So how did things go in school today?”
“Did anything interesting happen?”
Maybe you have had a similar conversation with your child or someone you know. You want to know what is happening and all you hear are vague generalities. The above conversation communicates a lack of interest or enthusiasm, but the other side of the coin is a general enthusiasm that is just as vague. That is the kind of conversation often used to describe spiritual endeavors: “We had a wonderful time. The Lord really blessed. People’s hearts were touched.” There is nothing wrong with any of those statements, but they need further explanation in order to be informative. Have you ever noticed how the Bible provides details? Whether numbers of days or descriptions of candlesticks, we see the importance of being specific.
I always want specifics when it comes to evaluating how ministry resources are used. That was certainly part of my training. Moishe Rosen always insisted on knowing the facts about any event or ministry endeavor in Jews for Jesus. If he called me in New York to ask how our Friday evening service went, I wouldn’t say, “Oh, it was wonderful. I enjoyed it. A good time was had by all.” I would start by saying something like, “There were 35 non-staff in attendance, 20 Jewish believers, 12 Gentile believers and three unsaved Jewish people.” I would give a few more specifics and perhaps comment about what was good and what might have been better. I responded to any questions he had and he helped me to evaluate it further.
This approach is fairly characteristic of the overall ministry of Jews for Jesus. We try to be specific in our reporting. Each missionary fills out a weekly work log detailing how he or she spent their time. This includes how many unbelieving Jewish people they met with to study the Bible, how many new Jewish believers they met with for discipleship, how many evangelistic phone calls they attempted, how many phone calls they completed, how many broadsides (gospel tracts) they distributed, etc.
The same is true for our witnessing campaigns. We report how many tracts we distribute, how many people pray to receive Christ and how many give their names and addresses to receive more information. When we report how many Christians want more information about our ministry, we keep that number separate from unbelievers who are willing to hear more about Jesus.
You will notice that this issue of our Newsletter includes a special report on the cumulative results of Behold Your God, now that we are about half-way through this special effort. But what do all those numbers really mean?
I was sitting in church recently when a man leaned over and said, “I read on your web site the statistics on your Behold Your God campaigns. It must be really discouraging for you to keep going with such a small response.” I explained to him that I wasn’t discouraged because I have realistic expectations. When I evaluate our progress in light of those expectations, I find reason enough to be encouraged.
Jewish evangelism has rarely been like a Billy Graham crusade. It is more like a hand-picked harvest, one by one. We cannot claim massive numbers of people coming to faith in Christ, but I am not discouraged. After all, Jesus Himself told us, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
Ministries feel pressure to put their best foot forward when it comes to reporting ministry results. We want people, especially our supporters, to feel good about what we do, so we are tempted to trumpet our successes and downplay our failures. That is why some reports are vague and unspecific regarding results of ministry efforts. There is a fear that if people knew those numbers they might feel less inclined to support those efforts. But even for those of us who do report specific statistics, while it may be true that “numbers never lie,” they can be misleading.
Someone once said there are lies, damnable lies and statistics. I believe in the value of reporting for the purposes of evaluation, but numbers never tell the whole story. For example, not all those who pray with us to receive the Lord on the streets are necessarily genuine believers. We know that, but I want you to know that, too. We do our best to follow up on each one. We work with local congregations to try and involve these people in fellowship, but oftentimes we are not successful. On the other hand, there are those who respond negatively, but contact us years later to let us know how their encounter with us was a step along their way to faith.
Certainly God is the only One Who can truly judge the heart but when it comes to “fruit that remains,” sometimes there is less to show than we would like. This is true of most evangelistic ministries. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “make full proof of your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5) Often translated, “fulfill your ministry,” Paul is saying Timothy must both cause the ministry to be shown to the full and he must carry through his work to the end. Both transparency and completion are implied. We need to be clear about what we are accomplishing, as well as diligent.
As the executive director of Jews for Jesus, I must always be concerned and never knowingly encourage exaggeration. I must not accept overly optimistic reports. It is a fact of human nature that integrity can erode unless we are scrupulous. Numbers are important, but they don’t always show the extent of the effort we are putting into projects. In evaluating, we need to understand the extent of the effort as well as the extent of the response because God gives the increase. The harvest is from Him, but we can make sure that enough seed is being sown and in the right places.
We want to fulfill our ministry in Behold Your God and in every endeavor we undertake in Jews for Jesus. We are learning a lot as we go and we will keep trying to do a better job. We postponed our Paris BYG campaign because we needed more preparation to make our best effort. There are some cities where I hope to return for another campaign because we could have done more. One of the tasks of executive director is to set standards and ensure they are upheld. When it comes to fulfilling our ministry, we don’t just want to look right; we want to be right, get the job done right. That is what it means to fulfill your ministry. No doubt some of the best ministry from God’s perspective is not the kind that gets a lot of attention. It is the kind of ministry characterized more by faithfulness than by flash.
Some of the best Behold Your God campaigns we have had over the past two and a half years are not necessarily the ones with the biggest numbers. It’s not easy to know how to convey that to you, though. I would ask that you pray for me and for all of us in Jews for Jesus, that we do fulfill our ministry, that we are diligent, faithful to our calling, giving full effort to each endeavor, regardless of the number of responses. Our example in this is Messiah Jesus. When He cried out, “It is finished,” (John 19:30) the numbers didn’t appear to bear that out. Of His 12 closest disciples one had betrayed Him, most of the rest had abandoned Him out of fear. Only a handful stood by to see Him breathe His last. Yet He was able to pray to the Father, “Those whom You gave Me I have kept.” (John 17:12) Today, we all know that Jesus fulfilled His ministry. You and I are testimonies to that fact. May God give us the grace and the fortitude to follow the example of our Savior and make full proof of our ministry.