Beautiful Feet of Clay
Pardon me while I climb down from my pedestal. Why have I found myself so precariously placed? I will take some of the blame. You see, I want you to think well of me. I want you to be confident in Jews for Jesus. I want you to be proud of our achievements. So I tend to present myself and Jews for Jesus in the best possible light. It’s a matter of emphasis—but as a result, some people may think that I’m better, or that Jews for Jesus is better, than we really are.
So I’ll point out that I (and the rest of the Jews for Jesus staff) have feet of clay. We certainly are not the American Idols” of the mission world—not that there is such a thing—but most of us do tend to glamorize those we admire. And while I do believe there are some things to admire about Jews for Jesus, we are plagued by the same weaknesses that other Christian organizations face. When it comes to our individual staff, we have the same kinds of struggles and shortcomings that you recognize in yourself.
Recently, I taught our staff a leadership lesson on the importance of transparency in ministry. Let me practice what I preach as I write to you, our Jews for Jesus family.
Over the past 10 years I have had to dismiss several staff because of dishonesty or sexual impropriety. Several families are no longer serving with us due to divorce. It breaks my heart to think of each of these situations, but I feel it is important for me to be honest with you.
That is not to say that these problems are rampant in our ministry or that we don’t have safeguards. We do have measures to guard us against financial or sexual impropriety. All of our missionaries sign what we call our Workers Covenant, a morally binding document that commits us to honesty, openness and a spirituallyminded focus on the demands of a godly life of service. We commit ourselves to core values of accountability, integrity and faithfulness. Staff members are not to entertain members of the opposite sex alone in their homes, or vacation alone together, unless of course, they are married to each other.
Likewise, access to money is limited and scrutinized. I maintain a policy that Moishe Rosen established for himself long ago. I don’t have authority to sign any ministry checks, and I don’t have access to any funds, except through regular request and reimbursement procedures, just like any other staff member. Our board of directors has complete scrutiny over all major expenses and receives a monthly accounting of all our finances. Board members regularly visit our branches and inspect our operations. They examine the books and see that mission property is being properly maintained and they interview the missionary staff and evaluate how they are being cared for, too.
But our intentions of godliness cannot guarantee that we will be able to live it out—and neither can the checks and balances we have in place. We need to be humble and vigilant, and we need to be transparent and vulnerable with one another.
We also need to understand what Jesus said to the rich young ruler: “…No one is good but One, that is, God” (Luke 18:19b). Certainly both the Old and New Testaments bear this out and the Bible portrays the weaknesses and sometimes major failings of some of the best known “saints.” Abraham was willing to give his wife to Pharaoh to save his own skin. Moses was a murderer. You know about King David and his failings. And Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Not exactly the stuff heroes are made of.
Nevertheless, the Bible does not offer a cynical or jaundiced view of the imperfect servants of the Lord, but rather a clear-eyed and balanced portrait that should serve as valuable instruction to all of His children. We see that God’s saints are not superheros, but ordinary people who have remained faithful in the long haul of following after God.
I have seen more than a few missionaries give up, throw in the towel, and even abandon their faith. But I am encouraged by the many who are still standing, still struggling, still moving forward in the great task of proclaiming the good news of Jesus the Messiah. Though we have feet of clay, they are beautiful feet, because they are shod “with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). Though we have feet that grow callused and blistered at times with the strain of standing on street corners, they are beautiful feet because they are bringing good news and proclaiming peace (Isaiah 52:7).
God’s saints are only as special as the One in whom they place their faith—and that makes all of us who follow Jesus candidates for beautiful feet. Clay feet are beautiful when they keep standing for Jesus. So I imagine our feet of clay in Jews for Jesus should serve as an encouragement to every struggling Christian who wants to remain faithful to God. By His grace and with His help, you can do it. Remain faithful, my friends. It is worth the struggle.
Do remember that those who actively proclaim the gospel are in a pitched spiritual battle. This invisible battle can take a very visible toll. Some saints who falter and fail are not merely victims of their own sin, but they are also casualties in this special war waged against them in the battle for souls of men and women. The enemy of the gospel knows how to attack us at our weakest points. Sometimes I get angry at those who fail and forsake their calling, when I really should weep for them and be angry at the devil. That is not to dismiss personal responsibility—I just hope you will see those engaged in gospel ministry as objects of special attention from the evil one, and therefore objects of your special prayers for protection. God promises an angelic band of protection for the feet of those who remain faithful to Him. Those angels are there to bear us up, lest we dash our foot against a stone (Psalm 91:12). I’m asking that we be put—not on pedestals, but rather on as many prayer lists as possible—that we might be borne up in our efforts and not stumble.
Heading into the grand finale of Operation Behold Your God in New York this summer we are keenly aware of our need for this kind of prayer “covering.” Spiritual preparation is crucial to keeping our feet beautiful. Every Wednesday since the beginning of March our staff have been praying in half-hour intervals for the full 24 hours in preparation for this outreach. This month on May 4 our missionaries around the world will be taking the entire day to pray in preparation. Would you join us? If you are willing to pray for this summer’s Behold Your God effort, we will send you regular e-mail updates. You can be a part of a growing international network of intercessory prayer partners. Send an e-mail to [email protected] and write in the subject line “for BYGNY prayer list.”
We all have feet of clay. But we all can have beautiful feet as we remain faithful to the Lord and fully engaged in sharing His good news with others. Let’s uphold one another to that end, mindful of the promise that the Lord Himself will bear us up.
Executive Director, Missionary
David Brickner is executive director of Jews for Jesus. David oversees the world-wide ministry from its headquarters in San Francisco. David received his Master’s degree in Missiology with a concentration in Jewish Evangelism and Judaic Studies from the Fuller School of World Mission. He has authored several books, and has been interviewed on national television shows such as Larry King Live. David’s daughter, Ilana is a recent graduate of Biola. His son, Isaac is on the missionary staff of Jews for Jesus. Isaac and his wife, Shaina, have one daughter, Nora, which makes David part of the grandparent club, a membership he is very proud of. See more here.