I was a student in Boston when I handed out my first broadside (gospel tract) in 1976. I was scared. Standing there, clearly labeled as a Jew for Jesus, I was an easy mark for anyone who wanted to ridicule Jews or ridicule Jesus. You’d think that 24 years and countless thousands of broadsides later, handing out tracts would be easy; old hat. Maybe it is for one or two on our staff, but it surely isn’t for me. I still get that little tightening in my stomach before my hand goes out to offer the very first tract of a sortie (tract passing expedition). Afterwards, I’m always glad I went and, very often, I have tremendous joy during the sortie as well. Still, it is always a battle to get past the part of me that does not want to be vulnerable. Many of our staff feel that way. And yet, handing out broadsides is a hallmark of our ministry.
For the next three and a half months, Jews for Jesus will engage in a series of sorties around the globe. Staff and volunteers will hand out gospel tracts four times a day in two hour stints on the streets of New York City, Toronto, London, Paris, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sydney. They will also take every opportunity to speak personally about the gospel with individual passersby. We call this intensive street ministry, Campaign.” We write and print new literature and design new Jews for Jesus T-shirts for Campaigners to wear. We also brainstorm evangelistic slogans for billboards and gospel ads in the secular media.
It would be tempting to dress in less conspicuous clothing so that people don’t realize until after they’ve taken a broadside that it was from Jews for Jesus. It would be tempting to shorten our sorties to an hour and a half or to send people out on the streets once or twice a day and call it a Campaign. But a Campaign is an all-out effort, a concentrated time of making the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue for the people of a particular city. We have conducted these Witnessing Campaigns every year (except one) since 1974. They, too, have become a hallmark of our ministry.
If every sortie is a battle, you can imagine the battle a Campaign must be. The battle doesn’t stop with our own desires to remain comfortable, to avoid rejection or to avoid the tedium of standing on a street corner. It’s a spiritual battle. The enemy has an arsenal of weapons to discourage us from this kind of witness. Sometimes that arsenal even includes fellow Christians.
Some critics say that Campaigns are ineffective. I honestly don’t know what standard they use to measure effectiveness or what they know of those whose lives have been changed through Campaigns. More common is the assessment that this type of outreach is so “in your face,” so confrontational, that it needlessly offends unbelievers.
The book of Proverbs provides a powerful image that seems to apply here: “Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words…” (Proverbs 1:20,21).
Many world religions portray wisdom as “secret knowledge” that people must strive to attain through meditation, contemplation or some mystical experience. Godly wisdom isn’t like that. The Bible pictures godly wisdom shouting to people from public places so they know where to find her. Talk about “in your face”! When we put on our Jews for Jesus T-shirts and stand on street corners or in subway stations handing out gospel tracts we are declaring aloud the wisdom of God, “…foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Every summer, we see the power of God save hundreds of Jews and Gentiles right on those busy streets. Last year, on our New York City Campaign alone, 1,784 non-Christian people stopped to talk with our Campaigners and gave their names and addresses for follow-up; 392 Jews and Gentiles prayed with us right on the streets to receive Christ. No doubt, some who prayed were simply curious or caught up in the moment, but many lives have been truly and radically changed forever.
Some critics think tract-passing is a waste of time and paper because so many are discarded. But Jews for Jesus will continue to hand out lots of literature because we see it as biblical and effective. One of Yeshua’s parables demonstrates a principle that is foundational to our Campaigns: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed that some seed fell by the wayside.…But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (Mark 4:3, 4a, 8). Later, Jesus explains to His disciples that the seed represents the Word of God. There are four types of soil, but only one yields fruit.
We sow our broadsides as seed, for each tract contains the Word of God. We know much of the seed will fall along the wayside—probably 25% of the people who take our broadsides discard them without a glance. Others read them with little interest. But oh, those tracts that fall on good soil! Several of our own staff first heard the gospel through broadsides received from Jews for Jesus many years ago. They know and can bear story to the value of seed sowing. So they have become the sowers as well as soil that bears fruit thirty, sixty, a hundred fold.
This summer, we expect to hand deliver some four to five million seeds. How much fruit will be borne only God knows, but what a privilege it is for us to be sowers of God’s life-giving Word.
I wish I could take you to the streets of New York or Toronto, St. Petersburg or Sydney so you could see how God touches lives through these Campaigns. We’ve got a few stories and photos from last year on pages four and five, and I hope they will bless you and encourage you to pray. But if you want a closer look at the sights and sounds of Campaign, we can send you a 15-minute video that will take you with our Campaigners right out onto the streets and into the subways of New York City. Actual Campaign footage brings you into the field to experience the intensity of the opposition and the joy of the harvest as you hear testimonies of those who have come to Christ on past Campaigns. It’s something to show your prayer partners, even your Sunday school class. You can use the enclosed response card to request a copy. (The video is not exactly for sale, but we do need to ask that you enclose $5.00 to cover the cost of the tape and the postage.)
If you find yourself in any of the cities we are reaching and you come across our Campaigners, please let them know you are upholding them in prayer.
There are times we might like to agree with the critics because if Campaigns were not effective, we’d be off the hook. It’s a battle to stand and hand out tracts. It’s a battle to face rejection, to be joyful when feet ache from standing on concrete and shoulders are sore from heavy tract bags. We believe with all our hearts that it’s a battle in which the Lord wants us to engage. Like all battles, this one belongs to Him. Much of the battle is won in prayer. Would you intercede for us? Your prayers truly make a difference as we stand on the street corners and in the subway stations sowing and reaping for the glory of God.