The Evangelical Christian missionary organization called “Jews for Jesus” is stirring up quite a ruckus in South Florida reports the Sun Sentinel.
The hit and run antics of these peripatetic proselytizers has been reported by the media since the 1970s, when an ordained Baptist minister named Martin Rosen founded the controversial group.
Pastor Martin was previously associated with an organization known as the American Board of Mission to the Jews, but he had bigger plans. So about thirty years ago he set up his own shop.
Business was good because Martin was clever in the way he marketed his missionary enterprise. Instead of just another Christian ministry he picked and trademarked the name “Jews for Jesus” (JFJ).
This garnered immediate attention, which then led to increasing fund-raising opportunities amongst his fellow Evangelicals.
Baptist, Nazarene, Evangelical Free and other churches included within the so-called “born-again” movement of Christians, essentially supports JFJ.
The Assemblies of God, the largest denomination of Pentecostal Christians, seems to prefer its own network of “Messianic Jews,” such as the so-called “Jewish Voice.”
Pastor Martin is retired now, but the ministry he created is something like a little kingdom. The annual budget for the group is $24 million and it has 240 full-time paid staff located in numerous offices.
However, if anyone were to judge the group strictly by its results (i.e. the number of conversions actually achieved) their success rate is modest. Very few Jews convert to fundamentalist Christianity, and even fewer through this group’s efforts.
Nevertheless, like many well-funded enterprises this one keeps chugging along anyway.
JFJ typically stages “campaigns” targeting large Jewish populations. Subsequently, they then inundate a community with unsolicited tracts, handouts etc. Some communities have found that they can cause a serious litter problem, as their tracts are quickly tossed aside by pedestrians.
But JFJ thrives on confrontation. “It’s a slick marketing technique. They perfected it over 30 years,” one Jewish leader told the Sentinel.
Recently in Palm Beach this was clearly evident as their confrontational strategy garnered controversy and press attention.
“It provided more publicity than we could have afforded on our budget. The publicity has been a great help for us,” the Florida JFJ coordinator told the Palm Beach Post.
The point apparently is to stir up a reaction through incendiary events and tracts and then exploit this eventually for fund-raising.
However, not all Evangelicals support such efforts.
Billy Graham has denounced the idea of targeting specific religious groups in missionary drives. And some Evangelical leaders in Florida announced that they too oppose this type of proselytizing reported the Palm Beach Post.
JFJ has repeatedly been accused of using “deception” to convert Jews. And one Jew has taken them to court.
A Jewish woman who claims that it was falsely reported within JFJ’s newsletter that she converted is currently suing the organization.
She is the stepmother of a JFJ staffer and her stepson wrote for the group’s newsletter in 2002 that she tearfully converted at her husband’s bedside.
But the Jewish mother said the account was “completely fictitious” reported Associated Press.
JFJ likes to cast its conflict with the Jewish community as an old one. Claiming it’s a “2,000 year old argument” between Jews about the identity of Jesus.
However, that’s not the principle issue that raises concern. Instead, it’s the issue of Jewish identity.
Simply put, the Jewish community has historically always established the parameters of its own identity.
“There’s no rabbi…who’s going to be the arbiter of what the Jewish religion teaches,” one JFJ leader retorted.
This is a new argument.
Since when are the rabbis not the arbiters of what the Jewish religion teaches? Who is then “Jews for Jesus”?
Would JFJ and its supporters concede that someone outside of Christianity has the right to determine the parameters of their faith’s identity?
Specifically, what Christian denomination has officially acknowledged that Mormons are Christians?
But Mormons say they are “Christians.”
Would Evangelicals that claim “Jews for Jesus” are somehow “completed Jews,” also accept Mormons as “completed Christians”?
After all Mormons say their Book of Mormon essentially completes the New Testament.
No, you won’t find any Evangelicals or JFJ staffers making that argument.