What if I told you that a battle is being waged over one of the most promising mission fields in the world? What if I told you that many people in this part of the world are open to Jesus—but a concerted effort is underway to confuse and dilute the gospel preaching there? Well, there is a battle going on over a very promising mission field—and Jews for Jesus is in the thick of it. I don’t mean Russia, or even Israel. I’m talking about Cyberspace…the Internet.
If you’ve been receiving our newsletter for awhile, maybe you have noticed more and more reports of how God is using the Internet to accomplish His purpose in bringing souls to Christ. Just last month we told you how a Christian friend who found us on the Internet referred us to a Jewish woman who was open to the gospel. Thanks to the Internet, within 24 hours, we were able to speak to Susie on the phone and begin ministering to her. Back in April, we told you about David, whose mother is Christian and whose father is Jewish. David decided to check out our web site and he requested more information. This led to regular in-person meetings with our missionaries, and within three months, David said yes to Jesus. Back in January we told you about Ellen and Jarrod, and how they actually repented and asked Jesus into their lives right on the Internet. And the month before that we told you about Carol, who called Jews for Jesus after seeing our website and prayed with one of our missionaries over the telephone. We praise God for the way He is opening doors to this fast track of evangelism.
Since we began keeping a record in 1996, the number of unique hosts” (computers) visiting our web site has grown from approximately 5100 to 12,000 each month. That’s not just 12,000 people each month, because some of those “unique hosts” (like America Online) are gateways for many individuals. So that’s over 12,000 people each month who are looking in to see what we have to say about Jesus!
The beauty of the Internet is the way that it reaches across barriers. Miles cannot separate those who are seeking from those who are preaching. People who feel shy or scared to discuss spiritual issues have a sense of security when they can explore information for themselves before engaging in conversation. Anyone, anywhere, can find the evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. Anyone, anywhere, can learn about the message of the Messiah in the privacy of his or her own home. The Internet is an ideal tool for Jews for Jesus as we seek to make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide. So in comes the snake. Just when you think that you’re in the “Garden of Eden” as far as the perfect setting for an evangelistic opportunity, old Lucifer creeps up in his sneaky, snaky way to try to corrupt what is good.
We had great plans for expanding our Internet outreach into a “cyber branch” and were exploring ways and means of doing it when we began getting complaints. People looking for Jews for Jesus on the Internet were being diverted and confronted with the statement that Jews for Jesus was a cult. Obviously we weren’t sending that message. What happened? Well, we had gotten a bit overly confident and careless. You see, in the beginning, according to the older protocol, most people linked the name of their web sites together with hyphens. Jews for Jesus is not only the name of our organization, it is also a federally registered trademark that we registered long ago. It never occurred to us that someone with less than honorable reasons might find a way to use our name in a way designed to turn people away from Jesus. But that’s exactly what happened.
Some Jews who were against Jesus created a bogus Jews for Jesus site simply by dropping the hyphens. They used our name to attract people who were looking for us and turn them away. Now let me say that whereas most Jews don’t believe in Jesus (yet) and most Jews don’t approve of our evangelism (yet), the larger Jewish community is fair-minded and honorable and would not approve of this “bait and switch” tactic.
We tried talking to the man who put up the bogus site. We tried talking to the service agency that had provided the bogus site but were told the site would continue. A battle was brewing and it was a battle that we didn’t want. But the only alternative to the battle was to resign from using the Internet as an effective tool for evangelism. So we stood by our trademark and asked the court to uphold the Jews for Jesus name, which they did.
Well, after two years of being the executive director, I’ve found that there are some things about my work that I like (hearing about and having a part in people coming to faith in Christ). Other things I dislike (having to tell people when their service for the Lord is less than what it needs to be), and there are still other things that utterly perplex me. I’m trying to figure out and grapple with one of those things right now. I’ll just come out and say it. We have a big problem, and by we I mean the whole Christian church. We are in danger of losing one of the best means of communicating the gospel this millennium has seen. I’m talking about our Internet outreach.
Here is why I’m perplexed. When the judge ruled the fraudulent Jews for Jesus site illegal, that should have been the end of the story. Our Internet outreach should have lived happily ever after. But that was not to be. Even now, the decision is being appealed.
You see, our opposition is a large, well oiled, highly financed, very antagonistic group of attorneys who are determined to defeat us—and they can afford to be in court every day if it’s possible. Here we are, a comparatively small organization, trying to use our resources prudently. We’re shouting the gospel over the din of the big cities, whispering it to those who’ll come close enough to hear, and still one of our best means of evangelism is under threat at the time of this writing. It would be so easy to quit. Who wants a protracted legal battle? Who wants to keep responding to the petty harassing legal issues which threaten to distract us from doing what we want to do most—getting out the gospel? It would be so easy to say, “We still have our gospel broadsides, our full page ads, our missionaries to visit in person with those who show an interest. So what if our Internet outreach suffers?”
All of these legal machinations are intended to put a chill on our efforts to continue developing our evangelistic outreach on the Internet. Nevertheless, we’re moving ahead as God enables.
I know that this is not a time to back down but to press forward. So I’m asking you to pray with me, to care with me, to encourage me not to give in, not to sign off, but to build our Internet witness to be bigger and better than ever. We need to be ready to take this all the way to the Supreme Court. Years ago, we made case law on handing out tracts in public places—and all of us are ever thankful to Jay Sekulow for that big win in the Supreme Court case of 1987. It’s not often that the US Supreme Court is unanimous! But here’s my problem. I cannot, I will not allow myself to divert money from our evangelistic outreaches and missionary work to cover legal fees.
I need some of you who know the importance of protecting our legal rights to make a contribution to our legal defense fund. We have to be prepared for this battle. Once our opposition sees that we are determined and that our supporters are determined to take it all the way, there’s a good chance that our opposition will realize that we’re not going to quit and that they might as well. If it turns out that we don’t need the funds for a protracted battle, I’ll say, “Hallelujah!” and then you know what we’ll do? We’ll use whatever you’ve given for our legal defense fund toward the full development of a real cyber branch with numerous Web sites to get out the word in this dynamic way.
The Internet is only one of the mission fields where we are determined to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide—but cyberspace is a vast ocean to fish. Please pray with us, and if possible give to help us keep “casting our net” into the Internet.