Once again we are preparing for our Summer Witnessing Campaign, and once again the main arena is New York City. Millions live and work in the Big Apple, and we hope to influence many of them for Jesus. This summer about two dozen campaigners and a dozen campaign stewards will hand deliver more than a million of our Jews for Jesus broadsides to people on the streets of New York. With each broadside the recipient will receive a smile and, when time permits, the campaigner will also offer a short prayer that the gospel seed will take root and sprout in that person’s heart.
Our Jews for Jesus broadsides are unique. When people think of Jews for Jesus, they usually think of us handing out these tracts on the streets. Back in 1969 when I wrote the first broadside tract, I did not realize that I was actually inventing a new way to communicate the gospel. I was merely seeking an effective and economical way to get out a quick, personal message to tell people that Jesus is the way to peace. In that era of war protests and much protest literature, I wanted to offer a positive message in contrast to the uproar and uncertainty of the times. I wanted what I wrote to be God’s soft, gentle voice in the midst of the howls, epithets and accusations. It had to be the enduring gospel message couched in language that would reach the jaded, disillusioned youth of that period.
The mission board with which I was then serving was not ready to write new gospel literature. Neither was it prepared to address the war protesters in a way that would elicit a response. I could not pay for typesetting new literature myself, so I designed a home- made tract. I took a piece of 8 1/2 by 11″ mimeograph paper, folded it into three panels, and scrawled what I wanted to say in my best terrible handwriting. Then I drew a block figure on the front and called the tract “A Message from a Square.”
In the argot of that time a “square” was someone who was not “hip,” and that definitely described me. Establishment-oriented, fat and nearly forty, I never could have passed for a student.
Having a daughter in high school helped me to know some of the language of that time. But more important than the hip language I used in my first homemade tract was that I wrote it in the voice of a child. As I sought to communicate in a non-threatening, non-accusatory, possibly humorous way, I imagined myself the little boy in the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Emperor’s New Clothes. That boy was the only one who saw the emperor without splendor, in ordinary, non-regal underwear. No one else dared to admit the reality that little boy saw. Then I thought of myself as the young hero in another story–the Dutch boy who found a leak in the dike and stood for hours with his finger in the hole so that the flood would not come through and destroy his country.
Well, the idea for the message came, and mimeograph paper was cheap and mimeographs were available, so I ran off almost a thousand of those tracts. (It would have been exactly a thousand because I had two reams of paper, but in my inexperience with the machine I messed up some of them.) Then I went out by myself and distributed those tracts in midtown Manhattan. It worked! In thirty minutes they were all gone. Thus began a new tract method, and now broadsides are the badge of our Jews for Jesus ministry.
Since that first hand-scrawled tract I, along with others on the Jews for Jesus staff, have written dozens of broadsides, and together we probably have hand delivered fifty or sixty million over the years. Most of the broadsides are barely read before being discarded, but a few of them are well-read. Thousands went out in those early years, and few people responded–but it was a much more efficient way of obtaining contacts than going door- to-door. Even though most recipients did not read the tracts or take them seriously, enough people did read them and did respond so that we gained many contacts.
We also tried other methods of mass communication. When people would not listen to our preaching on street corners, we (not me, but others) tried singing the message–and some people did stop and listen to our music. Then we tried drama, and more people stopped. That resulted in more contacts. In recent years through the generosity of some of our contributors we have been able to place large ads in newspapers. Still, what most characterizes the Jews for Jesus ministry to New Yorkers are the smiles and the broadsides we offer out on the streets.
When we hand out literature in public places like city streets or airports we do not accept donations. If we did, it might confuse the issue as to why we were there. We go out in public to proclaim the gospel, not to gain support. Besides, we want to be supported only by those who share our faith that Yeshua is God’s only way of salvation. We meet numerous non- believers who want to give us donations because they admire our courage, but we decline. We feel that giving is an act of worship, and when we explain to non-believers why we cannot accept their donations it sometimes becomes the occasion for them to become believers.
We have never found anything better than broadsiding as an evangelistic tool. It puts us in a place of vulnerability, where if someone wants to shout or yell or express their disagreement, we are there to listen and to feel their pain. Interestingly, after irate people have vented their anger they often become “defused” and are able to stop and listen to what we have to say about Jesus.
Perhaps you have a heart for Jewish evangelism but feel that you cannot stand on a street corner and hand out tracts and face the abrasions and abuse that such a stand incurs. You can take part in another way. If you would like a part in our broadside tract ministry, $25.00 will put a thousand broadsides in the hand of one of our campaigners and pay for his or her lunch as well.
Or perhaps you can use some of our other literature which does not require you to stand on street corners. We have booklets (read about how God used one of these written by Tuvya Zaretsky on page 4 of this newsletter), books of story, Jewish gospel music cassettes and compact discs, bumper stickers and more. All of these materials are effective ways to raise the issue of Messiah Jesus with unbelieving Jewish friends.
Enclosed with this newsletter is our current materials list from which you may order the tracts and other evangelistic tools we offer for sale. But most important, this is the time when your prayers can be the watering of God’s Word that is proclaimed in each of our broadsides. Pray for the sowers and for the seed and for those who will receive it during this summer’s Witnessing Campaign. Stand with us and, by God’s grace, together we will yet see a great harvest!