Jews for Jesus and “the media” have a long history. We first put up handbills on the kiosks of San Francisco State University and the University of California Berkeley using the slogan “Jews for Jesus.” The national press confused the number of posters with the number of people and literally named our movement. Thank you, Time and Newsweek! Since then, media have always helped to amplify the message of Jewish people believing in Jesus.
That was certainly the case for the grand finale of BYG in New York. We hoped to raise a million dollars to broadcast the gospel throughout the air waves, newspapers, billboards and subways of New York. When about half that amount came in, it was truly generous, but we knew we needed to pare down our plans and pray that the Lord would amplify the message beyond our “advertising dollars.” He used the media to do just that!
Prior to our arrival in New York, a reporter for The New York Times said he wanted to write a feature story on our campaign. Experience had taught us not to expect too much from major secular newspapers. However, the article (published the first week of the campaign) was amazing. Our gospel statements were presented accurately—and the Times even sent a videographer who brilliantly filmed the story for their online publication. This was the start of a dizzying media cycle—after all, if it’s important enough for the NY Times, other papers want in on the news!
Then the news sources began seeing our evangelistic ads in subway cars, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the major daily newspapers throughout the area. (We also had evangelistic ads in Yediot, the major Israeli daily paper and in the Russian-language dailies as well.) And they continued reporting on the controversial Jews for Jesus.
Perhaps our most dramatic “ads” were the 42 backlit signs we had placed in a much-frequented subway passageway near Times Square. Jewish leaders voiced their displeasure and The New York Post seized on it with the banner headline: “Holy Hell Over Subway Jesus.” Then the networks and local TV stations started calling. And kept calling. ABC, CBS, FOX and Channels 5, 9, 11 and 1 ran footage of the underground ads and of our missionaries distributing gospel tracts. It seemed like David Brickner and I were being interviewed non-stop regarding Jews and Jesus and the “controversy.” And each time we were able to proclaim the gospel.
Meanwhile, the counter-missionaries had sent the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) a “tip” that our JFJ logo in the style of their subway car directional signs could be a violation of their trademark. The MTA demanded we discontinue use of the artwork. While we probably could have won that battle in court, we wanted our energy and financial resources spent elsewhere, so we discontinued use of the logo on our website. For our T-shirts, we came up with the idea of making Stars of David out of the circles.
The “tip” from our opposition totally backfired because The New York Post loved the story and plastered the account onto the pages of their paper in an article titled “‘Jesus’ Icon Clash—MTA Smites Logo.” Other newspapers picked up the story and the television stations couldn’t get enough of us. We even got national coverage on Fox’s DaySide morning show and Fox News Live in midday!
Jewish news sources also covered our campaign. The Jerusalem Post did a feature article and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, which is the main wire service for hundreds of Jewish newspapers around the world, wrote a major feature, too. Nor did the local Hebrew and Yiddish language publications leave us out. Each suburban campaign—Westchester, Long Island and Northern New Jersey—all had at least one article in their local Jewish newspapers.
Altogether, we had significant articles in over 35 newspapers, major television news coverage on 14 programs and several radio interviews. All of this amplified what our missionaries were saying as they interacted one-to-one with tens of thousands of seekers. “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare” (Psalm 40:5).