It was 1974, and the young man was Peter Rice. A new believer in Jesus, Peter knew that God wanted him to tell others about Christ. He didn’t know many other Jews who believed the way he did. Nor did he have anyone to stand with him as he stood for the Lord in a new way that day. Peter needed a team.
Today, Peter regularly leads teams of volunteers onto the streets to hand out tracts. He is a senior missionary with Jews for Jesus and is our chief of station in Washington, D.C. Once Peter discovered that others like him were willing to stand in the midst of the crowd and declare, We are Jews for Jesus,” he stepped away from the wall and into a bolder approach to ministry. Peter is typical of many of the Jews for Jesus. His life illustrates the importance of a core principle of our ministry. We are committed to teamwork.
All too often, ministries depend on one person who has enormous talent or a charismatic personality—or both. They succeed or fail according to the abilities or personality of that individual. Yet the New Testament pattern for ministry involves working together.
If you’ve come to know and appreciate Jews for Jesus, it is not because of a unique personality or personalities, but because you’ve found in us a team committed to working together for the gospel. And while teamwork generally lessens the personal recognition that any one individual might gain—it increases many benefits for all concerned. This is the practical outworking of the teamwork principle.
Teamwork bolsters our courage
Remember Gideon from the Book of Judges? He became a mighty man of God, but where was he when he first encountered the Lord? Threshing wheat in a wine press in order to hide it from the Midianites! Normally, people threshed wheat in an open area where the wind could pick up the chaff to blow it away. A wine press, on the other hand, was a pit dug down into the rock.
First we see Gideon alone, hiding in a pit. Then we find him with a team, standing above the Midianite encampment shouting, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” God used teamwork to effect this transformation. Even shaving down the size of Gideon’s army demonstrated the principle of teamwork. The Lord didn’t want the soldiers to think the battle depended on their strength alone. He made sure they were few enough to realize that they were a team within a team—and He was the captain!
Gideon needed a team, but he also needed to remember that it wasn’t the team’s strength that would win the victory—it was the Lord’s.
We Jews for Jesus don’t have to face armies of Midianites; still, it takes courage to be a missionary to the Jewish people. As with other missions to gospel-resistant people, we can’t expect affirmation or acceptance from those we seek to reach. It is difficult to open ourselves to rejection, but if we don’t give people the opportunity to reject the gospel, we’re not giving them the opportunity to accept it, either. Teamwork provides the emotional support, the affirmation and the encouragement that we need to make ourselves vulnerable.
Teamwork strengthens creativity
We Jews for Jesus have always treasured creativity. Our benchmark is developing new forms of music, drama, literature and other creative communications for the cause of evangelism. But no one person could produce the array of songs, skits, books, pamphlets and other outreach tools that we’ve developed as a team. We have always pooled our abilities.
All teams need a coach, and Moishe Rosen has been our coach for twenty-four years. But I have to tell you, it’s not because he is gifted in all the areas in which we seek to be creative. For example, his singing is best described as making a joyful noise. Yet, if you were to ask Stuart Dauermann—who served on our staff for quite some time and is the father of modern-day Jewish Gospel music—who encouraged him, I think he would be quick to tell you that it was Moishe.
When it comes to writing, we have a saying in Jews for Jesus that the only one who doesn’t get rewritten is God. Sometimes when we produce a broadside (gospel tract), so many people contribute ideas and phrases that the originator may not recognize his or her own work. But that’s okay because in the end what we want is the best possible broadside.
When the creative process involves numerous people, we are less likely to pin our self-esteem on being creative and more likely to seek our identity in our Creator. In a way, depending on one another keeps us depending on Him.
Teamwork keeps us accountable
Accountability is important. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Human nature urges us to do what is right in our own eyes, so we need each other to keep on the “straight and narrow.”
Many mission agencies expect their workers to sign a document or comply with certain written standards. Our document is our Worker’s Covenant. It includes a doctrinal statement, but it also spells out our commitment to one another and to standards of conduct. The covenant keeps us accountable to each other. Whereas the executive director is ultimately responsible for operational decisions, the authority that goes with the position is as strong as the commitment of the staff to uphold the Worker’s Covenant.
Many organizations have a corporate structure with a top-down hierarchical model. Ours is more of a family business. That helps to foster teamwork as well.
While the Jews for Jesus leaders are accountable to me as the executive director, I am accountable to our board of directors—and it was the board that was legally responsible for electing me as the executive director approximately nine months ago. The board members pray for us, and many give sacrificially to the ministry. Our board is an important part of the Jews for Jesus team.
But once again, the accountability that we built into the Jews for Jesus team reminds us of a greater accountability. As with the courage and creativity we draw from one another, being accountable to one another reminds us that God did not create us to roam about, doing what is right in our own eyes. We were created to be accountable to Him.
I love being part of the Jews for Jesus team, but most of all I love the continual reminders that go with being a team player. God has given us one another so that together we might give ourselves, our team, to Him. That is my prayer for Jews for Jesus, and I hope it will be your prayer for us too.
I’m thankful that so many of you are part of the Jews for Jesus team through your prayers, support, encouragement and suggestions. But Jews for Jesus, like Gideon’s band, is a team within a team. So whether you are a long-standing teammate of Jews for Jesus or someone who is just getting to know us, remember that together we are on the bigger team—the body of Christ. Together we serve the Messiah who through His shed blood has knit our hearts together. And the teamwork that comes from that unity strengthens our hands and our weak knees to be the very best that we can be for God. And so, as we read in Hebrews 12:1:
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”