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"Prayer and Evangelism"

In the following excerpts taken from the June and July Newsletter of the Jews For Jesus you will see the connection between prevailing prayer and successful evangelism, no matter what the method of evangelism is. The Jews for Jesus are an evangelical Christian fellowship composed mainly of ethnic Jews. They evangelize back into their own race, although their evangelistic efforts have brought numerous Gentiles to Jesus as well. While some Christian churches take exception to their calling themselves Jews for Jesus, citing Paul who said their is neither Jew nor Greek, but all are one in Christ--the blessing of Jesus and the Holy Spirit upon their efforts show Jesus doesn't object to this name at all. These sections titled "What is Evangelism" and "What is Pre-evangelism?" highlight some of the most successful methods and tools of evangelism that Jesus has provided us with. The effectiveness of this tool is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the Jews for Jesus had a little over 30 congregations within the United States thirty years ago, and now have 150 congregations within the United States alone! These two excerpts shed some light into their astounding success story.

"I was a student in Boston when I handed out my first broadside (gospel tract) in 1976. I was scared. Standing there, clearly labeled as a Jew for Jesus, I was an easy mark for anyone who wanted to ridicule Jews or ridicule Jesus. You'd think that 24 years and countless thousands of broadsides later, handing out tracts would be easy; old hat. Maybe it is for one or two on our staff, but it surely isn't for me. I still get that little tightening in my stomach before my hand goes out to offer the very first tract of a sortie (tract passing expedition). Afterwards, I'm always glad I went and, very often, I have tremendous joy during the sortie as well. Still, it is always a battle to get past the part of me that does not want to be vulnerable. Many of our staff feel that way. And yet, handing out broadsides is a hallmark of our ministry.

For the next three and a half months, Jews for Jesus will engage in a series of sorties around the globe. Staff and volunteers will hand out gospel tracts four times a day in two hour stints on the streets of New York City, Toronto, London, Paris, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sydney. They will also take every opportunity to speak personally about the gospel with individual passerby. We call this intensive street ministry, "Campaign." We write and print new literature and design new Jews for Jesus T-shirts for Campaigners to wear. We also brainstorm evangelistic slogans for billboards and gospel ads in the secular media.

It would be tempting to dress in less conspicuous clothing so that people don't realize until after they've taken a broadside that it was from Jews for Jesus. It would be tempting to shorten our sorties to an hour and a half or to send people out on the streets once or twice a day and call it a Campaign. But a Campaign is an all-out effort, a concentrated time of making the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue for the people of a particular city. We have conducted these Witnessing Campaigns every year (except one) since 1974. They, too, have become a hallmark of our ministry.

If every single sortie is a battle, you can imagine the battle a Campaign must be. The battle doesn't stop with our own desires to remain comfortable, to avoid rejection or to avoid the tedium of standing on a street corner. It's a spiritual battle. The enemy has an arsenal of weapons to discourage us from this kind of witness. Sometimes that arsenal even includes fellow Christians.

Some critics say that Campaigns are ineffective. I honestly don't know what standard they use to measure effectiveness or what they know of those whose lives have been changed through Campaigns. More common is the assessment that this type of outreach is so "in your face" so confrontational, that it needlessly offends unbelievers.

The book of Proverbs provides a powerful image that seems to apply here: "Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words..." (Proverbs 1:20,21).

Many world religions portray wisdom as "secret knowledge" that people must strive to attain through meditation, contemplation or some mystical experience. Godly wisdom isn't like that. The Bible pictures godly wisdom shouting to people from public places so they know where to find her. Talk about "in your face"! When we put on our Jews for Jesus T-shirts and stand on street corners or in subway stations handing out gospel tracts we are declaring aloud the wisdom of God, "...foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Every summer, we see the power of God save hundreds of Jews and Gentiles right on those busy streets. Last year, on our New York City Campaign alone, 1,784 non-Christian people stopped to talk with our Campaigners and gave their names and addresses for follow-up; 392 Jews and Gentiles prayed with us right on the streets to receive Christ. No doubt, some who prayed were simply curious or caught up in the moment, but many lives have been truly and radically changed forever.

Some critics think tract-passing is a waste of time and paper because so many are discarded. But Jews for Jesus will continue to hand out lots of literature because we see it as biblical and effective. One of Y'shua's parables demonstrates a principle that is foundational to our Campaigns: "Listen! Behold a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed that some seed fell by the wayside....But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred." (Mark 4:3, 4a, 8). Later, Jesus explains to His disciples that the seed represents the Word of God. There are four types of soil, but only one yields fruit.

We sow our broadsides as seed, for each tract contains the Word of God. We know much of the seed will fall along the wayside--probably 25% of the people who take our broadsides discard them without a glance. Others read them with little interest. But oh, those tracts that fall on good soil! Several of our own staff first heard the gospel through broadsides received from Jews for Jesus many years ago. They know and can bear testimony to the value of seed sowing. So they have become the sowers as well as soil that bears fruit thirty, sixty and hundred fold.

This summer, we expect to hand deliver some four to five million seeds. How much fruit will be borne only God knows, but what a privilege it is for us to be sowers of God's life-giving Word.

I wish I could take you to the streets of New York or Toronto, St. Petersburg or Sydney so you could see how God touches lives through these Campaigns. We've got a few stories and photos from last year on pages four and five, and I hope they will bless you and encourage you to pray. But if you want a closer look at the sights and sounds of Campaign, we can send you a 15-minute video that will take you with our Campaigners right out onto the streets and into the subways of New York City. Actual Campaign footage brings you into the field to experience the intensity of the opposition and the joy of the harvest as you hear testimonies of those who have come to Christ on past Campaigns. It's something to show your prayer partners, even your Sunday school class. You can use the enclosed response card to request a copy. (The video is not exactly for sale, but we do need to ask that you enclose $5.00 to cover the cost of the tape and the postage.) [You can write JEWS FOR JESUS, 69 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94102-5895.]

If you find yourself in any cities we are reaching and you come across our Campaigners, please let them know you are upholding them in prayer.

There are times we might like to agree with the critics because if Campaigns were not effective, we'd be off the hook. It's a battle to stand and hand out tracts. It's a battle to face rejection, to be joyful when feet ache from standing on concrete and shoulders are sore from heavy tract bags. We believe with all our hearts that it's a battle in which the Lord wants us to engage. Like all battles, this one belongs to Him. [And here is the key to successful evangelism, no matter what tool you're using] Much of the battle is won in prayer. [Emphasis mine] Would you pray for us? The enclosed Three-In-One Prayer Guide will help you do that. Your prayers truly make a difference as we stand on the street corners and in the subway stations sowing and reaping for the glory of God. [They then include a quarterly Prayer Guide, this one listing all their planned Campaigns from July through September of 2000. This newsletter goes out to multiple thousands of co-workers and supporters, who then invest their prayers in the evangelistic efforts of the Jews for Jesus.] [This excerpt was titled "Why We Campaign". The next one was titled "Evangelism and Prayer."]

Evangelism and Prayer

"I can't exactly prove it. However, I believe that July remains one of our most fruitful months for evangelism because of the increased prayers on our behalf during this time. If you read last month's newsletter you know we are holding our annual witnessing campaigns in New York City, London, Paris, and several other cities around the globe. True, Jews for Jesus campaigns are an all-out effort, but no amount of energy can explain the successes we experience at this time. We can't change people's hearts by our efforts any more than we can arrange to be in the right place at the right time to meet those whose hearts are receptive.

It is a great mystery how the Lord of the universe volunteers to intervene in people's lives by linking His direct action with the specific prayers of His people, but this is what the Bible tells us. James 5:16 says, "The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." This particular verse refers to healing, which is a priestly ministry of intercession, but James bases his confidence in prayer upon the historical account of Elijah's prophetic ministry (verse 17).

True biblical evangelism joins the prophetic ministry with the priestly. The prophetic aspect is proclamation, whereby we make the gospel know to men and women. The priestly aspect is the work of intercessory prayer, enjoining the Holy Spirit to apply our good news proclamation to the hearts of men and women who need to hear. These are two sides of the same coin, and we err if we emphasize one aspect of ministry to the neglect of the other. In fact, we have sometimes made this mistake in Jew for Jesus.

The world's result-oriented society sometimes affects our own thinking, even creeping into ministry. Proclamation is more easily measured and linked to results, and we tend to expend more time and energy on what can be seen. But we do this at our own peril.

Evangelism is like building a house. We can see the walls and roof of the house: that is proclamation. But what we don't see is the foundation. Have you ever tried to build a house without a foundation? Prayer is the foundation of every effective evangelistic endeavor. Whereas prophetic ministry can be limited by lack of response, priestly ministry cannot be hindered and in fact it can help change the hearts of the unresponsive. I first heard the phrase from Moishe Rosen, "When you can't talk to your friends about God you can always talk to God about your friends."

Many of us expend a great deal of energy learning the "how-to's" of sharing the gospel and answering objections, and this is good. But just imagine if we spent as much time praying for people as we do preparing to talk to them about the Lord. How much more pointed and poignant and powerful our conversations would be! I have never met a person who was argued into God's kingdom, but I know plenty of people who were prayed there. Scoop and Dot Jackson prayed for my father and his family every day for seven years and with no apparent effect. But after seven years my father and his entire immediate family came to Christ, all within two weeks!

The power of prayer breaks the chains of unbelief, unstops deaf ears, opens blind eyes and softens even the hardest hearts. So why is it sometimes more difficult to be faithful in praying for people's salvation than in witnessing to them about the Lord? Perhaps part of the problem is our tendency to protect our hearts. Persistent and prevailing prayer flows from real care and concern for people, and in fact prayer cultivates a deep vulnerability, not only to the people for whom we pray, but to God and His desires for those people. When we allow ourselves to care like that we open ourselves to intense and often uncomfortable longings, and anguish. We also open ourselves up to the risks God may ask us to take in reaching those people in ways we may not have bargained for. We may have our methods of witnessing, and we must not neglect the practical aspects of proclamation. Even so, as we pray, God will humble us by showing us where we need to bring His Spirit into the process.

The more we pray, the more obvious it becomes that the most important exertion of any given day is the effort spent in prayer and the time interceding before the throne of grace. Truly caring for the lost certainly includes the mandate to proclaim the gospel, but it also requires us to pray passionately for the salvation of others. Paul expressed this passion in Romans 10:1: "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved."

Paul's heart's desire goes hand-in-glove with his prayer. When there is distance between our prayers and our heart's desire, our prayers remain formulaic and pedestrian. But neither is praying for our heart's desire meant to be selfish and self-centered begging. Real prayer occurs when we link our hearts to God and invite Him to govern our desires and guide our petitions. We do not necessarily lose those desires that are a part of our personality, but we allow God to sanctify them. Such was Paul's desire; his passion for the lost was so great that he was able to declare, "...I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:2-3).

I wonder how Paul could carry such intense commitment and emotion concerning the lost. I don't know if I could ever care to the extent that he did, but I know that God has put it in my heart and the hearts of our staff to care deeply. More and more I am convicted that as passionately as we believe and proclaim that the gospel is the answer for the world, so must we practice passionate intercessory prayer as part of our priestly ministry of evangelism. We must start where we are and ask the Lord to move us, to give us the ability to care and to pray ever more deeply for the salvation of souls.

I am always grateful for the many friends who write to thank us for the regular Prayer Prompters columns in this newsletter, and for the campaign prayer guides. Beginning last September we also instituted a quarterly prayer guide, and you see one of this month's inserts completes that cycle. Our staff knows that we are carried by your prayers. We are grateful and want to encourage you to continue to lift us up. We need you to care and pray. And we need to care and pray more ourselves.

Society teaches us to anesthetize ourselves from feeling much pain. It is easy to become too busy or too saturated by the quest for entertainment to pay attention to those in need. But when we commit to praying for the salvation of others we are breaking out of that mold the world wants to squeeze us into. We are making ourselves alive to God and what He-who-is-willing-that-none-should-perish is doing in this world. Yes, we risk the pain of caring, the sorrow that comes when so many reject the truth. But ultimately we will find our lives much more joyful because we are entering into a battle that belongs to the Lord, and we are participating in His victory. We are molding our desires to become all that He delights in...and we know that the Lord delights in the salvation of souls."

What follows is the September portion of the Jews for Jesus quarterly Prayer Guide for the year 2000 as an example of how they muster support from the Lord for their evangelistic efforts.

SEPTEMBER

Sunday, September 3-Saturday, September 9 Pray for our staff to be faithful in our personal walk with God, that we might love Him more each day and that our ministry would flow from our gratitude and appreciation for Him.

Sunday, September 10-Saturday, September 16 Pray as our Sydney branch begins training volunteers for the Olympic outreach that starts on the 15th. Pray for the right personnel, as well as suitable housing and food. Pray that trainees will learn quickly and joyfully. Also please pray for our School of the Messengers training session in Germany from September 11-24, followed by a "Days of Awe" evangelistic outreach.

Sunday, September 10-Saturday, September 23 Pray for our outreaches on campuses around the world and especially for the Abramsons and the Olsons in New York, as they focus on developing music as part of their campus ministry. Pray for creativity and for a good ear to hear God's direction. (Also please remember the Olympics in Sydney, Sept. 15-Oct. 1.)

Sunday, September 24-Saturday, September 30 Pray for preparations for our High Holiday services all around the world. (Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, beings at sundown, September 29, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown, October 8.) Pray that our unbelieving Jewish people will realize their spiritual need, and that our staff might reflect on this as a time of renewal." [Note: Even though this branch of evangelical Christianity is fully in the new covenant, under grace, they maintain the observance of the Holy Days commanded by God to Israel in Leviticus 23--but not out of any sense of obligation to the old covenant law, but out of a deep love for the traditions they grew up with. This is fully allowed for by the Apostle Paul in Romans 14. This also makes evangelizing back into their own people far easier. They maintain their Jewish identity, yet are full-bodied evangelical Christians whose number is multiplying rapidly. If the Lord thought something was wrong with their desire to maintain their High Holyday identity, I honestly do not believe you would be witnessing their astounding growth on the Christian scene. So, Christian, if the Lord isn't criticizing, but blessing instead, you have no room for criticism. These two articles were written by David Brickner, Executive Director, the Jews for Jesus.]

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Content Editor Peter Benson -- no copyright, except where noted.  Please feel free to use this material for instruction and edification
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