Editor’s Note: This GWF2019 Advance Paper was written by the Catalysts for the Jewish Evangelism Issue Network as an overview of the topic to be discussed at the related session at the Global Workplace Forum 2019 held in Manila, Philippines.
What is the LCJE Network?
The Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE) is the only global network for Jewish mission agencies and individuals serving the whole church in the cause of Jewish evangelism. Five specific purposes guide the LCJE ministry approach. They are:
- To share information and resources.
- To study current trends in the field of Jewish evangelism.
- To stimulate one another’s thinking on Theological and Missiological issues.
- To strategize on a global level so more Jewish people will hear and consider the good news of Jesus.
- To arrange consultations that will be useful to those engaged in Jewish evangelism.
The LCJE began in 1980 at the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) sponsored Consultation on World Evangelization (COWE) in Pattaya, Thailand. The mini-consultation on “Reaching Jews” formed the taskforce that is now the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE).
The LCJE network meets for international consultations roughly every four years. The 11th International will be in Toronto, Canada during 2019. LCJE chapters and subgroups now meet in North America, South America, Europe, Israel, South Africa, Australasia, Japan, and South Korea. The LCJE produces the BULLETIN and hosts a website at: www.lcje.net.
Membership is open to Jewish evangelism agencies, Messianic congregations and leaders, scholars in the field, and mission workers. The LCJE is a network and not and organization. It is managed by a four-member International Coordinating Committee. Approximately 29 agencies and 150 individuals are LCJE members. Membership requirements are a recommendation by two current LCJE members, payment of annual dues, and affirming substantial agreement with the Lausanne Covenant www.gospelcom.net/lcwe/covenant.html.
Current International Coordinating Committee members are:
- Dan Sered, Israel (President)
- Jim Melnick, USA (International Coordinator)
- Bodil Skjøtt, DENMARK (Committee Member)
- Lawrence Hirsch, Australia (Committee Member)
The international Lausanne Movement website for Jewish Evangelism is found at: https://www.lausanne.org/networks/issues/jewish-evangelism
What should I know to help me relate with the Jewish people in my workplace and while doing business?
Keep two thoughts in mind when meeting Jewish people in your work environment.
a) Sharing the good news of Jesus with Jewish people is a right desire.
b) Don’t be surprised by a Jewish reluctance about the Christian message.
Jewish impressions about Jesus differ from Christian perspectives. Sadly, Christian condescension and anti-Semitic acts have been characteristics of historic Christian outreach to Jews. Some Jewish people view the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and even the Holocaust as Christian activities conducted in Jesus’ name. While it might be difficult for Jewish people to hear about Jesus, not all are closed to the gospel. Just notice the thousands of Jewish believers in Jesus today.
At the same time, Jewish people need salvation in Jesus. Terrible things, done in Jesus’ name, don’t change the necessity of salvation by grace, through faith in Christ alone. Most Jewish people just haven’t had an opportunity to hear the real gospel of the Savior. You might be their opportunity to the true message.
Some Christians assume that Judaism is sufficient for the salvation of Jewish people. Jesus declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). Simon Peter confessed to Jewish leaders, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV). Jesus the Messiah is God’s unique gift of salvation for all the nations, including the Jewish people.
Any ideas to help me engage Jewish people and culture?
Be aware that all communication is cross-cultural. Jewish people might appear to be like everyone else, but the spiritual vocabulary, institutions, and practices of Jewish life are different from your Christian experience. One example of a cross-cultural sensitivity: You might ask an innocent question like, “Are you Jewish?” But such a question can make Jewish people uneasy prompting, “Why would you want to know?” It’s less threatening to ask, “Excuse me, but are you a Gentile?” That might even get a smile.
Cross-cultural landmines are a hazard in the communication process. So, how can we avoid them? Respect that Jewish people and cultures are different from your own. Once your acquaintance has made their Jewish identity known, ask respectful questions to increase your understanding of them. Going out for meal? Try, “Forgive me for asking, but any dietary restrictions to keep in mind when picking a place to eat?” And, be sensitive to your use of Christianese language like Christ or being saved. A Jewish person might hear but not understand your words as you intend them. Work at building a comfortable spiritual vocabulary without assuming mutual understanding. Working at that process can build trust.
Bridge the cross-cultural communication gap by doing everything possible to keep the conversation safe and non-judgmental. The more questions you ask to understand the other person’s perspective, the safer you make the relationship. You can learn about their spiritual community, religious activities or beliefs by asking honest, unpretentious questions to help you. Aim at having a spiritual conversation instead of making a gospel presentation.
What are some things to know when it comes to sharing the gospel with Jewish people?
Here are five thoughts to help you engage spiritual conversation with Jewish people.
- It is uncommon for Jewish people to have a Bible or be familiar with much of the content. And it is rare for them to have much exposure to the New Testament. While they might be able to parrot what they’ve heard from interactions with Christian friends or through entertainment media sources, that doesn’t mean they understand the gospel message.
- Often of the impressions Jewish people have about Christians and Christian faith are negative or distorted. One example is what happened when Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was released in 2004. Cultural observers said evangelicals and Jewish viewers saw two different films. Christians responded to an iconic presentation of God’s love in Jesus’ sacrifice for the sin of the world. Jewish audiences recoiled at a source for historic Christian anti-Semitism attributed to the religious leaders’ line, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25).
- Jewish survival is a powerful instinct. Things, like the Holocaust, resurgent anti-Semitism in Europe, or intermarriage can elicit powerful negative reactions. So too, can the fear that belief in Jesus threatens Jewish culture, traditional religion, or family ties.
- Jewish Diaspora and the establishment of the Jewish homeland impact Jewish identity today. Be cautious about engaging discussions around Israeli politics or Jewish identity outside of Israel. Approach them with caution and as an outsider. Subjects, like Israeli-Palestinian relations or the inflammatory Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) are not rightly part of a gospel conversation. Jesus came for the sin of all people including Jews and Arabs. So, love them both for the sake of the gospel.
- There is no need to be ashamed of the gospel of Messiah Jesus, for any reason. It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the nations.
What are some available resources to help me engage with Jewish people and a few best practices for creating opportunities?
The LCJE Network Jewish Evangelism agencies all have specialists in various strategies and methods for engaging Jewish people. The Lausanne Jewish Evangelism Catalysts can help you find network partners. You may also make direct contacts by attending an LCJE regional or international consultation.
College campuses: The academic community is an excellent venue for the exchange of ideas and exposure to global cultures. In 2017, Barna Group published Jewish Millennials: The Beliefs and Behaviors Shaping Young Jews in America. The report was encouraging for cross-cultural conversations with American Jewish millennials as they showed interest in both Christian and traditional Jewish spirituality. More than half of American Jewish Millennials are from Jewish-Gentile families, reflecting the Diaspora intermarriage trend. They tend to be more open to spiritual discovery having been exposed to diverse cultures in their homes.
In the workplace: Historically, Jews have been involved in international trade, banking, and commerce. In the 21st Century, you have opportunities to engage with Jewish people for business and to build relationships that open spiritual engagement too.
LCJE Network partners can provide you with resources and specializations like the following:
- Biblical, Theological and Missiological resources
- College-age millennial Jews and Jewish youth
- Diaspora Jewish community specialists (N. America, S. America, South Africa, East Asia, Australasia, Israel, Europe and Former Soviet Union Jewry)
- Discipleship materials
- Interfaith or Jewish-Gentile couples
- Israeli post-army international travelers
- Jewish academia
- Jewish addicts, abused woman and “street dwellers” (homeless)
- Materials in print and online
- Messianic Congregations
- Orthodox and Haredi religious men and women
- Prayer networks for Jewish people
- Social Media services for Jewish evangelism
- Testimonies and Apologetic resources