You can’t eat soup with a fork, and you can’t walk by using your ears instead of your legs. And don’t enter a kangaroo in a horse race or try to hitch a gorilla to a plow—not unless you are seeking a comic result. Absurdity is the very essence of comedy. It’s the portrayal of incongruity or dissonance in a joke that makes people laugh.
Serious matters, on the other hand, involve logic and common sense. Based on reason, they demand appropriate action. The preaching of the gospel is one such very serious matter. Although the message of the gospel is the same for all, it must be communicated properly—in terms and ways that can be received and understood. That is, evangelism must be carried on in different ways to reach various people.
What is appropriate for some would be totally inappropriate for others. For example, you don’t talk to nine-year-olds in the same manner that you talk to college professors. Nor should you address a roomful of derelicts at a rescue mission as you would a suburban meeting of the PTA.
The unbelieving world consists of two kinds of people: those who have been Christianized and those who have not. By Christianized,” we mean those who have been impressed by their own culture to consider Christ favorably. They already respect the Scriptures as the Word of God, and they are not committed to another religion or to an anti-religious orientation. The methods for evangelizing such people are instruction and exhortation. A child “trained up in the way of the Lord” by a Christian example in the home is then evangelized and discipled through the Sunday school, confirmation classes, or the daily influence of Christian teachers in a Christian school. Of course the decision to follow God must be the child’s, as through the preaching of the Word the youngster is exhorted to take a stand for Christ. Most of those—adults or children—who “make decisions for Christ” at evangelistic rallies or crusades fall into this category of having been Christianized.
if however, a person comes from a non-Christian or anti-Christian orientation, the task of evangelism is more complex and requires a different approach. Past indoctrination must be overcome, confidence must be built in the Scriptures as the Word of God, and the Savior must be presented in a way that is pertinent and understandable. Some leading churchfolk hold to a fallacy that the work of evangelism is best done by the local church and its educational ministries. Because this is observably true when it comes to Christianized people, and because there are enough exceptions where non-Christianized people do come to Christ through a local church, the false notion is perpetuated. For those reasons, many Christian leaders fail to understand the necessity for, and the workings of, evangelistic agencies or missions.
A true mission does not merely do the work of church planting or church building; it performs a ministry that cannot usually be done by any local church body. That is, a true mission states the case for belief in Jesus to those who would not ordinarily consider him.
Difficult as it generally is, true missionary work is often made more difficult by the church’s misimpressions of what an evangelistic work ought to be. Many Christians often think that a missionary is merely a pastor looking for a congregation. Consequently, most seminaries and divinity schools are “trade schools” for pastors. Even though there is a considerable amount of overlap, the skills of a missionary/evangelist must be different from the skills of a pastor, and they require specialized training.
A pastor must have the social skills and the ability to shepherd a whole flock. He must be able to keep the flock moving together. By the “rod” of teaching, he must defend them from wolves or false prophets. By the “staff” of preaching, he must propel them into green fields of nurture.
On the other hand, the work of the true missionary/evangelist is different. His chief task is to search for lost sheep one at a time. Upon finding that one sheep, the evangelist brings it to the shepherd (pastor) who then helps the sheep become part of the flock of God. The special characteristics of a missionary/evangelist are quickness to act, availability at all times, and willingness to risk the brambles, thorns, rocks and hills in order to go after the lost sheep in its own environment. In the wilderness of the non-Christianized world, this is a difficult task. Even a lost sheep that may be searching for the correct path is often led astray. Perhaps that sheep has nearsightedly joined a herd of goats; or perhaps the sheep is following after a wolf pack in the mistaken notion that it is his flock. This is particularly true in Jewish evangelism. The Jewish seeker after the Messiah frequently becomes prey to pseudo-Christian religions or sectarian Christian groups that throw a bushel over the light of the gospel.
Jewish people are culturally gospel-resistant. They think that they know all about Jesus, and they accept the consensus of other Jews that they should not believe in him. In order to reach Jewish people, it is necessary to use techniques, methods and materials that are more sophisticated and more intense than those ordinarily used in church evangelism. Not only that, we must correct a misimpression that Jesus is not for the Jews. In order to correct this misimpression, we must make a strong counterimpression.
Jews for Jesus does this through witnessing campaigns. This year we will have two major campaigns in North America. The first is a person-to-person campaign involving literature. Each campaigner will have face-to-face, on-the-street encounters as he or she hand delivers our printed gospel message to all who pass by. Campaigners will record the names and addresses of those who show interest for later follow-up. We hope to have 60 of our missionary/evangelists and volunteers out on the streets of New York, Boston, Chicago and Toronto. If we have enough resources and personnel, we will include Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis. For this kind of witnessing campaign we need areas of high-density pedestrian traffic. For this reason we do not campaign in cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta or Miami, where people drive or ride everywhere rather than walk.
The second kind of campaign is very different from the first. It is what we call our Yeshua Campaign, and is nationwide. In this kind of outreach, we use printed media such as large metropolitan newspapers or magazines to put across a brief gospel message. The message invites response. We offer a free book to all unbelievers who want to examine the case for Christianity. This past year we had more than 8,000 inquirers.
We use these two kinds of campaign evangelism because we cannot maintain the intensity level of such communication year-round. From our campaigns and literature distribution we obtain most of our contacts, whom we follow up through more conventional means of evangelism and discipleship during the remainder of the year.
We particularly invite your prayers and support for our Summer Witnessing Campaign 1985. It begins the second week of June with training in Chicago and continues through the end of July. Perhaps you don’t have it in you to stand on a street corner and hand out tracts, or to compose a full-page gospel advertisement; nor can you afford to place such an ad in a major publication. But with your help and prayers, we can do all of those things. Together with us, you can be part of our ongoing campaigns to make Christ known.