A Note to the Membership of the LCJE
By Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, San Francisco
Fifty years ago, the field of Jewish missions was a battlefield! Mostly we were fighting one another. Winning Jews to Christ was only a minor concern of only a few churches. Ecclesiastical support for ministries to the Jews was thin.
The mission agencies were forced, by the church, to compete with one another for support. We were put in a position of demonstrating that each were more worthy or more noble than the others. Inter-mission or inter-agency relationships were not very good.
Not only that, for the most part, churches that were otherwise orthodox in their doctrine preferred establishing friendships with the rabbis to engaging with Jewish missions. They chose dialogue and fellowship over evangelism.
And sadly, achievement in the field of Jewish evangelism was somehow always less than spectacular. And the good, hardworking missionary to the Jews could expect as many as two or three Jews to come to Christ in a year, which was nothing impressive in missionary reports.
The first agency that tried to improve relationships between Jewish missions and raise a better image to the church was the Hebrew Christian Alliance. They sought to speak on behalf of all Jewish believers everywhere. In the conciliar realm, the International Missionary Council, which later became the World Council of Churches did conduct three significant consultations, however, they didnít facilitate the cooperative work of Jewish evangelism; they merely developed a body of knowledge.
Relating to one another
In the 1950s, a few missionaries to the Jewish people came together and formed a group: The Fellowship of Christian Testimonies to the Jews. It consisted of individual missionary members, most of whom belonged to smaller societies. As many as 50 people attended the annual conferences. For the most part, the larger missions had only minimal participation. The FCTJ was able to establish a number of things; one, they agreed that if someone published effective evangelistic material, it would be made available to other missions without profit and two, they worked on ways and means of relating to one another. What led to the demise of this association was when they decided to undertake discussions on the establishment of ethical guidelines. This was seen as a threat by the larger Jewish missions, and in 1973, those missions threatened to forbid their missionaries from attending FCTJ functions unless the structure was changed so that only organizational and not individual membership would be allowed. The membership structure change was voted in and by 1975, the FTCJ ceased to exist.
At the first LCWE meeting in Lausanne in 1974, there was some involvement by those in Jewish missions, but it was of minor concern to the LCWE. In 1980, when LCWE held its meetings in Pattaya, Jewish Evangelism was one of seventeen working groups yet it took on a life of its own. This was the beginning of the LCJE, inasmuch as the missionaries and scholars who were present were ready to make an ongoing commitment to uphold one another. Perhaps the best thing that came out of the 1981 meeting was that we decided to seek ways and means where we could work together.
And thus began an era of co-operation, not only one of mutual fellowship, but one where we actually helped each other in the work of direct evangelism. For example, the personnel from one mission would work with the personnel of another mission in a campaign, and learn from one another. This strengthened both the mission agencies and more importantly amplified the gospel message to a larger audience.
An era of co-operation
At each annual LCJE conference, there was the reading of papers that were significant to the field: such as book reports, case studies, histories of mission work, media, etc. But until recent years, getting together over the meals and in the free time to plan what projects we could work on with one another was the most important part. I donít see as much of that happening today. It would be a praise to God and a blessing to all if there could be some joint projects between ministries.
I regret that my health will not allow me to attend this gathering in Pittsburgh. I am hopeful that I can come next year, inasmuch as I am recovering from knee surgery and subsequent infection.
But I would like to encourage the members to look to each other and find out how you can participate in one another's ministries and uphold one another. It is a joyful thing for brethren to be gathered together in fellowship, but the best kind of fellowship is working together in the sowing and the harvesting. The best part of the LCJE should be the working together. I'm sure that it makes God smile, and it gives each an opportunity to know one another and to grow.