As followers of Y’shua (Jesus), we acknowledge our dependence on God. Yet it’s all too human to prize independence. This need for independence affects countries and institutions as well as individuals. For example, in the United States we call our national holiday Independence Day rather than Founder’s Day or Constitution Day. We often find autonomy equated with selfrespect, even in some Christian organizations, as though such independence or nonconnection embodied unique merit or special worth.
We in Jews for Jesus do not feel that way. Yet recently in reviewing some of our Jews for Jesus writings, I felt concern that at times it might seem to the reader that though we depend strongly on God, we are completely independent or standing apart from the Church. Or worse yet, it might appear that we were a kind of church or religion in ourselves. Neither of these things is true! In ministries like ours, such illusions would be distressing to us as well as to the rest of the Body.
Jews for Jesus is far from independent. We are interdependent with churches of many varieties. Though they differ from one another, they have one thing in common: They all hold a high view of Christ and preach the gospel. We need the Church in order to do what God has called us to do as a missionary organization.
Some call organizations like ours “para-church ministries.” That is not my favorite term because it sounds like we work alongside, yet outside of the Church. The biblical word for our ministry is apostolate spelled with a small “a.” We are sent out by God through the Church. Therefore we are as much a part of the Church as its worshiping congregations, Sunday schools or seminaries.
Many theories exist regarding the nature and character of the Church. Yet perhaps the best way to define the Church is to contemplate its purpose or task embodied in the Great Commission. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
Great Commission ministry is divided into three categories:
- Proclamation of the gospel by an apostolate (missionary organization) or by individual believers.
- Discipleship, the continuing ministry of training and encouraging. This is done by churches, Bible conferences and Bible colleges and seminaries.
- Baptism, the distinct ministry of a local church body that can receive the faithful into fellowship and communion, encourage them and regularize their spiritual lives.
Occasionally there might be some overlap of these three functions, just as a person might occasionally reach for something with an extended foot instead of a hand or grip an object other than food with his or her teeth. Yet the three parts of the Great Commission are best carried out by the various components of the Church that are best suited to perform them.
A congregation that meets regularly in one place is the Church-in-stasis. Ministries like Jews for Jesus are the Church-in-motion. You can count on the Church-in-stasis to be at the same place, at the same time, open for services, baptizing and teaching people what they need to know about the Lord. You can look for Jews for Jesus to be on the move in places where the voice of the Church is not usually heard. Of course, our Savior and Messiah Y’shua is the same for everyone everywhere, and our message is the same as that of the local churches — except that we speak as Jews in a context where Jewish cultural communication is appropriate.
Whether we believers are local or on the move, we are all one Body. Yet there are many divergent parts of the Body. They are necessarily different because they have distinct functions. (Read Romans 12:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; Ephesians 4:11-16.)
Hands growing out of a person’s head might be nice for waving a greeting, but imagine trying to use them to eat or to tie your shoes! As with a physical body, if the wrong parts were in the wrong place in the Church Body, it would be at best inefficient and at worst grotesque.
As director of Jews for Jesus, I constantly receive letters from some who want me to emphasize or contend for some theological premise. I offer them all the same response: While Jews for Jesus does hold to certain fundamental scriptural truths that we teach to those who are ready to be discipled, God did not call us to be a theological seminary. Nor do we baptize or serve communion, because God has appointed others for that task.
We are front-line evangelists, not pastors. Most of those to whom we address ourselves will not stand still long enough for us to teach them the exactitudes of biblical theology. If anyone should expound a complete theologicalrepertory, it should be the other members of the Church—the seminaries and the Bible preaching churches. A mission such as ours teaches enough doctrine for a person to come to faith in Christ and become grounded in Scripture. It’s up to others to finish out the teachings of Scripture.
Jews for Jesus Is Dependent on the Church
We look to the Church for support. We cannot look to the unregenerate world to whom we speak to uphold our message or ministry. We value God’s people as co-laborers for the gospel who are with us in spirit as we go forth to win lost souls to Christ.
Jews for Jesus strives to avoid unseemly solicitations, and when I say “support,” I am not referring merely to finances. I am talking about prayer and encouragement. I am talking about our need to have our brothers and sisters in Christ remind us of whom we serve and the victory we will gain as we remain faithful to our task.
Sometimes our greatest gift of support is a cheerful word or note from a friend who saw us handing out tracts in a public place. Another gift that fills us with courage is when people tell us how Jews for Jesus helped someone they knew to find the Lord or walk closer to Him.
We look to the Church to send us laborers for the harvest. Intercristo, a fine nationwide Christian organization, has helped us recruit a number of dedicated believers for our administrative staff. Yet for the most part, it’s when we speak at churches that God gives some in the congregations a burden to serve with us.
We look to the Church to send us contacts. This is hard for a ministry leader to admit, but our Jewish contacts who are most likely to come to faith are those whose names we receive through Christian friends. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish people see our full-page gospel ads. Hundreds of thousands receive our broadsides on the streets and give us their names and addresses. Many of these come to faith, but there is an even better response from those who come to us through their caring Christian neighbors, friends and co-workers. Much of our harvest comes from church members like you who entrust us with their Jewish friends to whom they have already witnessed.
Jewish people you know trust and ask you questions about the faith. You witness to them. They walk down the road toward the Lord only so far and seem to want to make a detour. Then you call on us. We meet those Jewish people at the crossroads of their lives and are able to encourage them in their odysseys of faith. Last year more than a thousand of such Jewish contacts came to faith, and many of them are walking with the Lord now because people in the churches helped us get in touch with them.
We Want the Church to Know It Can Depend on Us
When I say that Jews for Jesus is interdependent with the Church, I mean that we want to give to the Church as well as receive from it. We want to be able to give ourselves to our brothers and sisters in Christ as examples of evangelistic courage and commitment. We want to come and share our rich heritage with the Church. We want to help you appreciate the Bible and our Savior by showing you the Jewish background of many Church ordinances and doctrines such as baptism, atonement and Messiah.
We want the Church to know it can count on us to provide accurate Jewish insights into Scripture. Some ministries we offer are particularly helpful and edifying. For example, our Christ in the Passover presentation has made communion so much more meaningful for many Christians as they see in it the continuity between the Old and New Testaments.
We want the Church to know it can depend on us to be on the front lines of evangelism. We are out there proclaiming the gospel to Jews and Gentiles and building a biblical defense against unbelief.
We want the Church to know that it can depend on us to add to its ranks. We are representatives of the whole Body of Christ. As we win people to the Lord, disciple them, prepare them for baptism and bring them into the fullness of the gospel, we bring them into congregations of like faith and like practice.
So, we in Jews for Jesus say to you who are part of the Body of Christ: We need one another. By God’s grace, and depending on Him, we can and will continue to do what He has commissioned us to do—but we cannot do it as effectively without you! We praise God that so many of you have given us a place in your hearts.