Jews for Jesus is about to embark on what might be the most important project of its ministry! I feel anticipation and awe as I tell you about it. We’re calling this project our AVODAH YEAR. In order to understand AVODAH, you must know how Jews for Jesus is governed and the history of its development.
Jews for Jesus affairs are managed by two bodies, the HINENI BOARD OF DIRECTORS, and the JEWS FOR JESUS COUNCIL. Both bodies are quite conservative, and neither one could be considered in any way a "rubber stamp" board.
The Hineni Board of Directors serves as our board of trustees and has control of fiscal matters. Except for myself and one missionary staff worker, this board consists of several dedicated people who have distinguished themselves in Christian circles outside of our Jews for Jesus ministry.
Our other governing body, the Jews for Jesus Council, consists of seven of our thirteen senior staff missionaries, each elected to a three-year term of service. The Council bears the responsibilities of appointing missionary personnel and awarding student scholarships. But most important of all, the Council, together with me, PLANS THE STRATEGY FOR OUR EVANGELISTIC OUTREACH. Though I preside over the Council, I don’t have a vote. The Council members give very careful scrutiny to each deliberation on the agenda, and I’m not embarrassed to tell you that a unanimous vote in the Council on any given matter is rare enough to be remarkable.
AVODAH really began in May of 1978 in Chicago at one of our regularly scheduled Council meetings. We had set aside three days for discussion and planning. Prior to that meeting, there was a strange uneasiness in each of our hearts. Each had a feeling that God was trying to move us toward something, trying to show us something. But that something that He wanted us to know was elusive.
The first two days of that Council meeting, we were able to deal with all the matters at hand. Since our agenda was crowded, and since most of our Council meetings go overtime, this was most unusual. On the third day I felt led to give a Bible study on the subject, "waiting on the Lord." God seemed to speak to all of us through the Scriptures, and we were made aware of certain things. We saw inadequacies in ourselves, and we felt a need to concentrate on what the Bible calls, "WAITING ON THE LORD."
On that Saturday morning we were all struck by a feeling of awe as we realized that God was moving in our midst in a special way. Our hearts and minds were of one accord. That unanimity showed us that His spirit was leading us to do something that had never been done by any other mission, school or Christian organization.
What was this unusual thing we felt constrained to do? We decided we must temporarily close all of our branches for nine months and bring all of our missionaries back to San Francisco , the place where Jews for Jesus started. There we were to spend most of the year doing intensive evangelism together and learning new techniques together. But most important of all, we would be waiting on the Lord together.
We realized from the start that some people might find this plan hard to understand. Nevertheless, from the spiritual unity we sensed, and from what we knew from past experience, we felt an imperative to move ahead in this direction.
Just a word of explanation about those lessons from the past: Through extensive research, we have discovered that every 7-9 years there has been a mysterious upsurge in the number of Jewish people responding to the Gospel. The latest cycle began in 1969. It was the longest and largest of these cyclical peaks in Jewish evangelism, and it lasted until 1973. It was during that peak period that most of our Jews for Jesus staff came to Christ. Now, as we approach 1980, we feel that we stand at the threshold of another massive breakthrough in winning Jews to Jesus and subsequently of Jews proclaiming Christ to all nations. And God has shown us that we must prepare for this in a special way.
It’s not that our present methods are unsuccessful. Even as I write this, eighty of our Jews for Jesus are out working in various cities of North America . They are effective evangelists. Let me give you just one example: Sam Nadler, currently one of our Jews for Jesus Council members, has been working this summer in Pennsylvania and Ohio. In the past month, Sam has led 63 people to Christ. Nevertheless, despite our apparent success, we feel that God has something even higher for us to attain.
So strong is our conviction on this matter that we have acted on our leading of that day in Chicago . For the next nine months, we are giving ourselves to prayer and preparation for a revival while we continue our work of evangelism in the Bay Area. We have named this special time AVODAH because that Hebrew word embodies the entire concept of what we feel God is leading us to do.
The word AVOD means to labor, to work, to submit, to serve. From the noun, AVODAH, comes EVED, the word for servant, slave, or worshipper. The Biblical word conveys the idea of "waiting upon the Lord."
Some might think that "waiting on the Lord" means to do nothing, to cease activity. That would be the opposite of AVODAH, which means service. The Scriptural concept of "waiting" means to serve , the way a waiter serves tables; to stand by , anticipating the need to bring food to those tables. It conveys a sense of awareness, anticipation and alertness, a readiness to act.
In the past we tried to teach all of God’s family a Hebrew word, HINENI, from Isaiah 6:8: "Here am I; send me." HINENI is an affirmation of availability, a statement of willingness to obey, the placing of oneself in God’s service. Now we would like our friends to be able to add another word to their spiritual vocabulary − the concept of AVODAH.
This is not to say that we are changing the mood and meaning of our Jews for Jesus ministry. Isaiah was in an AVODAH experience when he saw the Lord, high and lifted up, and responded with his HINENI! We, too, want to be in that AVODAH spirit, ready to move out any time, any place, with anything that God wants us to do. We’re always ready to follow the Lord!
How are we going to go about this AVODAH experience? Each day from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. we will have instruction and prayer. We have scheduled eminent teachers, great men of God, to come and instruct us. The roster of these highly-qualified seminary professors and churchmen would impress you as comprising many of the foremost people in the evangelical movement today. We know that God will use them effectively in our midst.
Following our morning sessions, we will be involved from 11:00 a.m. through the evening hours with intensive evangelism on streets, campuses, and in homes throughout Northern California . As always, this will include mass evangelism and one-to-one discipling for serious inquirers.
Perhaps in the next few months you will have occasion to be in San Francisco . If so, we invite you to come and visit and share in our AVODAH experience. If you can’t be here, we hope you’ll join us in prayer.
Here’s a list of some of the things for which we are praying during our AVODAH YEAR:
- That God will draw us closer to each other and to Himself; and that in our oneness with Him, Jews for Jesus might be the most effective instrument for evangelism in the 20th century.
- That God will move 20 to 40 additional qualified Jewish Christians to join us during the year and afterwards as we move out again in May of 1980.
- That God will supply a permanent substantial facility in New York . We think we already know that God’s will is for our chief endeavor to be in New York City . In May, 1980, after months of prayer and preparation, we want to launch a massive witnessing campaign there.
It’s very important for us to have you, our friends, accept, approve and appreciate what this AVODAH year means to us. MORE THAN EVER, we need your prayers. MORE THAN EVER, we need your support. MORE THAN EVER, we need for you to realize why the cause of Christ needs Jews for Jesus.
Yours in Christ,