how intimate and personal they were. Remember how deeply he loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus as He wept outside the tomb? Remember how He touched a leper in order to heal him and how He made mud from his own saliva to heal the man born blind? Think of His encounter with the woman at the well. He related His message to her personally and intimately, speaking to the deepest problems of her life.
With all our thorough effort to amplify the message of the gospel with evangelistic campaigns and programs, we see an intimacy to our Lord’s ministry that we must never lose. The only way to relate on that level of mentorship is to spend time with people individually. Who can place a specific value on the life of even one person? The Talmud says, “He who saves one soul it is as though he had saved an entire world” (from the Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:5).* God cares about individuals, and so must we.
This is what has most impressed me about our staff meetings during my tenure in the New York branch. The hearts of our missionaries are tuned toward the people that God has entrusted into their care, and as we prayed together, the deep longing for God’s touch in the lives of those people was sometimes overpowering. We can tell you about the results of our various Summer Witnessing Campaigns in our thank you postcards and receipt letters. We certainly can rejoice when we hear of the substantive number of people who profess faith or want to know more about Jesus. But we must always remember that statistics in themselves are nothing. They represent the lives of real people who have been changed for all eternity. Each person has a face, a name, a family and an eternal destiny.
When Jesus looked upon the multitudes and had compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd, he saw within the flock to the individual and to the needs of each. He told the parable about the good shepherd who left ninety-nine sheep to go in search of one. Yes, we want you to pray for Jews for Jesus as we expand our outreach, as we harness new technologies to amplify the message of Messiah. But more than that, pray that we will remain faithful to the model the Lord set for us. Pray that we will always be a ministry that cares for people, that has a heart for individuals. Pray that we never become so enamored with numbers that we forget to love the individual. Pray that we never get so excited about all of our new ideas that we lose the freshness and vitality of telling that old, old story.
As long as God gives us strength, you can count on Jews for Jesus to be the kind of ministry where the staff spends the majority of time meeting with people to share the gospel. We may not build cathedrals. We may not preach to huge audiences. We may not hold giant rallies or sponsor mega conferences, but with God’s help we will continue to meet with people and share the love of Christ. That is where we Jews for Jesus are headed now and in the future.
May God tune all of our hearts to care as He cares for people, one by one.
*The Mishna contains rabbinic commentary on the Old Testament as well as discussions about the Law. While we dispute those portions of the Mishna that contradict faith in Christ, we recognize that portions such as this are in keeping with biblical principles.