On my way to visit a Jewish man who had expressed an interest in Jesus, I decided to drop in on one of the local churches. That particular church belonged to a mainline evangelical denomination, and though I had never met the pastor, I was hoping to introduce myself. We like to know the pastors of such congregations because it provides us with a good list of churches we can recommend to people we lead to Jesus. Often some of the church members will even undertake to pray for us as we are ministering in their locality.
I walked into the church that day and found the pastor, an older man, sitting behind his desk. I introduced myself as a staff worker with Jews for Jesus. Immediately he told me that his church could not have Jews for Jesus come and speak. I explained that I was not there to schedule a meeting; I just wanted to say hello.
The pastor said that he received our Newsletter. He even indicated an acceptance of our outreach and ministry among the Jewish community. But then he went on to say that he was very friendly with the two local rabbis and served on various ecumenical” councils. With an amicable, fatherly gesture, he said, “You realize that what you do makes a lot of people very upset.” What an understatement, I thought, having experienced hostile reactions more than a few times in my ministry.
That pastor was telling me in his own way that he did not want to sever the relationships he had with the Jewish community, not even for the sake of the gospel! My reply to his statement was, “My whole family is Jewish, and I honestly believe that to know this great news about Jesus and not tell them would be the most anti-Semitic thing I could possibly do.” He nodded respectfully, perhaps having been challenged.
Before I left, I said with a smile, “Let me ask you, Pastor-the local rabbi down the street—does he need Jesus as his atonement?”
He smiled back and said, “I’d rather not answer that.”
Jesus told His disciples that following Him would involve a cost. Yet He calls us to live our lives boldly for Him. The formal “ecumenical” movements that encourage “dialogue” are often effective in weakening the message of the gospel. That pastor cared more about his earthly friendships and the opinions of nonbelievers than he cared about proclaiming God’s truth. When we declare the message of Jesus, inevitably we will step on some people’s toes!
Perhaps I should have asked that pastor how he would have responded to the Apostle Paul, given the Jewish opposition to his ministry. Certainly, Paul got a lot of people upset. He proclaimed a very powerful message, and he is our example as proclaimers today. Rather than avoid the world’s backlash against God’s message, perhaps we should take a lesson from the apostles. They “departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).