Images and Impressions
Jews for Jesus is an image organization. That does not mean that we use consultants to try to make us look good. By image, I mean that people can recognize who we are and whom we represent in one quick look.
Our name, “Jews for Jesus,” has been most effective in raising an image. The designation (most often seen on our T-shirts) challenges people’s presuppositions and invites them to think about Jesus. When our missionaries and volunteers stand clad in brightly colored, boldly lettered cotton billboards, people on busy street corners and college campuses receive a message even if they don’t take our tracts. That is probably the most recognizable image of our ministry, though we also minister one on one in regular attire, studying the Bible with seekers.
The phrase “making an impression,” like “raising an image,” is too often relegated to people’s desires to present themselves in a positive light. But when we talk about making an impression, we are talking about pressing a point about Jesus, so that even in our absence, a person is left with something to think about. Jewish community leaders used to claim confidently that there were no Jews who believed in Jesus. But now it is difficult to deny that we exist, in part because the image raised by Jews for Jesus leaves a different impression. So Jewish community leaders who fear that other Jewish people might embrace Him often resort to attacking our credibility and integrity.
Many Christians do not understand the offense of the gospel: “As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame’” (Romans 9:33).
When some brothers and sisters in Christ see the anger with which some react to our name and our message, they assume that our name or our directness causes unnecessary offense. They wonder whether we might make a more acceptable impression if we changed our name, or dressed in business suits to hand out tracts. They don’t understand that there is no way to make the message (that we are all sinners with no hope apart from Jesus) less offensive.
The gospel ought never be pushed on anyone; it should be offered in love.
But the most polite, loving approach still requires us to be visible, vulnerable and available. By raising an image we can attract those who do want to know more, and even make a memorable impression on those who simply pass by. By being somewhat uniform in our appearance (wearing the same T-shirts on the same day during a campaign) we can amplify the image. During our summer campaigns in New York City we usually have no more than 24 missionaries and volunteers out on the streets at any given time, yet we all wear the same color T-shirts each day and we place ourselves in strategic locations throughout the city. New Yorkers will often exclaim, “There are thousands of you guys all over the place, what is going on?” Of course that gives us an opportunity to explain our message.
Over the years we have used various logos and slogans to raise an image, but none has been more effective than our name: Jews for Jesus. We have copyrighted the name, and the appearance of the Star of David to replace the “o” in “for” is a registered trademark of our ministry. It emphasizes our identity as Jews and ties that identity to Jesus Christ, the greatest Jew that ever lived. We have been forced to fight legal battles to keep our name and copyright secure, but it is worth it.
From time to time we create a new design, a fresh artistic rendering of the name “Jews for Jesus” to strengthen the image of Jews believing in Jesus. In fact, you can see our brand new logo at the top of this newsletter. The letters are adapted from a font that we feel is modern, yet timeless. The Star of David was created from conjoining triangles. I don’t know if our artist, Paige Saunders, intended it, but these triangles remind me of God’s triune nature—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—as well as His design for human beings in which body, soul and spirit are united in Christ.
In addition to the logo is a new icon: two letter J’s joined by that same star, an image that appears on the front page of this newsletter. We hope you like our new logo and that over time you will come to associate the J-star-J with Jews for Jesus.
This kind of association and recognition is useful for any group that values their name. When people see golden arches they think of McDonalds, and when they see the “swoosh” they think of Nike. But the idea of imaging has even more value as it is set forth in the Scriptures. The Bible tells us that we were created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27). This fact bestows genuine dignity and tremendous worth on every person whom God has created.
The Bible also reveals our Messiah Jesus as the “express image” of God’s person (Hebrews 1:3). The word in the original language is “character.” It is used as a metaphor, a word picture where we are to envision a royal seal on a legal decree or a personal seal to indicate authorship and ownership. The die, or seal, leaves a full impression of itself on the wax to which it is applied. Whether by words or images, that wax then represents the authority, character and personality standing behind the seal.
Paul says in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God.” When you want to understand who God is, you must look at Jesus, who is visible. He is no mere man but “the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension to glory and the hope of His soon coming fills our minds with powerful truths that captivate our hearts and minds, giving deep meaning, texture, even color and fresh vitality to our understanding of our Creator. God is so gracious to make Himself known to us in this way, to give us a tangible expression of His great love and grace in the person of His Son.
Image is important to God and to our human understanding of spiritual truth. We Jews for Jesus want to continue projecting an image so the world can see that Jews can and should be for Jesus. We want to be a gospel light that illuminates His truth to all people and brings glory to our great God and Savior. While a new logo can be helpful in making associations, we need prayer that we, as a ministry and as individuals, can represent truly the qualities that ought to be integral to all who are for Jesus.
Now let me ask you a personal question. What images identify you with the wonderful Lord who created you and called you to be His own? For some people the images are quite tangible, like bumper stickers on cars (“My boss is a Jewish carpenter,” or the sign of a fish), a T-shirt with a catchy slogan (“Jesus made me Kosher”), or jewelry such as a cross or for some, a cross within a Jewish star. Having a clear, identifiable association with the Lord we love is helpful, both for conversations with others and as reminders of our commitments.
But the substance that lies beneath the image is a spiritual reality quite beyond our ability to represent merely by our own efforts. It is more real than what our minds can conjure or our artists can render, guaranteed to us by the Lord Himself. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Our destiny, yours and mine, is to be transformed into the very image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ—and all the images and impressions along our journey only faintly reflect the glory we will all one day experience. It is encouraging to remember this promise of an image so wonderful that it will never tarnish nor be improved upon. In the meantime, God has given us all many opportunities to reflect His image here on this earth, to make impressions on others for His glory. Let us continue to fashion and refine these images of hope and grace that point to His promises and His person through our Messiah Jesus.
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.