It is happening. We have launched the first of over 60 worldwide evangelistic campaigns. I’m talking about Operation Behold Your God, also known as BYG.” BYG is our commitment to have evangelistic outreach and follow up in every city where 25,000 or more Jewish people live—outside of Israel—by the year 2005, if the Lord tarries.
I am out on the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area right now along with 20 or so other believers. We are handing out gospel tracts, offering the good news to Jews and Gentiles. We are also holding outdoor concerts, using direct mail and (this is always a favorite!) contacting those who respond to the gospel ads we put in the secular media. Please pray for us to do whatever we can to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue here in the Bay Area. Pray that these early BYG outreaches will pave the way for the 60-plus cities ahead, and that God will show us many more new ways to proclaim His message.
It is important to us that you, our friends, understand our vision. The strategy is embodied in Isaiah 40:9, which is our theme verse for BYG: “O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
When I was five years old, I decided I was going to be at least six feet five inches tall, maybe even six foot six. That’s what I decided. God decided something else. But why would a child want to be that tall? To get attention, maybe? To be seen and heard? It certainly seemed that folks were more attentive to people who were “up there” in height. It may sound silly, yet there is an important kernel of truth in that childish notion.
What did Isaiah mean when he told those of us who have “glad tidings” to “get up into a high mountain”? We need to be seen. Our faith must be visible. Isaiah also says, “lift up your voice with strength.” In other words, our faith must be audible. Finally, the prophet tells us to lift up our voice “without fear.” So we need to be courageous in telling about our faith. Why? So we can say to the cities of Judah, “Behold Your God!”
One Christian writer said, “Jews know what we believe, so why tell them again—and again and again?” I’m not sure how that writer can be so certain of what all Jews do or do not know. But our purpose is not to make sure they know what we believe, as though there would be some merit to the gospel because we believe it. Our purpose is to present the life that Jesus offers through His death and resurrection, and to help those who will receive that life to follow Him.
Maybe you’ve heard of a book that is making waves in the missions community. The book is titled, Changing the Mind of Mission. It seems to indicate that gospel proclamation is not the focal point of the church’s mission. The authors stress that the Great Commission is to go and make disciples, which is absolutely true. But how does the process of making disciples commence? (See the Message from Moishe on page 7.) Similarly, church planting is important. But how do we happen to have new converts to care for and bring into community? And if we don’t have new believers, it’s not so much church planting as church transplanting, which might at times be useful, but certainly can’t be considered the church’s mission.
Mission does not have a mind to be changed. People have minds, and sometimes we have to fight the temptation to change them based on what is most palatable to us.
When it comes to Jewish evangelism, no amount of terminology will ever make the Great Commission “respectable” among my people. The gospel is the power of salvation to those who believe. To those who don’t yet believe, it is foolishness and presumption. Presumption that there is only one way, and particularly that the way we proclaim contradicts the opinions and teachings of the majority of Jewish people.
Today it is popular to say, “Just love them, don’t preach to them.” But would love keep silent about matters of eternal life and death?
Jesus did not love us with a silent love. He loved us with a Biblical love. Biblical love compels us to speak the truth. Biblical love cares more about the other person’s redemption than our own rejection, and that’s why Yeshua (Jesus) spoke out. That is why He took up the cross, the symbol of absolute social rejection. He bore the mantle of the marred one—rejected, despised, stricken, smitten and afflicted.
What do the Scriptures say? For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent. Silence concerning Christ is not love. More often than not, silence is the enemy of the salvation of our people.
Yet proclamation makes us vulnerable. Whether we are standing on a street corner handing out tracts or standing up for Jesus in a secular workplace, we risk rejection. There is no special merit in being rejected for rejection’s sake. But Jesus risked everything for us. And in our best moments, we can gladly risk the good opinion of others out of love for Him, as well as those for whom He died.
That doesn’t mean that we are fearless. I’ve been going out on the streets to hand out gospel tracts for 25 years, and every single time I pick up my bag of tracts, every time I put on my Jews for Jesus T-shirt, I get that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. None of us like to be vulnerable. Courage is doing the right thing, no matter how we feel about it, and I’m convinced that much of our courage in Jews for Jesus comes because of your faithful prayers. And that’s what we need. What do the Scriptures say? “Listen to me you who know righteousness. A people in whose heart is my Law. Do not fear the reproach of men. Nor be afraid of their insults” (Isaiah 51:7).
By God’s grace, Behold Your God will send echoes of gospel proclamation around the world. Please pray for us. Let us know if you are interested in opportunities to help make the glad tidings known. Together, let’s draw courage from the hope that people will be saved, discipled and planted in congregations where they, too, can join us in making Christ known.