Impressions of my first LCJE ConferenceDavid W. Hecht, Student, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC
The LCJE-NA 2004 conference was entitled: Training for Jewish Evangelism. Theresa Newell did an outstanding job of planning and organizing the conference. The wonderfully experienced and diverse group of presenters combined principles of scholarship, training, ministry, and personal testimony and applied them to training for Jewish evangelism and missions.
Both morning sessions opened with in-depth Bible study and enthusiastic worship led by William Raccah, Stan Fowler, and the worship team from Beth Sar Shalom.
Kai Kjær-Hansen shared his thoughts on The Passion, the New Testament, and anti-Semitism. Kjær-Hansen affirmed God's holiness, man's sinfulness, and the necessity of Messiah's death, burial, and resurrection. He pointed to the film's emphasis on the death of Messiah and the extra-Biblical Roman Catholic theology portrayed in the film. It is impossible to correctly view the crucifixion of Messiah and the New Testament as anti-Semitic.
Rich Robinson's report on The Digital Jewish Missions History Project Report was important because the project preserves the books, periodicals, correspondence, and reports on Jewish missions and evangelism published from about 1750 to 1925. The project is volunteer-driven and is actively seeking volunteers to locate material, scan or re-type, and proofread material. The project will soon move to the LCJE website. Robinson also gave an update on his investigative work into the life and ministry of Hermann Warszawiak entitled, The Tragedy of Hermann Warszawiak: Part II. Robinson's meticulous, multi-media reporting was thought provoking in its content and entertaining in its presentation.
Daniel Nessim gave a fascinating report on the history of Jewish missions in Canada based on his dissertation. He reviewed the people, the institutions, the locations, the denominational and the para-church groups that have successfully taken the Good News of Messiah to the Jewish people in Canada. Larry Rich expanded upon Nessim's research with his wisdom and insight from a lifetime of successful Jewish ministry in the U.S. and Canada.
Jim Sibley announced plans for a new Master of Arts program in Jewish Studies at The Criswell College in Dallas. It is exciting to see this program develop and to anticipate the impact it will have on Jewish evangelism. Sibley also presented a biographical sketch and bibliography of Adolph Saphir, the great Jewish preacher and scholar that came to faith in Yeshua, along with Alfred Edersheim, in "the Budapest Revival" during the late 1830's and early 1840's. In reading from the book, The Life and Work of William Wingate Missionary to the Jews, by Gavin Carlyle, Sibley brought to my attention the amount and depth of prayer, study of Scripture and devotion to the Person and Work of Jesus Christ that was the very essence and foundation of their ministries. I was also struck by the close bond of love and friendship that Jewish and Gentile believers shared for each other and their passion for working together in taking the Good News of Messiah to the Jewish people.
Karol Joseph shared the Jews for Jesus model of training that includes: developing a sense of calling, commitment, attitude, discipline, time management, mentoring, creative skills, spiritual life, team building, and a sense of community. I was impressed by Joseph's perspective on Jewish evangelism. In the midst of rejection and hardship, she said, that it was important to develop the right set of expectations in Jewish ministry. We are assured from Scripture that there will always be a faithful remnant of Jewish people that believe in Messiah (Rom. 11:5), she said. Her prayer everyday is: "God, I know there are Jewish people out there today that you've been working in! Give me eyes to see them."
It was an honor to meet Moishe and Ceil Rosen. Rosen wasted no time in breaking spiritual pride as he mused on Jewish evangelism conferences where "everyone is a macher…a big-shot." He encouraged us to learn from those who are having success in reaching Jewish people and to work together. He reflected on the importance of education and the rich tradition of Jewish studies at Moody Bible Institute in the disciplines of Tanakh, Hebrew, Yiddish, Jewish history, and the New Covenant. During the business session, Rosen showed resolve when he motioned for the creation of a theological commission that would investigate doctrinal issues among LCJE-NA members.
Gary Hedrick presented a new CD about the tremendous work CJF Ministries is doing in reaching Jewish people through: Radio, missions, publications, tours, Bible study, and equipping ministries.
Bodil Skjøtt gave an amazing report on the effect of Hinduism and Buddhism on Israelis traveling to India and the influence of eastern thought in Israel. I was shocked to learn that 35,000 Israelis have applied for visas to India over a three month period. Skjøtt says the effect of Hinduism and Buddhism in Israel in seen in the growth of an annual New Age festival and the rise in the number of eastern restaurants and coffee houses in the land. The effect has been to stimulate outreach activities, which have in turn, led to an increase in the number of New Testaments being sold. Jews for Jesus now has an outreach to Jewish people in India.
Susan Perlman did an outstanding job of reporting on the media coverage given to Jewish evangelism. Along with reading excerpts from published reports, she had several video clips from the previous year that included coverage from the Behold Your God campaigns and The Passion of the Christ. Perlman stressed the importance of using the media intelligently. She encouraged us to keep up with issues related to Jewish evangelism, and the importance of "speaking into a situation" through articulate, accurate, and theologically correct responses to the media.
Don Meecha shared his vision for a Messianic congregation and Mission community in Toronto. His presentation was well done and raised many important issues regarding Messianic congregations and building Messianic community.
I was encouraged to see Kirk Gliebe's presentation of Club Maccabee. The 25-week program combines fellowship, games, and study. Club Maccabee is designed to reach Jewish children from K-6th grade with the truths of Scripture and Jewish history. Given the tremendous success of the AWANAS program, it is wonderful to see a discipleship program for children from a Judeo-Christian perspective.
I was deeply moved by the personal testimonies of Al Runge, Jan Spence, and Richard Ganz. Runge said throughout history the majority of Jewish people have not been faithful to the promises of God and that rabbinic tradition insulates Jewish people from the truth of Scripture. He warned against liberal theology that says Jews can be saved apart from Yeshua, and stressed that most Jewish people are secular and unaffiliated. As Jewish believers, Runge said, we should affirm the New Covenant in Messiah's blood, a genuine encounter with God, freedom to express our faith in a Jewish context and to promote Messianic community. Jan Spence described the personal cost involved in coming to Messiah when her husband, a rabbi, divorced her shortly after her profession of faith. Richard Ganz shared the cost of his profession of faith when he was asked to leave a lucrative psychotherapy practice because of his zealousness to make Yeshua known.
The LCJE-2004 was an incredibly rewarding experience. The presenters cited the rich history of faithful witnesses to the Jewish people that began with the first century Jewish believers and continues today in the lives of both Jewish and Gentile believers in Messiah.
Next year in San Francisco, 7-9 March 2005!