As you read this, 29 Jewish believers in Jesus from around the world are gathered at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. They are preparing for our upcoming summer witnessing campaign in New York City via an intensive two-week training course.
Many of these young people have never done street evangelism before. Some are relatively new believers. The training is designed to prepare each one to effectively share the good news of Messiah Jesus on the streets of New York City.
I remember my first Jews for Jesus summer witnessing campaign. It was 1977 and I had just finished my freshman year in college. I had joined a large group of Jews for Jesus volunteers who were gathered at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania for the training that year. I was very eager and excited. There were so many people to get to know, most of them around my age. We had all committed ourselves to be used by God in New York City. Much more than that I did not know.
I quickly learned that campaign training involved physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual preparation. We started each day very early, with calisthenics and marching to prepare our bodies for New York. The campaign schedule is rigorous and can be physically taxing. We stand on the streets for two hours at a time, four times a day, six days a week, to hand out our gospel tracts. There are brisk walks to and from the subway to get to the appropriate street corners. Add to this the heat and humidity of a New York City summer and it’s an exhausting routine for even the strongest members of the campaign. The two weeks of physical exercise really does help prepare the campaigners.
Even so, the greatest challenge of campaigning is not merely physical. Front line ministry can take a tremendous spiritual toll on you. Street campaigners must withstand opposition from anti-missionaries as well as anti-Semites. They are confronted by atheists, agnostics and practitioners of just about every false religion imaginable. Plus, powerful unseen spiritual forces work against gospel proclamation. The key to success is relying on God and His Word, not on ourselves. He alone has the resources to meet the challenges campaigners face. That is why campaign training includes prayer, Bible study and Scripture memorization. When I was training for my first campaign I did not know exactly what was ahead, but thankfully, those who did know also knew how to prepare me.
Campaigners face hostility, but they also face the apathy of the average passer-by. Withstanding boredom can be as difficult as withstanding rejection. Both require emotional preparation. The bonding that campaigners experience during training helps them endure all kinds of difficulties together. My first campaign took place 27 years ago, but I continue to enjoy many deep and abiding friendships that began during training. That campaign training provided realistic expectations of the hardships in store for us, while also providing a foundation for campaigners to uphold and encourage one another when those realities bore down.
Last but not least, campaign training provides intellectual preparation. Classroom lectures cover everything from cross-cultural communications to handling personally directed hostility; from Jewish apologetics to finding your way around the New York City subway system. It may sound strange, but I pride myself on the fact that I know New York City like the back of my hand, better even than some New Yorkers. I can stand in a subway station and give directions to many a lost and confused traveler. And believe me, our campaigners are regularly asked for directions in the subways, which often leads to conversation about even more important directions in life. The first person I ever led to Christ was during just such a conversation—on my first summer witnessing campaign in New York. What a thrill!
Twenty-seven years later, campaign training still centers on those four areas of preparation: physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual. We do update certain lectures to keep up with the changing culture. But the message is still the same and the methods are still pretty much the same, too.
However, one difference between then and now is that our campaigns have become increasingly international. This year’s training lectures must be given not only in English, but also in Hebrew and Russian.
Also, for a number of years now we have been holding the training at Moody Bible Institute because Moody’s downtown Chicago location affords us easy access to busy street corners, allowing us to give hands-on experience as we train our campaigners. They learn the classroom lectures much more effectively and are far better prepared to hit the streets of New York City having tried the streets of Chicago first. Moody even offers college credit for campaigners wishing to take our training program as an academic course. That greatly benefits those campaigners who are college students training for ministry. In fact, some students take our training program even if they aren’t signed up for the actual campaign (though most of them wish they were coming to New York by the time training is over).
Our summer campaigns have been successful over the years, in large part because of efforts to properly prepare our campaigners through this training program. But there is another preparation that takes place outside of the classroom and beyond the street corners. That preparation comes through the prayers of God’s people. You can take part in that crucial preparation right now, as this year’s campaigners are training. Take a look at our team of campaigners at Moody and pray that God will prepare each of them for His special use in the weeks ahead.
As you pray for these young people, maybe God will prepare your own heart for His special use this summer. Whatever our situations, whatever opportunities are before us, the Lord wants all of us to be ready for His use. Paul told Timothy, “Be prepared in season and out”. (2 Timothy 4:2) The Apostle Peter instructs us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) The time to prepare is now.
Time Sensitive Prayer Request
With regard to the above article about the campaign training, which has just begun, we wanted to ask you to pray for Andrew Barron, director of Jews for Jesus Canada. Andrew was slated to oversee the training, but has contracted Hepatitis A in the last few days. Please pray for healing for Andrew, and grace for Jhan Moskowitz, who will be filling in for him during the training.