Later this month several Jews for Jesus missionaries will go to Hungary to take part in the eighth International Conference of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE). The LCJE is a network of educators, congregational leaders and missionaries committed to Jewish evangelism. This unique organization brings together a variety of individuals and organizations to foster greater cooperation—which is no easy task. I was asked to give the closing address to this group and as I wrote, I did a little soul searching. I wanted to share some of my reflections with you and ask you to be praying for our time together in Hungary.
Imagine the following scenario:
God suddenly answers all the prayers that have been lifted up in meetings all over the world, and there is a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit among the Jewish people in Israel. All over the Land it is as though events from the book of Acts are recurring.
We are dazed by the numbers of Jews coming to Christ. A revival of great magnitude has overtaken the Land and Israelis are seeking out the missionaries they once spurned. The existing fellowships and congregations are too few. Our resources and personnel are exhausted and still we are unable to meet the needs of those who have a voracious appetite for the Bible.
Within a week all the leaders of all the various Messianic ministries hold a summit to pray and discuss what to do.
Could the LCJE help foster the kind of cooperation this hypothetical situation demands? What obstacles might inhibit teamwork? What opportunities might enable this disparate group of leaders and their organizations to share their experience and resources?
A network is only as effective as the people who use it, and therein lies the big problem. None of us really deeply believe that we need organizations like the LCJE because we all seem to think we can get by without one another’s help. We try to impress one another with the effectiveness of our own organizations or programs when we should be trying harder to be honest about our weaknesses and failings.
Our Jews for Jesus mission statement explains our aspiration—it does not describe our achievements. No one—including Jews for Jesus—has yet to make Jesus an unavoidable issue to the Jewish community worldwide. That is our purpose and that is our mission. But are any of us willing to admit our failures to one another?
We have absorbed a worldly fear and dislike of criticism, yet none of us are above scrutiny. We should examine every critique hoping that it may actually help us find ways to be more effective, more faithful to our calling and less committed to seeing ourselves as experts and heroes. That is exactly why we need each other and why what we have to offer one another is so crucial.
Most of what we have to give one another is intangible. For example, if you’ve been open with a colleague about what you’re getting done and not getting done, when that colleague knows how you struggle and how small your level of achievement is, but still finds it worthwhile to encourage you and stand with you—that’s worth a fortune.
Some of you know that our founder and first executive director, Moishe Rosen, had nothing to do with picking his successor. He and the board of directors wanted God to show His mind on the matter. They set up a process that required the entire senior staff to gather for prayer and discussion. A minority of those senior staff (who had been elected by their peers) had the right to vote in the Council. Several of the candidates for executive director were part of that voting body. And they had to come to a unanimous decision about who was to be the next executive director. The board of directors knew that they were imposing a difficulty, but if the minds and the hearts of the Council could agree on one person, they would accept that one person as being chosen of God.
Perhaps the most difficult thing in my career up to this point has been to realize that I hold this position, not because of the structure, and not even because it’s something that I wanted (though I think it would have been wrong for me not to want the position). But 11 years later I want to say that one of the hardest things for me is to accept this as God’s calling, and to trust Him to work out His purpose through me.
Do any of the rest of you have the same feelings, wondering about the call, wondering about the position? Are you troubled with the same feelings of inadequacy? Yes, we want to have a bright and beautiful staff who are dedicated and discerning, but the only problem is that most of the Jews for Jesus staff are ordinary people like me. We talk about high and noble ideals, but do you think that you know how to act on those ideals? I’m still reaching.
A network like the LCJE is effective when its members value the relationships and the opportunities the network affords—and when we recognize that networks can be most useful when they foster partnerships.
The primary focus of a network is to share information. The focus of a partnership is to take joint action to do something, and to do it better by working together.
Our agencies would be the first to benefit through partnerships, but those we want to reach would also gain from them.
New believers would have a larger circle of fellowship with partnering agencies. When facing rejection for the faith, the wider circle of friends that can come through partnership is a tremendous advantage.
Yet we resist partnerships. Some believers are suspicious because too many calls for unity require unscriptural compromise. But more often than not it is organizational pride, egos, finances and independent agendas or “conflicting interests” that keep us from healthy partnerships. Scripture calls for believers to work together in unity. Consider the words of the apostle Paul, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philipians1:27).
We must work together and partner together, not only as we speak to the Jewish community, but as we speak to the Body of Christ, urging them to put the issue of Jewish evangelism in its proper place. If the evangelical church is not saying that Jews need Jesus to be saved, Jewish people won’t pay any attention when we say that Jesus is God’s only provision for salvation. We need the church to raise the Messiahship of Jesus to truly make it an unavoidable issue. We must partner together and partner with the church to fulfill the task God has entrusted to us. Are we up to the task or must it wait for another generation?
Rabbi Hillel could have been speaking to our situation when he said, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”
The opening imaginary scenario I described in this address is not a pipe dream. I believe God has promised in His Word that it will actually happen. There will come a day when a revival will break out in Israel, and it will be beyond the ability of a divided Messianic movement to respond effectively. I can’t say for certain, but I would like to believe it is a reality some of us will live to witness. Can we admit to one another that we are not at this time prepared or preparing for such a time? Can we agree with one another that we must begin to prepare? And if not now, when?