As a believer, and even as a missionary to the Jewish people, it is easy to become insulated… to simply hang out with other believers—my believing friends, be it my colleagues or those I know from my local congregation.
You know you’ve become a bit insulated when you find yourself wrestling with the question, “How am I going to meet unbelievers to whom I can minister?” Sure, there are things we missionaries do to reach out to unbelievers, like making phone calls and going out on the street to hand out literature and engage people in conversation. We approach people, in a sense, as “outsiders” because they don’t know us. And that’s okay, it’s part of our calling.
But at some point we find ourselves wondering what other approaches might add to what we already do. As I reached that point, I began asking myself, “Where do I spend my ‘free’ time?” “Am I surrounding myself with unbelievers, particularly Jewish people?” I also began reflecting on questions like, “Who has God made me to be? What gifts has He given me?” One answer is that I love music. I am trained as a flute player and I also enjoy singing. So, I thought, how can I use those things to help me connect with Jewish people?
As I began praying, opportunities opened up. I played flute for a musical at my parent’s retirement community. (My parents are not yet believers). That led to playing flute for a Hadassah* choir two years in a row. Then, I sang and acted in a couple of Broadway-type musicals at the Jewish Community Center. I had many conversations with the cast and crew and the Hadassah choir director. They went something like this:
“What do you do for a living?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“What, are you in the CIA or something?”
“No, nothing like that. But, if I tell you, you won’t like it.”
“I’m sure it will be fine. To each their own. Just tell me already!”
“OK then. I am Jewish and believe in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah…”
(Interrupting) “Are you Jews for Jesus?”
“As a matter of fact, I am.”
Most were surprised. Some didn’t want to talk to me anymore. But others wanted to know more. One woman even said, “I want to come and hear you speak some time.” Another said she’d like to get together for coffee.
More recently I joined (as the youngest member) a show being put on at a Jewish activities center. I’m now participating in my second show with them, playing flute, singing and playing the cajon (a drum in a box). Besides being so much fun, it has afforded me a new relationship with a Jewish seeker. One day, Janna** said, “Your mother told me what you do for a living.” I expected her to say, “Shame on you!” Instead, she said, “That’s fascinating. I believe too… in God.” “Really?” I asked. We had a brief chat and she agreed to meet me after a rehearsal to talk more.
I then had a chance to share my story with her, and hear where she was coming from. She is open to meeting on a regular basis to look at what the Hebrew Scriptures tell us about the Messiah. I am really excited about this, and hope and pray for many more similar opportunities.
None of this would have happened had I not spent my “free time” with unbelievers, doing what I love… music and ministry.
It is important to approach ministry bathed in prayer and willing to be an outsider. But we can also invest in a community or communities where we can relate to people with similar interests and gifts as “insiders.” I am encouraged by Colossians 4:2–6 and hope you will be too:
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
*Hadassah is a Jewish women’s organization.
** not her real name