22 August 2015

Jarryd Hayne, the Jews, and the Gospel

Jarryd Hayne and the Jews: "Is evangelism anti-Semitic?”

By Bob Mendelsohn
Jews for Jesus, National Director

During the 2015 Hillsong Conference, Jarryd Hayne, the former Parramatta Eels rugby league star, sent out a tweet to his followers, “Jesus wanted to help people but was killed by his own people." The next day after being challenged by one of his followers, that Jesus was killed by the Romans, Hayne wrote, “The Jews were the people who took him to the Romans n forced them to give the order because they couldn't."

Because of the tweets, Jewish representatives immediately launched a counter campaign. And Hayne removed the two tweets.

Michael Koziol of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote about Jewish reaction, “Chairman of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Dvir Abramovich, said he was deeply concerned by Hayne's tweets and labeled them "damaging, painful and irresponsible".

"For thousands of years Jews were held in contempt and were persecuted and murdered because they were labeled as Christ-killers," he said in a statement.

Koziol reported, “Most Christians no longer hold the view that the Jewish people were responsible for Jesus' death, and persistent belief in that narrative is now associated with anti-Semitism.”

Hayne later sent out an apology tweet which was welcomed by Jewish community representatives. But the issue remains unsettling for Jews. Some of Hayne’s Twitter followers chided him for his apology, using ugly language to describe Jewish people.

Hayne is a forthright Christian, and his comments about Jewish people, inspired by a sermon to which he was listening, highlight a larger question for the ordinary Christian in relation to evangelism. Is sharing the Gospel with Jewish people by nature anti-Semitic? Can a person have a view of another’s religion that is not tolerant or sympathetic, and yet be forthright in proclamation of Jesus?

I believe the exact opposite is actually true. If someone does not share the Gospel with a person because of an apparent theological difference, it actually is the most hateful thing a person can demonstrate. What if a pair of Jehovah’s Witness knocked at my door? What if my thoughts were: Since their religion is heretical, I will have nothing to do with them, ever, and thus refuse to share what I believe with them? Or imagine if I concluded the Muslim teller at my bank, with whom I at times share social pleasantries, was not able to hear the Gospel, because, well, they are followers of Islam and thus didn’t give them an invitation to my local church’s fete or carols program? That would be a very hateful thing to conclude.

The same is true for the ordinary Christian considering sharing faith with the ordinary Jewish person. I’m not saying that each person has to pounce on every situation and each person in their life, but I’m saying that with the people in our sphere of influence, when God gives us opportunity we should extend to them a snippet of the religion we hold so dear. To withhold a segue into Gospel presentation because of their religion being different or even wrong, that’s influenced by a wrong spirit.

Here is a definition. Evangelism: Giving someone an opportunity to say “yes” to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are two historical mistakes in sharing the Gospel with Jewish people. One: not giving them an option/ opportunity, but rather requiring the saying of ‘yes.’ This is most known in the Crusades, the Inquisition, and pogroms. Forced conversions/ baptisms of Jewish people is an ugly blight in Church history. I suppose some would say that “become a Christian or die” is an option, but it doesn’t really give the Jew an opportunity to say ‘no.’ By (my) definition if you give someone an opportunity to say ‘yes’ you are also giving them a chance to say ‘no.’ Wicked church persecution of the Jewish people prevents that ‘no’ saying.

The other historical error is more abundant in our days. Since the 1880s, worldwide, Jewish people are more in social contact with their Christian neighbours than ever before. Jewish people may enter into any field of study or occupation. Jewish academics since Schweitzer and Montefiore (around 1900) and throughout the 20th Century have “accepted” Jesus in a way that would make every Jewish scholar before more than uncomfortable. Notables in our days: Vermes, Flusser, A-J Levine, and even Rabbi Shmuley Boteach write about the New Testament and the Jesus of history with sensitive and Jewish eyes. Councils of Jews and Christians are allowing dialogue and mutual tolerance and acceptance globally.

That’s why Koziol’s remarks can be so forthright: “Most Christians no longer hold the view that the Jewish people were responsible for Jesus' death, and persistent belief in that narrative is now associated with anti-Semitism.”

With all the welcome and blame revision from the Jewish community, the 2nd great mistake Christians make viz evangelism is not giving the Jewish person a chance to say ‘yes.’ We hear officials and thus give the individual only the opportunity to say ‘no’, and thus fail to evangelize.

Either wrong is wrong. Giving the Jewish person only one option: to say ‘yes’ or to say ‘no,’ is not biblical evangelism.  Proclaiming the Gospel to each person, in language they can understand, via the personality and style of the Christian, that’s when rubber meets road. That’s when we are fulfilling the Great Commission.

To be fair, when rubber meets road much friction is caused. That’s what happened with Jarryd Hayne.  In measure that’s what you can expect from the ordinary Jewish person with whom you want to share the faith. I hear it a lot. But thousands, actually tens of thousands of Jews today, in Sydney, Melbourne, throughout Australasia and worldwide, who are now believers in and followers of the real Jesus, owe great gratitude to someone who had the character and courage to share the faith with them. And we are grateful.

Is evangelism anti-Semitic? The exact opposite is true. It’s the most loving thing a person can do with a Jewish neighbour, colleague or friend.

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If you have Facebook, you can see the thread of comments here:  Hayne on FB

History of LCJE (with hint of JFJ) Australia/ What's happening

International report on the LCJE Australasia
By Bob Mendelsohn
Given in August 2015 

Shalom to my colleagues of the LCJE here in Jerusalem.  
Some history of the LCJE AustralAsian corner
In Pattiya in 1980, one Jewish believer from Melbourne, Miss Betty Baruch, a former schoolteacher, was appointed representative of LCJE for Australia.  Her participation was limited and mostly figurehead. Following her in the role was Miss Joy Hickman, an accountant and host of Israeli travelers from Auckland, New Zealand. After her tenure, Lawrence Hirsch, who heads Celebrate Messiah in Melbourne took the helm. No national meetings took place during anyone’s tenure. Each made reports to the LCJE at the international level.

In 2007, at the LCJE 8th International conference in Hungary, I was appointed AustralAsian representative, a new term with a wider geographic perspective.  This new territory includes New Zealand, Singapore and other South Pacific islands.  In Hungary, I met with the representatives of LCJE Japan and Hong Kong as well as others from Australia, and we purposed to conduct an LCJE AustralAsian conference before the next international which would take place in four years.

After meeting with some members from Melbourne a few monhts later, we decided to conduct that conference in 2009 in Sydney. This was historic.  And since 2009 we have had three other such gatherings (2010, 2012, 2014), in other words, now, every two years, with the purpose to convene those interested in Jewish evangelism along the principles and under the rubrics of the Lausanne covenant. Major speakers at these past conferences have included Darrell Bock twice, David Brickner and Wayne Hilsden. Our own representatives including Mark Warren, our prayer chiarman here at this confedrnce, as well as Lawrence Hirsch, Ashley Crane, Kon Michailidis, Paul Cohen, Scott Brown among others have brought wonderful papers and to lead discussions. Our next conference will be in Sydney in 2016 with Michael Brown as our main speaker. One of our members, Natasha Michailidis continues as our historian and reporter of our conferences to the Bulletin of the LCJE.

Prayer matters
One of the major activities at each of our four conferences is prayer. We seriously pray together. At the start of each day, over 90% of the participants gather to seek God together and to listen to one another. It sets the tone for the rest of our interactions and we also pray for our works back home and situations that might arise.
Also as we are a network we have had two different prayer chairwomen whose ministry among us, throughout the years, month by month, is to collect prayer requests from each ministry and each individual member, collate them, and distribute these prayer targets electronically. We owe a great debt to both Marion Hall and now Juanita Doody, who continues in that voluntary post.

Locally
In Sydney since 2001, every four months on average, we have a meeting of leaders we title “JOOS” (Jewish Outreaches Of Sydney). It is sort of a mini-LCJE without papers being delivered. During this fellowship evening we hear stories from one another and pray for each other. We eat together first and have dessert after the somewhat formal gathering. We move from house to house over the years. It’s a very helpful method to seriously care about each other in Messiah.

What about the churches…who gets it?
There is significant interest in Jewish evangelism among Asian Christians. The “Back to Jerusalem” movement is a Chinese-driven, 10/40 evangelism scheme, but features an ending in evangelism in Israel, even among Jewish people.  Many Israeli Jewish ministries visit Singapore each year and find good reception.  The Anglican cathedral there features “One New Man” meetings which highlight the linkage of the Christian church to her Jewish roots.
Simply put, ethnic churches ‘get it’ when we speak about Jews needing a particular outreach to them. Generic (sometimes I title them ‘vanilla’) churches don’t get us at all. This is true in New Zealand and Australia especially.

In Australia there is increasing interest in Jewish evangelism among only a small section of the Church. For most pastors, Jewish evangelism is not on their radar. The issues the opponents of Jewish evangelism raise are usually either sociological or theological. For some Christians any issue related to Jews is linked with Zionism, and in their view usually ultra-Zionism, and as such is political only and not biblical. For others, particular evangelism, that is, reaching any subset of humanity, is not in keeping with  biblical universalism, by the which I mean reaching the whole planet, without emphasis on any one people group. For them, our emphasis on reaching Jews is racist. For other Christians, Jewish people had their chance in the first century, and now are cast aside as a special people. Therefore our interest in reaching Jewish people is seen as unhistorical and certainly irrelevant. For other Christians our interest in Jewish people is theologically inaccurate since the Jewish people will be saved in a rapture-begun, dispensation to come, so our interest in them today is too early and thus a waste of resources.

All that said, within a slightly widening circle of Christians, Jewish evangelism is of notice and support. Income for Jewish Christian missions is up over the last decade in a dramatic fashion.  Both of the major missions, Jews for Jesus and Celebrate Messiah have taken on staff and increased national and regional activities. Other missions carry on good work among Jewish people and/or among the churches in teaching about Jewish people.

Mention “Jewish people” to most Christians in Australia and they will consider this something of an oddity. Most will use adjectives like rich, cheap, or the verb to jew someone down without thinking of the derogatory nature of the labels. Most Sydney Christians think all Jews live ‘over there’ in the Eastern suburbs, and in Melbourne Jews live in Caulfield, and are an enigma. They wear those ‘funny little hats’ and have different rules about eating and worship on a different day. Evangelism? Most admit, “I wouldn’t have a clue how to begin” or “I don’t know any Jews.” Anecdotally a pastor in Caulfield North told me that he wasn’t interested in having me speak at his church since none of his parishioners knew any Jewish people, because the Jews all live in Caulfield South, approximately only 8 minutes away!


Particular works
There are mostly-English speaking messianic congregations in Australia, most notably the one in Melbourne. There are two Russian speaking congregations. There are many small outreaches, each of which is faithful to Messiah’s calling to communicate the love of God to His ancient people.
For decades The Vineyard has been published by David House Fellowship, formerly “Jewish Evangelical Witness” and the previously-mentioned Mark along with his wife Robyn Warren, along with a great group of voluinteers send out loads of those witnessing tools throughout the region.
You have heard much already from Lawrence about the work of Celebrate Messiah in Far East Russia and their congregation in Melbourne if you went to those sessions. Also Celebrate is hoping to build on their current location a messianic centre and art gallery in the heart of Jewish Melbourne. So I don’t need to rehearse those good efforts.
Scott Brown among others in New Zealand in other organizations like HIT (with our friend Omri Jaakobovitch whose talk some heard on Monday night), and JFJ host Israeli tourists in their homes and camp to welcome them to NZ and to welcome them into the Kingdom of God, with commensurate discipleship.
Jews for Jesus continues to operate as we do worldwide with broadsiding creative Gospel tracts and visiting one-to-one in Jewish enquirers’ homes and offices.  But we have a couple distinctives. One, our newsletter is translated each quarter into Chinese, Korean and Spanish from Australia. And our major distinctive for the last 11 years in Sydney has been a book shop in the middle of the Jewish neighborhood, in the centre in what is called Bondi Junction. With over 800 products from Israel, England, the US and anywhere and everywhere, it’s a comfortable place for people to consider Yeshua for themselves. Each week at least one, and more often than not, several unsaved Jewish people enter the shop and enquire or argue or buy products.
Here is a typical example from Three weeks ago.
Chaim from Jerusalem came into the shop, wearing full chasidic regalia. Black and white with fringes abundant. He was wearing a fedora and on entry kissed the mezuzah. He asked if we had large kippot. I showed him our supply of kippot and he looked, but underneath his fedora he already had a large kippah! Why was he querying? Because he couldn’t come in and make a simple enquiry; he had to have a ‘real’ reason. He left with a shake of the head and a lot to consider about our message of faith in Messiah.
Some like Daniella came in and left with a Bible in her own language and she, a 26 year old Jewish woman from South America, returned every week this year for 4 months to our Bible class. She’s still not a believer, but we are delighted in her growth, in her Bible reading, in her questioning, and in her being ‘almost persuaded.’ And God’s not done with her yet.  Others like Zeke do come to faith, after having come to the shop, and meeting with our staff. It’s an expensive proposition, but we find it a great entry point for people, especially our Jewish people, to discuss what really matters in life.

To summarize
17 years ago I moved to Australia from New York City to found Jews for Jesus and have been privileged to preach in over 1,400 churches, Bible colleges and Christian schools. Along with my staff our total rises to 2,500. We are finding people who really do want to reach the whole world with the whole gospel. Jews are coming to faith in Jesus, one at a time.  Evangelism among Jews is happening in homes and in programs, in magazines and public events sponsored by David House, by CWI and JFJ and CPM and others.  God is putting Jewish evangelism on the map of Australia. This is a good sign; we are encouraged and hopeful for the next decade if Jesus’ return is delayed.


Thank you to each of you who participates in LCJE international and who guide it well. May you continue to remember the needs of the Jewish people in Australia, Singapore, New Zealand and beyond, and help us as required to make Jesus known among them.

(For more information, see LCJE)