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Jews for Jesus leader praises Baptist evangelism efforts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Southern Baptists deserve praise for their outreach to Jews and stance for biblical truth, the executive director of Jews for Jesus said Sept. 12 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

David Brickner, head of the international organization, made his comments while preaching at Alumni Chapel. The organization’s mission statement is to “make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.”

“I recognize that this pulpit represents a commitment to the proclamation of the gospel to my Jewish people at some expense,” Brickner said. “I want to commend the Southern Baptist Convention for that strong stance and commitment — perhaps like no other evangelical denomination. You have stood through the storm of controversy to declare that the gospel is the greatest gift that my people — the Jewish people — could ever receive.”

Brickner also applauded Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. for his public stance on Jewish outreach, as well as other issues. Brickner and Mohler made a joint appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live” Jan. 12, when the topic was Baptist evangelism efforts. The program aired following the release of Jewish prayer guides by the International Mission Board.

“I praise God that this seminary is committed to the centrality of the proclamation of the gospel, because I believe that unfortunately when it comes to a clear and concise understanding of the mission of the church of Jesus Christ, the centrality of proclamation has been watered down (and) has been diminished,” Brickner said.

Brickner said his own family is an example of fruitful Jewish evangelism. The Brickners were orthodox Jews living in Mobile, Ala., but a neighboring Christian family witnessed to and prayed for the Brickners.

“The Wilsons prayed for my father and his family every day for seven years. … and at the end of that seven years his entire family came to Christ in the period of just two months,” Brickner said. “That’s power. That’s life-from-the-dead power. Salesmanship is no substitute for a spirit-led ministry.”

Brickner also recounted how his group regularly hands out tracts in major cities. Once, Brickner was performing this task in downtown New York City when a Jewish lady approached and berated him for compromising his Jewish beliefs. Brickner and his friends stood out in the crowd because they were wearing t-shirts that read “Jews for Jesus,” and “Jesus made me kosher.”

“She was angry, and she began to yell at me, and to say, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself. How can you do this? Do you know what you’re doing? Does your mother know you’re doing this?’ And then she spat out words that cut like a knife. She said, ‘You’re trying to complete the work that Hitler began.'”
The lady, named Ruth, rolled up her sleeve and displayed a number that had been branded on her arm. She was a survivor of Auschwitz.

Several months later Brickner was preaching at a Friday evening Jews for Jesus worship service when Ruth walked in. She said she had “an open mind.”

“She kept coming back every Friday night, and she started coming to our Tuesday night Bible studies,” Brickner said. “What a joy it was for me one Friday night to pray with Ruth to receive Jesus as her Savior and Lord. How is it that somebody who is so bitter and angry and closed to the gospel can open up to receive God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ? It’s because that same power — the power that raised up Jesus from the grave — is active and at work in the world today.”

Preaching from Romans 1:16, Brickner said Christians must have an unashamed proclamation, an empowered proclamation and a prioritized proclamation of the gospel.

“We today live in a pluralistic society, where tolerance is viewed as the highest good,” he said. “And so the message that declares Jesus as the only way for salvation is viewed as religiously incorrect. … While we agree that everyone has a right to their opinion, that does not mean that everyone’s opinion is right.”

Christians must stand firm when conducting Jewish evangelism and be ready for criticism, Brickner said. He pointed out that some criticism will come from within the evangelical community.

“Jewish evangelism does indeed put the church on the cutting edge of this issue. The very uniqueness of Christ is called into question and challenged by my Jewish people, who will say in dialogue with Christian leaders, ‘Why can’t you just respect us? Don’t you recognize that we have a covenant with God through Abraham and Moses that is just as valid for us as for you?’ And there have been those even within the evangelical community who have toyed with notion of a dual covenant.

“Brothers and sisters, this is a doctrine from the pit of hell. If it were to be entertained by the church of Jesus Christ, it would become the camel’s nose of universalism in the tent of the body of Christ. We must lovingly insist that Jesus is the way.”

Brickner said a Spirit-filled proclamation of the gospel is just as important.

“The gospel is not the power of a persuasive argument,” he said. “It is the truth regardless of whether or not it is believed and embraced by others. There can be no expectation of the empowered proclamation of the gospel without a commitment to prayerful proclamation. No one was ever argued into God’s kingdom, but I know of many people who were prayed there.”

But he said the proclamation must by prioritized. Brickner said the phrase, “to the Jew first, then to the Greek” found in Romans can have significance in today’s world.

“(The) Apostle Paul, while called to the Gentiles, had a burden for his own people,” Brickner said. “In every city he visited, he proclaimed the gospel first in the synagogue — not just because it served as a natural bridge, but also because he had an understanding of a principle that we’ve seen today.”

The principle, Brickner said, is that “when you preach the gospel loud enough for Jews to hear, a whole lot of other folk listen in as well.” Brickner said the priority is not “either, or” but “both, and.”

“One of the best-kept secrets of our Jews for Jesus ministry is that five times as many Gentiles come to faith in Christ as Jews,” he said. “When you preach the gospel loud enough for Jews to hear, a whole lot of other folk listen in as well.”

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust