A Modern Day Agora
In ancient times the social life of a city revolved around the agora, the marketplace at the city gate. The agora was where people converged with their merchandise to trade necessary goods. It was also the place where they exchanged ideas and passed on valuable, sometimes vital, information. When travelers went from town to town, they first entered through the city gates. Beggars and merchants alike gathered at the agora inside those gates, eking out their living in one way or another and gathering bits and pieces of information. The townspeople were always eager to meet strangers and question them about news and information from faraway places. In Scripture we see this principle of people being reached through the marketplace as we read about the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul.
There is a modern day agora in New York City. It’s called Grand Central Station. Situated in the heart of Manhattan on 42nd Street, Grand Central Station is a hub of activity as hundreds of thousands of people pass through it each day. Stores and food shops are built right into the inner walls of this train station. Overhead a revolving tape flashes important news events, train schedules and stock market information. To walk into Grand Central Station is to experience the sights and sounds of people in perpetual motion. As the boards light and flash, hordes of pedestrians on the move jostle and crowd their way toward homes, jobs and various other destinations. Yet even in the midst of all that rush and bustle, people will stop to talk or to investigate something that piques their curiosity.
In our Jews for Jesus ministry we always go where the crowds are. We usually stand up in a well-trafficked area and hand out tracts. We do not often set up book or literature tables because that immobilizes us. We would rather be standing on our two feet with a tract bag slung over our shoulder, free to weave in and out of the crowds. We prefer to be where the people are coming and going rather than have them come to us. But Grand Central Station has provided an exception.
Several times we set up our Jews for Jesus literature table in the middle of this grand arena. It involved our entire staff, and from the moment we put up our sign until the time we left, we had nonstop dialogue with all kinds of people, both Jewish and Gentile. On one particular day more than 65 people gave us their names and addresses to request more information about what we believe. We prayed with five people to receive the Lord that day. Three of them were Gentile, and two of them were Jewish. Besides that we gave out hundreds of pieces of literature to those who wanted to know more about Jews, Jesus and Jews for Jesus.
In Jewish evangelism success is often followed by varying degrees of opposition, and that is exactly what happened at Grand Central Station. Upon noting our very visible and apparently successful literature table, a certain rabbi who heads an anti-missionary organization demanded equal time at Grand Central Station for his group on the same days that we would be there. The terminal authorities denied him a permit to be in the same place because it is their policy to have only one group at a time in any given area. Instead, they gave the rabbi another location. He was so displeased that he protested to the American Civil Liberties Union that he was being denied his civil rights. Independent of that situation, we had already decided not to reserve that space in Grand Central Station for a literature table during the height of our Summer Witnessing Campaign, whereupon noting the absence of our literature table, the rabbi bragged in the Jewish media that he had confronted Jews for Jesus and had chased us away. Actually, nothing was farther from the truth, as our people could be seen several times a day distributing gospel literature. Besides, our plans were to resume the literature table after Summer Campaign.
So if you happen to be in Manhattan this autumn and are passing through Grand Central Station, take a look around. It might be our day to be there. Our literature table is usually set up in the center of the station, not too far from the clock. Come and say hello and offer us a word of encouragement. If we are engaged in a conversation with someone, you might even be able to help us tell that person about Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel.
Baruch Goldstein has recently been assigned to a new missionary post in the Toronto, Canada branch of Jews for Jesus. He is the well-dressed gentleman in the suit and tie. The dummy in the cap and T-shirt is less urbane, but a real attention getter, and he’s not so dumb…He knows” that Jews can believe in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah!