What would you do if you received enough funds to pay for a full-page ad in a secular newspaper like USA Today” or the “New York Times?” I hope you would use the advertising space to tell people who might never walk into a church something about Jesus. Jews for Jesus has had opportunities to do just that, and over the years we have had all sorts of “gospel ads” in the secular media. This year we did not have the funds to do so—until one family offered to make it happen.

These particular friends wanted to see a gospel statement that would explain very plainly and directly the issues of sin, judgment and God’s remedy in Jesus. They gave a most generous donation for that very purpose, and we worked hard to come up with a gospel statement that would fit that approach. It starts out like this:

“We’ve got some good news
and some bad news for the holidays . . .”

From there, it goes on to explain how sin separates us from God, and how He in His mercy is willing to save us from the death sentence through Jesus.

Susan Perlman worked with a broker to help get us the very best prices so that we could stretch the money to place the ad in as many newspapers as possible. However, it was still up to the papers to decide whether or not they’d choose to run the ad. We received acceptances from a number of them—but were surprised and dismayed when the Tribune Corporation told us no, they wouldn’t accept our gospel ad for publication. They own nine newspapers, including the “Chicago Tribune,” the “Los Angeles Times” and “Newsday,” so a “no” from them meant losing the opportunity to place the ads in several important papers. These papers have placed our gospel statements in the past, so the rejection was very troubling. We started praying for the Lord to intervene and we asked others to pray. Here is how the story unfolded from there.

Susan asked why the ad had been rejected, and received a copy of an e-mail in which an employee in the legal standards division of the Tribune Corporation said:

“The whole notion that a Jew is automatically a sinner, guilty, and condemned to hell simply because their religion does not accept Jesus as the Messiah is revolting to most Jews and many others. If this organization were called Missionaries for Jesus and they were not targeting Jews but simply preaching a message of redemption for anyone who does not currently believe in the divinity of Jesus, then we’d have no problem. I recommend passing on it.”

This person’s recommendation had resulted in the rejection of our gospel statement. It was clear to us that his views were extremely biased. If you read through the ad, you can see that, first of all, even though the statement is by Jews for Jesus, it does not single out Jewish people as sinners. Instead, we contend that all people are sinners regardless of race or religion and all are in need of a Savior. Furthermore, the statement is not contend that Jews or anyone else are guilty and condemned for not accepting Jesus, but rather we are all guilty and condemned because of our sin. This is an important distinction.

We pointed out the above to the Tribune Corporation and told them we believed this kind of content-based discrimination on the part of their legal standards division was chillingly unfair and intolerant toward a basic tenet of the Christian faith. We appealed the decision and even changed the copy slightly to emphasize the fact that we weren’t singling out Jewish people. Here is how the same employee in their legal standards division responded:

“Overall, the new copy still promotes a form of intolerance. Phrases like “broke the law” and “You’ve been tried, found guilty and sentenced to death” only add fuel to the fire. I think we should still reject the ad.”

Once again they had rejected the gospel statement because they didn’t agree with the content. We continued to pray and to ask others to pray. I told Susan Perlman we needed to push this issue further up the chain of command at the Tribune Corporation. Each newspaper has an ombudsman, someone you can appeal to if you feel the paper has been unfair in their news coverage or in some other policy decision. Susan contacted that person at the Tribune Corporation by telephone and then followed up with a letter which includes the following argument:

“We talk [in the ad] about all people being sinners in need of Jesus as their Savior, whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc. The ad puts forth standard Christian doctrine on sin and salvation. It is put forth as a good news, bad news message. To say that the ad offends people is to say that Christianity offends people.”

Lo and behold, we received an encouraging response. The Tribune Corporation decided that rather than allowing the blanket rejection of all their papers to stand, each individual newspaper would have the right to decide whether or not to run the ad. The “Chicago Tribune” not only accepted the ad, but they ran it on December 10. The “Fort Lauderdale Sun,” which is part of that group, also accepted and ran the ad. The “Los Angeles Times” has remained intransigent on the matter, but we are still praying as we wait to hear from “Newsday.” Our gospel statements are run on a “stand-by” basis, which means there is a window of time, and if there is space during that time, they run the ad. While there is no guarantee that the ads will run, it costs a whole lot less that way and most of the ads do get published. We need you to pray that the newspapers that have accepted the ad will indeed be able to publish it. Below you’ll see the full list of papers that accepted the ad, with asterisks beside those in which the ad has already been published:

The Arizona Republic
The Chicago Sun-Times (set to run Wed. Dec 19)
*The Chicago Tribune
*The Cincinnati Enquirer
*The Denver Post
*The Fort Lauderdale Sun
*Greater Philadelphia Newspapers
*The Kansas City Star
The Knoxville News Sentinel
*The Mesa, East Valley and Scottsdale Tribune
*The Miami Herald
The Minneapolis Tribune
The Orange County Register
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette
*The Richmond Times
The Riverside Press Enterprise
*The San Jose Mercury News
*The New York Times National Edition
*The Washington Post
*USA Today

Praise God that perseverance paid off! He is answering our prayers and we are encouraged—but we still need to contend for the gospel message in the secular press. The battle continues. Please pray for this effort and please pray that many who see these gospel statements in the papers will respond and receive the Savior at this holy season.

* (For a look at some of our previous gospel ads in newspapers click here. Or if you would like a pdf of this month’s gospel ad, click here.)