Frequently Asked Questions on Missionaries and Jews for Jesus
The following are answers to some commonly asked questions.
Q Are there many Christian missionary groups targeting Jews and how much is being spent on their efforts?
A There are over 900 Christian and Hebrew Christian groups in North America actively involved in missionizing the Jewish people. These groups are currently spending over $250 million per year on these efforts. Jews for Jesus, the best known single ministry to the Jews, spent over $15 million last year.
Q What are the chances that I will be approached by a missionary?
A It is estimated that 4 out of 5 Jews in the United States will be approached at some time by a Christian missionary. This missionary may be a professional or, more likely, a friend, neighbor or colleague.
Q How might I be approached?
A Someone might come to your door, catch you on the street or leave literature in your mailbox. A letter or invitation to a "Jewish cultural" event might be sent to you. A new friend, associate or someone from your neighborhood might invite you to a social gathering.
Q What are some of the tell-tale signs of these groups?
A If someone starts talking about being a "Messianic" or "completed" Jew or claims that a Jew can accept Jesus or, as they sometimes call him, "Yeshua" without giving up Judaism - that you can be a "Jew for Jesus"- then you are speaking with a missionary.
Q What is "Jews for Jesus"?
A Jews for Jesus is a single Christian ministry which attempts to convert Jews to Christianity. The term is often used generically for Jewish converts to Christianity who try to retain some cultural trappings of their Judaism. Leaders of these groups are often ordained Christian ministers who are specifically trained in techniques for converting vulnerable Jews. Members of these groups deceptively use Jewish symbols (such as Stars of David) and language so as to appear Jewish, their goal is to take Jews away from Judaism and to bring them into the Christian Church. Jews for Jesus actually considers itself an arm of the evangelical church.
Q How is the "Hebrew-Christian" missionary movement organized?
A On the local level, much of the "Hebrew-Christian" movement is organized in the form of churches which call themselves "Messianic Synagogues" or housed as separate ministries and congregations in larger churches. These groups use Jewish trappings such as yarmulkes, talesim, Torahs, Jewish music and Hebrew to hide their Christian nature from potential converts. Some of these local congregations also operate infant day care facilities, full-time day schools, and "Bible counseling centers." For many Jewish converts to Christianity, these "Messianic Synagogues" and cross-cultural ministries serve as half-way houses until such individuals are ready to enter the gentile churches.
Q How "Jewish" are groups like "Jews for Jesus"?
A While a large number of members were, in fact, born or raised Jewish, others are gentiles who deceptively adopt Jewish forms of worship and dress as well as names in order to appear Jewish. On a religious level, the "Jewishness" is no more than a front since these groups accept traditional Christian teachings and reject Jewish teaching in every single area where the two diverge.
Q How do Christians feel about "Jews for Jesus" groups?
A A number of Christian denominations have condemned the deceptive and aggressive nature of groups like "Jews for Jesus." The Roman Catholic Church, liberal Protestant churches, interdenominational study groups and interfaith councils worldwide have taken a stand against this form of proselytizing which does a disservice to both faith systems. Other Christian individuals and groups have been less sensitive to Jewish community concerns and continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to convert Jews to Christianity. Most of the missionary and conversionary groups are affiliated with fundamentalist Protestant denominations.
Q Are missionaries a problem in Israel?
A Yes. An increasing number of Christian missionary groups - most of them based in the United States - have targeted the Israeli Jewish population for conversion, and "Jews for Jesus"-type churches now exist in every large Israeli population center. There are over one hundred such institutions and ministries in Israel today.
Q Are the missionary leaders sincere?
A Some of them are undoubtedly "in it for the money," but most are probably very sincere in their belief that only people who believe as they do will go to heaven; all others will go to hell forever. Since they believe this so sincerely, some of the missionaries will resort to various tricks and devices to persuade you to believe as they do (the "Moonies" call this "heavenly deception"). We make a mistake when we assume that sincerity - in and of itself - is necessarily a good thing. Hitler was most likely also quite sincere in his belief that the world would someday thank him.
Q What type of Jew is most vulnerable?
A The average Jewish convert to Christianity is between 15 and 35 years old and has very little Jewish education. Since people are most vulnerable at times of personal change and transition, the missionaries are increasingly centering their efforts on a number of vulnerable Jewish populations, including high school and college students, senior citizens and recent immigrants.
Q Is there a way to prevent someone from becoming involved?
A An effective program of prevention has five components:
Affiliate: become part of the Jewish community, by taking classes, joining a synagogue or attending events at the Jewish Community Center. Take advantage of the resources in your community and strengthen your bond with your past and your people;
Jewish education and lifestyle experiences: one who knows his/her faith in a dynamic and living way will rarely be attracted to the cheap substitute offered by the missionaries;
Open communication: encourage open communication in all areas, and develop a firm family support base for times of transition and crisis;
Critical thinking: people should be trained in the skills of critical evaluation and should be made aware of the practices of deceptive conversionary groups;
Outreach: each one of us must be an outreach worker, aware of the existence of hurts and vulnerabilities in our midst and seeking to reach out to the lonely and vulnerable before the missionaries do.
A Note on Hebrew Christians as Cults
On a number of occasions we have referred to the Hebrew-Christian or "Messianic Jewish" movement as a cult or cult like. Some have protested that we are stretching it a bit when we classify these groups in the same category as some of the real cults.
One can well understand the widespread reluctance to refer to the Hebrew-Christians as a cult. After all, these groups are bankrolled by well-known Christian denominations and churches, and their theology is basically fundamentalist Christianity. Nevertheless, if we look at the definition of a destructive cult as set forth in virtually every study of cultism, it becomes clear that these groups fit the bill.
For example: Deception in recruitment - Few Hebrew-Christians tell you up front that that their belief is identical to that of the Baptist Church. The use of the term "Messianic Jew" for example is nothing more than "Newspeak" and an attempt to make their beliefs appear Jewish. Even fewer will tell you that they believe Jesus is G-d and not just Messiah.
They encourage rigid submission to an elite leadership as opposed to encouraging individual choice, thought and initiative. The leaders of this movement, for example have forbidden their followers from talking to people from Jews for Judaism. They claim that they are shepherd trying to protect their flock. However, these are the same people who would complain bitterly if someone in the Jewish community told Jews not to talk to them.
They also demonstrate a hostility to the outside world. It's "us versus them", "believers versus unbelievers", the saved versus the damned". The dualities are nearly suffocating. Sometimes Satan - defined as anyone who doesn't support the movement - seems more real than G-d to these people; and indeed, he is spoken of more frequently.
The uncomfortable fact is that increasingly this movement has become cult-like. And, just like all cults, their target is YOU!
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