“My mother taught me to love the Jewish people; she always reminded me that the Jews are God’s chosen. That is why I love Jews for Jesus and support what you guys are doing.”
We hear this over and over from friends who speak, often with a note of wistful recollection, of a loved one who has since passed. Our visits to churches in particular present people with the opportunity to recall fondly those childhood lessons learned from those who loved the Lord and loved His chosen people. I deeply appreciate an entire generation of Bible-believers who so carefully taught their Sunday school classes and passed along to their family members this profound sense of love for the Jewish people and concern for their salvation. As missionaries, we can never take them for granted, or assume their legacy of love will automatically be transmitted to the next generation of Jesus’ followers.
Loving the Jewish people seems far more complicated today than it was for previous generations of Christians. Certain clear convictions based on simple Bible passages that most Christians seemed to know and believe, are not always so clear today. For example, there was the basic conviction that Christians should love the Jews because God loves them and has promised to bless those who do likewise: “I will bless those who bless you” (Genesis 12:3). Or, the commitment to pray for the salvation of the Jewish people, so fervently expressed by the apostle whose primary ministry was to non-Jews: “… my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). Today it seems that many have either forgotten such simple convictions or have found them complicated by politics or disagreements over end-times theology. No doubt the founding of the modern State of Israel has led to some of the confusion I find among many Christians.
An entire generation of Christians who have no memory of a world without a modern State of Israel is now coming into leadership in the church. Many never experienced the wonder and amazement so many Christians felt at the time Israel became a nation in 1948, or when Jerusalem was recaptured in 1967. Even Christians whose theology did not include belief in a God ordained restoration of Israel as a fulfillment of prophecy nevertheless held enormous respect and appreciation for this “modern day miracle.” But today, many Christians’ attitudes toward Israel and the Jewish people are more colored by the media’s unfavorable portrayals of the Jewish state than they are by Scripture. With less Scripture-based love for Jewish people, there is less concern for Jewish people and Jewish evangelism.
Then too, many Christians who say they love Israel often find that love held hostage by a perverted form of “friendship” or a misguided standard of respect that prevents them from ever telling Jewish people about Jesus. Harsh as it sounds, I’ll say it. This is a deficient and unbiblical love… and it is spreading.
So who will be the ones to teach a new generation that the greatest love Christians can share with Jewish people is the good news of Jesus Christ? Who will instill in the hearts of the church of the 21st century that God’s chosen people are still deeply loved and precious in His sight? Dear Jews for Jesus friend, you who have cared enough to make the cause of Jewish evangelism close to your heart, there is no one more fit than you for the task. Not that we are looking to “dump” responsibility for the next generation on you alone; reaching Jewish people for Jesus is a challenge we must take up together.
The responsibility of transmitting God’s truth to the next generation is entirely biblical. The Psalmist declares, “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). In the Jewish community, that responsibility is part of the Shema, the central confession of faith recited daily by observant Jews and in every synagogue service. That confession comes directly from the Bible, Deuteronomy 6:4-7a:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children… (emphasis added)
In Jews for Jesus we take this responsibility very seriously. For the last sixteen years we have been teaching the next generation of Jewish believers in Jesus through our Camp Gilgal program, summer and winter camps for children, as well as special children’s programs during our annual family camps. More recently we have trained missionaries to serve full time as children and youth workers and young adult ministers, and we are seeing some encouraging and hopeful results.
Over the years hundreds of young people have come through our children’s and young adult programs. Many are now participating on our short term missions programs, and some are even serving full time with Jews for Jesus and other ministries and congregations. As we continue to press forward with our mission to make Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide, one of our greatest challenges is our need for young Jewish believers in Jesus to share that mission, and to join us in doing the work. We need prayer to that end. But we are also praying for you, so that when God brings us these young missionaries, they will have the prayer and financial support needed.
This is not an appeal for money. It is an appeal for you to help the next generation of Christians and Christian leaders to care about Jewish people and Jewish evangelism. For some of you, that means transmitting your faithful love for Jewish people to your sons and daughters, your nieces or nephews, your grandchildren, or your Sunday school pupils. For those of you who are younger, it means helping your Christian peers understand your care for Jewish people, and why it motivates you to pray for and, when possible, support Jewish missions. I believe that raising up the next generation of Christians who care enough about Jewish people to support the cause of Jewish evangelism is one of the greatest challenges for the church today. Church camps and retreats are also great environments to teach the next generation a love for the Jewish people and a commitment to evangelism.
Here are some possible ways Jews for Jesus might be able to help as you influence the next generation for the cause of Christ among the Jewish people:
1. If you have family prayer times that include requests for the salvation of loved ones, consider adding a request for God to help Jews for Jesus win Jewish hearts to Jesus. If you regularly pray through our newsletter prayer prompters, you might include those in your family prayer time.
2. Help the next generation appreciate the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. We have an excellent tool for this called Walk with Yeshua through the Jewish Year.*
3. When you educate your children or Sunday school class about key events in Jewish history, such as the Holocaust and the rebirth of the nation of Israel, let the fact that Jewish people need Jesus be part of that education. Again, we have some good tools for this such as “Survivor Stories” (a DVD presenting testimonies of Holocaust survivors) or “Forbidden Peace” (which shows how Jews and Arabs who are reconciled to God through Jesus can also be reconciled to one another).
5. Encourage them to send Jewish Holiday greeting cards to their Jewish friends for Hanukkah, Passover and Rosh Hashanah.
6. Invite a local Jewish believer or someone from Jews for Jesus to come to your church or home group to share their story and answer questions.
* The tools we’ve mentioned are available at http://store.jewsforjesus.org
No doubt some of you already have your own ways to transmit your concern for Jewish people and evangelism. We would love to hear your suggestions, and perhaps we can even print some of them in a future newsletter.
Only God can create genuine love for Jewish people and for Jewish evangelism in the hearts of young followers of Jesus, but I have every confidence that as we are faithful to teach them the Scriptures and to “declare His works” from one generation to the next, He will take care of the rest.