Showing Up

Right now I am in New York City between sorties (tract-passing expeditions)–and can hardly believe that my first Jews for Jesus Summer Witnessing Campaign was 30 years ago, yes 30 years ago this very month. Most of the campaigners I’m seeing today had not yet come into the world, much less onto a campaign.

Some may think I am a little too old to be here, but I say, Nonsense!” My father was as old as I am now when he ventured out on his first campaign, and things were a lot tougher back then. No, they didn’t have to walk ten miles in the snow . . . it’s July, remember? And yes, we had subways, even way back then. But we did not have stewards–like we do now–to cook our meals, wash our clothes, pack our tract bags and meet us after each sortie with cold, wet towels.

One campaigner expressed surprise that the head of the organization was doing the same things as the younger staff and volunteers. Believe me, it’s not that I’m so great, but how can I ask others to do something that I am unwilling to do? As long as I’m able, I’ll keep doing what I can to make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue in New York City and elsewhere. It’s an opportunity to share the gospel and it’s also an opportunity to encourage the younger campaigners as they go out to witness.

I will admit that some of us (a few of my colleagues here are older than I am) can’t maintain the same grueling pace as the younger ones. We might not go out on the streets four times a day, each and every day like they do, but we’re out there. It is important for us to keep on showing up, to keep on plugging away at the most basic level of street evangelism. There is always a temptation for Christian leaders to lose touch with the very core of their ministry and become far removed from the ways they were willing to serve in their youth. If I ever become too busy or too preoccupied to hand out tracts and talk with people on the streets, I hope someone will point out my failing. To me, showing up for the basics is a matter of faithfulness.

One of my favorite Bible verses says, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Again we see the importance of showing up. Being faithful includes doing what you know you should, what God has asked, consistently and without regard to personal convenience.

There have been others in Jews for Jesus who can hand out more tracts than I can during a sortie, others who more effectively engage people in conversations on the street, others who seem to be able to get more contact information and lead more people to faith in Jesus than I can. At times that has bothered me because I am fairly competitive by nature. But faithfulness isn’t about being the best, or doing the most, or winning a competition. The struggle is to show up, to be full of faith that God has you there for a reason, rather that giving in to the temptation to do less, to take the easy way out.

Recently, someone very honestly confessed to me that he did not believe he was very good at direct evangelism. He was shocked when I replied that I didn’t think I was necessarily all that good myself. “Seriously,” he responded, “how did you overcome the fear of standing out on a street corner handing out tracts?”

“I haven’t,” I replied.

It’s true. Every time I put my Jews for Jesus T-shirt on and grab a bag of tracts I get that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. You may think, “Come on David, get over it.” But I honestly don’t think I can. Here I am on the streets of New York, after 30 years of doing this, still wrestling with fears, or at least with a measure of personal discomfort. My colleagues and I keep on doing this–not because we find it incredibly stimulating, or because we are masochists–but because we believe it is important, and that God wants us to do it. True, some of our staff really do love every minute of witnessing campaigns. They thrive on street evangelism, and I admire them the most because they are so much better at it than I am. I praise God for those people and, frankly, we need more like them on our staff. But they are not the norm in Jews for Jesus or in the rest of the Body of Christ.

I do not mean to say that God wants everyone to hand out tracts on street corners, wearing Jews for Jesus or Goyim for Jesus T-shirts. But I don’t think “I’m not much good at it” is the right reason to avoid going out to the streets (or across the street to a neighbor) with the gospel. We might like to think that God only asks us to do things we enjoy or are naturally good at doing. Sometimes He asks us to trust Him when we’re not so good at something, when we don’t really enjoy it, and let Him carry us through.

So whatever God wants you to do, please just show up. You don’t have to be that good at it, enjoy it or feel comfortable doing it–you don’t even have to be absolutely convinced that it is going to produce amazing results for the kingdom. You may feel inadequate. You may feel foolish. You may even feel a degree of humiliation, but anything you do for God’s sake and because He wants you to, is worth it all. I’m in New York showing up for what I think God wants me to do, and I want to encourage you, my brothers and sisters, to show up wherever, however and for whatever He asks of you. You won’t be sorry, because when you show up in faithfulness, God will, too. He’ll meet you there. Just see if He doesn’t.

Ed. note: Be sure to see the progress and lots of photos from the New York Campaign under Jews for Jesus News! Next month we will be able to give a complete report.


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David Brickner | San Francisco

Executive Director, Missionary

David Brickner is executive director of Jews for Jesus. David oversees the world-wide ministry from its headquarters in San Francisco. David received his Master’s degree in Missiology with a concentration in Jewish Evangelism and Judaic Studies from the Fuller School of World Mission. He has authored several books, and has been interviewed on national television shows such as Larry King Live. David’s daughter, Ilana is a recent graduate of Biola. His son, Isaac is on the missionary staff of Jews for Jesus. Isaac and his wife, Shaina, have one daughter, Nora, which makes David part of the grandparent club, a membership he is very proud of. See more here.

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