How We Reach Israel
By Kobi & Shani Ferguson
Some people have seen the Scriptures promising the salvation of Israel and have expected it to be instant. They saw God’s promise of returning the Jewish people to the land and saving them there (Ezekiel 36-37) and have reasoned that short-term approaches, such as standing on the street corner on a soapbox and handing out gospel tracks, should have the Jewish people on their knees repenting. It is a noble approach to stand so boldly, but these attempts receive mostly scoffs. While the effort may result in a genuine testimony or two to share, when you consider the big picture, the salvation of an entire nation will require more than grabbing the attention of strangers on the street. It will require a change of perspective on a massive level.A few years ago, I saw Amazing Grace, a film that chronicles the riveting story of William Wilberforce and his fight to end slavery in the British Empire. For years, he attempted to get a direct vote in the British parliament to end slavery, but to no avail. On a personal level, he was able to recruit a few people of influence to his cause, but nowhere near enough to outlaw slavery in the land.
It was a moment of divine revelation, when instead of attempting to draft another bill that would make slavery illegal, Wilberforce focused his efforts on making the process of shipping slaves more difficult. When he changed his approach from trying to destroy slavery outright to instead patiently yet constantly chipping away at the system, Wilberforce eventually reached his goal of abolishing slavery as a whole in the British Empire. His methods were unusual, such as sending parliament members to horseraces so an important vote could take place without them. The approach seemed to have nothing to do with directly abolishing slavery. A political supporter may have questioned Wilberforce’s use of funds to pay for horserace tickets, but it was strategic, and unique efforts such as these helped with the ultimate goal of abolishing slavery.
Israel’s current cultural and spiritual state is in no condition to embrace Yeshua (Jesus) as its Messiah. The descendants of the religious leaders of the first century have done an excellent job indoctrinating Jewish culture into viewing “Jesus Christ” as nothing more than a swear word. Reaching Israel on a national level will require a shift in Israelis’ understanding and perception – an understanding and perception that currently views the teachings of Yeshua as the reason for most of Jewish suffering of the past two millennia. In addition, Jews largely view God as One who is to be merely pleased by doing more good than bad, not as One whose ultimate desire is to have direct relationship with His creation.
Israelis need to be exposed to facts about the life of Yeshua – His love for His chosen people, His permanent sacrifice, and the fate of mankind left to account for his sin. How do we facilitate bringing this message of truth into the lives of Israelis in a way that is inherently honoring to the Jewish people and their history? Reaching people in a culturally relevant way is just as important as speaking to them in the language they understand. Since music and family life are two dominant aspects of Israeli life, communicating the Bible and our relationship with God within that context is ideal.
Therefore, we have three main areas of service we have taken on in pursuit of this strategy: 1. Creating culturally relevant music and videos that communicate to Israelis about God and educate the international community about Israel, 2. strengthening the Israeli believing community through mentoring individuals and families, and 3. improving the economic status of believers in Israel through charity and small business empowerment.
Influence Through Music and Edutainment
For every defining movement in history, there were defining arts that were used to both define and influence culture. It is for this reason that we see great value in using creative ways to spread the message of God’s love and loyalty to His people and His word. While we would all agree that the printing of Bibles in Hebrew is a worthy project, singing those very Scriptures from the Bible in Hebrew to the melodies and rhythms of culturally relevant music should also be considered as an effective way to share God’s word. The fact that the easiest Scripture verses for us to remember are the ones we sing is proof that music takes words to a deeper place in our hearts and minds than simple text would.
Music goes straight for the heart. People often embrace a song for its melody and rhythm before they even consider whether they agree with the message. We have heard our songs about Yeshua blasted in public spaces to the smiles and sways of crowds where declaring those same words in everyday conversation would have been ignored or despised. We have had testimonies from unbelievers about the powerful “presence” they experienced when listening to our music and the unique lyrics that are “worthy of consideration.”
However, we are not merely looking to make excellent recordings for outreach and worship times; we are looking to develop a community of musicians who are dedicated to making the praises of God commonplace in Israel. We are looking to build a facility in Jerusalem where musicians will be trained musically and spiritually discipled to become modern day Levites. Building the center and reaching that final result of quality music written and played by believing full-time Israeli musicians may take years of effort and training – but so would anything that could be expected to impact an entire nation.
In addition to music, we see the use of visual arts as a powerful tool to communicate information, and thanks to the Internet, we can also reach people outside of Israel without ever having to leave. After years of traveling and teaching about God’s plan for Israel, we have found that bite-size, quippy informational and entertaining videos (“edutainment”) are effective in reaching and educating a variety of audiences. If you have seen our videos, you know what we are talking about. These videos allow us to remotely share about daily life and current events from an Israeli believing perspective.
Weekly Shabbat Celebrations (above) are the perfect environment for Family Discipleship.
We sometimes bring people to live with us. Other times, people are invited to “shadow” us, spending as much time with us as their schedules allow. We see more progress in their character and spiritual maturity and walk with God than in any other method of discipleship we have witnessed. Even beyond the spiritual benefits, many gain experience in raising a healthy family. Most importantly, it is a method of discipleship they can in turn reproduce in others. It’s a simple method of “Follow me as I follow Yeshua.” (I Cor 11:1)
Charity and Empowerment
Our vision to see Israeli believers be financially secure stems from years of discipling families and individuals who were struggling with their finances. Often, it wasn’t a continuous issue that caused this struggle; they had a job and a descent income. Rather, it was a one-time event, an injury or illness that a kept them from work for a month, or some government fee they didn’t know about that accrued interest for several years and now was a huge fine (a surprisingly common occurrence here). Sometimes, it was persecution – employers or landlords finding out they were believers and demanding they leave.
Whatever the case, when the struggle was going on, these believers’ entire focus was on trying to get out of the situation. Studying scripture, fellowshipping with other believers, and especially actively ministering to others took a back seat in their life. The families could spend years with court battles, bank calls, and even threat of imprisonment if the debts weren’t paid. Thankfully, the individuals and families we were able to help got out of their mess quickly and were able to return to normality, which included pursuing God and growing in the Lord.
We’ve taken several approaches to the issue of financial difficulty among Israeli believers. More than once, we have subsidized those who had to take off work to minister with us by either paying for their trip or making up for lost hours of work, or both. Other times, we have found them extra work to do on the side to make up the funds they needed to close out the month in the black. But in the long term, the healthiest approach has been to empower them get on better footing financially – in other words, get a better job or start their own business.
We go through the painstaking process of identifying individuals and small businesses that, with a little initial investment, will be able to support their family and ministry in the land. Whether they need education to get them in position for a better job or simply need an initial investment in their own business, the idea is to help them effectively and sustainably make more money so they can work less and spend the extra time ministering and building a healthy family.
One Harvest a Variety of Laborers
Every believer is called to brightly shine in the darkness. Unbelievers should be able to unmistakably identify our light by the way we live. And yet, we are part of a Body, each with his or her own unique role.
Every believer is called to be a laborer in the harvest. There are some laborers who work in the field gathering wheat; there are others who work at the threshing floor “preparing” what has been reaped so it can be passed on to the next stage. One role may seem less exciting than the other, but all groups of laborers are crucial. Looking at piles of harvested stocks of wheat can be impressive as can photos of meetings with many coming to the Lord. But just as it is pointless to harvest wheat and not prepare it, so is bringing new believers into the Kingdom without discipling them into spiritual maturity. Piles of unattended wheat can rot, and new believers who aren’t properly nurtured can lose faith and even turn on it aggressively.
Our heart is to bring Israelis to faith and to see them discipled. We also want to help young believers grow into mature spiritual leaders in their own families and in their communities. Yeshua said the greatest testimony we would have of our belonging to God would be the unity and love we have for one another. Such a community cannot be developed by simply teaching godly character spiritual truths in a classroom. It must be modeled and practiced. This community of unity and love will be the undeniable light that will shine testifying to the entire nation the truth about Yeshua they would’ve never considered if we had simply shouted it from a rooftop.
Just as it is pointless to harvest wheat and not prepare it, so is bringing new believers into the Kingdom without discipling them into spiritual maturity.
The best road from A to B is not always a straight line. We will make music and we will encourage excellence in the work force, and we will continue to strengthen family, but our vision is the salvation of our nation and the worldwide revival it will bring. So, if you come looking for us, you’ll find us sowing in the field, bringing in the sheaves, or on the threshing floor getting our hands dirty during the day and turning in each night satisfied, knowing the prize is on its way. And if this vision hits home, we hope you will join us.
Would you like to partner with us to build a long term vision for the people of Israel to see the Light of the Nations – Yeshua the Messiah? Or you can give a one time gift, or sow a little every month and watch your investment in Israel grow using our automatic monthly giving plan – Click Here to Donate
ALL DONATIONS ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE. YESHUA ISRAEL MINISTRIES IS A 501 (C)(3) NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION.
The vision our Lord has given us to reach Israel is unique and exciting, but simply put, we can’t do it without you! We invite you to join us on this adventure called 2016 to make an impact here in Israel for our Lord.
We are located in Jerusalem, Israel and we have an administrative office in the U.S.
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PO Box 535784
Grand Prairie, TX 75053-5784