As this Newsletter reaches you, Jews for Jesus is gearing up for our 1989 Summer Witnessing Campaign. This kind of street evangelism will probably not become popular in the church because it is so difficult. Some even ask, Why a street witnessing campaign? Isn’t the ‘regular kind’ of evangelism enough?”
No, it is not! We vitally need these intensive kinds of Summer Witnessing Campaigns to accomplish what we cannot really achieve through the more common means of evangelism used in large cities.
Of course we do engage in the more standard ministries like one-to-one instruction, group Bible studies and home and hospital visitation, but in order for these to be most effective, we need confirmed contacts. That is, we need to know that we are ministering to people who have already evinced an interest.
None of us in the field of Jewish evangelism are overwhelmed by a large number of inquirers. Most missionaries to the Jews spend the greatest portion of their time seeking out those who are willing to hear the good news. We must find the true seekers from among those who are not really interested. That is what Summer Campaign accomplishes for us. It helps us find those who are being led and moved by the Holy Spirit to consider the truth of our proclamation. Most unbelievers think they have the matter of Jesus entirely settled in their minds. They think they have heard everything about him that they ought to consider. They think they already know who he is, and they find little reason to give him their allegiance. During campaign month, our highly visible presence raises individuals’ awareness of our message and promotes questions in their minds and hearts as to whether or not they really understand who Jesus is. Campaign introduces us to those who want to know and provides us with the contacts we need to carry on our ministry long after the summer is over.
Campaigns do work, but they are difficult. Unfortunately, the church tends to avoid what is difficult and has always felt more comfortable with “tried and true” methods that are predictable in their presentation and response. A better description, however, might be “trite and true.”
Proclamation that is so predictable is likely to be ignored as old news. Nor will it be heeded as good news because if it is old, it is no longer news. Nevertheless, those in charge of various evangelistic ministries tend to stay with old methods of proclamation simply because they feel more comfortable with old familiar ways.
In the beginning, before Jews for Jesus became an organization, there were only a few of us who dared to stray from the tried and true. We realized that a major change in Jewish evangelism was long overdue. We wanted to try something different—something vital and challenging to shake people out of their lethargic attitudes toward God and his Messiah Jesus. We wanted to stir the awareness of God’s ancient Chosen People in a new way and to unsettle some settled opinions.
We did not need a sponsor to accomplish that. It really did not take much money for the few of us to raise the consciousness of a sizeable segment of the population. Using an old mimeograph machine and the cheapest grade of paper, we could run off enough tracts for our little group to distribute. It was not too difficult to silk-screen a bunch of posters or to embroider slogans on our denim jackets. While these new methods were simple and inexpensive, they did require substantial courage.
The hard part was putting ourselves in front of people where we could distribute enough of our homemade tracts to make a difference. That was difficult, not merely because it required long hours on our feet in places that were not particularly pleasant, but because it entailed making ourselves vulnerable and subjecting ourselves to the constant ridicule, rejection and religious prejudice of those we were trying to reach.
Now, years later, there are many more of us, and it costs much more to supply our people with enough tracts to distribute. While the financial cost is substantially more, the personal cost in terms of the currency of courage is the same—high as it always has been, but well worth the sacrifice.
Campaigns are rigorous, but we find scriptural precedent for the hardships they require. When Yeshua sent his disciples out on their first witnessing campaign, he made them quite vulnerable. Matthew 10 records that he gave them authority, but they were not to encumber themselves with money, extra clothing or footwear. They were not to make themselves too comfortable, and they were not to carry a staff. The staff was more than a help for walking up steep hills. It was the working man’s weapon.
Jesus told those first “campaigners” that he was sending them out as sheep among wolves. Imagine a shepherd facing wolves without a staff! But the disciples were the sheep, not the shepherd. The Lord Jesus was their Shepherd. His rod and staff were to be their comfort and safety. Just as God made his archetype Servant Jesus vulnerable, and just as Jesus made his first disciples vulnerable, we in Jews for Jesus have had to make ourselves vulnerable in our witnessing campaigns.
Vulnerability is only one aspect of Summer Campaign. Another aspect that makes it more than just an ordinary evangelistic effort is scheduling. Dedicated lay-Christians should testify or witness whenever and wherever they encounter unbelievers, but full-time missionaries or evangelists must schedule their lives around their witnessing opportunities. This is especially true during Summer Campaign.
The Summer Witnessing Campaign differs in intensity from ordinary evangelism. Like a political campaign, it is an all-out, short-term effort. Campaigners eat, sleep and breathe evangelism. Evangelists on Summer Witnessing Campaign do not schedule ordinary personal errands during that time. Medical and dental services are available on an emergency basis, but the campaigners do not plan things like checkups, hairdresser appointments or personal shopping during the month-long Witnessing Campaign.
Our Summer Witnessing Campaigns, which we have conducted since 1974, are generally recognized as one of the best ways of raising Jesus consciousness among the Jewish people. One other Jewish mission has tried to do this, but instead of spending all their time in street witnessing, they send their people to help in churches in order to gain support for their missionary endeavors. In the past, this has led to some confusion, but you can always know which is our campaign. We recruit Jewish Christians as our front-line campaigners. We also require our campaigners to undergo special training at Moody Bible Institute for two weeks. In all our U. S. campaigns we schedule the campaigners to be out on the streets 12 hours a day for a full month. You will see our campaigners in church on Sundays, but they will be there to worship, not to recruit support for our ministry. We help the church most by being out on the streets representing the cause of Christ and facing hostile or indifferent crowds with the gospel message.
This difficult street type of evangelism works because it shows the public how serious we are about our faith. Even though our tracts contain much humor, our constant accessibility and very evident vulnerability show everyone that our message is very important to us.
Our Jews for Jesus T-shirts provoke a “double-take-look-again” response that leads to a greater consciousness than the “trite and true” message many think they already know. When people see those who are obviously Jewish taking a sincere stand for Jesus, they must stop and re-examine their sectarian presuppositions.
In New York City, where we carry out the largest Summer Witnessing Campaign, people have learned to expect surprise from our ministry. And perhaps the biggest surprise is that people who thought they never would consider Jesus are hearing, listening and making decisions to follow him.
As we prepare to go into Campaign ’89, we ask you, our ministry friends, to be in prayer for us. Perhaps you, too, will be surprised by what God can and will do.
We are still accepting donations to purchase tracts for Summer Campaign. We might be able to hand out as many as 2,000,000 if we had them. A campaigner hands out between 1,800 and 3,000 tracts a day. Fifty-one dollars would furnish the larger amount for one campaigner for the entire month.
Also if anyone feels led, the total cost of sponsoring one campaigner is about $3,000 in the U.S.A. and $2,600 in Canada (which has a shorter campaign time).