We Jews for Jesus seem to have a reputation in both Christian and non-Christian circles. Some who share our love for the Lord and our burden for Jewish evangelism see us as knights in shining armor. Others who feel threatened by us or our message see us as quite the opposite. We don’t mind. We know that in our endeavors to get a wide hearing for the gospel we are bound to offend sometimes. Now we have designed a new approach for our holiday media ad campaign. It will delight, puzzle or annoy, but it is bound to produce some double takes. We’re excited about it, and we hope our friends will be excited, too. We feel that God gave us this idea, and we do not make that claim lightly!
It’s a new approach, a bit “brash,” and we think it will work. It’s called “Don’t Ask!” This new Jews for Jesus media outreach will involve a unique methodology of culture-centered communications. In this case, we will be combining a very common human factor curiosity ? with the cultural communication tool of dissonance or disparity.
Jewish people effectively communicate with one another through stating opposites. This is not new to 20th-century Jewish culture. Jesus himself used dissonance to build metaphors of communication. When he said he was the door, nobody looked for his hinges. They all knew he meant he was the only access to a place they could never enter except through him. He also used dissonance in stating the opposite of his position to make people respond. We see this in his statement to the rich young ruler, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)
Jesus brought the rich young ruler to the point of admitting that he really was not ready to follow God. If sincere, that young man would have responded to Jesus’ admonition by blurting out, “But I know you are God!” The Savior was not implying that he was not good. In his own unique way he was giving that rich young ruler the opportunity to discover and declare that the one he addressed as “Good Master” deserved the title because he truly was God in human flesh. If the wealthy young man had discovered that much, he still would have had to decide whether or not he wanted eternal life at the price of following Jesus.
Now, as in Bible times, reality is more profoundly jarring than our prosaic perceptions of it. Sometimes people need a jarring dissonance to help them see what is real. Jewish people, especially, communicate with one another in this way.
Ask a Jewish grandmother, “Bubba, how do you feel?” and she’ll answer, “Don’t ask.” What she really means is, “Please take an interest in my welfare, and if you show some real concern I would like to tell you.” Instead she says, “Don’t ask” or even, “Better you shouldn’t know.” She wants you to stop for a moment and say, “Bubba, I really care. I need to help you feel better. Please do tell me because I love you.” Ask a Jewish businessman about the condition of his work and he’ll often say, “Don’t ask.” It could mean business is so bad he would rather not discuss it, or business is so good he prefers to be cagey about it. But he is really pleased that you cared to ask.
Some might accuse us of using stereotypes in our new ad campaign, but I say we are merely understanding and relating to the culture we are trying to reach.
While stereotypes are one kind of attention getters, dissonance also helps call attention to a given pronouncement. Dissonance or disparity is one of the major principles of prose writing.
Picture a television commercial. It opens on a misty tropical jungle scene. You hear drumbeats and the sounds of wild and exotic birds. Steamy vapors are rising from the ground. The camera zooms in on a clearing, and into the clearing steps ? an Eskimo. He is wearing a fur parka and snowshoes. Regardless of what that Eskimo will say, the scene has captured your immediate attention by virtue of its disparity. You will be alert and curious, so you will listen.
In proclaiming the gospel one of our big problems is getting people to listen because they think they already know what it is all about. We think our “Don’t Ask!” Campaign will get people to take notice of our gospel message. The disparity will capture their attention. The very words “Don’t Ask!” will make people curious about what they are not to ask. We think that once having asked, many will listen and even give heed to the message God has for them about Yeshua. Please pray for our “Don’t Ask!” Campaign as our gospel ads will be printed in magazines and newspapers and other publications.