Author’s Note: When exposing the tactics and deception of missionaries, I found it necessary, unfortunately, to cite verses from Christian scripture, which evangelicals commonly use to theologically justify their methods and purpose. As a religious Jew, this naturally makes me uncomfortable, yet my justification is to raise awareness among my people. This article contains several verses from the “New Testament ” (henceforth referred to as the NT) and will appear in an alternative font in order to alert the reader to those texts foreign and forbidden to Jews. The name of the Christian deity will be referred to as JC or CJ
“The most important thing to remember is that you cannot separate the terms ‘evangelical Christian’ and ‘missionary’ – they are synonyms.”
—-Gavriel Sanders, former evangelical missionary who served in Israel
“A Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” —Charles Spurgeon the “Prince of Preachers”
“The worldwide mission of the Christian church is rooted in the Incarnation and is part of God’s redemptive purpose for the world. God is a missionary God. The Bible is a missionary book. The gospel is a missionary message. The church is a missionary institution. And when the church ceases to be missionary minded, it has denied its faith and betrayed its trust.”
—- “Understanding Christian Missions” by J. Herbert Kane, a textbook used for missions classes in Evangelical Bible colleges
Evangelicals evangelize. Look at the word itself. A fundamental doctrine of evangelism is a mandate to actively share the gospels. No sensible person identifies with a term with such clearly defined beliefs and principles unless they are committed to those same values. From a theological perspective, all evangelicals are missionaries and there is no such creature as a non-evangelizing evangelical.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”(NT Romans 1:16)
While the word “evangelism” is somewhat loaded, it is still more innocuous sounding than the terms “missionizing” or “proselytizing”, which have come to connote an aggressive, proactive approach to sharing beliefs. Yet there is essentially no difference. An evangelical (whether abroad in Papua, New Guinea or hitting the streets of Brooklyn) is on a mission to win souls.
Despite denials, by partnering with evangelical leaders and organizations, a number of today’s Jewish scholars, community leaders and activists are collaborating with missionaries. To plead ignorance or naiveté might have been plausible years ago, but it is now 2020 and missionary awareness professionals have been stridently alerting the Jewish public and exposing evangelical leadership and their tactics for decades.
It is indeed true that not every missionary engages in what we can call “aggressive proselytizing”. Yet, this isn’t the criteria of what constitutes a missionary. Many faith-based mission trips and “ministries of service” to foreign countries include distributing aid in the areas of education, social justice, health care and economic development. Many evangelicals never openly share the gospel with people during these trips. Rather, they pave the way for a receptive ear via distribution of humanitarian aid, forging friendships, interfaith bridge-building efforts, and expressions of political support. Indeed, evangelicals have coined the phrase “friendship evangelism”. Most evangelicals can honestly claim that apart from church functions, and trying to “witness” (“share the word”) with their fellow man, their primary influence comes from financially supporting those who take a more activist approach.
“The pocket that gives 50 cents to support Jewish causes in Israel, that same pocket gives 3 dollars to support missionary causes to convert Jewish souls.”—Gavriel Sanders
As far as practical ideology (and there are certainly differences between sects), disagreements among mainstream evangelicals often relate to tactics. Card-carrying zealots preach to your face, whereas a more refined approach is taken by those trying to evade the radar (when it comes to dealing with friendship evangelists, many religious Jews in Israel sport dysfunctional antennae.)
Deception for the greater “good” is a legitimate missionary tactic. Evangelicals on a mission can misrepresent themselves and justify it religiously according to Paulin doctrine. This is why engaging missionaries is fruitless (in addition to being halachically problematic). A claim of, “He told me he’s against proselytizing” carries little weight since evangelical subterfuge can be justified on theological grounds.
“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.” NT 1 Corinthians 9:20
Since modern times, when Christians eschewed violent, forced conversions in favor of brotherly evangelizing, they have had a disturbing degree of success in converting Jews. As of today, international religious freedoms reports, respected Christian publications, and Jewish missionary awareness consultants seem to concur that there is a growing community of approximately 20,000 Messianics living in Israel with an estimated 150 messianic congregations and 280 missionary organizations operating in the Jewish state. These statistics in Israel are reason to rend one’s garment, since the loss of one Jewish soul, anywhere in the world, is counted as an enormous tragedy.
That Messianics are no longer ostracized in Israel, as they once were, exacerbates the problem. Trained and highly motivated Messianic activists have done wonders changing the public perception. Today we can frequently see prominent Orthodox Jews attending events with known missionaries and their advocates.
It’s been a terrible era for Torah conscious Jews who understand the dangers of these alliances. The present goal of evangelical leadership involves blurring the theological distinction between Jew and Gentile, enabling gradual inroads into religious communities.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in CJ”. NT (Galatians 3:28)
“For He Himself is our peace and our bond of unity. He who made both groups— [Jews and Gentiles]—into one body and broke down the barrier, the dividing wall.” NT Ephesians 2:14
Indeed, a number of Orthodox Jewish leaders have advanced this evangelical agenda by opting to place an emphasis on embracing commonalities rather than respecting differences between Jew and Christian. Interfaith activities involving religious Jews and evangelical Christians are becoming more commonplace and accepted. The decision on the part of certain evangelical leaders to refrain from openly proselytizing is tactical and earns them blessings, and the misplaced label of “righteous gentiles”, from a still small, yet influential number of Orthodox rabbis.
Once upon a time, religious communities were impervious to such evangelical incursion. Today, an increasing number of these communities have opened the door to evangelizing entities – actualizing the dreams of the most ambitious “holy-rollers” who would have thought such unions impossible even fifteen years ago.
Many religious Jewish activists advocating for evangelical alliances understand part of the game. In their willful blindness they believe that they can have their cake and eat it too. As long as it’s not open “proselytizing”, then it’s not “missionizing”. Sadly, these Jews are being beaten at their own game. They understandably lack a sophisticated understanding of Christian theologically driven tactics, terminology and goals. However, what is perhaps inexcusable is their lack of knowledge of the halachic and ethical dilemmas involved, as well as their dismissal of the guidelines and redlines on interfaith relations set down by generations of Torah giants. They have scoffed at the warnings issued by counter-missionary professionals and disregard the effects that missionizing has had on vulnerable Jews. Oblivious to possible future consequences. Their own words betray them as they get entangled in wordplay that is nothing short of playing with fire.
Author: *I would like to thank Jewish Israel, Gavriel Sanders, Ellen Horowitz and Shannon Nuszen for their contributions and review of this article which will be featured (G-d willing) in two parts.